The Real Problem With Sexist School Dress Codes

May 28th 2015

When I heard that #CropTopDay was trending online, I became worried that someone wanted the 90s look to make a comeback. The hashtag, however, goes beyond fashion and confronts an issue that many women can understand, especially if they've been told their clothing choices are a distraction to men.

After a male teacher reportedly said that Canadian high school student Alexi Halket's shirt was too revealing to wear to class, the young lady started #CropTopDay on social media to show that she was not in the wrong for wearing what made her most comfortable in warm weather.

“I went in to the office and refused to change or cover up, and I was sent to the principal where we talked for over an hour and came to no conclusion except a thre at that if I wore something like this again I would be called in to the office,” Halket wrote on a Facebook event page (which has since been deleted), according to BuzzFeed. “So PLEASE wear a crop top, sports bra, bralette, bandeau, or anything similar and stand in solidarity against the sexualization of women’s bodies on my birthday."

Not only did Halket's classmates go to school in crop tops, but women in other parts of the country and world did the same to show support for Halket on social media:

Those who didn't share crop top photos raised interesting points on the silliness of school dress codes instead:

This isn't the sole dress code controversy sweeping across Canada right now. Earlier this month, fellow Canadian teen Lauren Wiggins received detention for donning a halter dress to school, as school officials reportedly said it was a "sexual distraction" to male classmates. Wiggins echoed the sentiments of many Twitter users by saying it's unfair to tell girls how to dress based on the way boys might react to their appearance.

"I will not search for something to cover up my back and shoulders because I am not showing them off with the intention to gain positive sexual feedback from the teenage boys in my school," Wiggins wrote in a letter to her school's vice principal. "I am especially not showing them to receive any comments, positive or negative, from anybody else besides myself because the only person who can make any sort of judgment on my body and the fabrics I place on it is me. If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders then he needs to be sent home and practice self control."

Dresses and tops aren't the only items of clothing with which schools have found fault. Last year, an Illinois middle school banned leggings, shorts, and yoga pants as they're "too distracting" to male students.

"Under no circumstances should girls be told that their clothing is responsible for boys' bad behaviors," Juliet Bond, a parent, wrote in a letter to the school. "This kind of message lands itself squarely on a continuum that blames girls and women for assault by men."

Bond highlighted the major underlying issue of all these dress code policies directed at females. Not only do these rules shame them for their clothes and make it harder to be comfortable in hot summer months, but they also perpetuate the idea that women have to manage their attire around the fact that men can't control themselves. As Bond noted, it's this kind of attitude that makes people believe sexual assault survivors were "asking for it" based on their attire, and that's not the kind of thing that should be ingrained in the minds of impressionable girls.

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