As you read this blog post, there is an international movement of teens conspiring to destroy the leviathan which holds so many young people in its rigid grip: school dress codes. Specifically, dress codes that forbid lady teens from wearing crop tops that show off their tummies.

The first outbreak of rebellious crop top activity started in Toronto. In May of this year, 18 year-old Alexi Halket wore a small lace trimmed shirt to school that revealed her stomach’s pallid skin. A teacher reported Halket to the principal who warned Halket that her flagrant navel display would not be tolerated at Etobicoke School of the Arts.

“I told [the principal] that I had a bunch of similar outfits lined up, because they made me feel really beautiful,” Halket told People magazine. “They said that I ‘wouldn’t want to be called into the office on my birthday,’ and I should change what I was planning on wearing.”

Halket created a call to action: a Facebook event, Crop Top Day, encouraging other lady teens to bare their tums-tums to school in crop tops.

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Like the clarion call of revolution that rang out through the streets of Paris in 1968, the students had their day at the barricades; hundreds of Crop Topistas turned out to support the cause. The vanguard of the movement is primarily led by lady teens while their male counterparts offer their effusive support to the phalanxes of exposed belly buttons.

Halket, the figurehead of the movement, has not returned my attempts to contact her, but one of Halket’s classmates and Crop Top Day participant, Sydney Patterson, has agreed to be interviewed. Patterson answered my call on the Crop Top Day Facebook page for frontline troops willing to discuss the evolution and ambitions of The Movement.

Jezebel: What grade are you in?

I’m in grade 10, going to 11.

How old are you?

I’m almost 16.

Did you wear a crop top on May 26th, Official Crop Top Day?

Yes, I wore a crop top to get out of my house, then wore a bralette at school.

Have you been reprimanded before for clothing choice?

Yes, not at [Etobicoke School of the Arts], but in middle school. I was singled out at an assembly for wearing a v-neck, which would have been “appropriate” if I didn’t have large breasts. I was also in trouble multiple times ages 7-12 for tank tops and shorts that were “too short”.

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Do you think dress codes are a feminist issue and why?

This is definitely a feminist issue. Feminism itself calls for the equality of all genders, and current dress codes are sexist. Perhaps in writing ESA’s dress code seems fair—no offensive language and nothing “too revealing”, which doesn’t single out any gender—but the reality is that males go topless whereas females can’t even wear crop tops. This is also about the sexualization of the female body, wether the school accepts that or not. The school is claiming that crop tops are unprofessional, but in that case why not also ban sweatpants and t-shirts? A female’s clothing is policed so much more than a male’s, which is a double standard. Also the case-by-case nature of my school’s dress code has proved problematic, as a smaller chested person in a crop top may not get in trouble, but a large chested person wearing the same top would.

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I have seen some students compare this issue to ‘rape culture.’ Can you explain how this dress code plays into rape culture?

The dress code’s perpetuation of females needing to dress “modestly” implies that revealingly dressed females are to be looked at negatively. If a young child sees one of their female peers being pulled out of class and punished for wearing short shorts, they will think that people in short shorts deserve to be punished.

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I understand that the administration has said that revealing clothing is distracting to your male counterparts. And that there’s been pushback for boys sexualizing females because of the clothes they wear. But aren’t the girls also sexualizing themselves?

Well, first off my response to administration saying that our clothing is distracting to males would be that the majority of male students I’ve spoken to are on our side. Also, as a queer female, I’ve never been distracted by another student’s outfit or body. So if a straight male can’t hold it together upon seeing a stomach, he can leave the room.Secondly, I don’t think a crop is sexual. Females do have the right to own their sexuality for sure, but breasts aren’t in their own a sexual organ. When I have the confidence to wear a crop top, I feel proud and powerful. Maybe sexy too, but I’m never aiming to make others find me sexy, it always comes back to myself. That’s the difference between sexualizing and owning your sexuality, one makes you an object, the other gives you freedom and power.

There has been some strong backlash, mostly from dudes online, against Alexi Halket and Crop Top Day. What’s your reaction to those people?

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I think that the people behind all the backlash are entertaining. I’ve enjoyed talking with level-headed people who are willing to open their minds to my opinions, and the others are definitely a laugh. They talk about how unprofessional we look while calling us “dumb feminazi bitches” or saying we “look like whores.” These people are stuck with old views and are unwilling to change.

Where did you learn to think and write like this?

Well, I knew I was queer from a young age, so as soon as I had internet access I started trying to learn about queer theory, the LGBTQ* community, and anything else I could find really. I also spend a lot of time on Tumblr. I read sites like Dajo42, The Daily-Feminist and Pro Choice/ Pro-Voice. I don’t think I’d ever heard the word feminism before joining tumblr, so while it can be pretty problematic, it was a great introduction and way to explore the whole world of feminism.

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Contact the author at natasha.vargas-cooper@jezebel.com.

Images via Crop Top Day/Bobby Finger