For Commencement, girls wore cute, playful white dresses while boys wore serious, dark coats and ties.
During the DeNunzio Disco, girls felt humiliated undergoing “spandex checks” by faculty while boys were not reprimanded for taking off their shirts.
Girls here constantly have to worry about how their clothes will make them look in the eyes of faculty and other students while boys easily look classy and professional.
The Deerfield dress code is obviously sexist by sexism’s simplest definition: it discriminates on the basis of gender. Of course, “simple” isn’t going to cut it in this world of complexity. But there has to be something wrong with a code of conduct that is so easy for one group to follow but makes things a lot harder for the other.
In the prep school world, one of the many things that stands out about Deerfield is its boys dress code—strict, clean-cut, and professional: a “sport-coat, tie, and a collared shirt–tucked in.” This leaves boys room to have some fun with colors and prints, but does not leave them room to stray far from properness. The boys dress code is well thought-out— tradition passed down from generations of successful Deerfield men and boys. And, to be honest, what do guys end up getting dress-coded for? Trying to get away without wearing a coat or a tie?
And then there is the girls dress code. We’re in Deerfield’s 25th year of coeducation, and the dress code still hints that girl students were an afterthought, not as important as boys. The girls dress code is loose and does not set up the standards of seriousness as the boys code does. Instead, it tells girls what they should cover up: legs, shoulders and necklines.
We all have legs, shoulders and necklines, but our culture—the one beyond Deerfield—hypersexualizes these body parts on girls. Hypersexualization, in this instance, is the act of making things that aren’t sexual appear more sexual than they should be. Schools around the country with casual dress codes won’t allow girls to show these parts, not because they are trying to uphold a certain standard of professionalism, but because they have the ridiculous (and also heteronormative) idea that girls will “distract the boys,” as if catering to boys’ needs is more important than girls’—as if girls are not boys’ colleagues, but rather objects of sexualization.
So when Deerfield Rules and Regulations say, “Don’t show this, don’t show that, cover that up, or you won’t be respected,” it shames girls’ bodies. There should be a better way to describe what girls should wear—one that encourages a certain dress, as the boys does— rather than tells girls what to hide. Deerfield should strictly define what they want girls to wear, and how they expect girls to look professional.
This means stricter rules. It means rewriting the dress code after a serious and open discussion on how boys and girls are viewed in this community. It does not mean more strictly enforcing a current dress code that is wrong. And it definitely does not mean shaming girls for making mistakes when trying to adhere to the dress code. When girls dress, they are forced to think about so many different things: following the rules, current fashions (which are often sexualizing, for so many clothes are short or tight), fitting in, standing out, how their dress reveals socioeconomic standing . . . so making comments on their dress only adds another layer of worry when they could be focusing on other, more important things.
So next time you want to make a snide and unhelpful remark on how short a girl’s dress is, why don’t you channel your energy into contacting administration and asking why it neglects girls and deprives them of clear-cut guidelines on professional dress that it so obviously provides to boys?