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.