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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Adamsky - MRH Faculty

Shoulders: Yea or Nay?

by Gracie H

Dress code: something we are all familiar with, and something I first encountered when I was in 1st grade. I got in trouble because I was wearing a spaghetti strap shirt. I was no older than 6 years old. They told me I had to cover up “because they said so.” Then as I got older and elementary school turned to middle, then middle to high school, it “You’re distracting (male) students.”


At a young age most girls wouldn’t argue about the rules, but as we got older we pushed back. Why are shoulders “attractive?” Why can boys show their shoulders? Why do I get dress-coded and other people don’t for wearing the same thing?


The response by admins and school officials seems to always fall in the same category: because they don’t want distractions in the classrooms. In an article by This is Gendered, about US high schools the word “distract” or “disrupt” show up in 76% of their dress codes. And “appropriate” has shown up in 60%. But with these being listed, the majority of rules and regulations were directed towards girls, trying to make sure they dress properly.


But doesn’t that just mean they are labeling girls and their bodies as distracting? This type of mindset is extremely unhealthy for teen girls, as this fixation on their body causes overthinking. This overthinking is also linked to depression, low self-esteem, and in some cases eating disorders. The effects get worse when certain groups of girls are targeted. Studies from Planned Parenthood show that girls that are part of minorities and or are bigger have a higher chance of being dress-coded compared to other girls. Even when wearing the same thing, further making girls feel guilty for trying to find confidence in themselves.


So the question arises, where do we draw the line for what girls can wear to school?


For most adults and teens discussing the issue they always go to the extreme. “Well I don’t want someone showing up in a bikini,” Harmony. M a senior here at Mountain Range explains. But, she continues to say, that though she doesn’t want that, at the end of the day she could care less what someone wears because it isn’t her business. She would just be worried for their safety.


Which leads into the fact certain rules are in place specifically for the safety of students as pointed out in an article by Bonneville Academy.. The reason why we can’t wear shirts with inappropriate phrases or pictures, or why we can’t have bandanas. All are valid rules to protect students from gang violence, fighting, or other small conflicts. So I agree that these rules should be in place, but how is showing our bellies or backs dangerous?


If you want to say it’s so girls don’t endanger themselves because of their bodies, you are only feeding into the problem. School, for the most part, is one of the first places most girls felt like they had to hide themselves, because they felt they could be a victim. This all loops back to how this mentality is extremely harmful and negatively affects the mental state of teen girls.


What should be taught is that no matter what someone wears, it isn’t an excuse, isn’t a distraction, isn’t something that should be weaponized to guilt people. School is a place for learning, and it doesn’t matter how someone shows up. Because even the simple fact that they showed up means something, students are people, not pieces of meat.


More importantly dressing how you like raises confidence in the wearer, which can further increase in class participation. And with self-expression, mental health increases, leaving an overall positive outcome.


Though dress codes are important in protecting students, putting so many rules on what girls should be wearing in order to lessen distractions is an unhealthy and outdated mentality that is harmful to teen girls’ mental health.

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