The past couple of months have proved nothing short of awe-inspiring stories about high school womyn (I have intentionally decided to not use the term ‘girls’ here) who are proudly and unapologetically wearing their voices to stand for their rights. Interestingly, the common thread weaving together these stories of speaking out against the repression of living in a patriarchal society, aside from the fact that they all represent high schoolers, is that they all revolve around…anti-climactic drum roll please…CLOTHING! No need to blink twice or pinch yourself, if you’re a womyn reading this, you already know where you stand in societal structure. To be more specific, however, the controversy truly revolves around the female bodies in the clothing…or not in the clothing, according to three of the four of the cases cited in this article. Also interestingly, those three cases all come right out of our sister country to the north: Canada – she is often looked at as the somewhat naive and younger sister of America, and yet, I believe this country has A LOT to learn from her! The same could be said, however, of the American teenager who is featured on our list as well, because she stood-out by rebelling against our exact euro-centric beauty ideals and celebrating her African roots through her clothing. Below is a list WYV has compiled of the high school Feminists (a title we’re denoting, not that they necessarily claim) recently wearing their voices so authentically that it is breaking mainstream news headlines; in doing so we hope to encourage and inspire other high school womyn to enact bravery and self-love, and to say that no matter what part of your self-love journey you’re currently on: WE SEE AND HONOR YOU for all that you are!
1. Resonating with Her African Roots Broke the Internet!
18 year old Kyemah McEntyre from New Jersey (shout out: east coast love) is the latest installment of a new phenomenon we all know now as ‘breaking the internet,’ and this time it wasn’t for fulfilling a cultural stereotype it was for breaking one! Not only did she design her own dress for prom, but she utilized her platform to speak out against bullying, which she has so often been subjected to for being unique.
All I can say is thank goddess this Queen (fuck princess, she’s jumped the line in my book, and funnily enough after writing this I realize she was, in fact, crowned as such at her prom that night) is entering Parsons School of Design in the Fall so that she can continue to create works of art in fashion form that speak to an audience of Black womyn whose roots are often cast-aside or white-washed rather than celebrated! Her elegant gold jewelry was an amazing addition to the statement – I’m craving that triangular headpiece, but she owned it alongside rocking her hair in a glorious natural afro. There aren’t enough words really for me to fully express my love of this womyn and her bold statement, but I can say, as grateful for her existence as I am now, it would have been positively mind-blowing in the best way to witness during my own teenage years.
2. Canadian Crop Tops for Equality
Another Grade 12 Goddess, Alexi Halket, of the Etobicoke School for the Arts in Toronto, recently started her own revolution surrounding an incident that happened as she is quoted from the UK Daily Mail article (citing her original Facebook post on the matter):
“So today a MALE teacher spoke to the vice principal regarding the shirt I was wearing, saying that it looked ‘too much like a sports bra’, ‘First of all, what’s wrong with a sports bra? It does it’s job of covering boobs, and why is SKIN perceived as ‘inappropriate.’I went in to the office and refused to change or cover up, and I was sent to the principal where we talked for over an hour and came to no conclusion except a threat that if I wore something like this again I would be called into the office.”
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Alexi Halket, grade 12 student at Etobicoke School of the Arts, was pulled into the principal's office yesterday for wearing a shirt with open shoulders that her principal likened to a bra. As a sign of protest she(in the middle with the words'Stand in Solidarity' on her black top) orchestrated a protest today with other students in front of the school. Vince Talotta/Toronto Star
Alexi, however, had other plans in mind, expressing that she would wear more what she considers ‘body positive outfits’ for the rest of what was her birthday week. As a present, she requested that others on Facebook, “stand in solidarity against the sexualization of women’s bodies.” Thus, she dubbed May 26, Crop Top Day – and the rest is social media history…and future!
I would LOVE to take some of this Canadian compassion into the American school system – especially my alma mater; St. Thomas Aquinas High School in New Hampshire! My Micmac roots from Prince Edward Island technically make me a part of Canada’s Nation’s First People (as opposed to the U.S. term “Native Americans” or Columbus’ fuck up that’s stuck centuries later, “Indians”) – and I have always agreed with my dad that simply put, “People are just friendlier there!” (Could it be all that free health care and clean air?!)
3. Using A Halter Dress to Expose & Fight Rape Culture
(photo sources: Facebook)
Lauren Wiggins, 17, A Moncton, New Brunswick teenager is taking a stand against unjust standards after she received a detention for breaking the dress code at Harrison Trimble High School (subsequently getting a one-day suspension for then complaining to the vice-principal) because her full-length halter dress was deemed “inappropriate” and a “sexual distraction” to fellow students (and obviously the male teacher who couldn’t handle his own desires and reported her). Lauren boldly wears her voice to express that the dress code is in fact a symptom of “rape culture” — a climate that blames women for the sexist behaviours of others, as this Canadian News Report covers: “I’m tired of the unjust standards that we as women are held up to. I’m tired of the discrimination against our bodies, and I’m absolutely fed up with comments that make us feel like we can’t be comfortable without being provocative. It’s time to change the world’s mind set. Now.”
WYV agrees with you 100% Lauren! We also LOVE what you said in your letter to the vice-principal, which poignantly stated:
“If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders, then he needs to be sent home and practice self-control.”
A-FUCKING-MEN to that!!! Actually: A-FUCKING-WOMYN!!!!
*These Canadian Body Positive Warriors are all reminding me of others who protested at Fredericton High School in New Brunswick last November. As Ms. Magazine wrote: “What started as a student protest to change the dress code turned into a much-needed discussion of sexual harassment—and has led to the drafting of a new district-wide policy that covers both issues.”
The group was organized by members of Fredericton Youth Feminists, and gained media attention after 25 protesters were hit with three-day suspensions from school and suspension from extracurricular activities for the remainder of the school year!
When the students voiced their grievances in a documentary by the CBC’s Jaques Poitras (seriously all click that link to listen to the magic that was this protest). Chanting “OUR BODIES ARE GOOD! OUR BODIES ARE GREAT! OUR BODIES WILL NOT BE TREATED WITH HATE,” they spoke about how gender politics of school dress codes contribute to sexual harassment and rape culture.
Thank you to all of the body positive warrior womyn included in this article and all of the amazing womyn who fight on the teenage, high school battlefields of life every day without notice: WYV SEES AND HONORS YOU. Please share more instances of female youth power in the comments below!