Throughout history, the parents have nurtured their children in a way that associates dress code with integrity, modesty, sincerity, wholesomeness, decency, among other virtues. Modernity has, however, swept away all the values and where traceable, then the values are lesser weighty as before. In most of the higher institutions across the globe, indecency in terms of dressing amidst young people is the symbol of modernity, especially in University campuses. This can be attributed to globalization as the people whose voice is considered and embraced by youths in the society are models in entertainment, fashion, and advertisement industries. Most fashion designers have a passion for flaunting sexuality (Fayokun, 2009). It is important to note that fashion is a way of communicating; the dress code is, therefore, a language. It actively manipulates the curiosity and imagination of people, as well as sending signals to the observers. While some people believe that the dress code is just a representation of fashion, suggestive dress code lead to sexual harassment and is a sign of indecency.
Dress codes can lead to sexual harassment. Most of the people who wear clothes revealing their body parts encounter comments from other people regarding their dressing. And this makes the victim uncomfortable and embarrassed, especially when the comments are negative. The campus students may take the incident lightly, but if it happens among high school students, it significantly affects their confidence in translating to poor grades. Some schools have endorsed a particular dress code to protect their students from sexual harassment that results from dress coding. According to (Rayma 2018), most of the victims are women who get a harsh judgment based on their attires. He further explains that the idea is prevalent even in current times across various subject areas (Ramya, 2018). Though contemporary society is supposedly advanced, a matter of verbal sexual harassment remains nearly the same. For instance, short dresses exposing body parts are still viewed as "enticing, "among other titles. The dress code is, therefore, at times, a determining factor of sexual harassment.
Some societies also view the dress code as a representation of decency. Anyone who goes against the recommended dress code is considered as a criminal. For example, it is illegal for men to cross-dress; just is it for women to reveal bare skin in Saudi Arabia. The dressing rules apply to both residents as well as foreigners. It is a criminal act for any woman to flash an inch of their bare skin in public. According to Lockhart 2016), Muslim women in Saudi Arabia must wear hijabs and long dark cloaks called anabaya while the foreign ladies are allowed to cover themselves with long coats. The dressing guidelines in Saudi Arabia are, however, applicable to all genders, unlike in other parts of the globe where they apply only to women. For example, in 2009there were 67 men who were arrested by the Saudi Arabian government for allegedly "behaving like women" (Lockhart, 2016). The accusation was a result of cross-dressing in a private party, something that portrayed moral decline according to the social norms. Another nation that has similar dress code restrictions is Uganda. Women who wear dresses that are above the knee are arrested for being "indecently dressed" (Lockhart,2016). Hence this is part of their new anti-pornography bill that has left many women behind bars. In such a nation, a dress code is a representation of decency.
Some people have argued that some women dress in ways that sexually uncontrollably arouse men. According to the argument, men are stimulated and are helpless. They, therefore, point the cause of sexual harassment from women stating that they had power t choose their dress code while men did not have power over their arousal. This argument is legally invalid as women retain their autonomy despite their dress code. Regardless of multiple arguments justifying men for harassing women sexually, consent is essential in all circumstances. Though sexual arousal is a strong impulse, there are various ways of encountering it (Awam, 2019). Another common argument is that the dress code is a form of decency. The allegations are untrue because decency is dependent on social norms. For instance, while dresses above the knee attract arrests in Uganda, it is a decent dress code in America. The decency also depends on religious beliefs. For instance, it is an abomination for Muslim women to expose their hair.
On the contrary, Christian women adorn themselves with various hairstyles, which is neither offensive nor indecent to the Christian fraternity. Lastly, some people, such as campus students dress for fashion. For this category of people, it is annoying to attend a wedding with a similar attire for burial, or dinner (Billeson, 2015). It is therefore inappropriate to think that people who dress contrary to the expectations are indecent.
The debate on the dress code has been going on for a long time. Some support the idea that the dress code leads to sexual harassment while some oppose it. Some people believe that some dress codes form of indecency. While the argument may be valid to those of similar religious or societal backgrounds, it is invalid to those who come from different backgrounds. It is, therefore, essential to be sensitive to the set rules in a school, nation, or any other institution to avoid clashes with authority.
Awam, E. (2019, June 20). Dress code or sexual harassment code? Open letter to MPPUUM. Malaysiakini. Retrieved May 1, 2020, from https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/480412
Billeson, K., & Klasander, K. (2015). Dress code: sustainable fashion: bridging the attitude-behaviour gap. http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A822779&dswid=6257
Fayokun, K. O., Adedeji, S. O., & Oyebade, S. A. (2009). Moral crisis in higher institutions and the dress code phenomenon. Online Submission, 6(2), 58-66. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504966.pdf
Lockhart, A. B. (2016, July 7). 5 countries with the strictest dress codes. World Economic Forum. Retrieved May 1, 2020, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/5-countries-with-the-strictest-dress-codes/
Ramya, L. (2018, March 1). The relationship between dress code and sexual harassment- Video. Westside Wired. Retrieved May 1, 2020, from https://westsidewired.net/36048/in-depth/the-relationship-between-dress-code-and-sexual-harassment
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