I Have the Right to Bare Arms

Dress Code Perpetuates Rape Culture.


I know what you’re thinking. This is the most liberal thing I have ever read in my life. Hear me out.


Let’s step back and look at the first time you heard the phrase “but did you see what she was wearing?” If it wasn’t from your family, it was most likely the first time you saw someone break the dress code. As a society, we need to start a conversation on the type of language we use when talking about the way girls dress.


Is any of this starting to sound familiar?


From the time girls start middle school at the age of around ten or eleven, they are told what is and is not appropriate for them to wear to school. I know what you’re thinking, the dress code applies to men too. But men’s fashion is hardly ever scandalous, and by the age of twelve, retailers start marketing clothes to young girls, targeting the adolescent desire to look older. We don’t blame mass marketing for the sexualizing of young girls, we don’t blame the dress codes for emphasizing the sexualizing of young girls, instead we start shaming them at the most vulnerable age, reinforcing to young women that if they are dressing in a way that may be considered sexy to someone else, the fault lies exclusively with them.


According to Laura Bates, in the TIME Magazine article How School Dress Codes Shame Girls and Perpetuate Rape Culture, “some of our most powerful and lasting ideas about the world around us are learned at school. Hard work pays off. Success comes from working together. Girls’ bodies are dangerous and harassment is inevitable.” Bates goes on to conclude “the problem is often compounded by a lack of any attempt to discipline boys for harassing behavior, which drives home the message that it is the victim’s responsibility to prevent.”


And so it is that young girls learn that they are defined by what they wear. It was their choice to wear the outfit pushed onto them by their culture, as are the consequences.


The majority of teens and young adults aren’t going to want to go to school dressed purposely inappropriate. We don’t trust women with their own bodies, and it starts from an age so young that these girls don’t even know who they are yet. All they know is that they want to wear that cute skirt their mom bought them to school, but are too afraid that they will be scrutinized and shamed for it.