TODAY IS PINK SHIRT DAY, or Anti-Bullying Day, in Canada. It is a day where every Canadian is encouraged to wear something pink as a stand against bullying. It started in 2007 after a boy was bullied after wearing a pink shirt to school.
Pink, as in a colour perceived to be feminine. Go to any children’s clothing store, and it is clear that pink is a colour assigned to girls’ clothes, and not boys. Rack after rack of girls’ clothing is pink, hot pink, or soft pink.
So Pink Shirt Day could equally be called Feminine Colour Shirt Day. It just doesn’t have quite the same ring.
Pink, also as in a colour perceived to be gay, as in a colour that might be worn by gays. Thus, wearing a pink shirt is taking a stand against homophobic bullying.
Wearing a pink shirt is saying being gay is okay too.
Dressing in a way considered feminine is difficult at the best of times. Look at U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. She is the second in line to the most powerful position in the world, and yet she still dresses like a man. Her clothing, while seen as fashionable and well put together, mimics male fashion.
All through her campaign, and now in her role as Vice President, she is seen wearing a “pant suit” which is another way of saying she’s wearing men’s business clothing. More often than not, she is seen in suits or blazers. She did wear a dress to the presidential inauguration, but its hem was modestly below the knee, and her overcoat had lapels like a male business suit.
That Kamala Harris dresses in a way that mimics male fashion says a lot about how fraught it is for women to dress like women. Or how fraught it is for anyone who wants to dress in a way that is perceived as feminine.
A boy can be bullied for wearing pink.
A young woman wearing clothes “too distracting” can be sent to the principal’s office or sent home.
That’s what happened this week to a female student at Norkam Secondary who was sent to the principal’s office, and then went home, for wearing a lace-trimmed black dress over a white turtleneck. The outfit was seen as breaching the school’s dress code. The young student reported to media that the school perceived the dress to be similar to lingerie.
I don’t know how all of the rules on clothing are enforced at local schools. However, I do know that as a Grade 8 student, I was sent to the counsellor’s office to discuss my “too short” shorts. That they were not appropriate apparently.
I was told I had to dress differently. And so, like many, I began the assimilation into how to dress, which more often than not, means to dress more like a man, in business, at work, and at school.
Many things have changed since I went to high school, but one thing is the same: dressing in a feminine way is as difficult as ever.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.