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Breaking Down Gender Roles: Boys in Skirts

Boys from highschools across Quebec are showing up to school wearing skirts to protest the sexism and hypersexualization their female peers face as well as gender norms.

A group of students from Collège Nouvelles Frontières (Instagram: @_zachpaulin_)

Across highschools in Quebec, boys are borrowing uniformed skirts from their peers to protest the sexism that is embedded in their school’s dress code. The main goal of this movement is to bring awareness to how uniforms hypersexualize girls and how what they wear shouldn’t be judged based on how it “might distract” their male classmates.

Simon Lefebvre-Gagnon, 16, from Lucille-Teasdale International School shares that it comes from a place of sensitivity that made him join the movement:“I’ve always been sensitive to these kinds of things. My two older sisters have been victims to sexual misconduct and it was really hard for me to help them [and watch them go through that], so this movement allowed me to pass on a message that had an impact and to share good values that replace toxic masculinity which actively permeates today’s society. It’s not every [man] that can recognize what women are living through every day; this movement allows us not only to sensitize people to [and make people aware of] this matter but also to put ourselves in the shoes of women for a day. The best way to learn is through action.”

Simon Lefebvre-Gagnon (Instagram: @simsvitious_xp)

I asked him what the school’s response was when many boys had shown up to school in skirts:

“At first, it was a surprise seeing 50 guys dressing femininely, wearing skirts. It’s then that people began understanding that the movement was serious and began taking part in the movement by spreading awareness. It was a wake up call for many.”

He goes on to explain that the school’s administration had a great reaction to the idea: “The principal was super enthusiastic about the idea of the skirts; she helped me out with the project and even encouraged teachers to wear them!”

Simon Lefebvre-Gagnon (kneeling, far right) along with other classmates who wore skirts to protest against sexism and discrimination against women (Instagram: @simsvitious_xp)

Another goal of this movement is to abolish the toxic masculinity that exists in today’s society. Girls are not judged for wearing pants or clothes that people may associate as “masculine”. Although, when boys choose to do anything slightly “feminine”, they are called out on it and heavily judged. Boys are borrowing skirts from their friends and classmates to wear to school to challenge the idea that skirts are only for girls to wear.

“The double standart [sic] on the way society views our women and men is blatant; if a woman decides to wear a suit or pants, clothes associated with masculinity, it’s not a big deal. But the moment a man will do anything remotely feminine, whether it is to put nail polish, makeup or in our case, a skirt, fingers are pointed and he gets insulted. People will say that he’s not a ‘real man’ and they will automatically assume his sexuality.” wrote Zachary Paulin, a 16-year-old student from Collège Nouvelles Frontières in Gatineau, Quebec, under his post on Instagram.

I also asked Paulin what inspired him to take part in the movement:“Well I saw that people in Montreal were taking part in the movement. At first I wasn’t too sure what it was about, so I did some research and the reasons behind the whole thing really touched me. Then, I thought to myself ‘why not bring it to my school.’, and it just started from there!”

He, too, received positive reactions from everyone at his school:

“Everyone was super supportive. I didn’t really get any negative reactions from people at my school! The teachers kept telling us how they thought it was a beautiful movement, the school administration was also super supportive. The majority of boys that weren’t wearing skirts were still telling me how they liked the movement and how they supported every part of it! So yeah it was amazing to be honest.”

Zachary Paulin (third from the right) along with his classmates from Collège Nouvelles Frontières protesting against sexism, gender roles and toxic masculinity (Instagram: @_zachpaulin_)

While this movement is an incredible step to raise awareness to end gender roles, sexism, and toxic masculinity, I asked Zachary Paulin and Simon Lefebvre-Gagnon what they hoped would be achieved and changed by all this: “I hope boys will feel more comfortable being feminine and simply being themselves, especially at school (even though it would be ideal everywhere). I also hope that women in school institutions will stop being so discriminated against for what they decide to wear and how they dress MIGHT affect boys. I think that it’s time to denounce these outdated ideas and let people dress how they truly want without fearing judgement and violence from others.” - Zachary Paulin

“In participating in this movement, we’re looking to ultimately make people aware of the hypersexualization of women and sexist uniforms. The credit, however, goes to women. For decades, women have fought for their place and we, as men, should not take all the merit in this movement by simply wearing skirts to support them. Despite this, we still have a common goal for everyone: make uniforms non-gendered. It’s 2020 and it’s a pressing change that should absolutely be applied. (Little note, we do not want to abolish uniforms, simply make them less gendered and less sexist)”. - Simon Lefebvre-Gagnon

Article Author: Alizeh Quasier

Article Editors: Valerie Shirobokov, Sherilyn Wen