Kelsey McDonald of Santa Rosa High School

By KELSEY McDONALD
SANTA ROSA HIGH SCHOOL
SENIOR, 17

Many say that the fight for women’s rights has given women many great opportunities: We can vote, hold many jobs that weren’t offered us even 30 years ago and, for the most part, choose to live our lives in any fashion we choose. Still, one of the biggest things that makes the rift between men and women bigger is something we see every day, and something that extends past just women’s rights: the American dress code.
Dress codes are enforced in many schools and workplace environments, and the American society has dictated what men and women should and shouldn’t wear in everyday, work and formal life. These dress codes keep men and women separated in a way such that equality never will be reached between the two if we continue to abide by them.
I understand why dress codes based on appropriateness are put in place; the fact that a girl’s skirt cannot reveal too much or that a boy’s pants cannot do the same I can comprehend. I am not contesting the fact that clothing needs to cover the basics, but I am contesting why we follow social norms that, for the most part, have no logical application.
Why can’t a girl wear a tuxedo if she wants? Or a boy a skirt or a dress if he so pleases? No, really. Why? There is no law other than our own sexist social construct. If either of these events ever were to happen, each would be met with disapproving reactions from the majority. I find this facet of the American psyche, that men must wear manly clothes and women dress ladylike, the most insulting part of the fight for equal rights between men and women. When Americans set this social norm, we are saying, “Vote, work and live equally, but do so like a man or like a woman.”
For Halloween, a young boy dressed as Daphne from “Scooby Doo.” His mother was met by condemnation from the public for allowing her son to dress that way. The fact that a 5-year-old was given such strong disapproval for not acting like a boy is the most alarming part of this story, not that he dressed as a girl for Halloween. If we continue to “teach” American youth what is “right” and “wrong” to wear at such a young age, we will continue to raise children who think in the same sexist ways as they were taught.
I want true equality between men and women. The only way to achieve true equality is to do away with these social norms that only hold us back.