Dress Codes-Keeping Women in Check for Decades

JenniferGregory_DressCodeJennifer GregoryCovington, Texas

I spoke today with a female relative, Sandra, born in 1949. She told me about being forced to kneel in the hallway as a student in high school, to prove her skirt was the appropriate length. She expressed the humiliation she felt as she was forced to kneel and a teacher determined whether her clothing was acceptable for her to remain in school. I was born in 1972, 23 years after Sandra.

I too was harassed by school personnel due to my clothing. When I questioned being sent home yet again for a skirt that was too short, I was told the tired line, “Short skirts are disruptive to the educational process.”

My daughter was born in 1998, 49 years after Sandra, 26 years after my own birth. My daughter was placed in in-school suspension for a dress code violation involving a skirt. Her school was three stories tall. Her skirt rode up while walking down the stairs. The school employee accused her of pulling up or shortening her skirt on purpose. She accepted the in-school suspension despite her skirt not being too short, but placed a large scarlet A on her school ID badge in protest. I wish I had been as creative. Three generations of women: 1949, 1972, 1998.

All were punished or humiliated because of their clothing. All were told that they had to dress differently to not hinder or distract the educational process of the boys with whom we attended school.

My close friends know I have dress code issues due to my experiences in school, but I did not realize until today that this issue affects women from multiple generations. If the three of us all had similar humiliating experiences, how many other women must have experienced the same?

How many of us have been shamed because of how we dress? How many of us have been told we are distracting to the educational process and sent home or put in detention? After talking to Sandra today and knowing about my experience and my daughter’s experience, I fear it’s more prevalent than I realized.

Who knew that the sight of my thighs had so much power? I say that sarcastically, but that is not the point. When is the onus placed on the male students?

Instead of sending us home, making us kneel, sending us to in-school suspension, why not consider holding the boys accountable for their behavior?

English was my favorite subject in school. A fully naked male could have walked into my English class and, while I might laugh or giggle for a minute or two, I would still read, learn, and listen to what my teacher had to share. I find it insulting to both men and women to say that a short skirt prohibits learning.

My true concern is that this persecution based on clothing has been happening for at least three generations. I wonder if this dress code insanity has aided in the “she’s asking for it” mentality of rape culture.

1949. 1972. 1998. Let’s hope we do better with the next generation.