Has fashion been your go-to for creating a visual presentation of your personality, or for showcasing how you’re feeling? Perhaps fashion has aided you with physically manifesting a social message you wish to convey. If the latter is your favourite, then you’re in the right place!
The nexus of fashion and social justice has always been a subject of my interest. While researching more on this fusion, I learned about a particularly interesting side of it – Skirt Activism. With fashion being one of the oldest forms of self-expression, and a skirt being the symbol of advocacy here, Skirt Activism is an effective form of social revolt. It advocates for imperative social issues, such as the hyper-sexualization of female bodies and the gender-specification of clothes. And this is where I tell you the story of how some brave young men decided to achieve social justice but in style!
A couple of summers back in Canada, when the magnitude of sexist dress code policies peaked, a group of boys decided to take action against oppressive policies in their school by showing up for classes wearing skirts. This small-scale feminist movement led by Zachary Paulin in a high school in Quebec, gained recognition from audiences across the globe. Zachary took to his Instagram, posting a picture of him and his classmates posing in skirts, stating “Basically, the fact that a boy wears a skirt is a sign of resilience, solidarity, and support for the intersectional battle of gender equality.” With over a hundred boys joining in, this protest steadily achieved momentum. Colin Renruad further led this crusade by wearing a skirt to Villa Maria College, based in Montreal. Even though there were no official amends made to the dress code policies, Paulin told CBC News that teachers addressed this issue by raising awareness regarding gender equality, intersectionality, and LGBTQ+ rights.
This spectacle simply highlights how toxic masculinity is extensively embedded in our community, and how something as basic as clothing is gender-segregated as well. Harvard Business Review claims that a majority of men who wish to try their hands at ‘feminine styles’ would hesitate to do so because they would be at the risk of facing a “masculinity dilemma” where their behaviors and appearances are in contrast to the dominant ideas about what it means to be a man”. Moreover, an article published by CBC News mentioned the double standards surrounding this situation. Men wearing short skirts is proclaimed as a form of activism, but if the same were done by women, they would have received sexist remarks or experienced unnecessary sexualization of their bodies.
I believe that a simple initiative, like the one taken by Zachary, can contribute to spreading awareness about the social issues rooted in inexplicable gender norms and inequality. As men account for almost half of the population, their involvement is necessary for achieving gender equality.