It’s no secret that school dress codes can be somewhat encroaching. Dress codes are implemented in academic institutions to stop students from wearing clothing that might distract to other students. As time passed, however, some items in the dress code have begun to skew more towards keeping men from being distracted by women’s bodies.
What’s outrageous is that these dress code standards are implemented even in regions like the United States, where feminism is widely discussed and gender equality is moving forward. In the regions of the world that haven’t quite reached that point of feminism, dress codes in countries like the United States seem very liberal.
For example, Tunisian schools require girls to wear smocks that cover their breasts, waists, and hips. “The obligatory wearing of the smock was put in place so that every student could be on an equal pedestal of society,” says student Nour El Houda Yahyaoui, “but [wearing the smock] is found to be a sexist practice.”
Boys are allowed to wear whatever they wish – clearly, there’s nothing distracting about them. “It is a great proof of inequality between boys and girls,” says Yosra Kiouz, a student at the Lycee Cite Salem. “Why should I wear a smock? Because I’m a girl and I’m aoura.” Aoura means desirable to men, which is something that school dress codes across the globe try to eliminate for girls.
The smocks are a part of a severely regulated dress code. The dress code is so severe that girls can face academic setbacks for not having them. “In my school, girls aren’t allowed to attend classes unless they are wearing their smocks. Some of them have missed exams because of that,” Kiouz says.
Some schools try to regulate the dress code so much that their requirements have financial obligations. One student had to buy her apron for 25 dinars (about $10.27 USD) after it was deemed she had to wear a specific apron to her school. “There is no purpose, no foundation for this initiative,” says a high school student who attends Menzah 9 Dachraoui. “[Forcing it] encourages sexism and financially handicaps students.”
The student is right. Why, in any situation, should a public high school student have to purchase clothing that doubles as a uniform? It may not seem like much, but it can be frustrating for a lower-class family to have to buy numerous aprons for multiple growing children.
During the beginning of the 2016 school year, the frustration over dress codes was seen in different events. When Ben Mhenni, a journalist and activist, spoke at Lycee Pilot High in Sfax about violence against women, there was soon a protest where males wore smocks in solidarity with the females.
There was even an event on Facebook titled, “Tabliers Pour Tous ou Tous Sans Tabliers,” which translates to “Aprons For All or All Without Aprons.” The event ran from September 27th through October 1st at different schools across the nation, and girls would go to school without the aprons in protest.
These girls’ rights are being restricted. Article 21 of the Tunisian constitution states that “all citizens, male and female, are equal in rights and duties. They are equal before the law and without discrimination.”
Using smocks to discriminate between males and females may seem like an insignificant way to distinguish them, but it is still a method of discrimination that should be banned from any school dress code.
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