Further Insights on the Dress Code
by The Milton Measure on Friday, June 6th, 2014
SAGE (Students Advocating Gender Equality)
We at SAGE are writing to you to discuss the proposed dress code. Recently, rumors have arisen in the student body concerning what students will and will not be allowed to wear next year. As a community of all aged groups, genders, and backgrounds, we believe that any dress code imposed on students should not only be fair and equal to all students, regardless of gender, class, race, or any other classifications, but also reasonable and in line with what the Milton Academy community and our visitors have come to value and expect.
While several of the proposed rules make sense, such as undergarments and armpit hair, many of them discriminate based on gender; also, the amount of rules restricting girls’ clothing is much greater than the amount restricting boys’ clothing, creating a divide between students based solely on gender.
To start, enforcing far more rules on girls than on boys enforces the wrong idea: that girls should be responsible for how boys view them. As NBC News reported on May 14th, a Virginia teenager was kicked out of her senior prom because her dress, which followed the “fingertip-length” guideline, caused “impure” thoughts in adult, male chaperones’ minds. Following the rules led to a national news story and an eviction from prom for this teenager, because of males’ views of an underaged girl. Similarly, asking girls to refrain from wearing certain pieces of clothing at Milton because males, both students and faculty, “cannot control themselves” enforces objectification of women and girls.
While female students are expected to control themselves when faced with male students wearing provocative clothing, the same is not expected from males on campus. For example, when females go for a run it is prohibited for them to be seen in a sports bra whereas male students are free to work out shirtless. Society expects that men control their urges when faced with women; why, then, is the same not expected from males on campus?
Most of the students that go to Milton go on to attend college. Teaching girls that they are responsible for the actions of men and that girls need to control what they wear in front of men, as the dress code does, indirectly supports the idea of victim blaming. In sexual assault cases, the perpetrator often says that the victim was asking for it because of what she was wearing. Milton Academy is supposed to be preparing its students for the real world, so what will happen when a Milton girl, told by the dress code that she is responsible for men’s reactions to her dress, faces a situation where she is not to blame but is told that she should be?
While well-dressed students are always nice, people like and attend the school for many reasons, one of which is the lack of a strict dress code; if the administration is concerned about the school’s image, we at SAGE believe they should be equally, if not more, involved with the health and happiness of those who already attend the school. We want a happy, healthy Milton community, which we feel can be best achieved by having some sort of dress code, though one slightly different from the administration’s proposal.
The following is our proposed version of the 2014-2015 dress code during academic hours, in academic buildings:
• Jeans, fully opaque leggings, khakis, slacks, and shorts with an inseam of at least 3.0’’.
• Clothes should completely cover all undergarments and be fully opaque at all times.
• Tops and bottoms should be at most 0.5’’ away from each other.
• Athletic gear in accordance the previously stated rules is acceptable.
We hope this proposal will create further discussion between the SAGE Board, the SGA, students, faculty, and administration before changes are made to the Student Handbook regarding the dress code.
The SAGE Board ‘14-‘15
Louis (Big Lou) Demetroulakos ‘15
Once upon a couple thousand years ago, man and woman alike roamed the earth naked. What was the point of covering up your body to go hunt the saber tooth and mammoth? Indeed, it seems as though the humans of the past had the luxury of enjoying a more liberated dress manner, which although reminiscent of free times, has rapidly changed since the cave-dwelling days. Public nudity is now punishable by law, and schools have made a conscientious effort to promote a learning environment free of distractions. Let’s face it; the days of roaming around the earth naked are over. Dressing has become an integral part of many people’s routines, and the fashion industry holds a remarkable influence over our lives. What ever happened to the days of throwing on a loose outfit of a t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and some sneakers? Or our comfortable sweater, shorts, and flip-flops? In this day and age, fashion has become a complex and competitive idea that is now dominating our thoughts. It is because of these complicated new fashion trends that Milton Academy is discussing the idea of a dress code. I want to use this article to first clear up the information about the Dress Code, and secondly to explain how you students can make an impact on this decision.
I have had many students approach me over the past couple weeks asking about the dress code and what the SGA is going to do about it. I have heard mostly complaints that the new rules are “not fair” and that “they can’t do this to us.” The fact of the matter is may seem as though a decision has been made without student input. The reality of the situation is that throughout the past year, we have discussed in the SGA the idea of dress guidelines for next year. As you should be aware, being a student at Milton Academy gives you the right to attend any SGA meeting you want to. We unfortunately had very few student visitors over the past year. To be fair to you all, I don’t think it was made public that the SGA was discussing dress guidelines. As your head monitor, and I know that I speak for Caroline as well, we promise to announce at assemblies what our SGA agenda is in order to allow students a window into what we are doing. Students have the right to know what is happening in our meetings and we want to encourage you to attend and express your opinions. I want everyone to realize that you do have a voice even though it may not seem like it. Last week we invited a few students to attend our meeting to talk about the Dress Code. I appreciated the gender equity group, SAGE, coming to the meeting with a prepared proposal and many great ideas. I encourage students to continue to be active in this way because it can make a difference.
Just to clear a few of the guidelines up, yoga pants and sweatpants are not being banned. Students are being asked to cover up but nothing that isn’t already banned is being taken away. If you want to have a say in this decision, I encourage you to bring proposals and ideas to the administration as it is now in their hands. I strongly encourage the student body to be active in these decisions because it does impact you. Please come to our SGA meetings; you have a right to. Caroline and I want next year to be one where we can all work together, but it is up to you students to be proactive. I hope that this article was helpful in clearing a few things up, and if you have any more questions I encourage you to speak with the administration with a specifically outlined proposal or come to an SGA meeting because we would love to have you.
If you read the headline “Administrative Moves to Institute New Dress Code” on the front page of the May 23, 2014 edition of The Milton Paper, you may have experienced any number of emotions – anger, frustration, nervousness or confusion, just to name a few. What if I tell you that Milton Academy already has a “dress code”?
Contrary to what students may believe, Milton Academy currently has expectations for student attire. If there are any doubters, simply turn to page eighteen of the Student Handbook; under the heading “Community Guidelines and Expectations,” you will find that section three articulates the School’s expectation around dress. However, like many things Milton, these expectations lack specificity.
The intent behind the dress guidelines is not aimed at one particular group of students but rather to provide clarity regarding appropriate dress for the school day. Although the handbook provides a set of expectations for attire, it is intentionally vague which, in my opinion, is both a gift and a curse.
While the handbook acknowledges that a formal dress code is complex, it does stipulate that specific guidelines may be implemented for certain times and occasions. Over the last two years during Monday morning assemblies, Mr. Ball has attempted to provide clarity around appropriate school day attire. Unfortunately, some students have not considered Mr. Ball’s guidance as they’ve dressed for school in the morning.
Recently other administrators and I received a letter from the SAGE board (Students Advocating Gender Equality) detailing a number of concerns regarding the proposed guidelines set forth by the deans’ office. In their letter, the board presented a number of concerns worthy of further discussion, ranging from a dress code that discriminates on the basis of gender and socioeconomic class, to issues of health and body image; at the end of the letter, the writers offered edits to the proposed dress guidelines that I had been discussing with the S.G.A.
Conversations that I have had with students and adults have made it clear that the community is eager to engage in a larger conversation around dress guidelines. In response to that energy, we are redirecting our efforts to focus on structuring a community wide conversation in the fall so we can more carefully explore what it means to “…dress neatly and appropriately, showing respect for others and for the occasion” and will not make any changes pertaining to dress for next year’s handbook.
My hope is that a process which allows for participation from all constituents of the community allows us to delve into the issues that dress has raised, with the goal of coming to a community-wide understanding of what our individual responsibilities are as we dress for school.
As we depart for the summer, I encourage you to think about the words we often choose in connection to issues such as this -“community,” “respect,” “appropriate” – and what they mean to you as an individual and what they mean for us a school.
Have a great summer and I look forward to our work together next fall.
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