The issue of school dress code has sparked a widespread debate with many females protesting against what they call discrimination on the female students in comparison to the males. There is a feeling that the schools are being tougher on the girls than the boys even when both have committed similar offenses. The primary argument from the school administrations is that female students are more distracting to the males and therefore the need for stricter regulations on them (Raby, 2010). For this reason, many schools in America have banned codes that have students shorts or skirts going higher than the knee and shirts that expose the collarbone. The argument behind this is that codes that expose female body parts such as the buttocks, breasts, and thighs will be a huge distraction to the male fraternity and could result in sexual fantasies as well as possible harassment. Additionally, it will affect concentration and ultimately academic performance. These regulations have seen female students said to have violated the code being disciplined accordingly and this has formed the basis for the demonstrations and the outcry for better treatment.
Discrimination in school dress codes is a social issue that can be put into a better perspective using the Conflict Theory which was developed by Karl Marx. The theory was originally developed to explain capitalism in Europe which resulted in a class conflict between the bourgeoisie, who were the capitalists, and the proletariats, who were the working population and poor (Marx, 2010). The conflict existed since the interests between the two groups were different and resources were unjustly distributed among them. In Marx reasoning, the worsening of the socioeconomic conditions would push the proletariats into a consciousness that would see them revolt, pushing for changes to resolve the conflict. Changes would result in peace and stability while lack of them would result in a repeat cycle of conflict.
Conflict theory is ideal in analyzing the school code issue. The conditions as originally discussed by Marx can be likened to the current issue of school codes. The conflict is between the school administration and the female students who view dressing codes differently and have different opinions on the same (Raby, 2010). The school heads make the policies on how school codes will be and students have to adhere to the rules otherwise disciplinary actions will be taken. The changes introduced and the way students are reprimanded has over time built pressure on the female students and their activists, thereby leading to the uproar that has been evidenced in newspapers and throughout social media. This is in line with what Marx had argued that the worsening of the situation would result in a revolt (Marx, 2010). Since the protests have not yielded satisfactory results so far and the regulations continue to be followed, the issue continues to raise debates and sooner or later these regulations will have to be amended if the protest is to come to an end.
Over the years, several sociologists have built on Conflict Theory, building and refining it in line with the changing environments and ideologies. Some have developed other theories drawing on this theory. The theory has also been broadened from the initial class conflict to include other conflicts in other aspects such as racial, gender, as well as other bases for conflict. One such sociologist is C. Wright Mills, who has drawn on the conflict theory to expound on the rise of a small group of power elite individuals mainly in the military, economy and political fields and who have managed to rule America from the mid of twentieth century (Maclean, Harvey, and Chia, 2010). Theorists Theodor Adorno together with Mark Horkheimer laid emphasis on the rise of mass culture such as art and the media and how this has had a contribution to the maintenance of cultural hegemony.
Using conflict theory to analyze the issue of discrimination in school dress codes and the effects it has had some advantages. One, the theory brings out the conflicting parties, which in this are the school administrators and the female students. This sheds light on who to approach when trying to find a solution. Second, using this theory helps understand the expected pattern of behavior from the supposedly discriminated party, which is a revolt (Marx, 2010). This has been true to this issue since female students have expressed their discontent in the manner they are treated and called for equal treatment as their male counterparts. If this does not yield results, the protests will make repeat cycles until changes are affected.
The disadvantage of using conflict theory on this issue is that it could be interpreted and implemented wrongly by the involved parties, especially the supposedly afflicted party. It could steer more protests even in areas where regulations are necessary.
In summary, the issue of school dress codes is a controversial one with each party having reasons for where their opinions stand. The conflict should, therefore, be resolved in a very amicable way such that each partys interests are considered.
Maclean, M., Harvey, C., & Chia, R. (2010). Dominant corporate agents and the power elite in France and Britain. Organization Studies, 31(3), 327-348.
Marx, K. (2010). A contribution to the critique of political economy. In Marx Today (pp. 91-94). Palgrave Macmillan US.
Raby, R. (2010). Tank Tops Are Ok but I Dont Want to See Her Thong Girls Engagements With Secondary School Dress Codes. Youth & Society, 41(3), 333-356.
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