#MyBodyMyBusiness

Every day I wake up and venture out into this big beautiful world I am more and more impressed with the people I encounter and the people I read about. One day last week I woke up and began scrolling through Twitter to get my daily overload of London news and stumbled upon a story about this UNREAL student from A.B. Lucas Secondary School. Her name is Laura Anderson and she is bad ass.

Huge shoutout to this amazing human being for standing up for what she believes in! For those of you that don’t know what went down at Lucas, the snapshot version is that a responsible, intelligent and involved student was sent home from school for wearing this…

LA

As a result, Laura decided to stage a protest at her school. In an interview with one newspaper Laura was quoted saying

“They just said that what I was wearing was not appropriate for school and that I should not be able to be seen in school until I change,” said Anderson. “I went home and changed into regular jeans and a baggy t-shirt, but felt very sad about the incident and very degraded by the incident.”

In response, Laura decided to stage a protest at her school. She encouraged other students to replicate the outfit she wore when she was sent home — i.e. Jeans and a tank top. Before you assume that she’s just an angry, rebellious, “immature” teenager, take a look at this statement

“My intention always was and always will be to make a positive change respectfully,”

“If we bash the entire dress code on Wednesday, that’s going to make us seem immature and rebellious.”

Laura’s experience and her decision to stage a protest is not simply about protesting a dress-code — It’s about protesting inherently sexist policies within the school system that undoubtedly translate into the greater community. I’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks lots of people praising a number of young women’s’ protests against dress codes, while some people write them off as immature and fighting for a “silly cause”.  I have read, and heard, countless condescending statements throwing out the term feminist in quotations or suggesting that this fight isn’t one worth having. Some people have gone so far as to suggest that “there is no hope for humanity” and question “what has this world come to?!”

Here are the four major arguments from the haters:

Number 1This is just a silly, immature fight
Number 2 The dress-code isn’t a big deal, suck it up
Number 3 School is supposed to be preparing you for the professional world
and
Number 4 some kind of weird implication that these girls aren’t feminists — aka “fake feminists”

LA2

Let me break it down for the haters…

Number 1 For those of you that view this fight as silly, I pose this question to you,

What did you fight for when you were in highschool? 

better yet…

What are you fighting for right now?

Regardless of your opinion of the actual purpose of the protest, let’s give this girl a hand for actually DOING something when she felt she was being treated unfairly in school. YOU ROCK MY SOCKS Laura! This my friends, is the making of a world changer — it doesn’t matter if your efforts start with freeing children in an underdeveloped country, feeding the hungry or encouraging your school to update their outdated dress code — the point is that there are young people in our city seeing things that they don’t feel is just, and they are doing something about it! This is not something to ridicule. This is something to celebrate. Everyone has to start somewhere.

But let me emphasize this…. this IS a fight worth having. This battle is no small feat.

empower youth

Number 2 Umm… no, you suck it up. 

First of all… this dress code was an issue when my friends and I were in elementary and secondary school and there is still an issue with it. When I was younger my friends and I didn’t even understand why it bothered us so much or why it was wrong, but we knew that it wasn’t fair. We didn’t have the knowledge or the tools to do anything about it, let alone understand it. The reason that it is unfair is because the dress code itself implies that there is something inappropriate about our shoulders, our legs and our bra straps and that these body parts and articles of clothing are “distracting” within an educational space.

Promoting the concept that a girl’s body or a tank-top  is “distracting” or inappropriate creates the very foundation that leads to over-sexualizing females, victim-blaming and rape-culture within our society.  This concept diminishes our bodies to nothing but our sexuality — can a body be sexual? Yes, obviously. But only when a person chooses to be sexual, then and only then is that body sexual. Not in the middle of a high school. Not in the middle of a classroom. And definitely not when a young woman is trying to learn. This outfit is not inappropriate, but the reaction to it is. When you interrupt a girls education and send her home because she should not be seen in a tank-top, you are teaching every student in that school that what she looks like is inappropriate and punishable and her education is less important than what you think she should be wearing. 

Not only is it unproductive to promote this idea, thus teaching males to over-sexualize  females because of their appearance or their choice of clothing, but it is even more unproductive to assume that male students (and teachers) are unable to focus on their work simply because they can see a leg, a shoulder, a belly or a bra strap. This outdated approach to dress-codes is straight up insulting to males. First off, if they actually are distracted by something so minuscule, they should be sent home. Secondly, are we really assuming that males are nothing but their hormones? Are they unable to view females as human beings, friends, peers? Are they unable to be productive members of the community because of a bra strap? Give them a little more credit folks. I have encountered my fair share of disastrous members of the male population but even I know they’re better than that.

LA3

Number 3 What “professional world” are you referring to?

Seriously though. What is appropriate in one profession may not be appropriate in another. Now I would never go so far as to argue that we should toss dress codes out the window entirely. Almost every where you go is going to have some version of a dress-code, even if it’s something as simple as “no shirt, no shoes, no service”. But the day of this protest I went to work and more than one of my female colleagues, all of which are in leadership roles, were wearing outfits that exposed more skin than Laura Anderson — did this impact their work? No. Did it impact anyone else’s? No. Did it impact the respect people hold for them? No.

And yes, of course part of the purpose of school is prepare young people for their future careers… key word being part. 

Do you remember what it was like to be in highschool? You are not just preparing for the “professional world”. Highschool is a time for self discovery, self exploration and believe it or not, it is supposed to be fun. 

Someone asked me the other day what the youth scene was like in London. You know what my response was? We don’t have one. London, I love you, but you have nothing for young people. Now that’s not to say that there aren’t wonderful people and amazing organizations dedicated to empowering and celebrating youth, but let’s face it, youth are cast to the sidelines in our community. High school is their space. Let them be young, let them have fun, let them be who they want to be! They have the rest of their lives to be “professional”.

P.S. Check out these young, female entrepreneurs KILLING it in the professional world… Shoulders showing and everything!

Local fashion designer, Carmina De Young has joined with London-based fashion enterprise Ezzy Lynn — including co-founders (from left) Samantha Laliberte, Sonja Fernandes and Bianca Lopes — in a new partnership with Goodwill’s Pivotal manufacturing services to produce and distribute new lines of clothing that build upon the company’s commitment to socially conscious business practices.

London fashion biz grows its socially conscious plan

What is a feminst

Number 4 “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people too”

If someone is fighting to empower women, then yes, they are a feminist. End of story.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

What most youth involved in these movements are trying to accomplish is an updated dress code that does not over-sexualize girls bodies by implying that a bra strap, shoulders, legs, etc. are “inappropriate”. They want to ensure that girls’ education stops being disrupted because of these silly little things… As I mentioned before, if a male student is so distracted by a bra strap… Send him home! That’s his issue, not hers (Although I do give males more credit than this and really doubt that they are distracted). And finally, these young people want a say in something that affects them on a daily basis. You want to end political empathy among young people? Support them when they want to engage in policy decisions.

There are a few things I think we should all keep in mind regarding this movement, and yes, friends, it is a movement in the making

1. We need to celebrate and support young people fighting for social change
2. Just because something isn’t relevant or important in your day to day life doesn’t mean that it does not have value
3. Males are not walking hormones, despite what you may think
4. A person’s body is not sexual unless they choose to be sexual
5. Style needs to be taken into consideration — get with the times
7. It gets really hot in the summer…
6. School is about more than prepping for a job
7. If you can’t be young when you’re young, then when can you?
8. Let’s not forget that at one point women were fighting for the right to wear pants, cut their hair short and even show a little ankle — I bet there were haters ripping on those girls too. But how would you feel today if they had given up that fight?

Laura, my friends and I are singing your praise. Thank you for fighting this battle 🙂

Check out the articles below friends 🙂

“Don’t overdo it, dress code protesters urged”

“London student in jeans, tank top sent home for breaking dress code”

Laura Anderson

 


Found this slam today – it reminded me of this post and thought I would share it with readers. Powerful words spoken.

Dress Code, original slam poem by Laura De Sousa

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