Will the wonders of student dress codes ever cease? Prom season, if you’ll remember, brought the outrageous banning of kente cloths and goatees, and last week we learned about the Kentucky high school with natural-hair issues, as it no longer permits dreadlocks, cornrows, or afros over two inches high. Now comes an extensive list of dos and don’ts from an Illinois middle school that’s so sexist, it’ll have you seriously confused about what decade it was written in.
“Lady Like” and “school-appropriate” is how a flyer about the rules — given to students registering for fifth- through eighth-grade classes at the Freeburg Community Consolidated School District #70 — labeled the image of a headless woman wearing leggings and an oversized T-shirt. “Distracting,” “revealing,” and “dress-code violation,” meanwhile, is how the flyer labeled the image of an adjacent headless woman, this one wearing a bafflingly normal-fitting T-shirt and leggings. Driving the point home, the flyer notes, “Bottoms MUST be covered when wearing leggings, yoga pants, jeggings, or form fitting.”
Also part of the dress-code alert: sketches of two young men and six young women, the latter of which are drawn to have more curves than are typical for girls between the ages of 10 and 13. They are also labeled with a bevy of rules, such as to not wear tops with spaghetti or thin straps or tops that do not meet bottoms; short shorts, skirts, or skorts; backless/racerback tops or clothes with holes or tears; “clothing that does not provide adequate coverage of body”; or sunglasses.
Boys are simply instructed to steer clear of sagging pants and “undershirts or pajamas,” and all students are told to avoid T-shirts with messages that are “offensive” or touting “drugs, alcohol or tobacco.”
Tomi Diefenbach is superintendent for the school district, where classes begin on Aug. 16. While she did not immediately respond to a request from Yahoo Style, she did tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that while the dress code hasn’t changed since last year, the school intends to be more focused on enforcing it. “We plan to adhere to the dress code we have had all along,” Diefenbach said. “If there is a better way to get this out, I am open to it.
There must be a better way, according to commenters on the Facebook page for KSDK, many of which find the flyer to be offensive and over-the-top. “Wow, Freeburg’s been invaded by Maoists,” noted one, while another wondered, “How is the outfit on the right revealing?” One woman wrote, “The bottom half of the page is insulting. ‘Lady like’? Really?” while another posted the image of a flyer which read, in part, “I am a 15-year-old girl. If you are sexualizing me, YOU are the problem.” Others, meanwhile, found the rules reasonable in preparing students for “the real world.
Connecticut-based teen psychologist Barbara Greenberg was taken aback by the flyer. “It’s very sexist, and reinforces body shame and self-consciousness,” she tells Yahoo Style. “Also, there is very little here for males. What about guys who wear very tight jeans?” She also points out how odd it is that all the women are drawn “with cleavage,” and “voluptuous,” when the flyer is meant to target middle-schoolers. “Even the way they depict women’s bodies is sexist.”
While Greenberg does believe it’s important to have some kind of dress code at school, she finds the particular approach here faulty. “The message shouldn’t be ‘Cover it up because your body is shameful and seductive,’” she says, “which plays into the idea of hey, if anyone comes onto you, it’s your fault.”