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'Am I a distraction?' Teens stage walk-out to protest school’s sexist dress code

"If children’s midriffs distract you, you should not be working with children,” read a placard at the protest.

'Am I a distraction?' Teens stage walk-out to protest school’s sexist dress code
Image source: TikTok/@baggyjeanmom

A group of teenagers at a California high school staged a walkout to protest the school dress code that they believe was aimed at policing what girls wore. Both girls and boys wore tank tops and bared their midriff to register their protest. The video and images of the protest went viral on TikTok where it was shared. Students wrote messages on their midriffs using sharpies including messages such as "distraction" to mock the dress code. The video was posted by Evita, who goes by @baggyjeanmom. She posted the video with the caption: Started this all because our principal was going to have an assembly about dress code, so on the day of the assembly we did this." In the video, Evita, along with her classmates, can be seen at school with one note posted around the campus reading, “Teach boys to focus, not girls to cover up,” while another read, “If children’s midriffs distract you, you should not be working with children.”



In a follow-up video, she explained that the students felt the new dress code was sexist and perpetuated rape culture, angering students. Evita said the students had planned the protest and timed it with the school assembly on the dress code. “We, as students, feel like what we wear is not distracting towards others and not affecting anyone’s learning environment,” she said, reported DailyDot. "We want some freedom of expression and to express our confidence," she added.



There have been many complaints with regard to school dress code policies in recent years with many pointing out that they were sexist and gendered. In many cases, dress codes were used as a means to police girls, under the cover of the argument that adults were being distracted by their dress. Many showed their solidarity with Evita and her schoolmates in the comments. I mean in University, we don't have a dress code and everything is fine and no one is distracted, so I don't know where they get that from," commented one person. "Let's go, everyone. So proud of everyone, especially the younger grades. Most of the seniors were told they couldn't walk graduation if they participated, wrote another. Another student claimed they were inspired by the protests and planned to start one in their school.



“We know we’re gonna have a dress code when we get older and possibly have uniforms with whatever job that comes, but right now, we’re in school,” said Evita, before adding, "We’re in a learning environment. We should not have to be kicked out of class for wearing a crop top.” Another TikToker argued, “they can hold an assembly to tell girls how to dress but they can’t have an assembly to educate boys on how they should respect other people's bodies.”



As we reported, Spain witnessed a mass protest against dress codes, after a boy was expelled for wearing a skirt to class. The teachers wore skirts to show their solidarity with the student and to establish the idea that clothes have no gender (#laropanotienegenero). The idea has turned into a movement with the aim of ending stereotypical gender norms. More and more teachers, who are men, are joining in the protest by wearing skirts to school. The movement started when 15-year-old Mikel Gómez, was expelled from his school in Bilbao before being referred to a psychologist for wearing a skirt, implying that he had mental issues. 



Gómez then uploaded a video of him calling out the school and it spurred hundreds of boys to wear skirts in protest. It became a full-fledged movement with boy students and teachers all over the country wearing clothes stereotypically deemed feminine to register their protest. Similarly, another student in Spain was bullied and subjected to homophobic slurs for wearing an anime sweatshirt. His 36-year-old teacher, Borja Velázquez, and another teacher, Manuel Ortega, started coming to class dressed in skirts to show his support for the student. The pair said they wanted to promote tolerance, respect, and diversity. Velázquez tweeted: A school that educates with respect, diversity, co-education, and tolerance. Dress how you want! We join the campaign #clotheshavenogender. 


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