— Cosmopolitan (@Cosmopolitan) April 28, 2015
Jef Rouner recounts his daughter’s excitement when she went to school the other day, sporting her new, pretty, rainbow sundress with a pair of shorts underneath. He packed a long-sleeved shirt and jeans in her bag in case the weather turned cold, but despite the warm day, she was wearing both when he picked her up.
“I’m not surprised to see the dress code shaming come into my house.” writes Rouner. “I have after all been sadly waiting for it since the ultrasound tech said, ‘It’s a girl.’ I didn’t think, though that it would make an appearance when she was five years old.”
Rouner says his little girl was told that her dress was against the rules — rules that are written, he contends, with females in mind. And he’s right. Dress codes are nearly always targeted at girls and their body parts and how they should keep them under wraps so the males can get an education without the risk of being distracted by female flesh.
Dress codes have been a thing for ages. I remember hearing stories from my elders about females not being allowed to wear anything but dresses and skirts to school, while boys had to keep their hair trimmed and well kept. While we’ve crept away from these standards, some remain in place, generally directed at the female pupil population.
And I have to ask, what is it about a 5-year-old girl’s body that requires regulation and policing? The dress is summery, it’s appropriate, and if anyone is going to be distracted by the sight of her nearly bare shoulders, then I suggest that person turn themselves in to the authorities immediately.
It sucks that this child, the same age as one of my own daughters, has already been taught that her shoulders are shameful and they must be covered up. He writes, “Now I have this child, the one that argues scientific points about everything from the top speed of land animals in Africa to the classification of the planets with me endlessly, wordlessly accepting that a dress with spaghetti straps, something sold in every Walmart in America right now, is somehow bad.”
Fortunately his girl has an enlightened dad who will help her navigate a world where clothes define who you are as a person. I love that Rouner has used his platform to highlight the blatant double standard of a school dress code, and hope more parents take note that boys can and do handle seeing a girl’s shoulders or legs.