Tag Archives: Dress Code

Gender Neutral Dress Codes

I noticed the headline in my newsfeed: “School bans boys from wearing shorts, tells them to wear skirts”.  Yes, you read that correctly, you can check out the link for yourself here.

What are dress codes?

Generally speaking, dress codes are the standards established by an individual school and/or school board to define expectations about what clothing is appropriate for those attending.  It is common for dress codes to include stipulations about text and images on shirts or sweaters and define what length or style of clothing might be too risqué for the classroom.  Recently, such stipulations have been criticised as being far stricter for females than males because of society’s tendency to define female dress as ‘distracting’ for males.  I discussed this in response to complaints at Essex District High School in this post.

Gender Neutral

One of the ways to move beyond such criticisms is to seek to make dress code policies gender neutral – in other words, to establish the exact same standards for males as for females.  The challenge with this, however, is that the fashion trends differ by gender.  Boys tend not to wear short shorts or have to worry about their shirts revealing their bra straps, while girls know how to pull up their pants.

Uniforms

These are less of an issue for boarding schools or Catholic high schools in Ontario where uniforms are the norm.  (Note: Having taught in a Catholic school, I do remember having to instruct many male students to pull up their pants and tell female students to roll down their skirts after having rolled them up at the waist to make the required skirts shorter).

There are a variety of advantages to uniforms particularly when these come from a single source and are thus the same for each person.  It then becomes possible to define what people are expected to wear every day with little variation.  For Chiltern Edge Secondary School in Oxfordshire, that means trousers or skirts with shirts, ties and blazers, an appropriate uniform for those expected to end up in high powered business positions.

What do you think?

Is this gender neutral gone too far?  Would you allow your son to wear a skirt in order to feel cooler in the hot summer months?  Is it OK for females to wear trousers in the cold winter months?  Are these the same thing?  Why or why not?  For more reflection on gender neutrality check this post on the latest heir to the royal throne.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Dress Codes

A reflection on recent events at Essex District High School

Social media is a powerful tool.  We’ve glimpsed its reach as millions took the ice bucket challenge and lamented this power as young people chocked over cinnamon and tide pods.  It has also been used to raise awareness about the struggles and challenges that exist, particularly when questions of fairness and justice arise.

Recently, young people at Essex District High School used social media to complain about the school’s dress code and its implementation.  In fact, the criticism is not new.  There are students around the world, usually females, who are frustrated by the ongoing prevalence of dress codes which they see as unfairly targeting them.

What is it?

Dress codes establish expectations about what is appropriate for students to wear in school.  The dress code for EDHS can be found here.  Certainly it is reasonable to expect all students to be sufficiently clothed in a manner that is respectable and safe.  As our understanding of gender, sexuality and consent continues to evolve, however, people are slowing awaking to the reality that, some of the expectations for females have been established based on the belief that how a female dresses can become distracting for males.  This awareness is compounded by a perception that females are more likely to be disciplined for dress code violations leading to complaints.

Why is this problematic?

Whether we agree or not with the particular complaint for this situation, the fact is these young women have a point as reflected in these comments from a local sexual assault crisis centre.   It is unfair to hold females responsible for the urges of males.  Males are free to dress as they choose, including going topless in the warmer months and wearing pants in such a way that their underwear is clearly visible.  While neither of these is considered appropriate for school, there are no expectations that males should refrain from such apparel in other contexts in order to avoid enticing females.

In contrast, there is a significant commentary on the extent to which women are viewed as dressing ‘provocatively’.  These perceptions have then played out in cases where women are sexually assaulted as suggesting that perhaps the woman was ‘asking for it’ or ‘advertising’ her sexuality.  Such discourse thus requires one gender to consider the impact of their dress on the other while the opposite is not true.

What can parents do?

As the discourse on gender, sexuality and consent continues to unfold, it is important to have conversations with our children regardless of gender.  All children should be taught that their sexual urges are their own responsibility.  All children should have tools to ensure that, if they get distracted, they can refocus their energy.  All children should understand the foundations of respect and consent in regards to bodies.

Conversation is important.  This includes a willingness to listen when issues are raised which call into question long standing social norms.  It will be interesting to see if this current situation will lead to a renewed understanding of the appropriate framework for the dress code at Essex District High School and beyond.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/