Let schoolgirls bare their shoulders

Over the last week, the high school dress code issue has catapulted back into news headlines. While this is not a new issue, it is recurring, and has yet to be acted upon within our school systems.

Lauren Wiggins, a girl in New Brunswick, was recently sent to detention for attending her high school class in a maxi dress with halter straps. Her teachers were upset over the fact that she was disregarding their school’s dress code that — like many — has multiple restrictions on what girls can wear to their school. Wiggins claims she was told that these guidelines are in place to make sure that boys are not distracted by the girl’s appearance, and argued they discriminate against girls and not their male peers.

Rather than to simply take the detention and dress ‘more appropriately’ in the future, Wiggins decided to bring to the principal’s attention how today’s backwards dress codes only penalize girls, and how they perpetuate the rape culture mindset. She was suspended for a day for voicing her opinions.

Girls continue to be placed as the instigators of unwarranted glances, distraction, and in some cases, rape.

If we tell our young girls that they need to watch what they wear so as to keep from distract the young boys around them, what do we teach them? We instill within their minds from a young age that it is the girl’s fault when she is a victim of voyeurism, because she ‘asks for it’ by wearing something. No blame is placed on young boys for their lack of self-control, yet we still feel that we do not need to teach them anything different.

Wiggins pointed out to her principal that boys disregard the few dress code rules in place for their attire, and go without punishment. Yet girls are the ones who are reprimanded for their choice in clothing, and given further punishment when they try to speak out.

In perpetuating this cycle, girls continue to be placed as the instigators of unwarranted glances, distraction, and in some cases, rape. We need to teach our young students that they are responsible for their own actions, not the actions of those around them. They should not be blamed for others’ poor behaviour, especially at such an influential young age.

If we instill such beliefs in their minds at this age, it will only serve to follow them through the rest of their lives — a prospect that is simply discriminatory and unacceptable.