Unless you have been living under a rock this last week you can’t have missed that it is Back To School Season. Parents across the globe are a mix of relief that the holidays are finally ending and sadness that their kids are going back. First time school mums like myself are a bag of nerves and on the edge of tears at any given moment.
This time of year also allows for great media coverage. Reports of schools dishing out extreme punishments for the wrong uniform on day one. Speculation about the benefits of adopting the Scandinavian hours. This year saw a school come under fire very quickly when it became apparent that they have banned skirts and adopted a gender neutral school uniform. So is this a forward thinking move or a step too far?
In our modern society we are slowly becoming more and more understanding and accepting of people that are ‘different to us.’ People who don’t identify as the gender they are born; homosexuals; cross dressers. Quite simply and very rightly the stigma around these things are slowly being diminished, although I don’t deny there is still epic amounts to be done. Perhaps a Secondary School adopting this uniform policy is a step in the right direction. Perhaps it will encourage inclusion and make the idea of being gender neutral a normal concept.
There is evidence to suggest that our sexuality and the gender we associate with is dictated by the hormones we are exposed to in the womb. If these hormones don’t follow the text book then a baby is born with different life preferences ahead of them. In the words of Lady Gaga ‘Baby, You Were Born This Way.’
I would like to think that anything that helps and encourages people to effectively adjust to a different way of life from what society deems to be normal then that must be a good thing.
Or is it…?
A Step Too Far
I should probably start this paragraph with the disclaimer that this is where my opinion lies. I do not judge others for the way they live their lives. And I am intelligent enough to know that people don’t choose to be gay, straight, trans or any other type of label. We are what we are.
The trouble with encouraging a gender neutral uniform is it isn’t encouraging expression of self in any way. Obviously the point of school uniform is to give everyone a level playing field regardless of background, home environment or sexual orientations. It helps keep everyone as equal as possible. Of course the grading system of school instantly destroys this but that is a whole other blog post.
Perhaps making everyone wear trousers is just another way of keeping everyone equal. But what about giving people choices? What about teaching our kids to be confident in making choices? Their choices! Banning the skirt simply discourages girls to be girly girls in my opinion. I was able to wear trousers to school if I wanted but I hated them. At the weekends I wore jeans but at school I found the trousers uncomfortable; I much preferred wearing skirts.
I am the mum of two girls who love dresses and skirts. To stop them wearing what they are comfortable in seems unfair to me. It is a step too far.
Boys in Skirts
Earlier in the year a story came out in the media that a school had banned boys from wearing shorts to school in the middle of a heat wave. They were not even allowed to wear their uniform P.E shorts. In protest, a group of boys went to school in skirts. These boys were praised and so they should have been.
The point I am trying to make is instead of striving for gender neutrality should we not be encouraging gender inclusivity? Should skirts not be available for both boys and girls? Trousers already are and I remember when that was first the case. It was huge that girls were finally allowed to wear trousers to school. This new step feels that we are going backwards instead of forwards. Things are being banned rather than widening their potential use.
Ok so we are just talking about skirts, but for me it is all part of a wider issue. There is the chance to get this so right but the school risk getting it very wrong.
Perhaps boys in skirts would be a distraction to the kids? Perhaps there will be boys and girls that don’t take this seriously; that take advantage and cause disruption? Yeah, perhaps. But once the novelty has worn off then that won’t be the case. Instead of disruptions and uncomfortable teenagers we will be left with our future society growing up in an environment of no judgement for the choice of clothing. They will be growing up in a time where we are free to make choices, to have those choices accepted and maybe even understood. A boy wearing a skirt is not physically harming anyone in the exact same way that girls wearing trousers aren’t.
Reading Between the Lines
If you read the whole story behind the school banning skirts I feel you get to the real reason they have done it. Secondary school girls very rarely stick to the rules of skirt length. The school has said it hopes that these new rules will tackle this issue. And there we have it… The truth.
It is true of course that most secondary school girls don’t like longer skirts. I was one of them. And even when the upper echelons of the fashion world decided that 3/4 length skirts were the height of fashion, girls still went to school wearing skirts that were half way up their back to knock their hat off (a phrase my grandma loves to use). There must be a better way to deal with that issue though. Or at least call a spade a spade and don’t try and dress this up as a move towards gender neutrality.
We Have A Long Way To Go
For me it is about time we work towards being an inclusive society. We have come so far in so many ways but we obviously still have a long way to go to make sure people feel safe and accepted for the way they choose to live their lives. The fight for women’s rights is a prime example of what we can achieve as a society but also of the hurdles we must overcome to get to roughly where we want to be. And since that fight still isn’t over I think the fight towards gender neutral acceptance is very much in it’s infancy. I hope the move of this school doesn’t become a bump in the road. I hope I am proven wrong. Only time will tell.