School Dress Codes Teach Kids Misogyny 101

by Amy Lappos

It only takes one of us to make a difference for all of us. We all can be like Emma Stone, but with yoga pants instead of corsets.

In grammar school, young women are groomed to dress a certain way to avoid “creating a distraction to young men.”

At my daughter’s grammar school orientation, Principal Ogyny began discussing the dress code and had three young women stand in front of the parents and students as examples of what not to wear to school. No young men. He kept referring to “hormones” and “distracting boys.” One young woman was in a tee and yoga pants, (exactly what almost every mother in the room had on, by the way). I felt my head slowly turn a full 360 degrees with a barrage of choice words about to spew all over that man like a thick, staining pea soup—but I didn’t. I just sat there. Stunned but silent. Not one person objected.

I had a long discussion with my then-11-year-old daughter about the idiocy we just heard. I try to encourage her to stand up for herself and, well, be an activist (No, it isn’t a dirty word).

Months later, the principals were wandering the lunchroom and publicly reprimanding young women in yoga pants for violating the dress code. One day, they made the mistake of saying something to my daughter.

She called me after school and said, “Mom, would you be mad at me for planning a silent protest at school? I might get suspended.”

“Never,” I said. “What are you protesting?”

“Mr. Ogyny told me I can’t wear yoga pants because it distracts the boys.”

“Ugh. WTF, I’m sorry he said that. Go for it. I’ve got your back. I’ll walk you into the school myself…Beverly Goldberg style.”

That night she posted a meme on SnapChat and Twitter that said, “Girls don’t want separate rules and boys can control themselves. Everyone wear yoga pants Friday.” I was crazy proud that she recognized it as an issue of both men and women—something I hadn’t considered. The meme went viral through the school. I had no idea until the local press picked it up and showed up at our front door early the next morning, asking to interview Bean. She was all over it. I silently cried the proudest mom tears in the kitchen as I listened to her plead her case (I was banned from the room because she wanted to do the interview “herself”).

We left for school when she was done and I walked her in. Several kids cheered her name as she entered the lobby and all I could see was a sea of yoga pants down the hall. She had done it; she had mobilized the school. We entered the principal’s office and he tried to show me where the dress code states sports attire, “which yoga pants are,” he huffed, “cannot be worn in school.” I told him I was fine with that, thank you. Then I asked when he will begin sending young men in basketball shorts home.

We sat in silence for what seemed like minutes. He fidgeted and squirmed. The vice principal stared at the floor and didn’t make a peep (we later joked that he had lain there like a slug…It was his only defense). I’m perfectly comfortable in silence, especially when I’m right. So is Bean.

Finally, Ogyny backtracked and said he doesn’t really have a problem with yoga pants, it’s actually spandex listed in the dress code, and as long as the yoga pants are not spandex, there’s no problem. He shook Bean’s hand and as we walked out she said to me, “What just happened? Did I win?”

“You won,” I whispered.

“I thought so,” she grinned.

As she made her way down the hall, kids were buzzing around, high-fiving, and cheering. An announcement was made during lunch that day. Ogyny said there was a rumor going around he wanted to clarify: Yoga pants are, in fact, acceptable attire. Bean said the room turned and smiled at her.

I realized later that I had been silent at orientation because if I had said something, I was afraid I would’ve been what I’ve been told a woman can’t be: loud, outspoken, disagreeable, argumentative, a bitch, pushy, controlling, emotional, sensitive, crazy, ignorant—you know, you’ve heard these things before. I would even bet you don’t speak out for the same reasons. I learned a lot from Bean that week. Trust my gut and stand up to what I believe is unjust.

Now, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call it a duck.

I use this experience as an example of growth and protest. Schools aren’t the source of misogyny or the only place we see misogyny, it’s everywhere. It thrives and breeds right in front of us. So, what are we going to do about it?

This post originally appeared on It was originally published on May 22, 2016. 

More From BUST

This Sexist Dress Code Poster Compares Girls To Meat

Forget The Manic Pixie Dream Girl – Meet The Damaged Treasure, Messy Bun Girl

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.