How dress codes give rise to rape culture

Ali Smith, Arts & Leisure Editor

Although it is hard to think about much else than the pandemic that continues to overwhelm the globe, other issues — such as gender and equal rights — have been hot-button topics.
One of these essential conversations has been about rape culture.
What fosters rape culture? Has it always existed? Has this always been such a large concern on college campuses?
One in four college students is sexually assaulted. What makes this crime rate so high?
Well for starters, K-12 dress codes.
From a young age, students in public schools are forced to dress a certain way, and the rules become increasingly strict as students progress in school.
This is not only a safety issue for females, but also for young males, who are being taken advantage of at a rate that rises each year at an alarming rate.
In elementary school, the basic, more lenient rules are introduced. No short-shorts or spaghetti straps for girls, no muscle shirts for boys, one pieces or long swim trunks for pool class and so on.
As bodies begin to develop in middle school, and even more so in high school, however, the rules on clothes become less merciful: no low-cut, back-embracing, crop-topped shirts for young ladies. No tight pants or cutoff shirts for boys. No short-shorts, regardless of gender and no hats.
Why is our education system teaching our youth to hide their bodies? Or be ashamed of showing some, appropriate, skin? Why are they being taught to fear this form of personal expression?
More importantly, what does this do to shape the young minds of America and how they view themselves, others and the world around them?
Many teachers and administrators explain the districts’ dress codes, in short, by claiming shoulders, upper thighs and armpits, of either gender, are distracting and detracting from the education of other students. This, in turn, implies to young, malleable minds that the opposite gender and these forbidden parts are something to be conscious of. If someone dresses outside of these norms, they are obviously asking for the associated attention, correct?
This, then, creates the, “What were you wearing” narrative; as if what people choose to wear, how they choose to express themselves or any other factor outside of a predator’s selfish desires matters when an assault is committed. This can lead to victim blaming, which is very damaging.
Also, to prevent phone calls home or outfit changes in the nurse’s office, parents begin to justify the dress code, claiming that the way a student chooses to dress may also distract their teacher.
As someone who aims to become a high school English teacher and has graduated from the public school system, I can confidently say that the teachers who truly care about the students and their futures care more about what is going on inside their heads than what they choose to clothe themselves with.
For those who choose to use their position of power to further any other agenda, they are the problem, not the upper thigh of a young girl or the revealed bicep of a young man.
The next step, after this perspective-shaping, manipulative experience as a teenager, is the real world, which for some includes a college campus, which may explain why assault rates are so staggering.
Boys will be boys and prey will be prey, but it is the dress code that shapes them to be this way.



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