Dressing Down A Dress Code

After an Evanston, IL middle school banned leggings on the logic that they are “distracting to boys,” seventh grader Sophie Hasty spearheaded a civil disobedience campaign against the new rule. In an interview with Amanda Hess, the 13-year-old girl explains how the dress code fight came about:

Last year, I never really paid attention to the dress code. But this year, teachers started to get stricter about it and giving stupid reasons for it. The reason was basically: “boys.” It’s a lot like saying that if guys do something to harass us, it’s our fault for that. We’re the ones being punished for what guys do. My friends and I got mad about it, and we would talk about it often earlier in the year, but we didn’t think we could really do anything about it.

Girls caught wearing leggings are forced to put on their gym shorts over them, which draws much more attention than the leggings themselves:

It’s humiliating to walk around the hallways wearing bright blue shorts. Boys yell “dress code!” when they see you. They act more inappropriate when you’re walking around in blue shorts when you’ve gotten dress-coded than when you’re just wearing leggings. I asked a teacher to tell us about an incident where a girl was wearing leggings and a guy was getting distracted. There hasn’t been one.

Eliana Dockterman calls the no-leggings rule akin to slut shaming:

The argument being made by school administrators is not that distant from the arguments made by those who accuse rape victims of asking to be assaulted by dressing a certain way. We tell women to cover themselves from the male gaze, but we neglect to tell the boys to look at something else. That this has a sexist undertone is demonstrated by the fact that the girls who had more curves to show off were the ones more often disciplined. “Students who were getting ‘dress-coded,’ or disciplined for their attire, tended to be girls who were more developed,” Juliet Bond, a parent of a student at Haven, told the Evanston Review.

Lucy Shapiro, a 12-year-old at Haven, added that when both she and a friend wore the same type of athletic shorts, a teacher disciplined her but not her friend because, she was told, “I had a different body type than my friend…With all the social expectations of being a girl, it’s already hard enough to pick an outfit without adding in the dress code factor.”