Schools Can’t Enforce Masks, But Women’s Clothing? Another Story

Published on August 25, 2020

The other day, I reposted a meme about the hypocrisy of schools saying they cannot possibly enforce mask mandates when they have been enforcing ridiculous dress codes on women’s clothing for years. A few of my followers responded with some stories of all the clothing choices they’d been disciplined for in school. I then decided to post a question, asking if any of my other followers had been disciplined for similar things. The result was a barrage of responses from my female followers detailing some of the more ridiculous reasons they were disciplined in school because of what they were wearing.

School dress codes have long been the source of contention and debate. Feminists have said for years that school dress codes impose unfair standards on female students, and prioritize male learning over female. Proponents of the dress codes say that they maintain a sense of professionalism on campus or something like that. Now, however, schools around the country are saying they will not enforce mask mandates, mandates which essentially would be simple extensions of the dress code.

The Stories

In honor of this ridiculous debate, I will recount some of the most outrageous clothing-related reasons my female followers were disciplined in school, starting with my own.

The first time I got a dress code violation, I was 7-years-old. I was wearing a dress on the swings. Because I was on the swings, you could see the shorts underneath my dress. The principal called my mother and told her I need to be more covered if I’m going to be on the swings. My mother absolutely went off on the guy, screaming about why someone was looking up a 7-year-old’s dress in the first place. But masks, nothing we can do, right?

This kind of thing continued throughout high school. I was once removed from my high school government class because I was wearing a muscle tank that exposed about a 1-inch triangle of my rib cage. I missed an entire class to get a lecture from administrators about dressing provocatively.

One responder said she was reprimanded because her ripped jeans were distracting the class. Another was told by a counselor that her spaghetti straps were unacceptable because a boy might get an erection. Might spread a deadly virus? Totally fine. Women’s clothing that could potentially cause an erection? Must be immediately fixed.

A common rule that was discussed by multiple women was the famous “fingertips rule” that skirts, dresses, or shorts could not be shorter than the fingertips. Obviously, for young women with long arms that meant wearing long pants at all times despite any possible heat.

One woman shared a story with me from middle school. She was in 6th grade when she was sent to the principal’s office for wearing a red Juicy jacket. The school claimed the jacket promoted gang activity. Yes, seriously.

The Point

Schools have been comfortable policing women’s clothing and telling young girls what they should and shouldn’t be wearing for years. Getting sent to the principal’s office for dress code violations is practically a right of passage for American girls. If schools can enforce this kind of consistent (and deeply flawed) messaging for its female students, they are fully capable of enforcing mask mandates for the safety of both students and teachers alike.

Olivia Smith is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in San Francisco, she covers events, entertainment, fashion, and technology. She also serves as a Voices contributor at PopSugar.

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