Sliding into public awareness with a new intensity is the discussion over dress codes; what should, and should not be allowed in schools.
While some are outspoken against the methods in which dress codes are enforced, others attack the very existence of them. Discipline can take on an unhealthy form and efforts should always be made to right these excesses.
However, dress codes in and of themselves are a powerful witness to the dignity of our children.
One man quoted on thinkpress.org argued that “as far as I’m concerned, what a woman wears doesn’t give a guy a right to do anything to them [or] say anything to them.” This argument quickly gains an audience because it invokes emotion, but it completely sidesteps any meaningful point in the argument.
We can all agree that clothing says nothing of permission. It cannot be denied, however, that clothing can make an invitation, whether intentional or not. But even to discuss this is missing the point.
In the same article the author provided the suggestion that men and women just want to be comfortable in the summer heat. Wearing a t-shirt and shorts is not putting anyone in danger of overheating; not the point!
We could discuss the fact that men’s and women’s clothing choices do create distractions in the classroom, but even this is missing the point.
We could delve into how dress codes supposedly violate freedoms, but that’s a bit like saying I have the right to shop naked, or drive on the left side of the road if I please. Even still, this is not the point.
All of these arguments are straw man arguments in comparison to the heart of what really matters for both our children and for ourselves.
There is a greater and more profound issue underlying both sides of this debate.
What is a woman or a man?
Is a human being a person?
Or an object, like a bowling ball?
Or, are we people with personalities, with love to give and receive?
What is unavoidable about clothing is that it alters how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. Our clothing is a reflection of our self-worth.
Any man or woman is free to believe that their worth is derived from being sexually attractive. They are free to believe it, but that doesn’t mean it is not a lie.
We are greater than that.
Sexual attraction is a necessary and enjoyable part of a loving and devoted relationship. To treat it as the means to which we find love is a recipe for disaster, landing us in relationships with people who are emotionally or physically abusive, self-centered, and unloving.
Why would we encourage this understanding of our sexuality?
What message is a fourteen year old girl going to learn from being allowed to wear a miniskirt at school? What message will she take to heart when some of the boys at school pay more attention to her because of her choice to bear skin? Is that the attention that is filled with love and respect, the love and respect our children deserve?
If the only factor which motivated someone to speak to me was the fact that I wore more revealing clothing, then I would be far better off without their company.
If my skin is what motivated them, then clearly they only have their own selfish ends in mind.
Lust; not love.
To confuse the attention we receive from being loved with the attention we receive from being lusted after is a great tragedy.
I am not arguing that sex or sexual attraction are bad things, quite the opposite. Sex finds its greatest fruition (and its greatest pleasure) in a loving, monogamous, and committed relationship. Neither am I arguing that we should neglect our physical appearance, for doing so would be to ignore a healthy part of living in a community.
I am arguing that our intrinsic worth demands more out of our clothing choices, and that this “more” is reflected by balanced dress codes.
Some feminists claim that men seek to control women by controlling their clothing choices, reducing women to objects, things in their area of influence.
However, men and women of integrity argue that dress codes should be in effect because men and women are more than objects.
What many feminists do not realise is that rules and regulations are often designed to protect and mature the very people who obey them.
I argue that a parent who encourages or is unconcerned with their child dressing provocatively both misunderstands this inherent value and hurries their child along a path which leads away from authentic love.
No human person knowingly would ever take this path, but if it is the only path we know, then we walk it willingly.
Having dress codes is a meaningful first step (one of many hopefully), to teaching our children that they have dignity and value, that they deserve to be treated with love and respect.
It is not about distraction, it’s not about freedoms, it’s not about permission or invitations, and it’s certainly not about being comfortable in the summer.
It is about understanding the true meaning of living within human dignity.
It is about living in accord with the undeniable and bottomless value that every human being has for no other reason than that they exist and that they are loved.
This value is never earned, never increased, never diminished, and definitely not altered in any way by our sexual or physical appearance.
To teach anything contrary is a lie.