Students In Charleston Are Wearing Scarlet Letters To Protest Unfair Dress Codes

Photo: Via The Charleston Post Courier.
Some students and faculty at Charleston County School of the Arts, a public magnet middle and high school, are taking a very literary approach to make a statement about their school's dress code: They've been wearing scarlet "A"s for nearly a week.

They're not protesting the dress code itself, which is pretty standard (hats, exposed underwear, bare skin "between upper chest and mid thigh," shoulder straps less than two fingers in width, and profane slogans are all prohibited). Nope: The red "A"s are meant to challenge how the dress code is enforced more strictly for female than male students — and how larger women students have endured worse dress code-related treatment than their thinner peers, according to The Charleston Post and Courier. Peyton Corder, a junior at the school (pictured at left in the above photo), told the newspaper that a guidance counselor reduced her to tears by telling her that "heavier girls" should wear longer skirts.
“You see guys walking around in muscle tank tops with half their sides hanging out and their pants hanging down, and they don’t get called out for that. They don’t get called out for wearing a hat, but a girl will get called out for a short skirt in a second,” Reese Fischer, a student at Charleston County School of the Arts who co-organized the scarlet-letter protest, told The Charleston Post and Courier.

Approximately 100 students and faculty (though the group was primarily comprised of students) wearing scarlet letters gathered on Thursday to take a stand against the sexist dress code, and some have continued to wear the red "A"s. The school's principal, Robert Perrineau, has met with Fischer about the protest and told The Charleston Post and Courier he is "impressed by the students’ peaceful activism."

The problem here definitely seems to be in the delivery, not in the dress code itself. Fischer was once told by a teacher that she should wrap a sweater around her waist to cover too-short shorts. The teacher added, "You might as well be wearing underwear. I can’t believe you walked out the door like that," instead of simply informing Fischer her shorts didn't adhere to the school's dress code.
Female students are almost always unfairly targeted by classroom clothing protocol — whether the dress code itself or how it's enforced. Sexist dress-code drama has become excessive: If it's not a 5-year-old's bare shoulders causing a commotion, it's a high school girl's supposedly exposed collarbone or too-tight pants. (And similar issues are a problem in professional settings, too). If male and female students' fashion choices were policed more equally, that wouldn't solve things completely, but it would at least be a start.

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