Skirts and gender norms: a look back and a look ahead

Given the recent heat wave in Houston, I decided to look back and see if I could find a fitting post from the past to do a retrospective one. And I think I found it, this little gem from 2017: Skirting the issue: Boys wear skirts to school to protest dubious dress code.

I re-read this post and I recognize the genius of these boys over in Exeter (on the southern tip of England in the UK, around 170 miles/280 km or roughly a 3½ hour drive from London). It’s a similar situation for the Chiltern Edge Secondary School in Oxfordshire (about 65 miles/105 km northwest of London or a 1½ hour drive). Per a story on Yahoo News (among other places):

As a consequence to the ‘more formal’ uniform policy, [a parent of a student] asked staff if his son could wear tailored shorts instead.

However, the school argued that shorts are not part of the uniform. He was then informed that if his son wishes to wear more weather-appropriate attire then he could don a skirt if he wished.

This story broke about a year after the original post, and I unfortunately missed it the first time around. Not everyone is a fan of this school’s dress code, though; this piece by Kenny Webster of KPRC-AM radio here in Houston was highly critical and derisive of the school’s move, stating in part:

So the Chiltern Edge Secondary School is clearly culturally appropriating a style of dress that belongs to foreign cultures. Don’t people on the Left hate cultural appropriation? British Leftists should be rioting in the streets over this news, if they believe their own rules. Look out, Chiltern Edge Secondary School, British Antifa is coming with the fashion police to tell you how to dress your students!

I would disagree, of course; I would not call this cultural appropriation and say that to cross that line it would have to be significantly more substantial than just one article of clothing which doesn’t belong specifically to any one culture any more than certain types of food. I lean left, but despite where Kenny got his ideas on left-wing ideology, I keep a more realistic view of cultural appropriation and usually leave that call to the cultures in question if they want to object in certain instances.

A couple of years after that, both male and female students at a school in Quebec wore skirts to school for a cause:

[A 16-year old female student at the school] said the movement was to protest both the hypersexualization of girls and toxic masculinity.

She said she and her friends, along with other girls in schools around Quebec, were being punished for wearing their skirts too short and told that it was a distraction for boys.

Yet, boys could hike up their shorts as much as they wanted.

After a group of girls decided to wear skirts to school in protest, the boys joined in. The end result was that both boys and girls were allowed to wear skirts to school from that point forward, which is refreshing as there are undoubtedly places where that would not be anywhere close to the end result.

To me this highlights the silliness behind some of the gender-based norms that have formed over the past few decades. I’m really curious now how skirts came to be so closely identified with female dress, though I would need to do some significant research to find out how this came to be.


The case of the clueless insurance adjuster

A blog entry details the plight of Nathalie Blanchard, a 29-year-old IBM employee from Quebec.

As the story goes, Nathalie took a long-term sick leave from her job due to depression. Following the advice of her doctor, she took a vacation to get away from her problems. Then one day, her monthly sick-leave benefits quit coming in. Nathalie’s call to Manulife, the insurance company which handles her benefits, had the most surprising of answers: based upon pictures posted to Facebook, the company had reached a conclusion that she was once again fit to work.

Well, not surprisingly, Manulife’s version, filtered through their PR department, is different:

According to CBC news, the insurer has confirmed that they do indeed use Facebook to investigate their clients, but the company claims that it wouldn’t “deny or terminate a valid claim solely based on information published on websites such as Facebook”.

It is obvious to me that whoever made this decision is at best uneducated about depression. I have had friends who suffer from depression and the appearance of happiness in one moment is far from any indication that one is “cured” of depression. It’s not that simple. Notwithstanding the fact that the photographs document that Nathalie followed the doctors orders, I have to wonder what the heck the people at Manulife could have been thinking here.

Indeed, it makes no more sense to make this judgment than it does to take a picture of an insomniac appearing to be sleeping and present that as evidence the person is “cured,” as alluded to later in the article. Whoever said “common sense isn’t so common anymore” was definitely on to something.