Meet The Junior High Riot Grrrls Fighting Back Against School Dress Code

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Beaconsfield Riot Grrrls: Erica, Sydney, Emily Hennebury, & Mya Bixby.

Last Wednesday, May 6, a school announcement at Beaconsfield Junior High in St. John’s declared all students must wear clothing that covers their knees and shoulders. As one Grade 9 student, Sydney, recounted, the announcement targeted women, “What they said is “I don’t want to see bra straps, I don’t want to see your underwear girls.” Mya Bixby chimed in, “Nothing else for the guys. Guys go around showing their butts out of their pants and that’s completely ok.” Cindy agreed,  “There’s one guy who takes off his shirt everyday and no one really talks to him about it.”

Hey, look. Another example of an authority figure regulating female bodies to preserve their decency and protect boys from temptation.

image00The day before, the city finally got some warm weather and students dressed appropriately. One girl, Emily Hennebury, was wearing a dress with slits in the sides, and was called to the office, almost sent home, because of it. “Lots of students have almost gotten in trouble for [their clothes],” Erica told me, implying these students have been taken aside and questioned on their fashion choices.

Emily was told to put on a sweater several times, while others were told to pull their dress or skirt down. Other students changed during the day from their dress to leggings suggesting they were asked to change or felt pressured to.

These rules even apply in gym class, where girls must wear t-shirts and leggings or shorts that reach their knees. As Emily pointed out, “It’s a big deal because you go to a store now, and shorts are up to here [at the top of the thigh], not down to here [past the knee]. No one gets shorts that come down past your knees.” Because she did not have ‘appropriate’ clothing for gym, Daneka was forced to attend a different class, removing her from her peers and opportunity for physical activity.

Clothing is a cultural phenomenon that youth are immersed in. Fashion today is tighter, it shows off our legs and shoulders, and we are comfortable doing so. We do not feel ashamed of our bodies, and we do not feel the need to hide them. We wear what we want and we should not be chastised for this.

In protest of the new regulations, boys and girls arrived at school on Thursday showing skin. They wore tank tops and short skirts to show the school they would wear what they wanted. They put up hundreds of posters to tell the school why their dress code was wrong. They also started an online petition that you can sign here too.

The teachers made their anger known. Earlier that day, Emily was asked by a teacher to remove a poster.

“He said ‘Come here. Take it down.’ I was like ‘No. You want it taken down, you can take it down’ and he ripped it off the wall.”

By the time I arrived around noon, the few posters remaining were congregated in the female safe haven, aka the girls bathroom. Emily told me how they were plastered all over the front of the school, until one boy ran by and tore them all down.

When this boy approached our group, he was greeted with boos and anger from the girls I spoke with. He was sympathetic to their cause but didn’t understand it. “I am not against it. It’s just funny that you guys are making a big deal over clothes.” To which Emily aptly replied, “We’re not overreacting. We’re trying to get the right to wear what we want to wear.”

Other boys got it though. As one sporting his shirt tucked in Britney-Spears-style commented “I think [the dress code] is pretty stupid actually. They should be able to wear whatever they want. I’m dressed like a girl and they wouldn’t send me home for this, but they’d send her home for it.”

Growing up in a hypersexualized world, bombarded with images of celebrities in skimpy outfits, dress codes targeting shoulders were ridiculed. As Daneka put it, “I could understand them having a dress code but shoulders and knees are ridiculous.” Erica pointed out, “Everybody knows that we wear bras so I don’t see the big deal.”

Creating clothing policies that target young girls is sexist and heteronormative. Placing the blame on girls for the behaviour of boys teaches both sexes that girls must behave a certain way to appease the uncontrollable passions of straight boys. The logical conclusion of this is  catcalling, sexual assault, and rape as boys are taught that unless girls are completely covered their bad behaviour is acceptable and girls are “asking for it.”

image06This disgusting motive derives from a systemic belief that womenimage02 are sexual objects for men to use. Hundreds of years of patriarchy in Canada are testament to the fact that clothing is not a factor in this. Whether women are wearing long-sleeved, floor-length dresses or crop tops and short shorts, they have been victim to violent treatment from men.

As Daneka bravely put it, “I’ve hated my body for the longest time and now I feel comfortable in my body, but I can’t wear what I want.” Instead of educating these youth, they are being taken out of class by teachers shaming their bodies.

Daneka told me one teacher referred to these young girls as sluts. Others huffed at them, or gave them dirty looks, thus compromising their learning environment.

Staff denied my request for an interview.

First of all, calling someone a slut because of the way dress and putting negative connotations on promiscuous behaviour is the definition of slut shaming and it is not ok. We cannot expect that these young girls will get married straight after high school and lead monogamous lives. It is perfectly ok to sleep around with whoever you want, as long as it is consensual and fun. Teaching these girls that being a slut is indecent reinforces backwards patriarchal views that women don’t have sexual desires while men are free to throw their dick around wherever they please.

Secondly, if teachers  are making snide remarks and instilling unfriendly environments in the classroom, they are creating negative connotations of school for these girls. If these girls are made to feel uncomfortable at school, they run the risk of losing interest, and deciding not to pursue their education afterwards. Post-secondary education is vital to a prosperous career and all students must be encouraged to continue their education after high school.

Finally, dress codes that target young girls for showing skin tells these girls that their bodies are inherently sexual and in order to command respect, they must be covered up. If girls are told their bodies are more sexual than boys, they will begin to look at their bodies through the lens of boys. Self-objectification emerges, which endangers their mental health. Women are already faced with enough impossible beauty ideals that create insecurity and anxiety, further teaching them that their outfits must also be to the approval of men increases these self-deprecating thoughts.

image03These dress codes teach boys that girls are sexual without context, and that revealing their skin makes them lesser, permitting men to disrespect women. By putting the onus for proper behaviour on women, men are taught their bad behaviour is justified if a woman is not completely covered up. These dress codes present boys as horny monsters, who can’t help themselves and must be protected from their passions. The emphasis on girls covering themselves up for boys is a classic example of rape culture, where female fashion choices are interpreted as them “asking for it” when they are sexually assaulted by men who are taught they cannot control themselves.

By calling females distracting, we are also assuming that females are not distracted. The teenage years are rife with hormones and changing bodies, and girls are thinking about sex too. Instead of pretending that this can be stopped by wearing baggy clothing, we should teach these teenagers the rules of proper sexual conduct, ie consent & lots of foreplay.

legs

Smaller clothing is more comfortable and stylish in the summer. Crop tops are in. Dresses with slits are cool. Short, summer dresses are cute. You can’t even buy shorts that cover up your whole thigh. Teenage girls are going to wear what’s fashionable and rules expecting them to shop at old lady stores are outdated and perpetuate patriarchy.

Public schools exist to educate, not regulate, our bodies. If these students feel comfortable in their outfits, it is not up to a principle to tell them how to dress. As Daneka so bravely said, “It’s unreasonable for us not to show our bodies. Teachers are going around ripping down our posters and stuff, it’s not going to help. If you keep doing that, we’re still just going to fight back.”

Girls don’t need your approval to dress how they like. Girls are not made sluts by their outfits. Slut is a state of mind that should not be stamped on young girls. Forget your backwards beliefs and let’s educate our youth right. Let’s teach our girls and boys that their bodies are beautiful and to treat each other with respect. Always.

 

19 thoughts on “Meet The Junior High Riot Grrrls Fighting Back Against School Dress Code”

  1. Jack Crockwell says:

    I am sorry but alot of this article is just regurgitated from Grace and her interviews along with other people’s posts. You guys really have just taken credit for really what Grace put hours of her own time and energy into fighting because she felt it was wrong not what everyone else said was wrong so she bandwagoned with. Any credible source would do some backround into their topic and know that Grace was the rightful voice of this motion. I am all for stopping this dresscode but give credit where credit is due , and it is not due here.

    1. Petunia says:

      I’m not exactly sure what you’re talking about. I found a CBC interview with a student named Grace on this issue, but I’m not sure why that affects the perspective and involvement from the girls interviewed above. There’s nothing saying these girls were the first to bring up the issue, and it seems like you’re much more hung up on who gets personal credit and attention then the actual issue at hand.

      1. steph says:

        exactly. this article is just to blame men.

  2. Jenna Phillips says:

    So strong and true

  3. anonymous says:

    “Teaching these girls that being a slut is indecent reinforces backwards patriarchal views that women don’t have sexual desires while men are free to throw their dick around wherever they please.”

    I find this degrading and offensive. Why not say “men are free to their sexual desires”? Whenever certain women have problems and they see sexism in it, they think it’s okay to degrade men, and the innocent ones don’t deserve it. So what if men are open to do whatever sexually, don’t degrade a sex. Men don’t call vagina’s cunt’s. If people want to be able to wear what they want then don’t be offensive and don’t piss off the opposite sex. It’s only causing more inequality between sexes.

    Solution: Girls wear guys clothes the way guys wear them.

    In reality: This is why school’s make people wear uniforms. So it’s pretty much deal with authority or ruin it for everyone and have uniforms.

    1. Fembot says:

      But men DO call Vagina’s cunts, and Women shouldn’t have to worry about PISSIING OFF THE OPPOSITE SEX, and in terms of OFFENDING AND DEGRADING I think Men historically take the cake by leaps and bounds.

      I find it hysterical that when a Woman expresses her discontent with a gender issue Men suddenly become sensitive and butthurt about how it’s handled. But yet if a man makes a sexist remark, a rape joke, an insensitive comment, a gender based criticism or even something as stupid as a remark about women not being able to drive, and a Woman finds it offensive or degrading they’re told to sit down, suck it up, shut up or go away.

      According to Men, Women are always hypersensitive and overreacting.

      Well, in this case, to the anonymous troll above, it’s our turn:
      SIT DOWN, SUCK IT UP, SHUT UP, OR GO AWAY.

      1. steph says:

        youre completely wrong and psycho, how can you blame men for the past? if your saying that I don’t see the problem in sexualizing women lol. some women just hate how men are legit. women are way more offensive to men nowadays, and if that is ignored so will this dress code issue. no one wants to see your fat hanging over your vagina, your crappy looking tits, or anything. guys get away with it and girls don’t, because girls are so uncomfortable with themselves and someone else being sexier than them.

        so stop being sexist, people that is what you are, and emotional unstable, you’re a lose cannon.

        guys aren’t to blame so blame women.

      2. steph says:

        “But men DO call Vagina’s cunts, and Women shouldn’t have to worry about PISSIING OFF THE OPPOSITE SEX”

        …but you’re losing supporters!!!! LOL isn’t that the whole point???

        and if you’re not gonna be decent towards men, then THIS WILL NEVER BE RESOLVED. fuckin idiot.

      3. steph says:

        when a women expressed her discomfort, a guy can get arrested. If a guys expresses discomfort NOTHING happens. you must be on of those women who got no decent job, no money, probably a kid, and justifies everything to blame men. society has brainwashed everyone to think men are the problem, but men just don’t lie, we say what we like, if women can’t handle that, wear a uniform or stay the fuck home.

  4. anon says:

    Aylmao Beaconsfield and their dress code being brought up again for who knows how many years in a row. These newly pubescent girls need to calm down. Just because you “have rights” doesn’t mean go crazy. I’m a woman, but it’s just junior high drama, you fight whatever you can because angst and whatnot. I know a lot of people will reaaaallly hate this comment, but when you grow up and look back at this you will feel embarrassed honestly. Yes I get the point, Beaconsfield has and always will be a shithole and the temperatures are moody as anything, but there are rules for a reason. Yes everyone “knows you wear bras” but that doesn’t mean going around with bra straps hanging out or crop tops that barely cover your tits. I’m a teenage girl. A lot older than these girls, but there are people who take things to extremes and people who take it sensibly. If you don’t want to be called a slut don’t dress or act like one. Just because “this style is in” doesn’t mean you have to wear it. Respect your elders, dress APPROPRIATELY for school and get over it. I’m sick of all this feminist bullshit, there are just some things that will not change, guys don’t wear bras so obviously there’s different dress code, guys can go outside or inside without a shirt because they don’t have boobs. It’s illegal to go outside without your top off as a lady for it’s indencent exposure. It’s different anatomy. Guys wear boxers, they are basically shorts. And hey oh wait they’re almost to your knees. Girls are going around with shorts that are so short that you can see their thong and half their asscheek all at the same time! You CAN get and wear appropriate clothing, you’re just being a over opinionated brat. Rules are set for a reason, there are plenty of options about what to wear, everyone’s turning into blind sheep. Jesus are we all that brainwashed?

  5. steph says:

    I’m just looking at the timeline of events. Before announcement, they’re was NO problem with what men were wearing, and NO problem with women being objectified. These women can’t wear what they want, so they cause problems and bitch about what men wear, and then blame men for being the problem. Men are allowed to look, do women forget that we degrade men all the time without even trying. Its not really fair when women complain about being objectify when women objectify men, they seem okay with men being objectified but not women. We treat ourselves like we so much better, and always talk about how men are men. This really is fair to the men that work so hard to make equality happen between sexes. Most men are decent, and a couple of bad ones give every man a bad name. That’s a negative stereotype. So don’t degrade the opposite sex because you can’t get what you want.

    If you don’t use the word cunt in you’re article, then you shouldn’t say dick. Shows how only one sex is being respectful.

    think about the “Stop violence against women”? What about men? Didn’t really know women expect men to take so much.

    If the problem is dress code, leave it at dress code. People should hop on the Free The Nipple bandwagon.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I go to BJH and I can say without doubt that some of the things these girls said weren’t true at all. They do single out bra straps at our school, which could easily be solved if they said something about the guy’s underwear on the pa. It’s not like they don’t send guys home, because they do! I’ve seen some boys get sent home for what they were wearing.

  7. Anonymous But True says:

    Here is what you need to know:
    1) Boys who wear inappropriate clothing are being dealt with as well believe it or not. You would know this if you did your research.
    2) No proof exists of a teacher calling the girls sluts because it didn’t happen. All people lie sometimes for a plethora of reasons. Adolescents are very good at this too. You would know this if you did your research.
    3) This whole thing has been blown out of proportion by unreliable media outlets who need attention to make money. You would know this if you did your research.

    1. Nicole Elizabeth says:

      We don’t make money. We are reliable – these women need a voice and an outlet to do so, and we provided it. All people lie, which I assume includes teaching staff. It is unlikely that these girls, who are victims of verbal abuse, would lie about such things. You would know this if you did your research.

  8. ... says:

    Seriously? Yes a girl should be able to wear shorts, and a tank top. But if something if way too revealing I’d have a problem with it. And I’m a girl. I don’t want to see another girls but cheeks falling out of shorts or her breasts falling out of her shirt no matter what the fad is. It would make me uncomfortable if a woman or a man wore it. But men don’t. So it’s then an issue fr the ladies. I also don’t want to see a young man with his boxers hanging out or his shirt off in school.
    Maybe the dress code is a bit extreme but having one isn’t an issue.

    You don’t see cops, nurses, judges, store clerks, or anybody in any other institution walking around in skimpy clothing, and they definitely don’t complain and petition and scream female rights issues when told to wear a uniform or dress respectively.

    Perspective people. Don’t lose it over trying to take the rights of women over the top.

    1. Precicely says:

      I have to agree. Boys AND girls should be covered from shoulder to just above the knee. After school, I don’t care if you walk around naked. School is not a social function – it is an institution for growing – where respect, learning, professionalism and understanding of what these things are should be fostered.
      It is not appropriate to show extensive amounts of bare skin in professional settings. That is not just a female thing. A teenage boy should not be allowed to wear his pants down over his butt, or wear a “wife beater” style tank top in school. Underarm hair and male nipple is NOT appropriate for professional settings, and whether you like it or not, high-school is a professional setting.

      This is not about the “objectification of women” as much as it’s about learning what is and isn’t appropriate attire. I personally don’t want my bra straps showing either at work OR in casual settings. I think it looks awful. Under garments are just that, undergarments. To be worn UNDER clothing, not accessorizing it. You can get a sleeveless shirt that does not expose your bra or 50 % of your breast.

      Teachers and admin staff can’t wear club clothing to WORK, so why should they be dealing with sloppily or skimpily dressed students? I work in a professional setting and as a woman, what some of the summer students come to work in makes ME uncomfortable, my male counterparts must be VERY uncomfortable. Some of them have daughters the same age and I’m sure they don’t want to be paranoid about accidentally seeing down a shirt when working at a desk with a student (trust me, you don’t have to be trying, I have almost seen nipple here at work because of the ridiculous clothing students wear, and I’m straight as an arrow – so NOT looking). I don’t care what the “Style” is…..when I was in high-school the see through lace tops were in “style”, as well as wearing overalls with just a sports bra, or belly tops and chains around the waists. Guess when we wore them? AFTER SCHOOL.

    2. Jane says:

      This is one of the most intelligent comments about this topic that I’ve seen posted.

      “You don’t see cops, nurses, judges, store clerks, or anybody in any other institution walking around in skimpy clothing, and they definitely don’t complain and petition and scream female rights issues when told to wear a uniform or dress respectively.

      Perspective people. Don’t lose it over trying to take the rights of women over the top”

      Indeed, it’s all about perspective.

  9. bradey barrett says:

    You guys should come to my school in carbonear acadmey the teacher there dont the same thing and no one has the nurves to get.up ans say something about it
    you go guys fight the power

  10. Nicole Elizabeth says:

    I urge the people making anti-equality and anti-feminist remarks in regards to this issue, as well as others, to PLEASE do some research into but not limited to these topics: rape culture, misogyny, feminism, latent misogyny, and femme hate. These socially-ingrained perspectives are real, and they affect both men and women in different ways. PLEASE educate yourselves, and then you may be better equipped to conduct some sensible discussion surrounding these issues.

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