OPINION: WSU should not allow gendered dress codes

Students should be able to choose formal clothes they feel comfortable in



Students in voice lessons are required to participate in “convocation,” a weekly solo performance. They are required to follow a strict dress code, in which women have to wear dresses or skirts and men have to wear pants without exception.

ELENA PERRY, Evergreen columnist

Students who take voice lessons at WSU are required to participate in convocation, a weekly solo performance in front of everyone else in lessons. Students are expected to prepare a piece of music ahead of time and sing it in front of their peers.

Convocation is a formal event, where students are expected to act in a professional manner and dress in a presentable fashion. However, guidelines for what is considered professional clothing differ based on the gender of the performer.

In the dress code, males are required to wear pants and females a dress or skirt that hangs lower than the knee. Dresses and shirts must also cover shoulders and not be too tight. This gendered dress code should be revised and modernized to allow singers to wear whichever clothes they are most comfortable in, while maintaining the professionalism required for the event.

If a student were to break the dress code, they may lose points, thus impacting their grade. In some cases, the performance may not be counted toward the total convocation performances required for vocal lessons.

The dress code is an issue for several reasons. Many female students that perform in convocation feel restricted by this dress code, and often feel self-conscious being required to wear a skirt or dress.

“I think that pantsuits or a nice pair of slacks still looks very professional, it won’t take away from the performance and it will allow a lot more performers to feel more comfortable while singing,” Anya Guadamuz, junior vocal performance major, said. “I know a lot of girls that don’t feel comfortable showing that much skin.”

The dress code also has the potential to put gender non-conforming students in a difficult situation. They may be required to wear clothes that don’t suit their gender identity.

“It’s a problem, and not just for women and men. There’s problems with if someone identifies with neither, they would have to come out to their professors,” said junior voice major Sarah Daniels. “I think that the professors would absolutely let them [wear what they want], but you’re forcing them in a situation they may not be comfortable with.”

Not only would they be forced to come out, but while performing, the difference in dress would make them distinguishable and possibly alienate them from their peers. Having a non-gendered dress code would make for a much more inclusive environment.

The intention of the dress code is not to make students feel uncomfortable, but instead to prepare future performers for careers where dress codes may also be enforced. Regulations relating to attire based on gender exist as an industry standard for opera.

However, many students believe the logic is flawed because not everyone that takes voice lessons is preparing to be an opera singer, such as Guadamuz, who intends to pursue a career in theater direction.

In addition, vocal convocation is the only area in which this dress code is implemented. Other instruments also have convocation, but there is no dress code specifying what clothes students are expected to wear depending on their gender.

Vocal convocation courses should follow the lead of these other area convocations. They should adapt their dress code to be more suited to building an environment where singers can feel good about singing, and aren’t made to feel self-conscious about something as insignificant as the clothes they’re wearing.

If the performer’s attire is professional and setting-appropriate, they should be allowed to wear pants or a skirt, regardless of their gender.