How a young Montrealer is fighting toxic masculinity and sexism at school

Colin Renaud wore a skirt to school to protest against “sexist dress code”

Don’t be surprised if you saw high school boys in skirts Tuesday. It was part of a student movement led by Colin Renaud, after his own experience of wearing a skirt to school went viral on Instagram last week.

Renaud, a 15-year-old Villa Maria High School student, wore a skirt to school last week as a protest against their sexist dress code and the hyper-sexualization of women.

“I got a lot of negative comments, just not to my face,” Renaud, who recently started grade 10 and is a member of the student council, told The Concordian. “One of my first projects with the student committee was to make our school uniform unisex,” said Renaud.

His first project was a successful one, as Villa Maria implemented the unisex dress code a couple of years ago, allowing every student to wear whichever pieces of the student uniform they prefer. At least, that is what Renaud thought when he decided to put the new rule to the test by showing up to his class in a skirt.

“I thought that it would be easy, that my school had already approved a rule implying a unisex dress code, but it was the opposite.”

As Renaud walked to his class, he was followed by a school staff member and, during his second period, was summoned to the school secretary’s office, escorted by two faculty members.

What followed still shocks Renaud today.

“They said a lot of degrading comments about me,” said Renaud. What the school administration reprimanded Renaud for doing included wearing a skirt, wearing nail polish and not being a good model for younger students.

Renaud finds it disappointing that his school, which promotes itself as very inclusive, would have such a bad reaction to his choice of attire.

“Diversity is one of their fundamental values,” said Renaud.

He is happy to say, however, that the following day, he had another discussion with the administration, and that they seemed open and ready to hear what the students had to say.

Renaud said the fight is not over as the students’ association has been trying for three years to abolish another dress code rule: mandatory knee-high socks that girls have to wear in combination with their skirt.

“When I wore the skirt, I did not get reprimanded for not wearing knee-high socks but all the girls around me did,” explained Renaud. According to him and his classmates, this account of events shows the sexist nature of this rule.

Renaud is hopeful, however, that his actions will have the impact necessary to make a difference as he compares his situation to other students who imitated him at different institutions.

“There are certain schools that did worse, they sent the boys back home, telling them they can either wear pants or stay home,” said Renaud.

Seeing the movement move across the province in different schools makes him proud, but also uncomfortable.

“At the beginning I was happy … but I felt that it wasn’t my place to be the face of this movement,” said Renaud.

“I like getting feedback, whether it be positive or negative,” said Renaud as he recalled getting a lot of messages from disappointed women. “They believe it is sad that a movement like this one started getting media attention when boys were involved, which I totally understand,” said Renaud.

He prefers to see himself as an ally to the feminist movement, saying, “That’s something I want to change because I don’t want to be at the center of it all, I want to educate people so that we can live in a just place but I don’t want to steal the attention and have the spotlight on me.”

Renaud did just that when he created the movement Le Cercle Mauve, which has the objective to fight against the hypersexualization of women, toxic masculinity and sexism in school dress codes. He is hoping the movement will be a catalyst in changing how students of all genders feel about their school uniform.

“I am still waiting for excuses from the administration,” said Renaud, although he feels the administration owes an apology to all students.

“I’m not attached to that skirt, it is not a skirt I want to wear every day, but if a boy would want to wear it every day, he should not have to go through the experience I went through in order to feel more comfortable at school.”


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