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Getting dressed for school shouldn't be this hard for girls

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine,,...

15 school dress codes better than those that shame and blame girls

When it comes to dress codes, it's no secret that girls and women usually get the raw end of the bargain. Instead of teaching boys how to comport themselves around young women, many schools are targeting girls and policing their attire, causing many problems all around. With all the issues surrounding them, we just had to hear what our favorite Raging Feminists thought the ideal dress code should be.

What do you think a dress code should say?

"Dear Student,

You are important, you are inherently worthy of respect, and you come to school to achieve. Your clothing should reflect this reality. If you choose clothing that interferes with your learning process, the admin office will provide you with something very uncool to wear for the day that will better allow you to focus on your studies.

Make good choices,

Your School Admins" — Ashley Black

"A dress code should instruct everyone to dress in a way they're most comfortable. It should assure young people their appearance is their own choice and doesn't concern anyone else. Too often, these policies project how OTHERS feel about how an individual appears." — Danielle Corcione

More: School gives girls uniforms, then bans them from wearing them

"Wear clothing that allows you to fully participate in your education, is weather appropriate, and in which you can safely move through, enter and exit the school facilities even in case of emergency."

— A mother

"Honestly I have shut down some sexist parents with 'If my daughter wants to wear a sundress or tank top in August, then she can and she has purple hair so deal with it.' One mother said, 'How do I tell my kid she can't wear super short shorts when the school allows it and her friends do it?' My retort was, 'That's called parenting.' Blurg I hate this issue. Flip side my kid is not wearing heels to school because pain and sprained ankles while you are growing still are not conducive to learning." — Amanda Rose Adams

"I went to a religious Jewish day school with a very strict dress code. Once, one of the teachers warned us 'girls' to stop wearing such large T-shirts because the boys could lean over and at certain angles see our bras. Imagine the body contortions involved for that feat.

The dress code should say... 'Boys. Stop being little invasive brats. Focus on your own lives. When a girl wants to show you her bra — if she wants to show you her bra — it'll be her choice. Now get back to work.'" — Leigh Shulman

"In an ideal world, a dress code should be six words: Be yourself. Be respectful of others." — Sarah Buttenwieser

"If you feel you genuinely must wear clothing with words on it, make sure your words aren't hurtful. Don't wear anything you're going to want to cover up or photoshop when you look at your school pictures in 30 years. And no Axe body spray." — Rowan Beckett Grigsby

"Young women: If you are told by a teacher that the way you are dressed is causing 'arousal' or 'distraction,' please tell us immediately. Adults sexualizing and shaming girls' bodies should not be teaching young people." — Katharine Heller

"Wear whatever is comfortable for you as long as it doesn't do any of the following:

- Light up.

- Set off smoke alarms.

- Generate sound that could distract from lessons.

- Make you too tall to walk through doors comfortably.

- Contain within its construction any large spikes, blades or anything that could cause irreparable harm to the structure of the school or your classmates.

- Throw fire from any of its extremities." — Seraphina Ferraro

"Drape, fasten or affix coverings (preferably fabric) on your body. And as always, keep your eyes on your own paper. Love, The Administration" — Jen Selk

"This is a school. It is a community for LEARNING. While school administration reserves the right to give advice about clothing to you and your guardians should it distract from your own learning, we trust you to make your best decisions about what to wear on your body that will make it easiest for you to LEARN.

When choosing your outfit for the day, please consider:

1) Will I be able to do my best LEARNING while wearing this?

2) Am I covered enough to work in the science lab AND paint in art class?

3) Will I be warm enough to LEARN?

4) Will I be cool enough to LEARN?

5) Will I be comfortable enough to LEARN?

Please use your best judgment. (When it doubt, ask for help from any member of school administration!)" — Alex Blank Millard

More: The Mamafesto: The problem with policing what girls wear to prom

"Your school ensemble should include your brain, but no other weapons are allowed on school grounds." — Meredith Counts

"No logos. Nothing that could potentially be hate speech. Respect the weather. Express yourselves." — Hani Yousuf

"As a raging feminist who is also a member of the DAR, I have no problem with dress codes per se (hey, I love wearing hats and gloves in my free time!), but they've got to be gender neutral. There are a ton of ways to say this: Shorts/skirts/kilts must be two inches above the knee or longer, shirts must be worn at all times, hats must be removed indoors, collars must be open less than 3 inches from the nape of the neck, etc. I think the key is that it should be spelled out enough, and gender neutral enough, that judgments should not be at the discretion of school staff — too much room for personal bias that way!" — Gyda Arber

"Dress codes should be about encouraging a sense of belonging and unity. They should be about making the school easily identifiable in public, but also about being a source of pride and connection for students. At high school, when students are most looking for a tribe, when they’re feeling most unlike the children they were, and not yet the adults they will be, a dress code should be something that gives them a sense of place.

As always, it’s easier to say what school dress codes should not be about. It should not be about dividing people on gender, race, creed or any other superficial measure. And it should definitely not be the source of attributing shame. Schools, all schools, need to get better at designing uniforms and policies that are inclusive and encompassing of all their diverse students. Only then will there be a real sense of belonging." — Asha Rajan
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