Taft’s Dress Code Signifies the Imbalance of Female and Male Students in our School


The dress code at Taft is quite oppressive; it teaches our female students that their appearance is more important than their education. Furthermore, it teaches our male students that they are exempt from certain rules due to their gender. That treating women as objects is permissible. Although we cannot address every single comment or action that is oppressive, we can start by creating a school environment in which people are treated with the same respect and rights.

Our interpretation of the dress code at Taft, ridicules girls; shaming announcements targeting females, and PE shirts that let everyone know that they were punished for a simple thing; their wardrobe. The female students in our school are losing precious class time to go to the office and come back feeling humiliated, with everyone looking at them and judging them. It’s heartbreaking to see girls at our school cracked down on for their wardrobe while boys’ are treated with so much more respect. A female’s wardrobe is not harming anyone; there is no reason to highly regulate their clothing in the name of “discipline”.

Administrators are enforcing the dress code in order to prepare students for the “real world” workplace. Their reasoning is that in an office space, adults are expected to dress in a certain manner, but this has changed. Fifty years ago, tattoos would not be appropriate in an office setting. Nowadays, employers and businesses are more accepting of self-expression. If our administrators are preparing us for our future, why are their rules stuck in the past?

On the 2nd of October, Charisma Yousefzadeh, a student at Taft Charter High School, wore an outfit resembling Laila Ali, a female boxer, and daughter of Muhammad Ali, for the school’s “Hollywood Dress-up Day”. The outfit consisted of see-through pink shorts with black shorts underneath and a tank top. “I was in my first-period class, speaking to my teacher at her desk by the entrance of the classroom” Yousefzadeh recalled.  “[An administrator] just happened to be walking past … She pulled me out of the classroom to tell me that I was being dress coded. I explained that I had shorts on underneath to cover myself and that even my mother had deemed my outfit acceptable enough to wear to school. I [still] had to leave school to get a different pair of pants, making me miss at least half an hour of class.”

Yousefzadeh’s story is not the only one. When talking with female peers in my grade there are many examples of girls who share similar experiences. This is not just a school-based problem either.  Women in the workplace (or just out in the street) constantly feel the lingering eyes of people judging them, tolerating the leers and catcalls because we have blamed the woman for her outfit, not the society for its perceptions. Although this mindset of inequity is ingrained in our society and it is much larger than our school, change occurs on smaller scales. We must allow our female students to wear what they want, and tackle the responses. It is not the fault of the woman walking down the street that she is catcalled, it is the catcaller that needs to learn to make better more appropriate choices.

The biggest fear of removing the dress code is that the female population will be brought face to face with the “boys will be boys” mentality.  We need to empower women rather than accept the toxic behavior. Teaching women to be afraid hasn’t worked, and to move forward we should tackle the issues head-on. Rather than allow the unintentional lessons that turn boys to creeps, we must find equality and expectations on a fair playing ground that benefits every gender.

Getting rid of the dress code could make Taft a more progressive school in which all students would truly be treated with the same respect.

Dress codes teach women that they must cover themselves up, in order for men and boys to not be distracted by their bodies. It teaches the men that its not their fault for glaring at women, that the women should be more modest. If this mindset is formed in our male students, they will go out into the world treating other women with less respect because they were taught that they have power over them. If we endeavor for our school to be a welcoming place filled with wonderful examples of equality, then why have we kept this rule that makes our female student body feel less important than their male peers?

This article is part of a series. Click here to view the other half of the series. 

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