Jaden Smith wears skirts for ad campaigns, and Ellen Page prefers suits to gowns on the red carpet — and this is largely acceptable by society. But when male students show up to school in dresses and females are seen in the hallways in collared shirts and blazers, attitudes are very different. However, a group of teenagers at Buchanan High School in Clovis, Calif., want to change that.
After the Clovis Unified School District voted to reject an addendum to the dress code that would allow boys to wear their hair long and accessorize with earrings, students started a petition urging the board to adopt a gender-neutral dress code. In less than a week, it garnered nearly 2,500 signatures.
In addition to the appeal, a handful of students protested the lack of sartorial progress by breaking the fashion rules. “The reason we switched gender norms for the day was to make the statement that what we wear does not define us as students,” Emma Sledd, who wore a collared button-down, told the Fresno Bee. “We believe everyone should be able to express themselves equally. A boy with long hair is no less of a hard worker than a girl with long hair.”
“yeah they do! her jacket speaks truth. appearance does not define a person. personality does. it’s 2016, it’s about time we break gender roles and shame against girls for what they wear.” (Photo: @heyymarie/Instagram)
Patrick Smart wore a dress to school for the first time in order to make a statement. “When today’s youths don’t have a way to express who they are, they may just become another statistic in suicide rates,” he said, adding that students deserve to express their sexual orientation and gender identity through fashion.
Sophia Brodish took a white sweatshirt and wrote “Dress Codes Suck” in big block letters using every color of the rainbow. She was the only student to face disciplinary action.
so i got called into the vice principles office about my jacket hahahahahahahahhahahahahahaha pic.twitter.com/tbQKPTzr72— nina basherian (@lilgayplant)February 2, 2016
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the school district is in direct violation of the state’s education code. And while transgender rights have become a part of the discussion (although it’s largely focused on the kids’ right to wear what they please), a spokesperson for the school district insisted that the policy doesn’t discriminate against those individuals.
This is just one of many schools that have come under fire from the Internet for having strict dress codes, especially in a time when gender neutrality is becoming more established than the historical binaries. But there are some institutions setting precedents. For example, Aberdeen High School in Baltimore is breaking a longstanding tradition of having different-colored caps and gowns for graduation and introducing a standard royal blue uniform. Additionally, a century-old college in the U.K. changed its rules to make dysphoric or transgender attendees more comfortable.