Stop telling us what to wear

Jane-Mather Glass, Opinion Columnist

Don’t tell us what we can and can’t wear.

We as girls are constantly shamed for our clothing choices, whether they are more modest or more revealing than the norm. Stop judging us and let us wear what makes us feel comfortable.

There is no denying that dress codes disproportionately target girls. When an announcement came on during the first week of school saying that “summer wear” was not school appropriate, we all knew who the target audience was: girls in shorts and tank tops. While guys do have some clothing restrictions, they don’t compare. I have never seen a guy wearing clothes from the dean’s office.

Girls do not dress to impress men. We don’t put clothes on in the morning and think about how our outfit will affect our male peers. That’s why I was taken back sophomore year when a teacher told me to cover up an inch of stomach so boys wouldn’t “leer” at me. I’d like to tell that teacher that if someone is leering at me for my clothes, that is their problem. I should not have to work to prevent that.

Dress codes come from a place of misogyny and men being unwilling to take responsibilities for their actions. Girls are made to leave class to change their clothes so that boys aren’t “distracted.” Meaning, you take away valuable class time from a girl so that her male counterpart can learn in peace. This is unacceptable.

Dress codes are also heteronormative and inconsistently enforced. If schools really want a dress code to maintain a more professional environment— not to prevent male “distraction” — they should make it realistic and consistent between genders, races and body types.

This shaming isn’t specific to school either. When women wear revealing clothes in general, people make snap decisions about their personalities. This leads to shaming and victim blaming and creates a damaging environment for women.

We also can’t forget about the shame that women face for dressing modestly. Women can be seen as prudish or oppressed for doing this. This may be true in some cases, but it is definitely not always the case.

Some women cover up for religious reasons. Muslim women are constantly seen as oppressed, and while in some parts of the world modest dress may be enforced, it can also be a personal choice. We’ve seen this recently with the burkini ban–a swimsuit worn predominantly by Muslim women—because it was said be oppressive and unaligned with French culture.

In reality, this ban is islamophobic and judges women for making the choice to dress modestly. According to the New York Times, Aheda Zanetti, inventor of the burkini, said that people “misunderstood the burkini swimsuit” and that it represents “freedom and happiness.” Forcing women to cover less is just as much of a problem as forcing women to cover more.

There is no simple solution to this problem; it’s something patriarchal and won’t be changed overnight. But if we speak up, we can at least come closer to leaving women alone and respecting their personal choices. It’s crucial that we get people to understand that women choose to dress the way they do based on what makes them happy.