By Lucy Houston-Jardim
Dress codes have always been a widely disputed topic, enforcing unreasonable and hypersexualized clothing restraints on female students, as well as implementing gendered rules which can leave non-binary and trans students feeling ostracized.
In early October, a group of boys attending College Sainte-Anne and College Laval, two private high schools in Montreal, wore skirts to school to protest their dress code. The rules surrounding clothing had always been enforced, yet this year students hit a breaking point. With the normalisation of conversations about sexism, toxic masculinity, and gender identity, these Montreal based students decided enough was enough.
The dress code states that girls’ skirts cannot be more than 10 centimetres above their knees, yet says nothing regarding the boys’ clothes. This implies a double-standard towards students. While conforming to the dress code, male students would potentially be allowed to wear shorts as short as they please. In contrast, female students are expected to keep themselves covered out of consideration for other students, specifically males.
Hypersexualization is something that most females have either experienced or witnessed. I have had conversations with teachers where they told me my shirt was too short, too much cleavage was showing, my jeans should not be ripped, and they did not know where to look. This has become a somewhat normal occurrence, where truly it should be an outrage.
Non-binary and trans students have also noted that gendered dress codes can be excluding, intimidating, and oppressing. Expressing oneself through clothing and style can be beneficial to one's gender expression and identity, and the ongoing belief that there are only two genders is simply wrong. For a large number of students, having only two gender options can feel like they have no options.
Of the group of kids who wore skirts to school, one student who identifies as non-binary, named Luca Muzzo, described the feeling of seeing their male peers wear skirts to school. They said, “I already wear skirts at home and I'd just like to wear skirts at my school, but I don't feel safe and comfortable in my school, but basically people like Giuseppe and his friends, they make me feel safer and more comfortable in my skin.” This shows how much a dress code that may seem simple to many people, can make people's lives so much harder.