School Dress Codes and Sexism – Aimed at whom?

Gender stereotyping: discourse between contemporary beliefs and traditional customs

By Agnes Jeong

School dress regulations has always been a controversial existence, fuelling the constant debate on sexism. Society’s changing perceptions on gender inequality during the 21st century, has assisted in balancing gender power dynamics. Thus, discriminatory behaviour towards fe
males now create immense discourse between those who accept society’s shifting beliefs, and those who refuse to. Two ‘views’ journalism or opinion articles are Emily Lindin’s ‘Why Sexist Dress Codes Suck for Everyone’ and Laura Bates’ ‘How School Dress Codes Shame Girls and Perpetuate Rape Culture’. Although the articles portray their ideas in differing styles, they hold a mutual understanding that dress codes are sexist and thus, alterations should be made.

The constant reporting of struggles with school dress codes bring to light the negative effects and implications towards specifically females and transgender students. Dress regulations are considered a common feature of schools which aim to outline and describe what is unacceptable to wear. Some frequently cited inappropriate clothing are “short skirts, revealing tops, ripped or torn clothing, heavy chains and so forth” (Raby, 2010). Students that violate the imposed rules are often punished and deal with “discomfort, humiliation and shame” (Lindin, 2016).

dress-codesAlthough the anecdotes displayed on social media focus on the absurdity of dress code standards, the essence of this controversy lies on the arising concerns on “sex stereotyping and institutionalising sex discrimination” (Harbach, 2016). Due to the media’s focus on female students being directly affected by dress code regulations, majority of responses empathise with females and criticise the existing set of rules. However, conflicting opinions outline the claim that not only females, but all genders are being stereotyped and negatively impacted by the presence of regulations within schools. The constant exposure of issues concerning dress codes on the media, questions the absurdity of dress regulations and whether their existence is necessary.

Both articles negatively portray the issue of school dress codes which reflects the popular opinion of society. Bates’ piece explicitly expresses her strong feminist opinion on this issue, focusing on the inaccurate message that is being taught to students. Although Lindin is also an active feminist, her article provides readers with an objective view of school dress regulations and places emphasis on sexist actions against other genders, not only female students. Both articles are published on renowned platforms that ensure that their piece would be read by a large audience. The articles attempt to persuade their audience in differing ways but share the belief that school dress codes are sexist and something should be done to fix it.

These articles address the stereotypes in society that have always determined what clothes were deemed appropriate for genders. Since the late 20th and early 21st century, the media has made society aware of the strict regulations that deal with ‘new’ styles resulting in girls’ fashion being too “sexual or aggressive” (Pomerantz, 2007). Media channels, especially social media, has become a substantial platform in which those affected, are able to spread their personal “reportings on battles over public school dress codes” (Harbach, 2016). The developing presence of the media undeniably plays a significant role in defining the “roles and behaviours… most approved of and valued in society” (Ross, 2012, p.366).

The heavily publicised discourse surrounding the issue of dress codes, is claimed to have reproduced “dominant and oppressive forms of gender and sexuality” (Pomerantz, 2007). Feminist post-structural examinations conducted by Pomerantz (2007) reveals how the dress code policies identified girls as “irresponsible, deviant and in need of help.” Often, the imposed regulations are justified through the criticising of female students and how dressing inappropriately is “disrespectful toward oneself and others” (Raby, 2005). However, the absurdity and contradictory nature of this controversy has resulted in heavy media coverage and sparked much heated debate. The articles focus primarily on the sexist intents of dress codes to all genders and further questions whether its presence increases sexualisation within society.

Lindin criticises the existence of the dress regulations and provides her readers with evaluative claims and recommendations. Published on Teen Vogue magazine, Lindin is well aware of her audience being primarily female students. Her title and by-line, “Why Sexist Dress Codes Suck for Everyone” and “We need to keep speaking out against them”, explicitly reveals her opinion on this matter. From her title, it is evident she is informing readers that not only females but males are being affected by sexism. She then recommends to “keep speaking out,” reflecting the assumption that majority of readers will be holding a strong disapproval of dress codes and actions against the issue have already taken place.

Lindin’s disapproval of this issue is understandable due to her active participation in feminist rights. Creating the UnSlut Project, Lindin hopes that her own diary entries that she has kept since her 6th-grade memory of being called a “slut,” would aid in providing other young girls some perspective on sexist remarks. Further information on the UnSlut Project can be seen here: http://www.unslutproject.com/

Although she understands that the majority of her readers would be able to relate to this issue, Lindin positions readers to recognise the true purpose of dress codes and the broader spectrum of genders that are affected. The article begins by claiming that “not all dress codes are harmful” to demonstrate how the initial existence of dress codes did not intend to “feel like a sexist imposition.” She aims to provide readers with a valid and understandable reason for regulations through her objective approach and comparability to “unwritten ‘dress codes’ in different areas of life.” Lindin mentions the dress codes that exist “for different work settings” and “many upscale restaurants” which encourages the readers to believe that school dress codes shouldn’t be demolished entirely but altered.

In order to support her claims that dress codes are sexist, Lindin provides the supporting justification that all genders are being stereotyped due to dress regulations. Although codes were imposed to regulate dress standards, abuse of power has led to them being “deeply sexist both in the way they’re enforced and in the logic behind creating them in the first place.” Lindin ethically appeals to her readers by placing emphasis on the sexist intentions that were existent when initially creating the rules. This shows the underlying assumption sexist actions should not be executed and the way in which rules are created and enforced must be for the good of society. Although this idea may be heavily supported by her readers, the claim may be considered a drastic slippery slope as it assumes that the regulations were made with the intentions to solely stereotype and sexualise genders.

Specifically, Lindin aims to inform her readers, an audience predominantly young girls, that dress codes are in fact impacting male students as well. Her sarcastic tone when referring to boys reflects the opinions of those who fail to view that all genders are being affected. She claims “I’m a feminist and I care about how school dress codes hurt straight, cisgender boys.” Her emphasis on boys that are “straight, cisgender” demonstrates her belief that her audience does not perceive males to be concerned by this issue. Lindin stresses how the existence of dress codes have shaped the expectations on boys so low and we associate them with “harass, grop(ing), and even assault.” However, this image has been so grounded within society’s perceptions that “we rarely hold them accountable” for their actions. The article demonstrates how society’s acceptance of negative traits and their ignorance to fix them is sexist to those being blamed, the females, as well as those who are being stereotyped, the males. Lindin promotes to her audience the drastic assumption that all male students are distracted by the female body to the extent in which they behave inappropriately. Although this claim is radical, it informs readers of the existing stereotypes on male students.

Lindin also repeatedly stresses her negative perception of dress codes and its tendency to stereotype sexes through her use of overtly evaluative words. An example would be how she asserts those targeted by dress codes experience “discomfort, humiliation, and shame.” Female students must encounter “ordeals of being scrutinised and judged” and when determined to be inappropriately dressed, are made to wear “shame suits” (Harbach 2016). The article enables readers to empathise with those being targeted and portrays schools as placing more importance in dress than education. This implies that schools are reinforcing immoral messages to students and encourages them to conform to the stereotypes that exist within society.

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To conclude, Lindin blatantly claims her recommendation that “our voices and our actions” should be utilised to “make it clear that we are people – not distractions.” As she assumes her audience shares her beliefs on this matter, she repeatedly asks them to continue “standing up for ourselves.” She is able to persuade her readers by her repeated use of “Let’s” which urges as well as includes her audience within her claim.  Therefore, Lindin communicates the idea that current dress codes violate universal ethical values on the topic of sexism.

Bates’ article similarly shares Lindin’s negative perception of school dress codes however expresses her opinion more explicitly. Evident by her title, “How School Dress Codes Shame Girls and Perpetuate Rape Culture,” the article is evaluative as well as causal, claiming that school dress codes are the catalyst for the existence of rape in society. Bates utilises strong negative diction such as “shame” and “perpetuate rape” to persuade her audience in which she assumes does not stand on the same page with her. Being published by one of the leading magazines, Bates believes the readers of Time Magazine would have opposing opinions from her prior to reading the article. The issue may be considered irrelevant to most readers who are mostly higher educated individuals attending office positions. In order to share and thus convert their perceptions, she repeatedly stresses on the issue’s importance. She claims “the school dress code debate will be dismissed by many for being minor or unimportant, but it is not.”

Like Lindin, Bates holds a passionate stance on feminism and sexism. She is the founder of The Everyday Sexism Project as well as the author of ‘Everyday Sexism’. She aims to take a step towards gender equality with her project. Her feminist background is reflected throughout the article with her strong negative opinion on the existence of school dress codes. If interested, further information on The Everyday Sexism Project can be read here: http://everydaysexism.com/.

Although Lindin expresses that school dress codes are sexist towards all genders, Bates focuses on the “strong sense of injustice” that is experienced by girls. Her primary claim is that school dress codes teach students the wrong message. To justify this, Bates compares the fundamental principles that are assumed to be taught in schools with what school dress codes are teaching students. Distinctly in the first paragraph, the article lists some of the “most powerful and lasting ideas about the world” such as “Hard work pays off. Success comes from working together. Girls’ bodies are dangerous and harassment is inevitable.” Bates adopts emotive language such as “dangerous” and “inevitable” to mock schools’ beliefs that certain clothing are “’too distracting’ for boy students” (Harbach 2016). The blatant negative attitude fuels Bates’ evaluative presumption and reflects a slippery slope as she implies schools have created dress codes because of this single belief. The article stresses on this message to outline the underlying assumption that the ideas that we learn from school are responsible in shaping the beliefs of children.

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To entice her audience in which she assumes are opposing her, Bates utilises a sarcastic tone to place emphasis on school dress codes and their inability to celebrate difference. The article claims that it feels “like such ‘codes’ are less about protecting children and more about protecting strict social norms and hierarchies that refuse to tolerate difference or diversity.” This aims for an emotive response, specifically anger, from parents as it implies schools are not protecting students and limiting their expressing of self-identity. Similar to Lindin, Bates aims to produce a negative response from the audience in order to gain support on this issue. By portraying schools in a negative light, it raises the question of whether schools are teaching students the appropriate ethical norms.

Bates further instils her disapproval of school dress codes by stressing on the ironic nature of their existence and purpose. The problem that she has identified with school dress codes is the unjust treatment towards female students. She claims that there is “a lack of any attempt to discipline boys for harassing behaviour” which shares with her readers the idea that girls are being regulated for the behaviour of male students. Bates expresses her disbelief of the way in which schools deal with inappropriate sexual behaviour towards women, as they dismiss testimonies with comments such as ‘he just likes you’ or ‘boys will be boys.’ These quotes are expressed in quotation marks within the article to emphasise the hypocritical and absurd acts of schools. Dress codes are most commonly justified by claims that inappropriate dress distract others, does not fit with the school’s image and is “disrespectful toward oneself and others” (Raby, 2005). By directly pointing out the flaws in the school regulation system, Bates persuades her readers with sufficient evidence.

Overall, these articles provide a strong negative perception of school dress codes and how it impacts students. The conclusions reached by both authors address the inappropriateness of the implicit messages that regulations teach children. By observing the differing styles of the articles, it is evident that society still remains divided; between those who accept emerging contemporary beliefs and those who are determined to practice traditional customs. The majority of responses towards this issue are in fact negative and some are more passionate than others. However, some perceptions remain objective in order to provide society with methodical and justifiable reasons on the presence of school dress codes.

 

References

Castillo, A 2015, The Sexism of School Dress Codes, digital image, The Atlantic, viewed 31 October 2016

Gaille, B 2016, Brandon Gaille, accessed 30 October 2016, <http://brandongaille.com/43-distressing-time-magazine-demographics/>

Harbach, M 2016, ‘Sexualization, Sex Discrimination, and Public school dress codes’, University of Richmond Law Review, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 1039-1062

Lake, R 2012, Judgements, digital image, Tumblr, viewed 31 October 2016

Larkin D 2014, Shame Suit, digital image, ABC News, viewed 31 October 2016

Pomerantz, S 2007, ‘Cleavage in a Tank Top: Bodily Prohibition and the Discourses of School Dress Codes’, The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, vol. 53, no. 4, pp. 373-386

Raby, R 2010, ‘Tank Tops Are Ok but I Don’t Want to See Her Thong’, Youth & Society, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 333-356

Ross, K 2012, The Handbook of Gender, Sex and Media, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, UK

Step 1 – Assessment 4

Agnes Jeong

The main topic that I would like to cover is based on the School Dress Codes implemented by schools in the United States. The controversial issue and its discrimination towards female students has been significantly focused upon by the media, especially since the 21st century. Gender inequality remains a sensitive topic within society and when mentioned, ignites heated discussion. The two articles that I plan to discuss are Laura Bates’ “How School Dress Codes Shame Girls and Perpetuate Rape Culture” http://time.com/3892965/everydaysexism-school-dress-codes-rape-culture/ and Dave Obee’s “Dress codes still belong in school.” http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-dress-codes-still-belong-in-school-1.2280964 (Currently, I am searching for another article that provides more factual evidence on this issue which could be compared with the two articles I have.)

 

The main conclusions that I aim to derive are that both articles have the same belief, that current dress codes are ethically wrong and something should be done about it. Also, both pieces are aiming to incite certain behaviours and perceptions from readers through their combination of recommendation, causal and evaluative arguments. Despite both readers illustrating the same view on school dress codes, the first article portrayed a stronger negative opinion on the issue whilst the second attempted to persuade readers with an objective voice.

Paleo to the bone?

By Agnes Jeong

The topic of diet and health has always created controversy due to society’s inability to agree on an epitome of a perfect lifestyle. The increased interest in health and lifestyle trends have brought to light the claims of avid Australian supporters of vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo and many other diets. Although majority of diets have been favoured by society, an analysis of several publications suggest some beliefs by passionate ‘crusaders’ cross the boundaries of normality. A similar case arose when early last year, renowned celebrity chef, Pete Evans, released a cookbook which included a homemade bone broth recipe that could allegedly replace baby formula. Two opinion pieces produced by accredited publishers have presented reactions towards this event. The first one is by The Telegraph’s Sue Quinn entitled, ‘Is it really safe to put children and babies on a paleo diet?’ whilst the other, ‘Why Pete Evans is wrong about Paleo baby formula’, was published in the Australian Women’s Weekly by Kim Wilson. The analysis and comparison of both articles reveal that the creation of a replacement for baby formula that doesn’t abide with existing regulations is unnatural. The two pieces do not intend to present the Paleo diet negatively but rather aims to emphasise on the bizarre suggestion made by Pete Evans.

Both publications are very similar in their argumentative style as they both present factual and evaluative claims to represent the issue at hand. However, Sue Quinn provides additional interpretative claims as well as recommendations to help justify her principles. The articles provide opinionated responses towards Pete Evans’ release of his Paleo cookbook but differs in modality. Australian Women’s Weekly’s Kim Wilson ensures her disapproval of the issue is integrated within the article but attempts to maintain a more structured form in order to aid readers to understand her point of view. However, Sue Quinn’s piece implements diction that explicitly critiques the celebrity chef, Pete Evans and the baby formula recipe included within his cookbook. It may initially seem that the piece aims to solely provide Quinn’s belief on the matter to the audience, but an evident amount of logical and authoritative supporting argumentation proves otherwise. Despite their differences, the articles both address negatively the dangerous and outrageous claims recommended by the cookbook. The texts inform us that regardless of professional advice, Pete Evans’ holds high appraisal for the recipe, which thus leads the audience to believe that he is mistakenly supporting the wrong ideas.

Sue Quinn’s article “Is it really safe to put children and babies on a paleo diet?” addresses the problem with the underlying assumption that providing children with safe and nutritious diets is fundamental. She classifies the Paleo lifestyle as another “popular health regime” that seems to be brought into trend “every new dawn”.  Pete Evan’s recommended Paleo bone broth recipe for babies and infants is portrayed as unnatural due to its possible detrimental effects. Therefore, the piece presents the principle claim that Pete Evans’ Paleo infant formula recipe is dangerous and outrageous.

Quinn’s supporting argument, which is implemented throughout the article, is based on the opposing views towards Evans by authoritative figures and their disapproval of the baby formula recipe. This justification is provided with the underlying assumption that commendable individuals of the field are trustworthy and reliable. This reflects that claims that don’t abide with statements made by experts in the field must be abnormal.

“…Dr Colin Michie, Chair of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s Nutrition Committee. He said that breast milk was the optimum food for babies less than six months old – definitely not bone broth…”

 By presenting Dr Colin Michie with his significant role in the health industry provides readers with the notion that the claims that he is making are more credible when compared to a “celebrity chef and paleo-advocate.” Quinn appeals to the audience with trustworthy statements to ensure support from those who are not well-informed with the issue.

What should essentially be considered is Quinn’s appeals to not only authority but customary practices. Her comparison of “bone broth” to the traditionally used “breast milk” emphasises on the abnormality of Pete Evans’ recipe. By appealing to precedents, it is assumed Quinn is addressing to an audience which understands her fundamental belief that breastfeeding is a practice traced back to the beginning of human existence. She ironically conveys Evans’ desire to replace breast milk, which has been the traditional source of food for babies, despite him avidly supporting a lifestyle which “encourages us to eat the way our Palaeolithic ancestors did.”

Another argument that illustrates Quinn’s primary claim is over-intake of nutrients by babies when consuming bone broth. The piece justifies this by appealing to consequences as well as ethical norms by implying that consumption could possibly lead to the death of babies.

“Of key concern is a DIY baby formula based on bone broth and liver – a concoction containing 10 times the safe amount of Vitamin A for babies, putting them at risk of death, officials said.”

 The author emphasises on the substantial difference that exists between the “safe amount of Vitamin A for babies” to appeal to readers that over-consumption will negatively affect infants. The addition of the factual claim, “containing 10 times the safe amount of Vitamin A”, informs unaware readers of the potential dangers that exist when enforcing the Paleo bone broth recipe on babies and infants. This is presented with the underlying assumption that readers are more empathetic towards babies due to their young age. To further justify this claim, Quinn addresses the counterargument that the Paleo lifestyle has proven to work for many individuals.

“But many parents favoured a flexible paleo-style diet for its emphasis on eliminating processed foods, others reported raising perfectly healthy mini vegetarians and a significant number cited health improvements after removing gluten, sugar or dairy from the child’s diet.

But is it safe to extend adult food fads to babies and young children?

Yes, but with certain provisos, is the possibly surprising verdict of Dr Colin Michie…”

 However, the counterargument that she has proved is a false analogy as she compares children being raised on a Paleo diet and “healthy mini vegetarians.” Despite the differences in diet, Quinn attempts to include another perspective on the issue for readers, especially those with children, who are on the fence about this issue. Although this comparison may not be a valid argument, it does however inform the audience that the Paleo lifestyle is only safe for babies “with certain provisos.” By placing emphasis on the required conditions, readers are under the assumption that the Paleo-lifestyle advertised by Evans’ would be detrimental to children as the “food fad” for adults is being recommended to children. It is evident that she assumes that the audience does not have any strong opinion in this matter but have the best interests of babies and infants at heart.

Kim Wilson’s piece ‘Why Pete Evans is wrong about Paleo baby formula’ explicitly states within the title, her negative perception of Evans’ claims. The audience is able to identify her fundamental ideals in which she believes Pete Evans’ infant formula recipe is dangerous and unnatural. Her opinion is evident through the implementation of negative diction throughout the text to describe both the opinion and the celebrity chef.

“The Paleo crusader also claimed a similar liver-based recipe – published by the president of an organisation that is anti-vaccination, anti-fluoride, anti-sunscreen and pro-lard – had been around for more than 20 years in the US without a known case of harm.

 A counterargument is presented by Wilson in a sarcastic tone with ironic connotations to emphasise the extent in which Evans’ idea is ridiculous. This lies on a foundation of appeals to precedence as well as comparison. The listing of previous outrageous claims such as “anti-vaccination, anti-fluoride, anti-sunscreen and pro-lard” aims to provide the assumption that the “Paleo baby formula” is just another outrageous claim that is being made considering Evans’ previous controversial issues. It is evident that Wilson assumes that her audience does not have extensive knowledge about this issue.

Wilson’s strongest supporting argument, which is implemented throughout her article, is the disproving of Evans’ opinions by authoritative figures. Her appealing to authority emphasises on Evans’ attempt to introduce a ridiculous idea that has been opposed by credible sources.

“The Weekly Online – which exclusively revealed the public health fears over the book that led to it being pulled – learned the original publisher Pan Macmillian decided not to proceed with its release after serious concerns were raised by a consortium of health organisations.

 Among organisations that raised concerns over the original DIY Paleo formula were the Federal Department of Health, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Dietitians Association of Australia and the Australian Breastfeeding Association.”

 If we take a look back to Quinn’s article, she too is questioning the credibility of Pete Evans by implementing opposing views by authoritative figures. However, she fails to provide an extensive array of significant organisations to clearly present her idea. Wilson lists “a consortium of health organisations” who have raised a red-flag on this issue. The appeal to authority is combined with popular opinion as “serious concerns” from health organisations reflect the abnormality of the “Paleo baby formula.” The provision of trustworthy sources and authority to back justifications, presents the underlying notion that readers would be supporting Evans’ and the Paleo lifestyle.

A stronger argument is presented by Wilson when compared to Quinn, as Wilson presents additional information on the issues the cookbook has dealt with in order to become published. Wilson appeals to ethics as well as the precedent by including how the bone broth’s recipe was unable to “meet the criteria.”

“Pete’s Bubba Yum Yum co-authors Charlotte Carr and Helen Padarin have previously acknowledged the original DIY bone broth recipe did not meet the criteria to be called a formula – and accepted changes to the recipe to make it safer for infants.

 In the self-published version of the book, it has rebranded “Happy Tummy Brew’, moved up into the older 6 to 12-month section and recommended to be given only “once a day”.”

 It is evident that the audience would oppose Evans’ claims on the Paleo bone broth if his own co-authors as well as his publisher expresses opposing views. What is significant here is the fact that Evans’ was not allowed to publish his original ideas as “changes to the recipe” were conducted “to make it safer for infants.” This enlightens readers on the fundamental belief that if the recipe was required to be altered in order for publication, it is indeed dangerous and unnatural. If there is hesitation when publishing a book, there is a serious concern with its contents and it is highly likely that it is misleading to potential readers.

Wilson implicitly voices her opposition towards this issue and drives her audience in the same path by providing extensive factual claims. She provides answers to questions the readers may have on this issue in order to inform them of the lack in credibility Evans’ holds.

“Here are some of the important facts that Pete Evans did not acknowledge in this interview on Sunday night:”

The subheading is included within her article to make reason with readers that support Evans as well as those who are on a neutral point of view. By indicating that Pete Evans has failed to address the controversial matters regarding his recommendation appeals to the ethical norms of society and therefore questions the reliability of Evans’ word.

The most prominent claim that is integrated throughout both Quinn’s and Wilson’s article is that Pete Evans’ bone broth recipe would cause infants and babies unable to process the high levels of nutrients.  This issue is considered a paradox as a recipe advertised to be highly beneficial to babies causes great risks due to the exceeding levels of nutrients. Essentially, the bone broth is too “nutritious” and safe for young children. Therefore, Wilson is attempting to help readers understand that they should not be easily persuaded by different lifestyle trends that may seem to have a beneficial exterior.

When compared to Quinn’s article, Wilson’s also attempts to persuade readers who are uneducated about the Paleo lifestyle and those who are currently parents to young children. Both do not use informal and colloquial language in order to maintain credibility and respect, thus allowing their main message to be communicated in a comprehensive way. However, Wilson’s article can be described to have more depth in detail as she takes more consideration in attempting to allow readers to understand from her point of view rather than persuading them with facts.

After observing both authors and their respective articles, it is plausible to say that both have attempted effectively in allowing their readers to comprehend their worldviews. Even though they both chose to express the same opinions on the matter on hand, they voice their thoughts in differing modalities. Although there are many who support Pete Evans’ claims, it is plausible to say that both Quinn and Wilson have presented substantial factual support to justify their ideals.