Four Finger Rule

There are noticeable asymmetries when it comes to dress code implemented among males and females. To many of the male students attending Rosslyn Academy, dress code isn’t even something that crosses their mind. As for the girls that do get called out, are there certain aspects to personality, relationships, or even appearance that may determine whether or not they were forced to cover their clothing with Kangas?

“I started noticing that my white friends weren’t complaining about dress code as much as my black friends were. I’m not sure if the two are related, but I did notice it,” said Angel Thairo, a 16 year old girl that attends Rosslyn Academy. For many women, dress code is, and will continue to be a factor of everyday life. Especially if you spend the majority of your time in a professional setting. The dress code at Rosslyn is seemingly simple. Most of the teachers enforce it abiding to the “Four Finger Rule.” Your skirt has to be measured four fingers from the knee, straps on your shoulders four fingers wide, and t-shirt dipping approximately four fingers from the collar bone.

Inevitably there will always be someone offended by a skirt, or shocked by spaghetti straps, no matter who is wearing what. However, statistically speaking, in Rosslyn girls with curvier bodies are dress coded more often. “Definitely. I think thicker girls are more victim to dress code. I can see the skinniest girl wearing an outfit from the exact same place as me, and not have a thing mentioned to her,” expressed Neha, “It gets to you after a while. You start to feel ashamed of what you look like. Especially because the system is skewed.”

How one is dress coded, or if they are dress coded for that matter, also depends on the relationship that one may have with the teachers. “If I’m being honest, the students that are more socially active, or outgoing I tend to notice more. I don’t feel like I’m picking on specific people, it’s just sometimes you don’t see everything that’s going on,” explained Mrs. Elmore. Even so, staff kids are noticeably dress coded less often, even if the clothing worn is unmistakably breaking the rules. This is predictable, as the relationship between the children and the teachers are different.

But what about race? Does the color of your skin play into whether or not you are asked to change? “Everyone knows that a skinny white girl is less likely to be dress coded over a skinny black girl. Whether or not it’s done unconsciously, it happens,” stated *Mary, “I remember one day I was wearing a spaghetti top. So was this other girl, we’ll call her *Jessica. She told me I was going to get dress coded. I looked at her puzzled. ‘If I get dress coded, then so should you,’ I said. She looked at me and said, ‘I’m not going to get dress coded, I’m white.’ I was really shaken by this. It really upset me but there was really nothing I could do.”

Regardless of where you are in the world, there will always be rules enforced (if you didn’t know this, cry me a river). There is a question, however, that is yet to be answered: does becoming accustomed to a certain rule make you blind to potential prejudices? And if so, how do we prevent ourselves from aimlessly following the regimen?

*Names changed for anonymity

Lule Kihenjo

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