A group of schoolboys in Canada wore skirts to school recently to protest systemic forms of oppression against queer students, along with a dress code that inhibits freedom of express for queer students.
Decrying the blatant double-standard “on the way society views our women and men,” student Zachary Paulin wrote on Instagram that he organized the skirt-wearing protest at Collège Nouvelles Frontières in Gatineau, Quebec, as “a sign of resilience, solidarity, and support to the intersectional battle for gender equality.”
Paulin told the CBC he was inspired after watching similar protests by students in Montreal-area schools who objected to disparities in dress code rules between male and female students. Specifically, the boys in those demonstrations wore skirts to school because they said the skirt length requirements for girls is sexist and unfair while there is no similar rule for the length of the shorts worn by boys.
The Montreal students were objecting to the dress code itself, but Paulin saw an opportunity to raise awareness to systems of oppression inherent in a dress code based upon a binary concepts of gender and sexuality.
“By wearing a skirt, we are united and together against the sexualization of women and we’re sending a message against toxic masculinity, that’s keeping boys from being who they truly are, without judgement,” he wrote on Instagram.
Paulin pointed out that while “it’s not a big deal” if a woman chooses to “wear a suit or pants” or other “clothes associated with masculinity” in public, the reaction of society is entirely different “the moment a man will do anything remotely feminine, whether it is to put nail polish, makeup” or, in the case of Paulin and his fellow students, a skirt.
“Fingers are pointed and he gets insulted,” he continued. “People will say that he’s not a real man and they will automatically assume his sexuality.”
Thankfully, Paulin’s protest was met with positive feedback. He had no idea his local protest would gather the amount of support and attention it has received so far. He told the CBC he shared his plans with a group of only 30 or so friends, so he was “pleasantly surprised” when 100 students joined him in the protest.
“I knew that it was going to be a big movement, but not that big of a movement,” he said.
Despite the important message behind the protest, Paulin learned more than he probably expected by wearing a skirt for the day.
"You can't really bend and you've got to be cautious with your movements," he told the CBC.