It's 2017 and we're still arguing over whether girls' bra straps are "distracting"
Warmer weather arrives, and so with it comes shorts, tank tops, prom dresses and a slew of stories about girls violating their schools' dress code. But this season, girls from Canada's Breton High School have something to say about these sexist double standards: nope.
According to CNN, last week, a sign went up in the girls' bathroom decrying the school's dress code and the message it sends its female students:
"When you interrupt a girl's school day to force her to change clothes, or send her home because her shorts are too short or her bra straps are visible, you are telling her that making sure boys have a 'distraction free' learning environment is more important than her education," the girls' sign read.
"Instead of shaming girls for their bodies teach boys that girls are not sexual objects!!!"
There have been dozens of incidents in the last few years of girls pushing up against school dress codes. There was the student in Texas that allegedly got in trouble for wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt dress on a day she had three tests. In Kentucky, a girl was admonished in August 2015 for exposing a collarbone. In September, a teacher told a 6th-grader in a denim skirt that she looked like she was going "clubbing." In March, a school published a 21-slide presentation outlining its prom dress code, warning girls the same dress might be unacceptable on one girl and not another due to body types.
And, last but not least, there was the principal who reportedly suspended a high school senior weeks away from graduating for wearing an off-the-shoulder top.
If this all sounds a little puritanical, that's because it is. School dress codes rely on the notion that boys can't control themselves; that they're governed by their most base instincts so much so that a mere collarbone might send them spiraling — to the point where they can't even get their school work done.
And in Breton High School's case, the boys seem to be buying that message hook, line and sinker.
In response to the sign in the girls' room, they wrote up a response, telling their classmates to stop "dressing like a THOT" — an acronym for "that ho over there" — and "value the male education."
"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 distracting working environment and saying, 'Your clothing is more important than their education,'" the boys' sign read.
Wild Rose School Division Superintendent Brad Volkman told CNN both sides were "very clearly making their case," and called the dueling signs part of "the discourse that happens in society." Though he did note that the use of the word "THOT" was "clearly out of order." Nonetheless, both signs were taken down almost immediately and the principal sent a letter home to parents detailing the incident.
"It's a teachable moment for our student body," Volkman said. "We do not want to shut down good conversation, we want to help kids on how to have a proper discourse on controversial issues in a respectful way."
"It's a teachable moment for our student body. "
It's a good lesson to teach students — but does it apply here, when boys are calling their female classmates hos?
The Breton High School boys' language is textbook slut shaming, a practice that's become less about shaming people for how much sex they have and more about policing girls' bodies and enforcing antiquated gender norms.
Slut shaming presumes that female bodies are inherently sexual and available for the pleasure of men, and that the way girls and women dress is a reflection of their morality, or, better yet, "self respect."
It's easy to see how these beliefs form a slippery slope to victim-blaming culture, a culture that tells girls that what they wear might justify harassment, sexual assault or any other negative attention they receive.
There are a lot of topics that deserve hearty, rigorous debate, but girls' safety, access to education and rights to their own bodies isn't one of them.