Student dress codes are once again causing controversy in Alberta Schools. The dress code for girls, in particular, has become more vehemently criticized than ever before, as it is believed to have the effect of “shaming” girls for the fact that they are female.
Offensive notes have been cropping up on school hallway walls, bulletin boards, as well as bathroom mirrors and walls. Many are believed to have been written by students themselves, while some purport they are being encouraged by parents to post such notes.
One public post from Virgin Radio Edmonton, states that the following letter was posted in the hallways of Breton (Alberta) high school: “When you wear little to no clothing and dress provocatively because it’s “too hot out” or because you think it’s “attractive”, you are putting boys at risk of having a a distracting working environment and saying “your clothing is more important than their education. Instead of dressing like a THOT (“That Whore Over There”), value the male education and dress conservatively. The sexist slant of the above letter is not lost on many who have read it.
One source points out, this is akin to the mentality of judges who have been reprimanded in rape court decision where they blatantly have told the sexual assault victim, “You should have just kept your legs closed”….and what about, they state, “Men who create a distracting work environment for females by posting offensive nude or near nude calendars sexualizing females in their offices or shops, yet still seem to get their work done”.
THOT, is a slang acronym for “That Ho Over There”, which has added increased debate and criticism over posted letters and notes with regard to the manner in which young girls are being viewed and ultimately, shamed.
Another statement from Global News states, “when you interrupt a girl’s school day to force her to change her clothes, or send her home because her shorts are too short, or her bra straps are too visible, you are telling her that making sure boys have a “distraction-free” environment is more important than HER education”. Another note states, “Instead of shaming girls for their bodies, teach boys that girls are not sexual objects!”.
Brad Volkman, superintendent of the Wild Rose School Division said many of the notes were a back and forth between students and quickly taken down. Principal Lara Jollymore said the inappropriate use of the “THOT” acronym was troubling and was “being addressed”. Students were given a heavy reminder to express their opinions in a respectful manner.
The 2016-2017 student handbook expressed the dress code thusly: “Skirts and shorts must be longer than arm’s length, and the inseam of shorts must be at least one hand-length long…all underwear, cleavage, navels, and bra straps must be covered”. This is a tall order for adolescents who are growing and developing, in many cases, only able to use last year’s summer clothing and not realizing, say for instance, that borne of nature, their natural cleavage is beginning to show a little, or that they are doing anything inappropriate. Thus, the issue of being made to feel ashamed of their bodies is brought to the fore.
The issue can be taken as far as to state that girls are often unaware that their cleavage is showing, or a bra strap is showing and the backlash to their summer clothes is akin to bullying.
Virgin Radio also states, “…most people argued that it shouldn’t be up to the girls to ensure boys aren’t becoming distracted and that girls should not be policed for what they wear”. In some instances, even what teachers wear has been called into question, citing a contradiction to the entire issue.
Two more comments taken from individuals on Virgin Radio state, “This is highly sexist. It’s saying the boys’ education is more important than sending the message of girls bodies being respected (rather than objectified or sexualized).”…..A terrible message to be sending to young females. The way they dress has nothing to do with male education”.
Another source states, “This isn’t the first time dress codes have made headlines in Alberta. Calgary and Edmonton have both been heavily criticized in 2016 for dress codes that were likely to shame girls for wearing comfortable clothing, especially in the warmer summer months”.
Another states, “It is distressing that the school thinks boys are so easily distracted that it is the girls’ fault for being female”…”clearly the attitude demonstrated by the note advocates for the education of boys….and not giving boys credit for self-reflection and self-discipline”. The onus seems to be on the girls and their clothing, rather than the more important issue of an all-round education for both girls and boys respecting each other.
The final source states, “Perhaps the desrespect and inherent sexism can be gleaned by reading the dress codes themselves and taking critical analysis of those administrators who created the need to conform to an impossible dress code for growing adolescents to adhere to in the first place”.
The last word goes to one mother who states, “I can’t keep up to, nor can I always afford to keep up with their growing bodies and providing constantly conformist clothing for them, especially during the warmer summer months”.
This article was written by Donna Murchie.