Editorial: Dressed to Impress or Provoke?

Like most subjective things, what is considered appropriate varies from person to person, making deciding on a dress code difficult. We, as the editorial board, found it extremely challenging to come to a consensus of what should and shouldn’t be worn to school. We’ve decided that we know what’s inappropriate when we see it (i.e. we would deem coming to school in a string bikini or wearing nothing at all inappropriate), but we can’t agree on where conservative turns to racy. The GFS school policy about clothing choices allows students to express themselves through their choices while also keeping in mind that their choices can reflect on their personality and sometimes affect others. The Blue Book states “Revealing and/or provocative clothing at school has negative effects on both individuals and community, for it undermines not only the clarity and focus of our work together but also our working relationships,” meaning that the school dislikes “revealing or provocative” clothing, yet there’s no definition of what that means. The Blue Book statement is outdated, and there’s been talk about making a change, but even the teachers had difficulty coming to a consensus.  Last year when a few students seemed to be testing the boundaries of good taste, some teachers thought that we should put in place a stricter dress code, where, for example, shorts couldn’t be lower than fingertips, while others thought that the minimal dress code we have now is fine. All faculty did agree that there needs to be some guidelines for proper school attire. According to certain faculty, the current unpublished rules provide that no torsos can be exposed (from your armpits down is your torso, and yes, this includes your back). No shirts can be loose enough to see through the arm holes. No undergarments can be showing, and in addition to these rules, just  use our own judgment. GFS is a place where independence and individual expression is accepted and encouraged, and the dress code is no exception.

We’ve found many flaws in these vague guidelines; one being that putting in place unwritten rules where there weren’t any before, in a way pushes children to rebel against the vague new rules. One student said when told about these new rules, “Then I’ll just go out of my way to break them.” Presumably the response more students will have. Another fault in the new “unwritten” rules is that can be perceived as sexist as the new guidelines seem to only apply to the girls. While promiscuous clothing might be more of a problem for girls, the whole gender seems to be paying the price for it. Not only in the way its articulated (i.e. not many boys come to school in crop tops), but also in the way they are enforced. Girls are much more likely to be called out on their clothing choices. GFS doesn’t seem to have this problem yet, but some schools’ rationale for having a strict dress code is that girls’ dressing scandalously distracts boys. Others argue that girls shouldn’t be punished for not complying with rules they have no say in. GFS isn’t there yet, but once we abandon our loose dress code, it’s a slippery slope.

We believe that the solution to the current dress code issue is that the students should be present in any discussions about new guidelines, since it concerns them. Even though there is no way to please everyone, we can attempt to come to a concrete solution that won’t instigate rebellion. In middle school we are constantly told what we can and cannot do, but choosing what clothes we wear in order to express our personalities and feelings is important for the learning environment. There should be some restrictions on what is appropriate to wear, as well as regular discussions on clothing in the middle school with students. Consideration should be given to make sure that the guidelines are not too restrictive. GFS is a place where independence and individual expression is accepted and encouraged, and the dress code is no exception.

The Corner Editorial Board

Illustration by Cassie Coale