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School Dress Codes & Body-Shame

Unsplash girl short shorts

Photo Credit: Jan Vasek

As I continue to work with girls and visit new schools for my own children, dress codes have been on my mind lately.

Why is it that there are dress codes for the girls, but little to NONE for boys?
Why is it that in middle through high school, girls are taught that they should be ashamed of showing too much leg, too much arm, or heaven forbid—a little breast through a tight shirt?

Girls are already bombarded with “you aren’t good enough,” “you’re too fat/skinny/flat/tall/short” messages from the media, at home, and from kids at school. Do the adults really have to attack them at school as well?

If boys get too aroused or “distracted” at school, then it’s the girl’s fault for wearing too tight of pants or shorts, too short of a skirt, too tight of a shirt, one that shows too much of their arms/upper body (aka: spaghetti straps), then SHE needs to go home to change.

When do boys get taught to take responsibility for their OWN actions and feelings?
Why do our girls (and women for that matter) ALWAYS have to accommodate horny boys/men by covering up?

“You can’t wear that because it’s too distracting to the boys” turns into “You were raped because you were wearing a tight and short mini-dress,”  with little to no consequence for the rapist.

Why are we SO afraid of sexuality and sexual expression of girls in our society?

I’m sick and tired of the double standard to which we hold girls. This only contributes to the massive amount of body-shaming they already experience regularly.

It’s time for a change!! It’s time to embrace her blossoming sexuality because it isn’t going away!

Growing breasts, hips, and starting menses are all natural parts of life! Rather than shaming our girls about their changing bodies, why don’t we support them by helping them learn to love and respect themselves, set healthy boundaries, and be true to themselves (which includes dressing the way that feels GOOD TO THEM) instead of focusing on the length of their shorts?

Also, rather than excusing our boys’ rude and obnoxious behaviors or sexual harassment of middle and high school girls, why don’t we hold them accountable, or better yet, why don’t we help them embrace and express their own sexuality in healthy ways & teach them to accept personal responsibility for their actions?
Girls AND boys are becoming more and more sexual at earlier and earlier ages and we need to respond accordingly–but not with dress codes.

Let’s stop stressing girls out with body-shaming dress codes and start instilling values of self-confidence, self-respect, and individuality instead.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Inquiring minds want to know!

PS: Have you gone shopping lately? The fashion industry markets adult clothing and high heeled shoes to our girls starting at toddlerhood because they will make the best consumers/customers as they grow!! Good luck finding “appropriate” clothing that fits your school’s dress code.

Dawn K. Gibson, LCSW is a Soulful Somatic Therapist who works with individuals and groups internationally (online) and locally in Austin, TX. She’s the founder of Warrior Girls Rising™ and Be the Woman You Want Your Daughter to Become™ programs. Contact Dawn directly to work with her: dawnatdawnkgibsondotcom

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