A number of weeks ago I did a couple of posts about the niqab debate and what is considered reasonable accommodation in Canada.
Still contemplating what’s reasonable…
Basically, I came to the conclusion that if someone truly wants to wear an article of clothing and are not being coerced into it, then that should be their choice. My issue is whether or not someone is being coerced. I also made the point that it should not just be a right given to those with religious beliefs, but everybody. Basically, if we allow a niqab in a courtroom for religious accommodation, then we need to allow just a plain old hat in that same courtroom. If one person’s head can be covered because their religion says so, then any other person should be allowed to also irrespective of religious belief.
My main issue was with politicians making this about choices when I really felt that it was part of an effort to gain favour with a religious minority. Justin Trudeau especially made a point of it. Again, a quote from his speech that week:
“For me, this is both unconscionable and a real threat to Canadian Liberty. For me, it is basic truth that Prime Ministers of liberal democracies ought not to be in the business of telling women what they can and cannot wear on their head during public ceremonies.”
It seems to me that the quote can be expanded upon a little bit. If Prime Ministers should not be in the business of telling women (or men) what they can wear on their heads, then it seems to me that any governing body should not be able to tell women what they can wear period. Seems like a reasonable assumption, given the facts.
That brings us to this week.
Lauren Wiggins is a 17 year old student in Moncton, New Brunswick and she was sent home for wearing the full length halter dress that you see at the right. She was told that it was “inappropriate” and a “sexual distraction” and that it was therefore not allowed.
She wasn’t taking it either. After being told by her vice principal that she should wear something different, she penned him a letter which she also posted on Facebook. Apparently the letter went somewhat viral, at least enough for the CBC to notice and do a story on the incident. Ms Wiggins’ letter is no longer available on Facebook, but I will post the contents below:
Dear [Vice Principal] Sturgeon,
I have a concern I would like to bring to your attention. In today’s society, a woman’s body is constantly discriminated against and hypersexualized to the point where we can no longer wear the clothing that we feel comfortable in without the accusation and/or assumption that we are being provocative. This unjust mindset towards women is absolutely absurd. The fact that authority figures, especially males, can tell young women they must cover up their shoulders and their backs because it’s “inappropriate” and “a distraction” is very uncomforting.
Schools are the social building blocks in an adolescent’s life meant to teach them how to communicate and develop relationships with others and also learning about themselves and who they want to be. It’s preached upon us to be individual, to be ourselves. The double standard here is that when we try, we are then told we’re wrong. We may not truly dress, act or speak how we want because authority figures, and I use that term very loosely such as yourself, tell us we can’t. Yes, I understand there are restrictions to how much and how little of your body that shows, but that applies when people show up in their bikinis or bra and panties.
Though I do believe women should legally be allowed to publicly be shirtless considering males are, it’s mindsets like yours that keep that as something that is shamed upon. So no, Mr. Sturgeon, I will not search for something to cover up my back and shoulders because I am not showing them off with the intention to gain positive sexual feedback from the teenage boys in my school. I am especially not showing them to receive any comments, positive or negative, from anybody else besides myself because the only person who can make any sort of judgment on my body and the fabrics I place on it is me.
If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders then he needs to be sent home and practice self control.
Thank you, have a nice day.
She nails it. She is so right. Why shame her when it is the boys with the problem? And sometimes it isn’t even boys with a problem. Sometimes, nobody is even noticing, except for hyper sensitive school administrators.
Let’s take the current rules in Brandon School Division into account. Policy 7004 was amended back in 2005 to establish dress code rules. That is very recent. In the division policy it is written as follows, highlighting is mine:
In establishing and providing for respectful, safe and secure school environments, the wearing of appropriate clothing by students is an important factor. Students are expected to wear appropriate clothing in the school at all times during the school day.
- a) Definition of Appropriate Clothing
Appropriate clothing is that which is acceptable to the established norms of the school community, staff and school administration. Appropriate clothing is free from: – inappropriate words, phrases and images; – being sexually explicit or revealing in nature; – inappropriate accessories that may cause potential harm to self and others.
- b) Headgear
Headgear as such, includes hats, toques, bandanas and hoods. Headgear is to be removed when entering the school during the school day. Headgear, to comply with medical or program requirements, may be permitted in designated areas by permission of school administration. Headgear worn in recognized religious observations may be approved through consultation with parents and administration.
- c) Concealing Clothing and Accessories
Concealing clothing and accessories includes school bags. Containers, such as backpacks, large bags, gym bags, not required immediately for physical education, must remain in lockers or other designated areas. Policy 7004 Page 8 of 16 Student Conduct P Outerwear such as large, bulky jackets and trench coats will not be worn in the school building during the school day. Outerwear is to be removed and left in student lockers or other designated areas.
The handbook at my children’s school goes on to expand on it like this,
“Clothing such as strapless/spaghetti strap tops, bare midriffs or short skirts/shorts are not appropriate for school”
It is not lost on me that this language is aimed squarely at girls. Really? What kind of message are we sending here? This is a kindergarten to grade eight school, meaning that the bulk of the kids in the school have not even reached puberty yet. If an 8 year old girl wants to wear her favourite clothing to school, who in the hell is sexualizing an eight year old so much that she can’t wear something that shows her shoulders or tummy. She is 8 years old! Anyone sexually distracted by that should be having their head, and maybe their hard drive, examined! When I was that age, way back in the early 1980s, girls wore that stuff all the time. No one cared! Now, in an attempt to be “fair” to teenage girls, we stop prepubescent girls from wearing harmless little outfits, instead of doing the logical thing and letting teenagers wear what they feel comfortable in too! I don’t care if she is 8, 12, or 15; If someone is distracted enough by a choice of clothing, like Lauren Wiggins says, then perhaps they should be sent home to practice self control.
My only question now, when are politicians such as Mr. Trudeau, the defender of clothing choice, going to come to the defence of Lauren Wiggins?