There are those emotional support teachers who let us spend lunch periods in their classrooms, and then there are these teachers in Spain who are taking emotional comfort one step further. On May 2, two men in their thirties who teach at the public school Virgen de Sacedón in Valladolid, Spain, showed up to school in skirts for a heartwarming reason.
Manuel Ortega and Borja Velázquez, the teachers in question, decided to do this after Ortega heard a student spew homophobic slurs at another classmate for wearing a hoodie featuring manga motifs. The student ended up taking the hoodie off and lowering their head in embarrassment after the insults. Though the other student was told off for his words, the teachers feared they did not understand just how much power mean words can harness. Ortega brought the skirt idea to Velázquez, the school’s head of studies, who supported it and agreed to participate as a way to take a stance on tolerance and diversity. The goal, according to Velázquez, was "to show that we should be open to change and that words cause harm."
Since posting pictures of their outfits on social media and being interviewed by various newspapers, the teachers' actions have reached viral status across the world. However, this is not exactly new and their actions are part of a larger movement. Men, both students and teachers, in Spain have been wearing skirts to class for a few months to stand in solidarity with Mikel Gómez, a 15-year-old student from Bilbao who was pulled out of class and sent to the school’s psychologist after wearing one himself to class in October of 2020.
Mikel’s punishment ignited a fire. After his incident, the student went on TikTok to explain what had happened at school. He'd seen boys in other countries wearing skirts as part of a push toward gender equality and he wanted to participate as well. When he was pulled out of class, he questioned why it was only he who was removed and not any of the female students wearing skirts.
He has since posted many Tiktoks – some serious and some jokingly – about the way people attach gender and sexuality to clothing. A couple of weeks after he was taken out of class, on November 4, male students and teachers across the country mobilized to show up to school wearing skirts as well, as part of a larger, already existing movement, #LaRopaNoTieneGénero, or #ClothesHaveNoGender.
Even months later, teachers are keeping the flame alive by continuing to question those who bully others students for their fashion choices and condemning gendered dress code standards as a whole – which is a great start but gestures only go so far. As psychologist and sex therapist Marina García warned via Spanish newspaper El País, “It would be bad if this were to remain just a symbol.”
As part of the tides of the initial viral movement, alumni of Johan Carballeira Institute of Secondary Education have been protesting in favor of similar motions for equality. And change is beginning to materialize: the school has implemented a course on gender equality. “Sometimes we think that the opinion of an adult is more valuable than one of a minor,” said Miguel Quiroga, a teacher at the school. “[These protestors] are showing that that it’s not true.”
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue