Teen Chastised for Wearing Shorts to School Launches Anti-Shaming Protest

Lindsey Stocker says that instead of body policing, schools should focus more on teaching boys not to objectify girls.

Lindsey Stocker. (Photo: Facebook)

Jun 2, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

A Canadian teen who was publicly chastised by high school officials for wearing shorts has a suggestion for educators: Stop shaming girls for what they’re wearing, and do something about boys’ behavior. That’s the message 15-year-old Lindsey Stocker plastered across her Montreal campus after two administrators declared in front of her entire third-period class that her attire did not fit the dress code.

Stocker told the CBC that two vice-principals entered her classroom at Beaconsfield High School and made students stand up for a clothing inspection. Girls in the room were, in front of everyone, subjected to the infamous “fingertip length” test—when a girl or woman is standing with her arms by her sides, the length of her clothing must be longer than the place on her thighs where the tips of her fingers reach.

Stocker was wearing a pair of denim shorts because the temperature in the northern Canadian city had reached about 75 degrees—10 degrees hotter than normal. “And when they came to me after about two rows of looking they stopped and told me my shorts were too short and I had to change,” said Stocker. However, the teen questioned the dress code.

"When I started explaining why I didn’t understand that rule, they didn’t really want to hear anything I had to say, and it was in front of my entire class. I felt very attacked…and I wanted to tell them how I felt," Stocker told the CBC. Instead, she left the classroom and went to print 20 posters that said, “Don’t humiliate her because she is wearing shorts. It’s hot outside. Instead of shaming girls for their bodies, teach boys that girls are not sexual objects,” which she posted around the school.

That landed the teen in the principal’s office, and she received a one-day suspension.

"They should approach it in a way that doesn’t target girls at least—for starters—because that’s the first problem. They don’t really care what guys wear. They just kind of target the girls first," said Stocker.

The Canadian dustup is just the latest dress code incident in which girls have complained that school administrators are unfairly targeting their appearance. Last week, a Utah high school came under fire for using Photoshop to raise shirt necklines and add sleeves to girls’ yearbook photos. In May, a girl was booted from her prom after a chaperoning dad complained about her “provocative” dress length.

Stocker’s female peers are supportive of her stance. “Most people are agreeing with her; women shouldn’t have to cover themselves up completely because we shouldn’t be viewed as sexual objects,” Beaconsfield High student Sierra Drolet told radio station CJAD. Since Stocker’s suspension, a large number of girls at the school have shown up wearing similar shorts.

School board chairperson Suanne Stein Day told the station that both boys and girls have dress code rules—boys can’t wear pants that sag so much that their underwear shows. She denied that Stocker’s suspension had anything to do with shaming girls. “The rules are there to help the children learn and prepare them for their future workplaces, high school is a job for them, they are there to learn to function in society, so it’s important that the rules be followed,” said Stein Day.