Girls’ & Boys’ School Dress Codes – Why We Should Care

posted in: Guest Speakers | 0

Dr. Rebecca Raby holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from York University, and is a professor in the Child and Youth Studies Department at Brock University. Her primary areas of study include theories of resistance among adolescents/youth; inequalities in the lives of children & youth; and children & youth as active participants in society. One of Dr. Raby’s ongoing areas of interest has been school codes of conduct, including dress codes. This work has primarily come together in her 2012 book, School Rules: Obedience, Discipline and Elusive Democracy.

Girls have been in the news recently, protesting their schools’ dress codes and raising concerns about being sent home for what they wear. The concerns raised by these girls resonate with those Dr.Raby has explored in her research into how rules are created and enforced in high schools. According to Dr. Raby, dress codes produce specific, narrow, and sometimes unjust ideas of what a student should be, what kinds of futures students should have, and what it means to be girls & boys.

School administrators often say that the rules are “common sense” and that students should simply follow them. Dr.Raby cautions that the rules are not always so clear-cut, especially when we look at something like dress codes which can reflect & reproduce assumptions & inequalities. Raby advocates that students be more involved in debating & determining school rules such as dress codes, particularly as schools are located in diverse communities and changing contexts.

Highlights of her presentation: No short skirts! How dress codes position girls and boys, and why we should care.