Crop Tops and Dress Codes

An 18-year old Toronto, ON. high school student, started a successful protest campaign following a dress code requirement brouhaha. The student had been called in to the Vice-Principal’s office and was told her crop top was inappropriate school attire.

In her campaign, the girl defied the school request and, bolstered by the reaction of schoolmates and youth at large, she returned to school the next day with crop top and shorts. A number of other school girls followed suit to demonstrate their solidarity.

The student contended that she was going to school to learn; a dress code should have nothing to do with it. Anyone who disagreed with her, by siding with the school, was only sexualising the issue.

Reality is that dress codes are part of everyday life. In some companies, staff are required to sign that they’ll abide by the company’s dress code requirement.  The argument that when we are going to work, dress codes should not have anything to do with it, doesn’t wash either. Companies have the right to dictate some code of conduct, just as a company should be guided by a code of ethics.

In the case of this high school, one can suspect that if a male student came to school with naked torso, he would be called in to the Vice-Principal’s office in much the same way as the young woman was, and be told that his attire was inappropriate for school. Let’s face it, girls would be just as “distracted” as boys might be by girls wearing crop tops.

However, it isn’t so much the “distraction” for the opposite sex that should be at issue, but the fact that there is attire that is appropriate in certain situations and not in other situations. 30C degrees should not motivate one to go to school in bathing outfits, that’s best left for the beach. You get the point.

The reason the school gave – that it distracts male students – was unfortunate and played into the sexualisation card. Schools should focus on what is and isn’t appropriate school attire during school hours, rather than whether or not certain attire is “distracting”. The former might be a more neutral and effective approach.

That a high school girl was able to garner so much attention, makes one wonder whether respect for authority has vanished altogether.  If the school, where this incident took place – or any school for that matter – abdicates under public pressure, it loses its power to inform the next generation of upcoming adults, and that, in the end, is tragic.

Without boundaries and authority, we move towards anarchy and chaos. It is not okay to attack every societal standard of conduct to suit one’s selfish behaviour, manipulate it into a hot button issue, and think that life is a free-for-all.

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