The Right To Bear Arms Part II

Iz Gius As fall approaches, with tank tops and shorts quickly being replaced by thick sweaters and long pants, it seems strange to be talking about Latin’s dress code yet again. But despite my announcement with Mr. Coberly a couple weeks ago, there’s still much to be said about our dress guidelines, the sexism therein, and what exactly changed this school year. Last semester I took a GOA (Global Online Academy) course on Gender Studies. The topic of Latin’s online school partnership is enough for an entire article in itself, so I won’t go into too much detail about the class and my experience— but as my cumulative, end-of-semester project, I was given the unique task of creating a gender equality initiative within my local community. Restructuring Latin’s dress code was one of the first ideas to pop into my mind; I had seen plenty of Tumblr posts and news articles about teenage girls challenging their school’s restrictions on what clothing they could and could not wear. And although I myself have never been dress-coded or forced to change, many of my peers and friends have been reprimanded and embarrassed for showing their midriff, shoulders, or other “distracting” parts of their bodies (but more on that later). I began with a quick news search and a poll of some of the girls around me. What I found was encouraging: women all over the world, in high schools, middle schools, and universities, were challenging their administrations and demanding that they no longer be targeted. In addition, nearly all of my female peers had been dress-coded (or at the very least, had consciously chosen not to wear something to school in fear of getting in trouble), and mostly by male teachers. All of the terms I had been discussing in my GOA—patriarchy, femininity, rape culture—culminated in this one close-to-home issue. My problems with Latin’s previous dress code were twofold: the official language in the Handbook was discriminatory, as well as the enforcement. The Student Handbook banned any clothing that was “a distraction to students, faculty, or staff,” and offenders could receive “escalating disciplinary consequences including detention, probation or suspension.” And what exactly constitutes “distracting” clothing? The old dress code went on to list examples like “clothing which is too tight or too revealing” and “bare midriffs.” In very few words, the dress code was unequal. It uniquely targeted female students and labeled their bodies as a “distraction” to those around them. When girls would wear athletic clothing, show their shoulders, or reveal their midriff, they were blamed, received warnings, and were asked to change. Boys, on the other hand, regularly got away with wearing athletic-wear and were largely exempt from any regulation. There was ample room for change. So I put together a proposal, written statement, and video, submitted it to my GOA teacher, and left for summer vacation. I intended to talk to the Upper School administration, but not until the beginning of the next school year. However, after seeing a comment about my dress code initiative on my end-of-semester evaluation, Mr. Graf, the former Upper School Director, reached out to me. My email exchange with him soon became one with Mr. Coberly, who was immediately on board with the changes that I suggested. After many emails and a couple of meetings, he finalized the changes to the student handbook—and the rest is history. Our new dress code removes the phrase “distracting” entirely, only banning clothing which is inappropriate for school—things like visible underwear, references to drugs and alcohol, etc. The only remaining restrictions seem to me to be common sense. And although there’s not much I can do to remove bias in enforcement, I’m hoping the new restrictions will be clearer to faculty and staff, and that female students can now stand up for themselves and their own decisions about clothing and their bodies. For more information on the new and improved dress guidelines, check out page 22 of the handbook.]]>