Dress codes are not up to code

Sexist and impractical dress codes only serve to make a woman the object of a man’s wandering gaze

Photo courtesy of Mashable

Written by Stefanie Baltasar, SFU Student
Some dress codes just make sense, such as chemists having to wear clothes that cover all of their bodies, or construction workers having to wear bright orange vests and hard hats. Those dress codes are practical and necessary for the work environment. Nobody wants to get chemical spills on their bare skin. It’s a safety thing. There are also some dress codes which serve as a casual uniform: sexless, ambiguous, and serving to make people in that store look like employees.

That being said, there are other dress codes which are obsolete and sexist. Sure, heels make a woman’s legs and butt look good, but is that necessary when she’s got a desk job? No accountant or IT expert needs to wear makeup and heels when flats can be professional too. She’s not there to be her male counterpart’s eye candy, she’s there to work. Otherwise I would question as to why she’s been hired in the first place. I’d address men’s dress codes as well, but alas, I am a female with very little knowledge of that. I’m sure there are sometimes unnecessary standards there too, just to a lesser extent than for women. This is because dress codes are often based on the personal aesthetic of the one in charge, and the one in charge tends to be a straight male.

Certain dress codes are needlessly sexy, oddly unambiguous, and serve only the boss’s taste in apparel. That’s an abuse of power that can make women uncomfortable. It’s one thing to choose to wear a short skirt, and another thing altogether to be made to wear a short skirt that can make bending over quite uncomfortable in front of a pervy man.

Then, as I mentioned before, heels. Heels are a bitch to walk in. They are considered “professional,” or business apparel, but again, how professional does one need to dress in front of a computer? I highly doubt anyone can see someone’s feet under their desk. A computer wouldn’t give a damn what the face in front of it looks like.

The same goes for school dress codes. It shouldn’t matter what young girls wear as long as their clothing covers their chest and butt. One can learn just as well in a crop top compared to a full-length sweater. When girls are blamed for their male classmates’ wandering gaze, not only do they feel belittled and shamed, but they also feel as if it’s their fault for distracting boys. In the eyes of a sexist principal or teacher, boys will no longer be distracted if girls cover up their collarbones or shoulders. What they don’t seem to realize, though, is that boys will be distracted no matter what a girl wears.

There can be a balance between what is professional, what is practical, and what is necessary for one’s workplace or school. Realizing what is obsolete appears to be this generation’s main characteristic. A lot of people will argue that this generation is taking things too far, that some things are traditional and should be kept that way, but if nobody tried to change anything, I still wouldn’t be able to vote. To such people, I ask: if we are going too far, then where is far enough? It’s far easier to take it too far and then compromise; be radical and then be moderate, because a discussion can get a lot more done than an argument.