So apparently people find Fisher Park Public School in the Ottawa area sexist in their dress code. I’m not sure how a bra strap showing can cause problems or how the codes details are or are not sexist. I am disturbed that this student and others are having to worry about clothing choices and missing class if they get choices wrong. The fact these policies are inconsistent, open to interpretation differences and take up so much of people’s time is telling me they’re doomed to failure. Let’s stop wasting time debating appropriate/not appropriate and just have comfortable, practical and washable school uniforms.
The first commenter in the above piece makes a fair point about bra straps being procative and sexuallizing a teen for it. So many clothing options for children, especially girls, are to sexualize them before their time. Having a school uniform that isn’t open to fetishizing, like some traditional uniforms are, could be one less worry for students and parents. The fashion game of pushing the codes limits or having the latest fashions is eliminated with uniforms.
Stephen Leacock* wrote in favour of students wearing academic gowns about a hundred years ago, and his point in favour is still valid. Uniforms are an equalizer, the poor kids and rich kids all in the same clothes covers up the class distinctions the current system emphasises. There is a subconscious mindset of class in Canada and dress is a sign of which class one belongs to. I’ve known what it is liked to be persecuted for having a limited number of clothes, hand me downs, frayed edges and not the latest fashions. It isn’t just other students making these judgements of worth, teachers also do it, and in some cases consciously, dismissing a student’s potential because of their dress.
Some have argued that uniforms thwart a student’s creativity, which is a rather elitist thing to argue. Try being creative, motivated to learn and successful while being bullied for what you have to wear. Schools should be safe places where children can flourish, not fashion parades where a boy in a pink shirt gets threatened or a girl without a pink shirt gets ostracised. The current system allows consumerism and trivia to dominate too much of the student’s, parent’s and faculties’ time. Time better spent on learning about respect and sexism**. Many successful education systems have uniforms so they’re not likely to adversely affect the chances of our children.
Everyone desires, at some level, to belong. In my past the Canadian Army’s uniform gave more sense of belonging than anything in my school experiences. Some relatives of mine in Britain still keep their old school tie as a reminder. School uniforms are far more egalitarian than what we have now, a current system of class, clique and being sexuallized. Uniforms won’t solve all of our education’s problems but they will give marginalized children a slightly better chance of getting through school without being bullied or neglected for their clothes. That little factor might be the difference between a depressed dropout and a successful future.
Everyone on Wednesdays will wear the school’s pink shirt, no exceptions.
*Stephen Leacock wrote this in The School is the Lever, part of the book Last Leaves. I agree with most of the sentiments of the piece, such as free school dinners where all students eat together. Great way to teach food, cultures etc.
**Holly Painter responded with this point on Twitter and with a link to this view of dress codes. Both make great points, hence the rather plagiaristic edit. I still believe a level playing field of school uniforms allow students to get past the facade of clothing to learn about what really matters about people. Clothes are an expression and school uniforms can express the time for learning.