I’ve been thinking recently about the way that society regulates the female body by dictating what is considered to be appropriate clothing and what isn’t.
More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the way in which young females are policed at school through the use of a dress code that only seems to apply to one sex.
I understand that uniforms serve many purposes and that it is beneficial for students at a school to wear the same thing for various reasons. I also understand that schools want all of their students to dress “appropriately” for their age and that they do not want to contribute to the growing sexualisation of teenage girls.
What I don’t understand, however, is the long list of rules that dictate the appropriate dress for female students. I don’t understand the downright ridiculous uniform policies and I certainly don’t understand the reasoning behind them.
In many schools, fitted trousers are not considered to be appropriate because they show the female’s shape. In other schools showing your collarbones is not allowed. In most schools girls are not allowed to have their bra straps or bare shoulders visible, meaning that a basic vest top is considered to be inappropriate and too revealing for female students to wear.
Why aren’t girls allowed to show their shoulders, might you ask? Well, it’s because they will apparently be a distraction to male students.
Instead of teaching women from an early age that they must keep their body covered so that they do not distract boys, how about we start teaching boys to simply not sexualise every single inch of female flesh?
By imposing strict dress codes such as these, women are taught that keeping themselves covered so as not to tempt boys is the norm and that, essentially, the way that they dress is directly responsible for boys’ behaviour.
More worryingly about these dress codes is the fact that, in addition to leading women to believing they are responsible for the behaviour of men, they let young boys believe that they are not responsible for their own actions.
The behaviour of boys who objectify young girls based on what they’re wearing is commonly justified with phrases such as “boys will be boys” or “you know what boys are like.” This implies that boys have no self control and that it isn’t their fault if they falsely interpret a woman’s clothing as an invitation for sexual activity.
This message sticks with women into adulthood and feeds directly into rape culture. It is the woman’s job to ensure she does nothing to provoke sexual harassment or assault from a man. She should not go out late at night. She should not walk the streets alone. She should not wear revealing clothing. If she does, isn’t she kind of asking for it?
Instead of regulating women’s behaviour and clothing and holding them responsible for the behaviour of men, how about we start holding the men who objectify and attack women accountable for their actions?
Image via Instagram.