Last week, there was a lot of media coverage of the initiative of a number of boys attending Jean-Eudes College in Montreal which consisted of wearing the skirt usually reserved for girls in the school’s strict dress code.
First of all, I salute loud and clear this protesting gesture from adolescents to whom we usually pay little attention. Who said that our young people were not aware of the challenges of society and that they did not have the necessary maturity to develop sufficiently solid arguments? This initiative gives me faith in the future of future generations who will have been abused by the retrograde spirits which still prevail too often and the openness which is still lacking among too many people.
But I can’t help but see it as still a form of sexism and oppression against women. Why did it take boys, from a highly advantaged social class, who make a splash in order to give importance to a problem that has endured for decades?
I know it, I lived it.
I attended private college for the first three years of high school. I also rolled up my skirt, turned the sleeves of my too thick blouses. I wore high heels, sandals that were too open on my harmless toes. I was given warnings because my shirt tail protruded too much from my pants. I felt the disapproving gaze of the many directors who have succeeded in the upper echelons of the school.
Feel the gazes of men, much older than me, as I walked down the steps, their laser pupils sweeping me up and down as I passed through the corridor. You might want to catch the eye of others a lot at this age, but not that way. Not because of a fast growing body and developing forms.
Not because we approve or disapprove of our clothing.
Already being a girl with very average academic results in a college where excellence is demanded as intensely as the ruby-on-nail payment of parents is a lot of stress and pressure for such a young age. Because it leaves consequences. More than 20 years later, I still have traces of it. I still remember the fear in my stomach I felt when exam scores were posted in class and struggling students marked with fluorescent highlighter.
At school, we want to be seen, but above all heard.
We want to defend our ideas, to feel safe within the walls of the place where we spend our days trying to become the best humans. To feel that we have our place. It doesn’t matter what sweater you’re wearing. It does not matter its brand, its color, its fabric. Transparent or not, brightly colored or not.
Girl or boy or any other kind.
I wonder … if the initiative had been orchestrated by teenagers from public school, would it have had the same impact? Do we still give too much importance to the elite? The gesture, I repeat, is quite valid and even admirable. It reflects the wind of change that we have been trying to create for a long time.
But why are we girls not heard first again?
Blessed Sacrament of Terrebonne