crop(photo by Charlie Reynolds)

Meet Alexi Halket. She’s the 18-year old student at Etobicoke School of the Arts (ESA) who staged a protest after being told her outfit was “inappropriate for school”. She’s pretty, isn’t she? I think she is. Aesthetically pleasing, yes. She’s smiling, the natural lighting in the photograph is quite flattering, she has the incandescent beauty of youth. She seems perfectly centred and content. She also deserves a right to an education, no matter what she’s wearing.

Teenagers have always rebelled against the strictures and bonds of Authority. Teenagers often make very poor choices (remember?) but I don’t think this was a poor choice on her part. And I think a lot of salient facts in this case specifically are being ignored in favour of ideological touch-downs.

First of all, why did she choose to “dress inappropriately for school”? Gee, I dunno. It was hot that day so weather was a factor. Maybe she just went shopping and that was the outfit she planned to wear that day. Maybe everything else was in the wash. Who knows? A better question is “Why are you even asking that question?” She goes to an arts school so I imagine there’s a fair amount of physicality to some of her classes (I’ve taken drama. They make you roll around on the floor and run like an angry tree.) so she maybe didn’t feel like changing. But let’s back up a second and ask again WHY it is that there’s a question about WHY she dressed like this.

Did she do it to get deliberately in trouble? Maybe but I doubt it. Teenagers are dumb but they’re not stupid. Did she do it to “distract all the boys”? That’s impugning motive onto her that there’s no evidence to support, outside of the mind of a dirty old man, who thinks that all women are wicked temptresses and jezebels. Did she do it because it was hot that day and she wanted to feel comfortable? That seems the likeliest answer. So why was that a problem?

She misses a day of school but the boy who wears a muscle shirt, with his pants hanging down, showing his underwear (and kid, you got no idea what a real gangster is) is A-OK? Doesn’t he distract the female students, with his bulging biceps and musky odour of Axe body spray and sweat? Plus, this is an ARTS SCHOOL. 80% of the boys who go there are gay*. A boy in a muscle shirt would probably cause more commotion than a girl in a crop top. (*An informal statistic I just made up. But I knew several alumnae of ESA and they all assured me all the cute ones were gay.)

Didn’t we go to war in Afghanistan to ensure that women had access to education? And if the boys are distracted and can’t control themselves, shouldn’t we send them home? Until they learn some manners and self-control?

Another thing – she’s definitely an attractive young woman. Does that matter? Should it? What if she was a little curvier or a little skinnier? Is “Nobody wants to look at your fat” worse than “everyone is staring at your tits”? Where does it end? I thought making women feel bad about themselves was the advertising industry’s job, not the educational system.

A final point – she’s studying to be an actor. Not a math professor (although she might end up as one some day), not a business owner (ditto), AN ACTOR. Actors pretend to be something they are not; that’s why we call them ACTORS. One day, she may have to wear a hoop skirt and pretend to be in the 19th Century. Or a house-wife in the 1950s. Or a super-hero.

Wait. She’s already a super-hero. Nuff Said.


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