Girls hanging out
Share
Ages:
all

Learning

Why I’m Ignoring My Daughter’s School Dress Code

Sep 28, 2017

She was seven, I think. It was the first day of school and I eagerly bounced into the schoolyard to pick up my daughter. I was excited to hear her back-to-school report. Did she like her new teacher? Was she sitting next to her friend? Was she happy to finally be back?

But when I found her among the frolicking kids, she was all business. Did I know about the school’s dress code, she asked? Dress code? What dress code? This was her third year at the school and the first time I had heard about a dress code.


You'll Also Love: Want To Keep You Daughter In Sport? Don't Make Comments About Her Body


That’s when she placed her tiny seven-year-old arms at her sides and began to trace invisible lines along her little legs. Her shorts, she informed me, must meet her fingertips. Then she brushed her hand past her androgynous chest to her slight shoulders. Her top straps, she said, must be at least three fingers wide. 

Her outfit was in clear violation.

Young girls in tank tops, tweens in shorts, daughters in spaghetti straps, young ladies in leggings — all being sent home because of how they were dressed. No, I thought, this can’t be real.

My heart sank. Here was my daughter, only a couple of years out of kindergarten, being body shamed. And I thought, no. She must have gotten that wrong. When I tried to get to the bottom of the reason for the dress code, it became clear — it was to avoid distracting the boys. I don’t know about you, but the eight-year-old boys I know are more likely distracted by a fidget spinner than seeing the skin of a girl in grade three.

Fast-forward to the spring when I was reading story after story in social media about girls being sent home from school for wearing seemingly normal outfits for a hot day in a school without air conditioning.

Young girls in tank tops, tweens in shorts, daughters in spaghetti straps, young ladies in leggings — all being sent home because of how they were dressed. No, I thought, this can’t be real.

This fall, back at school, the issue of a dress code has raised its ugly head again. Gone are the rules of fingertips and arm lengths. Instead are new directives along the lines of banning bras and underwear from showing or midriffs making an appearance. Clothing choices are to meet the overall “moral tone” of the school.

And while I know the intentions behind these rules are earnest, I can’t help but again think, no. No to telling girls what to wear. No to telling girls what not to wear. No to telling them what and when to cover up.

As a mom, I see these codes as subtle messages being sent to my daughter to be ashamed of her body. To cover it up.

And while I’m at it, no to saying you can’t wear burkinis on the beach, high heels in a disaster zone, yoga pants on a plane, or miniskirts over 35. No to all of it. I would like to think that girls can choose how they want to present themselves without anyone else having a say. It is 2017, after all.

 

As a mom, I see these codes as subtle messages being sent to my daughter to be ashamed of her body. To cover it up. But I have to wonder — what is so alarming about a midriff or a bra strap? If we want our girls to truly feel good about their bodies, let's not send them the message at such a young age that something is wrong with them.

And where do the boys fit into all this? Do we really think they need to be protected from the girl’s bodies because they haven’t any self-control? Why are we dictating what 50% of the population is wearing to accommodate the other 50%? I sure hope we have more faith in our boys than that.


You'll Also Love: Accepting The Skin I'm In By Going Makeup-Free


Of course I don’t plan to let my kid go to class with her bum hanging out. But I also don’t think it’s the school’s place to police what my child wears. These codes are antiquated and frankly insensitive to young girls who, let’s face it, have a tough enough time getting through adolescence.

No, I won’t be adhering to my daughter’s school dress code. So far I haven’t received any calls. But if I do, you can bet I’ll be squeezing this 40-something body into some yoga pants or miniskirt, and I’ll head over to the school to have a chat.

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Laura Mullin is a playwright, director and the Co-Artistic Director of Expect Theatre and PlayME Podcast. Laura is passionate about the arts and works in theatre, film, and new media. She lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and their budding fashion designer nine-year-old daughter. When Laura isn’t writing plays or turning them into podcasts, she can usually be found picking up tin foil and duct tape off the floor after one of her daughter’s many avant-garde art projects. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.