Do School Dress Codes Shame Young Women?

distractionemebedPhoto: Via I Am More Than a Distraction on Facebook.
How far do dress codes go to protect girls and young women? In a recent article for Al Jazeera America, Amel Ahmed makes the case that dress codes might only exacerbate problems like slut-shaming by making women feel like their bodies are simply distracting sexual objects for men.
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Ahmed highlighted a recent incident in a Florida high school, in which a student whose skirt was deemed to short was forced to wear baggy, bright sweatpants and a shirt labeled "DRESS CODE VIOLATION." The student was allegedly so humiliated that she broke out in hives.
Is such a punishment a just enforcement of school rules, or a contemporary scarlet letter that mortifies young women for their fashion choices?
The mother of the student told Ahmed that she has no problem with school dress codes, but called the sweatpants a "shame suit." Ahmed also spoke to Chitra Panjabi, spokesperson for the National Organization for Women, who noted that the school's action "tells young women that they are completely responsible for men’s behavior, which is an extraordinarily dangerous message."
It's a difficult world for young women to navigate when sexualized depictions of women are commonplace in the media — especially when those depictions come with messages of female empowerment — but an inch too much of skin in school might get them labeled as a tramp.
The problem is often compounded by the language used to address it — that boys and men find revealing clothing "distracting," and therefore women must bear responsibility for being ogled.
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Some students, however, are fighting back against that standard with a social media campaign called "I Am More Than a Distraction." The father of one of the campaign's founders told Ahmed, "A young woman can’t win. If you wear short shorts and a tank top, you’re being sexualized, and if you’re covering up, it’s because you’re being sexualized."
Read the rest of the article here. (Al Jazeera America)
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