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Express Yourself (JB)

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Júlíana Björnsdóttir's picture

I never thought I’d see the day that it would be necessary to write a column about slut-shaming in an Icelandic middle school with students aged 13-16.

Mbl.is reported on Friday that a group of kids, primarily girls but also a few boys, defied the school authorities, and came to school in a crop top. It was their way to say that the school had no right to infringe on their right to express themselves.

And I happen to agree with them.

The principal of the school wrote a letter to the parents to get feedback from them. The letter was included in the news story, where the sexual innuendo of the crop top was the issue at heart.

First of all, there is nothing sexual about a teenage girl wearing a crop top. And it shouldn’t be interpreted as being too sexual.

According to the story, female students have been criticized for wearing crop tops during school hours. There was no mentioning of 13-16 years old boys being criticized for wearing fashionable clothes of their choice.

In the words of one of the students quoted in the article: “the teachers can tell us how to behave, but they can’t tell us what to wear.”

And I agree.

If there is a dress code to be established in Icelandic schools, then it needs to go both ways—not only be applied to girls. That’s a case of slut-shaming.

While writing this, I’m watching a television program where a stunning woman is wearing a crop top and it shows nothing but her toned body, and there is nothing wrong about that. In fact, I’d love that very same outfit. All I see is a confident athletic woman.

If I were a boy or a man and it was assumed that I couldn’t be around a girl or a woman wearing a crop top without losing all common sense, I’d be offended. Boys and men are perfectly capable of being around a female in a crop top. In this case the problem is not the students’ but the school’s.

When I was a teenager, crop tops were fashionable and nearly every girl in my class had one and wore it to school and to school dances.

I have heard rumors of girls being reprimanded for wearing dresses and skirts too short for the liking of chaperones in teen community centers, but up until now, I doubted this was a common problem.

Now, I’m not so sure.

I do not oppose school uniforms in the public school system as long as they are fair for both genders.

For example, in the Icelandic climate it would be unfair to expect girls to wear skirts or dresses where temperatures drop below freezing point in winter and storms are frequent, especially if you have to walk to school and back home afterwards.

Not so long ago, after the Free the Nipple campaign and the Slut Walk earlier in the summer, the feminist revival, and a woman’s right to express herself, was celebrated.

Therefore, Friday’s news story came as a bit of surprise to me.

In commentaries, I came across views both in favor and opposition of the crop top.

But at the end of the day, I do not make it my business to tell people what to wear. To me, what we wear is a statement, a way to express how we feel in that moment.

Therefore, I’m of the opinion that these kids have a right to stand up for themselves. As someone commented, these kids are starting the journey to adulthood and a part of that journey is finding their own style.

They will learn as they grow up what style of clothing suits their personalities and it’s the teacher’s job to support them on that journey, not pass judgment on their wardrobe choices.

I for one support them on that journey and applaud them for recognizing their right to personal expression.

These are kids with a conviction and we should be proud of them whatever we think of their personal style.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – julianabjornsdottir(at)gmail.com

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Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.