Across the country, parents and students are in heated debates about the sexism of school dress codes and how they are only enforced on girls. And they’re right. But they’re also wrong. 

Boys Should Absolutely Be Held to Higher Standards

Boys, pull up the pants, tuck in the shirt, and dress like young men. Ditch the t-shirts with the derogatory quotes and logos. When you graduate and go out into the world, you will be expected to dress a certain way at work. Sure, you could start your own company and make every day casual Friday, but you are still going to have to present yourself as a professional. Should people judge you solely by your clothes? No. But sometimes they do anyway. First impressions are everything. Caring about how you dress isn’t about dressing like everyone else, but about caring what your clothes say about you. Because, like it or not, your clothes do send a message.

Girls’ Bodies Are Not Distractions

Unless they are dressed to be. Why else would magazine after magazine put half-naked (or completely naked) women on their covers? They want to sell the magazine! And they know that before anyone reads the words on the cover, they look at the picture, and the more shocking and revealing the picture, the more people will look. The same goes if a man is pictured naked on the cover. People will notice, even if they don’t agree with it. And any girl (or guy) that goes to school showing a lot of skin is going to get attention. That being said, girls should not have to dress a certain way just so boys can focus on their school work. Which leads me to...

Boys Should Be Taught About Respect

From day one, parents should be teaching their sons to respect girls. This starts with the relationship between the parents and is taught by example. How do you treat your wife? How do you talk about other women? Are you bonding with your young son over the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition? Not a great move if you want him to see women as more than bodies. What happened to raising young men who open doors and ring the doorbell to meet the parents before a date? This isn’t about sexism. It’s about showing respect. Teach boys that looking at girls and seeing just a pretty face or just a body isn’t respectful. It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing. She’s a person, who, no matter what – and I mean no matter WHAT – deserves to be treated as such. And so do the boys.

Girls Need to Learn Respect Too

Girls need to respect boys the same way. Stop trying to win them over in any way other than being themselves. And girls, have respect for yourselves. Your personal style shouldn’t be “half-naked” just like a boy’s personal style shouldn’t include a t-shirt that says “FBI: Female Body Inspector.” Somewhere along the way, dressing in short shorts and low tops became the norm. Girls know they will get attention when they dress like this – from boys and from other people who can’t help but take a second glance. Have some respect for yourself and gain attention by being a good person, a talented artist, a helpful friend, and a star student. It’s a tough world out there for young girls and they are often caught up in competition for popularity among the boys. Forget about that. The right boy won’t be going after you because how much skin your showing.

Learn to Follow the Rules

If you go to a school or belong to an organization, you agree to follow the rules that are in place there. If there is a dress code, follow it. And parents, if there is a dress code, don’t teach your child that it’s okay to break that code just because you don’t like it. And when your child is sent home for breaking a rule like the dress code, don’t act all shocked and insulted and start calling up the press. If there is something you don’t like about the dress code, go to the school board about it. Talk about it and figure out how you can make changes to things you see as unfair. Teach your child how to make a real change in the world, rather than just throw a fit when you don’t get to do whatever you want.

I love that my girls wear a uniform to school. It's easy because we never have to think about what they're wearing. And it's nice that the kids all wear the same clothes. Dress codes are important and experts agree that they promote a more serious school atmosphere which helps students to focus on academics. Schools with dress codes have stronger student achievements and fewer social conflicts and peer pressure associated with appearances. And, here’s a big one, studies show that having a dress code at school reduces violent and promiscuous behaviors.

Dress codes were not established because of sexism – even if certain enforcers make it seem that way. Dress codes are about respect – for education, for others, and for ourselves. Can we all agree that the education of our children is of the utmost importance?