No, Dress Codes Do Not Always Perpetuate Rape Culture

palmLast week the internet went bombastic because poor Miranda Larkin was forced to don her school’s solution to her dress code violation: a yellow t-shirt and maroon/red sweats with the words “dress code violation” ironed on them. [source]

Goodness, you would have thought the Earth had started spinning in the opposite direction. Shouts of “humiliation” sung from the highest mountain. Her mother is threatening to sue the school for violating Miranda’s privacy because her fellow students know she got into trouble. Women snarled “rape culture” saying this is of course putting the blame on girls for boys who cannot control their lustful thoughts.

My head is spinning.

Trust me, I am a feminist. I will fight for women as hard as anyone. I will never let anyone say a woman deserves to be raped for any reason. No means no. I believe you have the right to change your mind at any time during sex. Your body your rules. I think men need to stop the cat calling and thinking that women have been put on this Earth to fulfill their every sexual whim.

But let’s put this all aside and talk about this specific event. Little Miranda went to her high school on the third day in a short skirt. Yes, it was a new school, a new environment. She’s probably a sophomore at her age, so she’s had some high school experience at least.

You know what school kids of any age get the first few days of school? Usually the first? A school handbook. With a piece of paper saying that they have read it, which they sign. There’s also a place for the parent to sign that they’ve seen it and have also read it. I never read the whole thing, but I always check the dress code section because there is some very important information there.

I had boys, but there was always something they couldn’t have on their t-shirts. Skulls. Alcohol references. Profanities. Even things that weren’t profane but came close to the line. Certain colors. Baseball caps.

What is so wrong with a dress code? All schools have to choose an arbitrary number where a skirt ends. One school chooses four inches above the knee, another three. Maybe skirts should be outlawed! Maybe just covering butt cheeks is enough. The handbooks don’t just cover skirts. They cover all kinds of clothing issues.

There are different ways to dress for different places. I would dress differently for a club than for an anniversary party. I would dress different for yoga class than for adventure day with my best friend. I would dress differently for lunch with the girls than a nice dinner out with Jim.

As people living in polite society, we are supposed to be learning to tailor our behavior and our appearance to the events we are attending and what is expected of us. We don’t get to wake up and willy nilly choose what we want to wear when we go to work. Every job I had had a dress code. I didn’t get to roll out of bed when paged in the middle of the night and show up at the police station in my night shirt! I had to put on office clothes! Slap on some makeup. Look semi-professional at three in the morning.

Kids start learning these things in school. They start learning about life in school. And, we, as parents, are supposed to support the school as they do this.

I was trying to convey the “support the teachers” message in my last blog post. There was a time when a teacher called a parent and the parent never questioned them. The support was instantaneous and unwavering. The teacher, parent, and school were a team joined together to create a productive adult. But that’ changed. Now parents and children are a team fighting the teacher and the school. Lawsuits fly at the drop of a hat.

For instance, the lawsuit for violation of privacy. What privacy should a high school student really expect? Aren’t detentions handed out in front of other students? Aren’t test grades handed out in class? If they aren’t, then I have some answers to the problems people are having with Millennials!

Miranda and her mom need to take a deep breath, stop taking selfies of the “suit of shame,” and let the hems down in Miranda’s skirts. Maybe a review of the school handbook is in order. Cancel the lawsuit. Don’t go on Good Morning America. This isn’t the way to get your fifteen minutes of fame.

And take a good look around your school. See the girl who wore a t-shirt and sweats to school today? Imagine how she feels. I know her outfit isn’t branded with “dress code violation” but now she knows the entire country thinks it’s the ugliest outfit ever. And it’s all she owns…

PS The rival high school in my hometown–the Hays High Indians–wore maroon and gold. Goooooooo Indians!


4 thoughts on “No, Dress Codes Do Not Always Perpetuate Rape Culture

  1. I agree that the dress code should be heeded, but totally disagree about public humiliation as the consequence. If it were up to me, I’d give 3 warnings, then a short suspension or detention.

    • Did you think it was humiliating? Maybe I’m missing something. (I do wear t-shirts and sweats an awful lot!) But a warning wouldn’t have been out of line. Or letting her mom bring clothes to change into. For the boys there were always extra clothes to change into if they got muddy on the playground and I wasn’t close by to bring clothes. Or if they forgot their gym clothes.

      • Since the words “dress code violation” were displayed on the clothes she had to wear, yes, I’d say that’s humiliating. Also, it seems to be a uniform for violators with the colors stipulated. I think using her own clothes would be much, much better.

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