I teach at a public middle school. We have a pretty lax dress code as these things go — I only ever really have to enforce it when the weather gets hot. Basically, no strapless things, no spaghetti strap tank tops, no wife beaters, no crazy low cleavage, no tummy baring, and no shorts or skirts that don’t pass the fingertip test. (Forget about how ambiguous that last one is — that’s a subject for it’s own post right there!)
On the one hand, I think the policy is pretty reasonable. I get that we are kind of making a general nod towards business/more workplace friendly attire. Especially at an urban, high poverty school, I feel like it is really easy for liberal, hippy teachers to get hand-wringy when kids and their families just want you to make sure that they will leave school with more social capital than when they came in. It’s important that we convey to kids that if you dress this way at your job, it will not serve you well. I also have certainly seen some kids in outfits that make me go, oh there is no way an adult let you walk out of the house like that, I need to step in here pronto because your mom would want me to.
On the other hand, I think the policy is kind of wack and difficult to defend. Forget about the confusing nature of the letter of the rules themselves — different clothes also look really different on different kids. In 7th grade, this is especially true. Some of my girls still look like 8 year olds and some have bigger boobs/butts than me. The same pair of shorts on one girl are like R-rated booty time and on another are like, super cute summer wear! This makes it extra difficult to explain either why I’m making you change and not her because your ass is bigger OR why you, tiny little prepubescent darling have to buy a new wardrobe because we have decided this one makes you look too “sexy.”
Which of course brings me to the real problem which is there is no legit way to explain to girls why I/the school wants more of their body to be covered. So boys aren’t distracted? So they don’t look too mature? Of course there’s the proxy of the workplace thing, but even then, they are like, but why is that the case in an office? And basically my answer is like, well, get used to it — life isn’t fair for women.
Because on the OTHER other hand, the real problem is that look how many of those dress code rules apply to girls, and how many apply to boys. Of course, the ones I didn’t mention that apply to boys are no baseball caps, no do rags, no sagging pants, etc. So basically, girls, don’t be too sexy, boys, don’t look too black. (Since the majority of my kids are black, this does end up meaning the rules apply somewhat “evenly” to both genders — yay?). And again, while I know I’m essentially just enforcing the same set of guidelines that our society has set up for professional and learning environments in general, it just makes me feel gross.