Another day, another high school dress code making headlines.
This time, a US school has been criticised by parents and pupils for requesting that “dress-wearing” students submit photographs of their planned outfits ahead of an upcoming dance for approval.
Pewaukee High School has, according to Milwaukee and Wisconsin news outlet Journal Sentinel, recently emailed parents reiterating a policy that’s been in place since 2015 – that students must send a picture of their dress before they can buy tickets to the homecoming dance in October.
While the district’s superintendent Mike Cady says the dress code isn’t sexist because it includes rules aimed at male students (such as not wearing low trousers showing underwear), he told the publication that female students’ attire had prompted the strict policy – and outraged parents are arguing that focusing on the girls’ wardrobes is a form of society’s pervasive victim-blaming.
“The girls are essentially being held responsible for the wayward thoughts [school administrators] think boys have,” Rebecca Sheperd, who has a daughter at the school, explained.
“They're being told, ‘You are the problem.’ These are the roots of rape culture, frankly.”
Many such dress codes are often said to be in the interests of not ‘distracting’ male students and promote ideas on what is and isn’t ‘appropriate’ clothing, a sentiment that places blame on women for provoking behaviours, rather than men for carrying out the behaviours; a belief in the vein of assault victims having ‘enabled’ their attack for the way they dressed, the time of night they were out or having drunk alcohol.
Though Cady claimed the code included rules for male students, many have pointed out that it’s seemingly only “dress-wearing” students required to send photographs of their attire before buying tickets, something that adversely affects female pupils, and both male and female students told Journal Sentinel that girls were called out for dress-code violations in school more than boys, with one telling the outlet: “Guys wear tank tops all the time and don’t get dress-coded.”
School dress codes that focus on policing the wardrobes of female students have been in the spotlight of late, with several schools’ policies going viral and in some cases, being amended after public outcry.
Images: Pete Bellis / Autri Taheri