Another day, another girl being told to “cover up” or “change” her “inappropriate outfit” in school.
This week, it happened to Alexi Halket, a grade 12 student from Etobicoke School of the Arts in Toronto, ON. On Monday, the teen arrived in a patterned turquoise crop top, that bared her midriff and a grey skirt. By the time the lunch hour ended, Halket was called down to the Vice Principal’s office where she was told her crop top looked “too much like a sports bra” and that her outfit was too inappropriate for a school.
After a heated 90 minute discussion on her attire, Halket left the office and did what any social-savvy teen would do—she took out her frustrations online. Halket started a Facebook event that evening, inviting over 7,000 people to wear a crop top on Tuesday to help protest the school dress code and sexualization of female students. And just like that, #CropTopDay was born.
The next day, hundreds showed up to school baring their midriffs in support of Halket’s cause. Even girls across North America and beyond showed their support by posting pictures of themselves with the hashtag #StandinSolidarity. By the end of the school day, a movement was born.
As a young woman, I understand Halket’s point of view. Women, young and old, should be able to wear what they want without the fear of being sexualized or objectified by the people around her. But because we live in a society still run by rules and sets of expectations, you come to learn that there is a time and place for everything.
To a certain point, this story isn’t really about the sexualization of Halket’s outfit, but more about the appropriateness of her attire for the setting. Schools are supposed to prepare students for the professional world—a world that also has a dress code that people have to abide by, or they risk losing their job.
We live in a progressive time that is finally starting to recognize the double standards it has unfairly pressed upon women for centuries. When it comes to trying to get rid of these inequalities in the classroom, the new challenge becomes redefining what’s appropriate and defining it in a way that’s fair and free of sexist double standards. Unfortunately we’re not there yet.
Given the situation, I believe ESA handled this well. Principal Rob MacKinnon was quoted saying he was “proud of the students” for standing up for something they felt so strongly about. In fact, during Tuesday’s lunch, he invited all the student protesters for an open discussion on the school’s current dress code.
“For a student at a swim meet in the morning to come to school in a Speedo is not appropriate, (just) like a student at school in a bikini is not appropriate,” he told them. “There is a line, and now we need to define it.”
And that’s exactly it. Since stories like this one show no signs of stopping, the new discussion needs becomes what we define as appropriate for school. It’s not an easy thing to answer, especially with so many conflicting points of view. But we’re talking about it and that’s what matters.