Does the dress code do more harm than good?

FHS Dress Code: Is it Doing More Harm Than Good?

By Katherine W.

While our dress code is supposed to foster a professional atmosphere, some students believe that it could cause some unintended and long term consequences for students

The dress code at FHS is simple and not unlike the dress codes at other schools: no muscle shirts, no mesh shirts, no ‘short shorts’/skirts, no Spaghetti Straps – straps must be at least as wide as 3 fingers, straps of undergarments must not be exposed, no halter/strapless tops and dresses, no bare midriffs, no low cut tops, no exposed underwear and no clothes bearing offensive language or pictures promoting alcohol or drugs. On the surface, none of these seem to be unusual or unreasonable rules.

The main issue with the dress code is that it unfairly targets women: six of the nine rules refer to clothing typically worn by women, while only two of the rules refer to clothing typically worn by men. In a culture where girls are taught from a very young age that their appearance is the most important thing about them, why should our school be making the situation worse by punishing girls for dressing in a way in which they are being encouraged to?

The female body is over-sexualized to the point where we experience difficulty seeing it as anything other than inherently sexual. In a sex negative society, anything that is deemed sexual is considered offensive. This is what has happened to the female body: it is offensive because it is viewed as a sexual object. This fear of sexual things has likely contributed to the instatement of these rules about women’s clothing in the FHS dress code in this first place. We lose sight of the fact that the female body is just simply that: a body.

Paradoxically, women are also conditioned to believe that being “too sexual” is punishable. In some cases, this goes as far as sexual assault and rape victims being blamed for what has happened to them because the clothing they were wearing was “suggestive”. Violence against women is a normal, everyday occurrence, and our school is doing nothing to change that with our dress code. By telling students at FHS that women should be punished for revealing their bodies, we are embracing victim-blaming and ultimately perpetuating the idea that sexual assault is okay.

The aspect of the dress code that is reasonable is the one pertaining to clothing with messages that could be offensive to some students. Our dress code suggests that a girl wearing a short skirt and someone wearing a shirt with a racist message on it are in the same category. This is not okay, because the shirt is directly causing harm, while the skirt is not.

It is time that Fredericton High School takes a stand against these harmful and sexist perceptions by changing our dress code.

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