Skip to main content

My Clothes Are Not Your Concern


It's back to school season which means that schools are refreshing their handbooks, and students are hitting the store for the perfect first day of school outfit. Just remember to check the dress code before you fall in love. While boys can easily pick out a few pairs of shorts, shirts, and maybe some jeans, girls will spend hours crawling through the store, aisle by aisle, looking for something that might not get them sent to the office, or, worse, sent home.
For many tween and teen girls, back to school comes with plenty of anxiety before you realize that the school wants you to wear clothes that simply don't exist. For some it causes mere frustration, for others, it can create a real problem. Lower income families quite literally can't afford to make a wrong move when buying new clothes for back to school. If the item might get flagged, it's not bought because clothes are expensive and not being able to wear the shirts you bought to school because they're not tight enough around the neck is too big of a risk.
Even if you are fortunate enough to be able to replace items that don't make the cut, finding clothes that fit the bill is still nearly impossible. If you walk into a girls or women's clothing store, you'll realize rather quickly that there are only so many stylistic choices. Girls shorts are short. Girls jeans are tight. Leggings are a staple in life, and shirts have a variety of sleeves and necklines that might show a collerbone, shoulder, or back while still covering the chest. Loose jeans or bottoms that go to a girl's fingertips (a very subjective measurement) are nearly impossible to find. Schools ask girls to show up in clothes that simply don't exist for them even though there are plenty of options that are sufficiently professional and conservative for school. Clothing makers don’t read the handbook.
I challenge the administrators who make these rules to go to any popular and affordable clothing store for young women and pick out a week's worth of outfits that are appropriate for the weather and for school within their rules. I'm dubious about how many will succeed.
And once the first day rolls around, you have to show up whether you've won the clothing lottery or not. Dress code seems to be the highest enforced code violation in high school, and so you find yourself in the office having the beg to go back to class because you're wearing black leggings, jogging shorts, skinny jeans, or a spaghetti strap top that fully covers you. Not only do you miss valuable class time that puts you behind, you're listening to a lecture about how your clothes are inappropriate or provocative or distracting to your male peers. And you're trying not to vomit or yell in frustration.
I know this reality well, and I know what it's like to stare into your closet on the verge of tears because you know that, come morning, you'll start fighting the losing battle all over again. Dress codes are a great way to make bright students lose their way to learn. Once you've violated the dress code once, there's a bull's eye on your back so that even when you are within the dress code you get called out in front of your peers to demonstrate that fabric does touch the tips of your fingers when your arms hang by your side.
If I could say one other thing to school administrators, I'd ask them to look me in the eye and swear their polices did not disproportionately target the young women. Every one who did would be lying because every regular item of clothing for boys fit the rules by coincidence. School dress codes are a way to police the female body and reiterate a few harmful, sexist messages. First and foremost, it promotes the idea that your clothing is an invitation for unwanted looks, advancements, harassment, or assault. Is that what we really want to teach in school? That girls need to cater to not distracting their males peers and that we shouldn't "tempt their self control" by wearing shorts because it's ninety degrees out? Second, it promotes the warped idea that what you wear determines your value as a person. Because I sometimes like wearing bold lipstick or shorts or the occasional crop top, I'm a less intelligent person than if I wore slacks and a turtle neck? We should stop promoting the idea that how you like to express your style is an indicator of IQ or a desire to be provocative because with teens looking to express their individuality and creativity, that couldn't be farther from the truth.
This isn't to say the rules don't affect boys as well. Though clothing is easy, they get no say in how they keep the hair that grows out of their face. Just like I cannot help the way my body looks, they can't stop their hair from growing.
Schools use dress codes as a way to exert control and gain power, when, in reality, the opposite happens. Given free reign, most teens dress entirely appropriately for today's society in their day to day life. It is their parent's job to decide what's appropriate and what's not. Giving overly restrictive and archaic rules the stage an attack on the students makes them lose their will to learn along with their will to follow other, more important rules. Maybe we should start thinking about what really matters to the learning environment, because having a bright guy drop out of school over his pony tail and a girl who's near paralyzed with fear about getting called out for every outfit she owns isn't improving student learning or concentration. I guarantee you, the teens who step out of the dress code aren't doing it out of spite or animosity or to look sexy. We're just trying to express ourselves or get through the day.
Schools should consider taking a cue from the district in California that has reduced their code to simply no profanity, drug or violent imagery, and your private areas must be covered. Make up, any hair length, leggings, crop tops, and colored hair are all aloud, and I will tell you with full confidence that the school will not fall to anarchy. Likely, it will thrive because when clothing is not a spotlighted issue, it fades into the background of learning, friendship, and self discovery that high school is supposed to be about. So maybe we call all encourage our local schools to leave bullying their students out of the rulebook, and we can all work for happier, more inclusive school environments because high school is hard enough without feeling like you can’t even get dressed in the morning.
To all the awesome teens who are getting ready to head back to school, I wish you good luck with your grades, your friendships, and in expressing your creativity. Being unique is never something to be ashamed of, and don’t let anyone bring you down for it. Be proud of who you are.

Links of Interest:
12 Steps To Normal: Review Here
The Inconceivable Life of Quinn: Review Here
Favorite Podcasts: List Here

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Pride

Pride by Ibi Zoboi (September 18)
Overview: Though it's billed as a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, this story is all its own. Zuri is a proud citizen of Bushwick. She loves her family, her neighbors, and the character that surrounds her. She and her many sisters have spent months speculating about who is moving into the renovated home across the street. They don't expect Darius and Ainsley Darcy, wealthy, private school boys that don't fit with the vibe of the neighborhood. Despite their differences, Darius and Zuri grow closer, and between dealing with her sisters and mounting college applications, they find a spark that might be too hot to ignore. Overall: 4 

Characters: 5 The characters are very well formed. Probably because they are so steeped in the vivid world Zoboi paints, we feel their essence from the very first page. From the refined Darcy twins to the chaotic group of four sisters all cooped up in one bedroom, the people in Zuri's world help us learn about …

Sadie

Sadie by Courtney Summers (September 4)
Overview: Sadie is unlike any book you have ever read or will likely read again. It's dark, gritty, mysterious, and, shockingly, scarily, real. Told through transcripts of podcast, The Girls, and a handful of first hand accounts from Sadie herself, we learn the story of two sisters; one dead and one missing. West McCray is the reporter tasked with investigating Sadie's disappearance in the wake of her sister Mattie's murder after the police give up the search. As he patches the many frayed ends together, the picture grows in our heads of what Sadie saw and how her her story ends. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 Sadie is strong, brave, and determined to avenge her sister's death and her own abuse. She's never had the room she needs to have her own feelings because she's spent her life caring for her younger sister since her mom was an addict. When her sister dies, Sadie has nowhere left to turn but the road where she has to sort …

Places No One Knows

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff (372 pages)
Overview: Waverly never quite fit in when she was younger. When she and her best friend Merabeth start high school, they decide that was going to change. With Waverly's brain and Merabeth's social skills, the girls rise to the top of the social ladder. But, when Waverly finally gets it all, she feels lost and empty, simply acting a part she has no attachment to.
That's when she meets Marshall Holt. Through a relaxation technique Waverly finds to fight her insomnia, which involves breathing in the aroma from a candle while counting, she finds herself transported to a party where no one can see her except for school slaker/stoner Marshall Holt. Through these odd dreams that only the two of them remember, their notions of who they have to be are slowly dismantled. Waverly feels like she can let down her guard and show her true self, while  Waverly inspires Marshall to start thinking of himself and putting work into his classes…

The Lake Effect

The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan (391 pages)
Overview: Lake Michigan is beautiful. That's why the town of South Haven draws so many tourists, or in this case, seasonal workers. Briggs gets the chance to return to the lake for a summer to work for an old woman looking for live in summer help. Though the lake promises beautiful days and abundant fun, it also opens him up to many new worlds. That of his Serbian employer oozing with spunk, the unintentionally mysterious girl next door, Abigail, and the whole crew of townies who fill his afternoons with beach volleyball. The time away also offers a fresh prospective on the family he left behind and his future priorities. Though he knew about the weather, the Lake Effect was something much greater than he anticipated. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 Wow. So, I have to  say that when the book started, I was fine with Briggs but nothing special. He was the kind of guy who came from a somewhat privileged background that was a machine towards wealth …

12 Steps to Normal

12 Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn
Overview: Kira is back in Cederville after spending sophomore year in Portland with her aunt while her father went to rehab for alcoholism. When she walks back into her old house, she expects it to feel quieter after her Gram's passing. Instead, it's bursting with noise thanks to the three new people in the house that her father brought home from rehab. To make matters worse, her friends all treat her differently, and one of her best friend has started dating her freshman year boyfriend. Life has gotten out of control. Luckily, Kira has a twelve step plan to get her life back to normal. But is that even what she wants? Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Some characters I connected with more than others because I feel like some were built to be more human in a way. I loved Alex. He's the peripheral best friend that will obviously become something more. While he could have gotten as tropey as the rest of her former friends, Penn puts a lot of heart int…

Spotlight Review: 500 Words or Less

500 Words or Less by Juleah de Rosario (384 pages)
Overview: Nic Chen is not whole. Starting senior year, she's a fragment of parts she doesn't know how to reconcile. She's at the top of her class. She's Kitty's best friend. But she's also the girl with "whore" written in bright orange lipstick across her locker. Who's missing her boyfriend. And her childhood best friend who's abandoned her. It isn't until she's tasted with writing everyone else's college essays that she starts to piece together who she really is. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 I loved Nic. She sees the world in an interesting and beautiful way. She's critical and analytical, but she is also full of longing and emotional connection. She challenges the double standard and inequality. She questions the people around her and how they've changed- how some have been allowed by the world to change more than others.
The parsing of the parental relationships is also intere…

My Favorite Podcasts

Today's post is slightly bookish related, but I thought a look into other kinds of media would be fun. So I want to talk about podcasts with all of you because they're my new obsession, and I'm always looking for more. If you haven't jumped on this ship, podcasts are amazing because they're hands free (so perfect for when you're jogging, cooking, or cleaning up), interesting, and easy to follow. I love listening to things, but I always lose my train of thought with audiobooks. The conversational aspect of podcasts make it easy to reorient yourself if you get distracted.
I listen to all kinds of podcasts, so, for the purpose of this list I'm breaking them down by genre. Let me know in the comments below if you're a fan of any of these podcasts or have more that I should listen to. Even though I subscribe to a million of them, I'm always running out of things to listen to.

On YA/Books/Writing: First Draft by Sarah Enni Sarah talks about the writing proc…

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer (375 pages)
Overview: Quinn learns she's pregnant by happenstance. She was visiting a new doctor when they told her the news, which is why she wrote it off. Because she was a virgin, and there was no way she could be pregnant. The new doctor didn't know her; the exam, urine test, and blood test were all jumping to unfounded conclusions. It was so outlandish, Quinn decides to tell a lady at her dad's campaign party about her supposed pregnancy because it was such a funny joke. Once word gets out to the press, Quinn's family's home is hounded by press and people who think she's like the Virgin Mary. While Quinn tries to come to grips with what happened to her, she's also worried about her boyfriend, friendships, and her father's crumbling run for congress. Overall: 3 

Characters: 3 Though the author made the characters come off the page, none of them were of much interest to me. Her family and therapist as we…

Hole In The Middle

Hole In The Middle by Kendra Fortmeyer (September 4)
Overview: Morgan is like everyone else starting senior year. She's easing into adulting and thinking about her future. She's living in an apartment with her best friend Caro and trying to figure out how to break it to her super driven, successful, fitness guru mom that she doesn't really want to go to college. Morgan also spends a fair amount of time at the doctor's office because she has a peach sized hole straight through her abdomen.
There's been one rule her entire life. Don't let anyone know about the hole, and, besides Caro and Caro's boyfriend Todd, she's succeeded. One night, though, she cuts herself a crop top and goes out to a club called Mansion where she shows off her true self, in all her glory. Photos spread like a wildfire on the internet, and she's approached by a new doctor who thinks she might have a cure. Though it  comes with press crews, a boy who has a lump that won't disa…