No one likes to be told that what they're wearing is inappropriate or distracting. It didn't feel good back in middle school and it doesn't feel good now. The reality is, policing women's attire is a very common symptom of widespread inequality.
Too often, dress codes claim to protect workplaces and classrooms from misconduct and distraction, but in reality, they send two very clear messages: that women's bodies are dangerous and sexualized, and that men should not be expected to control their gaze and objectification of women's bodies.
To be fair, men also have to adhere to dress codes, but often, they are not nearly as harsh or damaging as the expectations women and girls are forced to meet.
These types of dangerous thinking are part of the reason why at least one in five women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. They are also part of the reason why, too often, girls and women who are survivors of sexual assault and abuse are blamed and questioned about their appearance and conditions as relational or even causal to these acts.
Unfortunately, this type of control of women's bodies manifests — to some degree — in almost every setting. But how does it affect our work environment?
A recent survey found that 10% of employees have considered quitting over company dress code. The study, led by Style Compare, questioned 2,000 adults from across the UK. Their results suggest that strict dress codes can negatively impact "morale and productivity."
Furthermore, employees between the ages of 18-24 tend to feel most strongly about these restrictions, and nearly 20% said they would consider quitting as a result of overbearing dress codes. Style Compare also found high heels to be the most controversial dress code requirement.
So what does it mean that nearly a fifth of young employees would actually consider leaving their jobs over a dress code?
There are many reasons why dress codes have young workers up in arms, but more than anything it sends a clear message that today's generation is not aligned with the same harsh gender roles and expectations that have existed in recent history.
To be clear, not all dress codes are harmful. But many dress codes are. Too many unfairly target women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized individuals and cause more damage than good. For this reason, we need to keep speaking out against them.
Do you have an experience with a workplace dress code? Head over to The Guardian to fill out a survey of how dress codes have affected you.