Ottawa

Outaouais boys protest high school dress code in skirts

Boys at a Gatineau high school are protesting dress codes they consider sexist, a move inspired by demonstrations by students across Quebec.

100 male classmates joined protest against what they consider sexist school policies

Male students at Collège Nouvelles Frontières in Gatineau, Que., wore skirts to school Oct. 9, 2020 as part of a wider movement to protest sexist policies and toxic masculinity. (Simon Lasalle/Radio-Canada)

Boys at a Gatineau, Que., high school are protesting dress codes they consider sexist, a move inspired by demonstrations by students across Quebec.

Last Wednesday, having watched the movement take shape in Montreal, 16-year-old Zachary Paulin shared his plans with a group of about 30 friends to wear a skirt to school on Friday.

One hundred of his fellow classmates ended up arriving at Collège Nouvelles Frontières in skirts. 

"I knew that it was going to be a big movement, but not that big of a movement," he said.

"I was pleasantly surprised."

Boys at a number of Quebec high schools are wearing skirts to school this month to protest what they say is a double standard in school dress codes.

Last week, boys at a number of Montreal-area schools wore skirts to school, saying policies requiring skirts to be a maximum of 10 centimetres above the knee was sexist and unfair.

There are no equivalent restrictions on clothing generally worn by boys, such as shorts.

A double standard

Paulin said the one-day protest was aimed at a number of causes, from toxic masculinity to the sexualization of women. 

He said he hoped to speak with the school's principal about how to make the school more inclusive and accepting. 

About the experience of wearing a skirt, he found it liberating on the one hand, while restrictive on the other.

"You can't really bend and you've got to be cautious with your movements," he said.

WATCH | Why organize the Gatineau protest?

Gatineau dress code protest aims to highlight gender discrimination, toxic masculinity

1 year ago
0:41
Zachary Paulin, 16, says he organized an event on Friday that saw more than 100 male students wearing skirts to school at Gatineau's College Nouvelle Frontieres in an effort to fight gender discrimination. 0:41

At Collège Saint-Alexandre in Gatineau, a 108-year-old private secondary school where boys and girls wear uniforms, director general Mario Vachon said that administrators had watched the debate unfold on social media.

A few boys wore skirts to the school Tuesday, but Vachon said it did not appear that the movement was widely supported.

Teachers used it as an opportunity to raise the subjects of toxic masculinity, LGBTQ rights and equality in classroom discussions, he said. 

With files from Radio-Canada's Nafi Alibert and Josée Guérin

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