School Dress Codes Are Sexist and Damaging To Girls

Show Notes:

School dress codes are sexist and often result in body shame, self-objectification, powerlessness, and making girls responsible for boy’s bad behaviors.

Topics discussed in this podcast: Should girls be allowed to wear what they choose to school? Dances? Going to parties? How are school dress codes damaging to girls? What can parents do to support their daughters with this issue?

Old beliefs about women’s bodies drive dress codes

Old beliefs drive decisions about dress codes: that the female body is inherently tempting and leads to sin, so cover it! School dress codes tend to target girls more than boys; inherent message that girls and women can’t be trusted to dress themselves properly, so we have to mandate laws & dress codes to stop them from tempting boys and men

What message do boys receive due to these dress codes

Message dress code and violations gives to boys: The idea that they cannot control themselves in the presence of girls and women who look a certain way implies that they are no more than animals with no self-control

Girls discuss the reasons behind the fashions they wear

Dr. Jordan shares insights about what girls say about why they dress the ways that they do. Self-expression plays a crucial role in identity development and one major form of this expression is through one’s clothing. “Fashion and clothing are used to create and reveal a cultural, social, and personal identity. Part of their identity is embodied by clothing and fashion.

The damaging effects of dress codes on girls

Effects of dress codes on girls: studies found that 83% of students cited for dress code violations were girls. Study findings also demonstrated how the methods of school dress code enforcement promote a sexually objectifying environment in which girls feel physically and psychologically unsafe. Also, the findings of this study revealed that girls experience body shame, self-objectification, and powerlessness through dress code enforcement and sex education in school. 

Sexism is rampant in the writing and implementation of school dress codes, as the words used are targeted towards girls and women according to a study of 481 public schools surveyed. Studies show that increased anxiety, depression, and aggression results from this kind of discipline

Prohibited clothing items: strapless top, spaghetti straps, halter top, low neckline, short dresses, pajamas, sheer clothing, short skirt, narrow straps, leggings, tight clothing, crop top, backless shirt, fishnet clothing, visible bra straps, holes above thighs, sleeveless shirt, frayed clothes, cutoff shorts, backless dress, off shoulder shirt, spandex clothing, no underwear, holes above knees, swimwear, pants with holes, visible underwear, short shorts

According to the same survey, the words “distracting” and “disruptive” appeared in 76% of dress codes, suggesting that the exposure of certain body parts, such as the midriff, interferes with learning

Girls become responsible for boy’s behavior

Dress codes today put the onus on the wearer, not their peers, to dress and act a particular way. But the notion that girls are responsible for boys being respectful, which dress codes enforce, can be a damaging precedent to set. it can also send the message that girls are automatically at fault when boys are not respectful; “It’s my responsibility to make sure the boys’ thoughts are not unclean.”

Here’s How can parents support their daughters

So, what’s a parent to do? Dr. Jordan offers many suggestions about how parents can use dress codes to create open dialogue about clothing, responsibility, objectification, and sexism. 

Links to good articles on this topic:

Dress code effects on girls:

Dress codes sexualize women

Why dress codes are unhealthy:

For more ideas about how to empower your daughter, read Dr. Jordan’s book, She Leads: A Practical Guide for Raising Girls Who Advocate, Influence, and Lead

She Leads

You are now subscribing to our newsletter list for more good stuff!

Family Meeting Guidelines

Get your free copy of these guidelines for effective family meetings!

Scroll to Top