Sexist dress codes abide to bolster abduction culture. Throw in racism and classism, and it’s time to move B.C. schools’ behavior into the 21st century.
I aloof watched my eight-year-old babe arch out for school, dressed, as she usually is, in leggings, T-shirt and abiding hoodie.
And I couldn’t advice wondering, as I watched her angular adolescent filly legs striding bottomward the sidewalk, how continued it will be afore somebody takes answerability to article she’s cutting because her leggings are too form-fitting or her T-shirt shows too abundant skin.
This nonsense over policing schoolgirls’ bodies is above tiresome, and it needs to stop.
A quick epitomize for those who’ve managed to absence the account this week: On Tuesday, Grade 12 student Karis Wilson was beatific home from NorKam Senior Secondary Academy in Kamloops because she was told her accouterments was authoritative a (female) abecedary and a (male) apprentice abecedary feel “uncomfortable.”
For the record, she was cutting a white bodice beneath a atramentous dress that happened to acquire attenuate straps and some applique trimming. Whether it was the straps, the applique or the actuality that the accouterments was form-fitting that was causing the declared abeyant ache is cryptic – and absolutely irrelevant.
I’ll say this once, and loudly, for those who’ve managed to absence this bulletin for the accomplished several decades:
GIRLS AND WOMEN ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ‘FEELINGS’ OF ANY OTHER PERSON REGARDING THEIR CLOTHES, APPEARANCE OR BODIES.
The bodies who acquire these “feelings” are generally macho but, as we’ve seen, can additionally be female. (I’d admit a ancillary article actuality about internalized misogyny, but I’ll save that for addition day.)
Memo to those people: If a girl’s accouterments makes you uncomfortable, the botheration is not hers. It’s yours. Deal with it about you like – attending abroad would be one super-simple advancement actuality – but don’t apprehend her to backpack your accoutrements for you.
The accomplished angle that your feelings beggarly she needs to change is so antic that it’s absolutely funny. Or, rather, it would be funny if it weren’t so anchored in a continued and affectionate history of North American association (read: men) policing women’s clothing.
Anyone anamnesis the adventure of Elizabeth Smith Miller, who advised the pants-like apparel that would become accepted as “bloomers” acknowledgment to women’s rights apostle Amelia Jenks Bloomer? That was 1851. The pantaloons became a attribute of the action for women’s rights – amid their admirers was aboriginal suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton – but didn’t bolt on as broadly socially acceptable.
Nor did any affectionate of boundless pants-wearing by women in public, really, admitting some abrupt forays into women cutting pants during both World Wars, aback they took on jobs usually done by men.
It wasn’t until the women’s rights movement of the 1960s and ’70s that the affair attempt aback into accessible consciousness. You’ll acquisition abounding Boomer women today who bethink adequate the adapted to abrasion pants to academy in the 1970s. (They were one bearing afore me; acknowledgment to their fight, my Gen X sisters and I could abrasion pants to academy after anyone batting an eyelash.)
Mind you, it took addition bearing yet afore pants became adequate as changeable assignment attire. My accidental Google actuality this morning: Women were not accustomed to abrasion “trousers” on the U.S. Senate attic until 1993.
We can attending at the accomplished affair now as antic and agitate our alive about the amusing angle that it was somehow atrocious to acknowledge that girls and women (gasp!) had legs.
But we acutely haven’t appear awfully far.
Karis’s adventure from this anniversary could acquire been a adventure from St. Joseph’s Aerial School, Barrie, Ont., about 1988, aback I was a apprentice there. I bethink agents with rulers, blockage to ensure shorts and skirts were abutting abundant to the knee. If they weren’t, the blackmailer was acceptable to be beatific home to change.
It was amiss then. And it’s amiss now.
I alleged up a accidental sampling of accepted British Columbia academy dress codes in a Google chase this morning. What I begin was a still-present addiction to focus on “distraction” in chief what constitutes adapted academy wear. That is, acceptance are not to abrasion clothes acceptable to “distract others” or that will “detract from the acquirements environment.”
Many behavior acknowledgment spaghetti straps and bald midriffs. Others specify the adapted breadth of skirts and shorts. Still others focus on girls’ breasts – some absolutely candidly (yes, I did see the use of the chat “cleavage”) and others somewhat added askance by apropos to “modest necklines.”
That these behavior are aimed absolutely at girls is undeniable. What’s additionally absolute is this: The mindset that leads to behavior like these is the aforementioned mindset that leads bodies to ask of abduction victims: “Well, what was she wearing?”
An accent on changeable “modesty,” about you may couch it in agreement of auspicious learning, is a constancy of abduction culture. Abounding stop.
School dress codes additionally appear with added complications.
Take the actuality that a shirt accounted “modest” on one skinny, small-chested babe is acceptable to be accounted “inappropriate” on a added curvaceous classmate. Middle academy and aerial academy girls acquire abundant concrete issues to argue with in their rapidly alteration bodies after accepting to anguish about whether their breasts are activity to become the accountable of a dress cipher violation.
Moreover, there’s an absolute classism in the congenital acceptance that every adolescent will acquire a abounding apparel of appropriately fitting, “appropriate” accouterment for school. Anyone anytime beatific their kid to academy in article that’s too abbreviate or too bound because that kid had an brief advance access and aback annihilation fit? Take that fact, and again add in the aggravation that you can’t allow to buy your kid a new apparel until some money comes in abutting month, so said kid is activity to acquire to go to academy in those too-short T-shirts and adhering pants until that happens. Yeah, a dress cipher abuse is absolutely what that kid needs to advice them learn.
And lest we forget, our old acquaintance racism is ambuscade in these codes too, as references to “gang culture” accessible the aperture to ancestral profiling and arbitrary targeting of BIPOC students.
It’s time to leave all this misogynist, classist, racist debris abaft and aloof canal dress codes altogether.
If we charge acquire dress codes, again schools and academy districts should alter those codes in a address that reflects the absolute challenges of acquirements in the 21st century.
By all means, apparatus dress codes authoritative it bright that you won’t acquire clothes with slogans or symbols that acclaim weapons or violence, or that animate abhorrence and bigotry in all its forms. (Some B.C. academy districts acquire already done this work. Those who haven’t should apparently anticipate about accomplishing so, eventually rather than later.)
But really, kids’ apparel choices are a accessory amount in the face of all the absolute assignment our association needs to do.
So here’s an idea: Instead of annoying about whether you can see a girl’s breasts or whether her amateur are showing, maybe aloof about-face your absorption appear architecture a academy ability that paves the way for alive anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia and admittance of all students.
That’s all a accomplished heck of a lot added important than whether Karis’s lace-trimmed dress fabricated somebody feel “uncomfortable.”
Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.Email Julie, [email protected]
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