News / Opinion / Sexuality

Kilt ban: Short skirts were not the problem

"Too short" kilts were never the problem. Image via CTV.ca.

By: Shannon Clarke

Feature image via CTV.ca.

A mini-crisis was averted late November after the Durham Catholic School Board decided not to ban kilts in schools.

The traditional uniform for female students came under question as students were wearing them higher than what the school considered acceptable at just above the knee.

Trustee Chris Leahy, responding to complaints over the rising hemlines proposed a ban on the kilts – a staple of the Catholic and private school uniform. If his motion passed, the kilts would have been ditched in favour of pants.

However, the school board decided not to enforce the ban at this time, suggesting a gradual phasing out period instead.

Students said they liked the kilts, adding that it felt a little more “individual” than wearing pants.

“What message are we sending to our children, whether they are boys or girls, that they need to have short skirts?” Leahy said in an interview with CTV Toronto.

Leahy’s point seems valid when the fetishization of the school uniform – Catholic or otherwise – is considered. If Britney Spears and a questionable Glee photo shoot have taught us anything, it’s that the “school girl” has become sexualized in a weirdly acceptable way.

Leahy’s petition to do-away with the kilts is not the first time female students have been told to cover up.

In September, schools in Britain decided to ban kilts, arguing that they were distracting to male students, staff and teachers. And in October, Toronto police advised young women against wearing their uniforms on the TTC after two Greenwood College students were harassed on the train.

“Students, especially females, should consider not wearing their school uniform when riding the TTC.”

The school’s principal sent an email to parents and teachers passing on the officer’s advice.

“This person was looking up the girls’ skirts,” he wrote in the email obtained by the Toronto Sun. “So the advice is given…if they had, for example, jeans or sweatpants on, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

Toronto police quickly back peddled when people complained their “advice” sounded an awful lot like the slut-shaming, which inspired slut walks worldwide.

While the sexualizing of pre-pubescent and teenage girls is certainly concerning, it’s more concerning that the sight of adolescent legs is considered a distraction.

Society continues to have a strange relationship with women and clothing. There are far more rules dictating appropriate dress for women all aimed at keeping men “focused.” Standards around tank tops, V-necks, tight sweaters, pants, shorts and of course, skirts are upheld not only in schools but also in workplaces and in our social interactions.

Girls are taught by the time they enter high school that their clothing will dictate how they are perceived and treated. In fact, a recent Canadian study found women were less friendly towards other women wearing what they deemed revealing clothing.

Though the ban was rejected in a 5-3 vote, the proposal can and likely will be raised again.

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