Clothes Make the Woman

I’m old school. I think that people should dress (and dress up) for their job. I believe that making a good first impression is important in life as well as business. But I also firmly believe that whatever standards exist for clothes – formal or casual – should apply equally to men and women. Maybe I’m progressive there, because it seems that many don’t think so.

Watching the US Open this week, the existence of double standards was brought up in the old school world of tennis. Alizé Cornet, realizing she had mistakenly put her t-shirt on backwards, quickly stripped to her bra and put her shirt back on while on court. She got a warning from the umpire for unsportsmanlike conduct. This was reversed by the US Open organization, but the call was particularly noteworthy as it came in a week when the men were stripping down frequently in New York’s horrible heat. It also came after the administrators of the French Open announced they were starting up a tennis dress code, singling out Serena Williams’ catsuit as inappropriate and “going too far.”  While the dress code will apply to all players, the move seems to be a reaction to what a woman wore.

In schools, I’ve seen similar things. In my last school, students protested the dress code, particularly a rule against bare shoulders. The rule particularly affected girls, as boys who wore sleeveless shirts were often ignored. The students were heard, but their proposals for a gender-neutral dress code were rejected for being too permissive. This is fairly typical in schools: dress codes tend to target girls more than boys and tend to be quite restrictive. Shoulders, belly buttons, and upper legs cannot be shown. The worry is that the boys will be distracted.

This year, my daughter is doing online schooling. She’s delighted that her dress code is whatever she wants to wear. If her shirt gets shrunk in the dryer and shows off her belly button, it doesn’t matter. If she wants to wear her tennis shorts and they don’t reach down past her fingertips, nobody is going to be shocked.

It’s a shame that her old classmates will have to face such regulations. The girls will, anyway. The boys seem to be given a pass. Or at least they’re not policed as much.

If it’s OK for a male tennis player to take his shirt off to cool down, it should be OK for a female tennis player to take her shirt off to switch it around. If it’s OK for a boy to wear sleeveless shirts, it should be OK for a girl.