Dress code guide tells female air cadets not to reveal 'developing bits'

A mother of a 13-year-old girl in St. John's says she's shocked by a handbook for air cadets' parents that unnecessarily sexualizes teenage girls.

'It is completely inappropriate,' Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says

The daughter of Melissa Moores received this parent guide at an event for prospective air cadets, which includes 'The Four Bs.' (Submitted by Melissa Moores)

A mother of a 13-year-old girl in St. John's says she's shocked by a handbook for air cadets' parents that unnecessarily sexualizes teenage girls.

Melissa Moores said her daughter, 13, went to an event for prospective cadets with the 510 Lions Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron in St. John's — and came back with a dress code that Moores says made inappropriate references to girls' bodies.

For Moores, one section of the guide drew her attention: "The Four Bs" — "boobs, belly, bums, boxers." Specifically, she said, she was shocked by a line that read "girls are to wear shirts which do not reveal their developing bits."

It shouldn't be like that in 2016. It seems very offensive.- Melissa Moores

"It just seemed wrong, I had to read it twice. I had this sick feeling in my stomach. It just seemed it shouldn't be there," Moores said Thursday night.

"It shouldn't be like that in 2016; it seems very offensive and [it's] sexualizing a woman when it doesn't need to be at all."

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan called the language used in the parent guide 'completely unacceptable.' (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Unfair targets

Moores said she doesn't have a problem with the cadet squadron outlining a dress code, but believes the language was inappropriately sexual, and girls are being unfairly targeted by "The Four Bs."

"I understand that cadets and the military, they want everyone to dress the same and it's all about being as one, but I wasn't expecting them to tell my daughter that, being a girl, her boobs are going to be an issue,"

"You wouldn't tell a guy not to wear pants too tight because it would show his 'developing bits.'" 

In a pair of statements released Friday, Canada's Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence both said the language used was "unacceptable."

"This shaming of young women is offensive to me as a person, as a father, and as the minister of national defence," Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan wrote. 
Brig.-Gen. Kelly Woiden, the commander of the National Cadet and Junior Canadian Rangers Support Group, told CBC News he believed the language used in the St. John's Squadron guide is an 'isolated case.' (CBC)

"It is completely inappropriate. I am disappointed that in 2016, these attitudes still prevail, and we will be ruthless in stamping it out within our organizations."

Canada's top soldier, Chief of Defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, expressed his "personal apologies" to the parents and members of the 510 Lions, and said he had directed his staff to ensure that material distributed through the cadets reflected the military's values.

Moores said instead of sexualizing girls, dress code advice should be more general and include all cadets.

"If they want the cadets to be dressed a certain way, they should say during PT time — when you're permitted to wear civilian clothing — all dress needs to be loose fitting and you need to be covered appropriately, for everybody."

'Isolated case'

Brig.-Gen. Kelly Woiden, the commander of the National Cadet and Junior Canadian Rangers Support Group, told CBC News he believed the language used in the St. John's Squadron guide is an "isolated case."

He's pledged an investigation into the language, which he said he believes was approved in St. John's.

"I've immediately directed it to be rescinded, I've immediately asked as well ... to review similar types of documents across the country, and ensure that that wording was an isolated case," he said.

The 510 Lions did not respond to direct requests for comment.

Woiden said the cadet organization contains many young women — in some groups, more than 50 per cent are girls — and insists the cadets are an open organization with a lot to offer.

With files from Hannah Thibedeau