Sunday, June 8, 2014

Who wears short shorts? Kicking sexism and authority figures right in the shins

Perhaps you’re familiar with the sad tale of the Quebec-based high school student who started an Internet revolution with nothing more than some computer paper and a pair of jorts. John Cena would be so proud.
                Quick recap: The girl wore a pair of jorts to school one day, a pair of vice principals did a spot uniform check during one of her classes, her shorts were short enough to violate policy, they asked her to change, she refused, she got PO’d and printed out a bunch of signs accusing the school of sexism and fostering a culture where girls are viewed as sex objects, the school got PO’d and suspended her for a day.
                This is what I can piece together from Internet accounts.
                Somehow, this story that should have ended right then and there found its way online. Oh wait, that’s right. It’s 2014 and every ridiculous one-off story has to get squeezed into some larger narrative.
                In this case, some folks on Twitter hailed the student as some sort of leg-baring messiah, carrying the torch for oppressed women everywhere, fighting the good fight against a dress code policy that guilts girls for their bodies.
                Of course, as far as I can tell that’s mostly poppycock. She isn’t a hero, she’s a teenage girl who knowingly broke a rule, threw a fit when she didn’t get her way and then got punished for it. Or in other words, she’s every teenager who has ever lived ever.
                The school isn’t wrong here. It has a clearly-defined dress code policy in place and short-shorts are the second thing it bans.
                Also on the list? Low-riding pants. Is that some sort of cruel assault on male expression? Or more likely, is it because school officials want a dress code, they have to draw a line somewhere and that’s where they’ve chosen to draw it?
                When I was in high school, I had fairly long hair. I knew a fellow student who had a full-blown Carl Winslow moustache. We were both constantly in violation of our Catholic school’s dress code.
                His facial hair was banned and hair on guys couldn’t go past their shirt collar. And you know what? The vast majority of teachers couldn’t have cared less about where my hair stopped or what he had on his upper lip. Except for two female teachers.
                My buddy was constantly under the watchful eye of this one teacher, who made it a point to write him up for the stache in front of our entire study hall, even threatening to shave him herself on one or two occasions.
As for the other teacher, I had no classes with her, but she always managed to track me down in the halls and remind me to get a haircut.
                Why did these two female teachers do this to us? I guess the only answer is that they were concerned that my friend’s overt, rugged masculinity and my more soft and sensitive, yet still manly version would overpower the school’s female students and they’d start throwing themselves at us in the halls. (Trust me, that never happened.)
                Or maybe those teachers were jealous that he could grow a moustache and that I had longer hair than the pair of them.
                Or you know, maybe it’s because there was a rule on the books and they felt compelled to enforce everything in said book, unlike the majority of our teachers who were more interested in picking their battles.
                One of the most important lessons kids learn from actually going to a school each day is how to be fully-functioning members of society. That includes following rules, dealing with authority figures and with your peers and so on.
                If this girl from Quebec gets an office job, there’s a damn good chance there will be some sort of dress code she’s going to have to follow and her boss likely isn’t going to give a shit how hot it is outside. It’s easier to start learning that lesson early rather than getting canned later because you can’t understand why a fishnet top isn’t an appropriate thing to wear to a client meeting.
                You could ask the question: Should short shorts be banned? Is that sending the wrong message? But that’s not the point. The school has decided that’s where it wants the line. Just like guys can’t have their jeans sagging down to their knees. (Also, an aside, if a guy showed up in cut off shorts that stopped mid-thigh, he’s probably getting sent home too. No proof, just a gut-feeling.)
                I’m not blaming the student in this case. I mean, she’s absolutely wrong about every single part of this, but that’s not her fault. She’s a teenager, that’s her job.
                The real blame, as it always is, is on her parents.
                This isn’t about rape culture or slut-shaming or any other buzzword. It’s just typical teenage nonsense. The only difference is, back in the day her parents would have jumped in with a “No daughter (or son) of mine is going to do XYZ” speech, told their kid to listen to the principal and defused the situation.
Now, no parent wants to believe their precious kid could do anything wrong and so it’s off to Twitter or the evening news if someone even thinks about suggesting their perfect angel is anything less than that.
I’m not sure mom and dad steered that media car in this case, but I know they didn’t pull it over.  
                The school has a very clear no-butt policy. It doesn’t want to see the top of your butt hanging out of some sagging pants or the bottom slipping out of the bottoms of your short-shorts. Even though the shorts in this case weren’t THAT short, let’s just acknowledge such a thing is hardly out of the question.
                If the school had a rule mandating all blue-eyed students must be treated as inferior to brown-eyed ones, then by all means, feel free to rebel to your heart’s content. That rule makes no sense.
                But on the revolutionary spectrum, crying about shorts falls closer to “Corey and Shawn go on strike because they don’t like tests” than it does to “Boston Tea Party.”

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