Friday, August 2, 2013

Miss ogyny

  All text and images ©RaeJoyce 2013


I read an article about a school in Redditch banning the wearing of skirts for girls. The reason cited was because short skirts were "unladylike".

Ordinarily, I'd have been pleased at an article reporting girls being given the choice to wear trousers to school. I certainly protested for this right at my own high school until I was allowed to wear trousers. But "banning" skirts and allowing no alternative to trousers isn't the same as choice. Far from it.

At my daughter's school she has the choice of shorts, culottes, or skirts. No trousers, yet.

However, the school's reasons for the skirt ban weren't in the name of choice or equality, a point which is underlined by the use of the word "unladylike". I don't like this word. It smacks of class distinction and elitism. Questions that spring to my mind when I read this word include: Is a covered body a classy one? Is classy better than the bare naked truth? Are middle and upper class bodies better than working class ones? And on I go like a little engine.

I've already aired my views on this article on Facebook, and some commenters there pointed out that to cover the girls is to protect them from the gazes of paedophiles and men.

Paedophiles will seek out children regardless of what the children are wearing. Men - if men are eyeing up nine to thirteen-year-olds, shouldn't our focus be on them, not on penalising the kids? That is the problem with those men. It is not a problem with girls. Time and time again, women are punished and made to feel shame for their bodies for no reason than to protect male dominated culture.

The school's failure is not merely that it punished the girls for what is a male problem, but that it didn't even see there is an opportunity and a need to educate its boys.

This issue isn't a simple one or the other choice, cover the girls or blindfold the boys - these simplistic generalisations are distractions that get in the way of real answers. The answers do not include censorship or shame; they are founded in education. And a school of all places should know this. Shame on them.


Lori said...

I agree with you 100 percent, Rachel. So much so that I find it hard to add anything to the discussion. You've been so eloquent. The "lady" thing bothers me too. The often seen pairing "men" and "ladies," I also find very upsetting. because "woman" is an ugly word, isn't it? "lady" is somehow better--a better woman, improved, polished, acceptable. I don't know. It makes my blood boil when I think of it.

Cheryl said...

I agree so much with this post. Telling girls not to wear skirts because boys will look at them comes from exactly the same place as telling a girl how not to get herself raped.

I was also a pioneer of trousers at my high school, but it was for the choice, not to force it. My daughter wouldn't wear a skirt, again, choice. But to take a girl's choice away under the guise of protection? No.

Rachel Fenton said...

Lori - the definition of ladylike is"
adj. 1. Characteristic of a lady; well-bred.
And I think, how can we ever hope for an equal society while we accept "breeding" as an aspiration?

You are a formidable woman, Lori, and I thank you for being such a great role model!

Rachel Fenton said...

Cheryl - thank you! That's exactly the place it comes from. You have no idea what a relief it is for one person to come out and state that. Women are so conditioned to blame themselves for what is a male issue, it is just staggering to me.

Both of you - restoring my hope for a better future - thank you!

chillcat said...

I hear you. But here in Italy any woman is up for grabs - visually. It's quite shocking the way you are pored over. You can either say Stuff It and wear that slinky dress and know you'll have eyes all over you, or what? wear a baggy cardigan and wide trousers? The thing is, I don't think things will change anytime soon in this environment - which makes me twitch when my daughter goes out in short shorts, which she rightly says she can wear if she likes. But don't come home and tell me they were staring at you at the bus stop!
Confusion reigns here.

Rachel Fenton said...

Things may not change, Cat, but they can be changed and I will keep standing up for our daughters' rights.

Italy - You live it well, Cat xxx

Dominic Rivron said...

My mother, when she went to Teacher Training College in the 60s, had to ride a scooter to get there. She had to ask the Principal for permission to wear trousers to do so, as female students were expected to wear skirts. After due consideration the Principal said she would make a special case. My mother was told that she might wear trousers if she did so "with decorum".

Rachel Fenton said...

My gran never wore a pair of trousers her whole life, Dominic. History shows up many inconsistencies.

Your mum wanted the right to wear a piece of clothing denied her and she got it - good on her.

These girls were wearing something that is widely acceptable today and had their right to wear it taken away because of a gender discrimination made by their male Principal.

I say he should get on his bike.

mel u said...

As the father of three teenage girls, 15, 17, and 19, I agree totally with this. Thanks for posting this.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thank you, Mel - I think your girls are very lucky to have you as their dad.

A Cuban In London said...

Couldn't agree with you more. Where's the choice? Great post. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thank you, Cuban - I appreciate your support.