Yellow square movement to protest 'sexist' school dress codes gains traction in Quebec

High school students at a dozen schools in Quebec are wearing yellow squares to show they support having more freedom in their dress code.

Students say they want freedom to express themselves through clothing in ways which aren't permitted

Two members of the yellow square movement outside their school in Quebec City, Joseph-François-Perrault High School. (Marie-Maude Pontbriand/Radio-Canada)

Some students in Quebec are back to wearing felt squares on their clothes, but instead of protesting against rising tuition, they are standing up for raising hemlines.

High school students at a dozen schools in Quebec are wearing yellow squares to show they support having more freedom in their dress code.

At Joseph-François-Perrault High School in Quebec City, one of the movement's leaders, Célestine Uhde, said the dress code is "restrictive and sexist."

"We find that it prevents us from expressing ourselves," she said.

"We want management to be more egalitarian about the treatment of high school guys and girls."

Principal Marlène Bureau said she appreciates that the students are reflecting on issues that affect them.

"We can be proud that our youths question things," she said.

Uhde and three others started a Facebook group called Les Carrés Jaunes, or The Yellow Squares, which has more than 1,200 likes so far.

Posts on the page include stories from dress codes at different schools.

In a post on March 27, a teenager is quoted saying that at her school, dyed hair is forbidden, as well as patterns, and that girls can only wear simple accessories.

Bras: optional

The Facebook group's administrators posted that the changes in school dress codes should be for shorts to "hide the buttocks, not the thighs," and that spaghetti strap tops should be permitted, and that sweaters and pants shouldn't have to overlap. They also want the right to not have to wear bras.

Not all school administrations are supportive of the movement and think changes may negatively impact the school's functioning.

At Charles-Gravel High School in Saguenay, about 200 kilometres north of Quebec City, a protest against the dress code was shut down last Friday.

Some students were planning on showing some of their stomachs, thighs or shoulders in protest.

The school's principal, Mireille Boutin, is enforcing the rules because she doesn't want to see the situation degenerate.

Charles-Gravel High School principal Mireille Boutin wants students to speak with school administrators directly if they would like the dress code changed. (Priscilla Plamondon-Lalancette/Radio-Canada)

Still, she said the she's open to some reforms of the dress code which can be negotiated between the school and its students.

"I hope that it will be a great springboard to say: 'Come speak with the administration.'"

With files from Radio-Canada


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