Thursday, August 04, 2005

Quebec Liberal youth push for school ban on G-strings

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.08.04
EDITION: Final
SECTION: City
PAGE: B1 / Front
BYLINE: Jenni Lee Campbell
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen; with files from The Associated Press

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Quebec Liberal youth push for school ban on G-strings

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Bill Clinton's White House escapades sparked interest in them seven years ago, at a time when his political fortunes were riding as low as the hip-hugging jeans of many of his young voters.

Now, members of one of Canada's most powerful youth lobbies propose to outlaw them in Quebec.

That's right, we're talking thongs -- those barely-there undies, also known as "les strings" in French.

When members of the Quebec Liberal party youth wing convene this weekend in Sherbrooke, a resolution to impose a dress code in Quebec's elementary and secondary schools will be on the table.

The move would be part of a proposal to reduce "precocious sexuality" in pre-teens and adolescents that would include an information campaign for parents and students, and appointment of a group of professionals to each school board to offer students information about sexuality.

At Les Galeries de Hull yesterday, 31-year-old Donald Beaulieu was shopping with his five-year-old daughter at Ardene, a popular fashion accessory store for pre-teens.

"I've got a little girl," he said.

"I think (the ban's) a great idea."

Mr. Beaulieu's daughter is set to start school in the fall and he hopes her classmates will dress properly and have their minds on their lessons.

"I think a G-string is a sexual toy, and a nine-year-old should not be wearing a sexual toy," he said.

Simon Begin, president of the youth commission, agrees.

"When you see a little girl who's eight or 12 years old wearing a G-string, that's maybe a bit too provocative and offensive," he said, although he was quick to add that he didn't want to seem like an "outraged conservative."

At the mall shopping for back-to-school clothes, twins Tania and Lisa Houle, 13, were generally supportive of a dress code.

"When it's too short, it can be vulgar," said Tania. Her sister agreed, but added some people might feel it was limiting their freedom of expression.

At Le Cremerie ice cream stand, there was debate over the effectiveness of such a ban.

"I don't think they should ban it because everybody is going to wear it anyway," said Georgina Dooh, 19. "You tell a kid not to do something, and they'll want to do it even more."

"Students will try to find a way around it," agreed Gabrielle Giasson, 16, who said her little cousin got her first thong at age eight. "I think it's a really stupid idea.

"Personally I like to wear thongs better," she said. "It's more comfortable. No one can tell me not to wear them if I feel more comfortable in them."

The Quebec Young Liberals aren't the first to propose a limitation on undergarments in school.

In British Columbia, the Richmond school board drafted a dress code policy in 2004 that included a ban on "risque clothing" such as thong underwear that rises above the beltline.

"We struggle with low-cut jeans with a thong sticking out and an abbreviated top," superintendent Bruce Bearisto said.

"What we are against is clothing that distracts from learning. ... The boys will tell you that."

In 2000, about 20 students in Salinas, California, made headlines when they picketed their high school, claiming the principal had sent several girls home for wearing thongs. They carried signs reading "Pay attention to our minds, not our panties!" and shouted "We wear thongs!" at passing drivers.

"The thong has become a fashion accessory, like a handbag or a belt," a spokeswoman for Dim, an underwear company, told the French newspaper Le Parieien in 2003. "You let it show above your hipster jeans, just like you let your bra strap show."

It remains to be seen whether Quebec youth and, in turn, the provincial government, will feel the same. "Of course, not everyone in the commission agrees," said Adam Lukofsky, 21, who sits on the Liberal youth commission's executive. "So it will be up to the youth across the province to put forward their points of view."

Premier Jean Charest, his cabinet and more 60 Quebec MLAs will attend the convention this weekend. The youth wing of the Quebec Liberals, made up of all party members aged 16-25, hold one-third of the party's votes at meetings and conventions.

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