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This dress code is a mere _______ of underlying chauvinism, mindset of controlling and subjugating women, and misogyny. It is not the dress-code but this mindset which is holding them back.

I want to say that this dress code is only one of the symbols which points to chauvinism, mindset of controlling and subjugating women, and misogyny. Changing the dress code does not change the underlying mindset.

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    Would you accept manifestation? – deadrat Dec 3 '15 at 6:14
  • @deadrat Oh yes, it works. Can you write it as an answer so that I can accept it? – Solace Dec 3 '15 at 6:15
  • Done. Hope that helps. – deadrat Dec 3 '15 at 6:24
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An appropriate word would be manifestation, which means something illustrative of something else, particularly when that something else is an abstraction. In your example, there's something we can see (namely the results of a dress code) which serves to illustrate or characterize something we can't see (namely the abstraction of the mindsets of chauvinism and misogyny).

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Perhaps "echo" might serve your purpose well.

"a close parallel or repetition of an idea, feeling, style, or event." Google search results of 'echo definition'

You might also find the synonyms of echo helpful.

trace, vestige, remnant, ghost, shadow, memory, recollection, remembrance; reminder, sign, mark, token, souvenir, indication, suggestion, hint; evidence

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You could consider using reflection:

a thing that is a consequence of or arises from something else: Yet if we view the Government's recent behaviour as a collective reflection of what happens to each of us when we are under pressure, then things become clearer.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

the production of an image by or as if by a mirror

[Merriam-Webster]

Student dress code is a reflection of educational, behavioral, and professional expectations. Students' behavior is often a reflection of what they wear.

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I would say "subtext" as it means an implied or underlying metaphorical meaning.

But I would also suggest "pretext" which is an underlying or hidden meaning.

But I wouldn't say the dress code is a symbol but I would say it is symbolic of something. That "something" could be chauvinism. Specifically I would say it is a chauvinism carried out politically(high school politics of course but still political).

The books Language As Symbolic Action and Politics As Symbolic Action helped me come to this conclusion.

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This dress code is a mere indicator of underlying chauvinism...

[noun] a sign that shows the condition or existence of something

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