Remembering the great Pant Debate of 1993

A look back at the day in 1993 that my daughter took a stand and wore pants to school. From The Age.

September 6, 2018

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/remembering-the-great-pant-debate-of-1993-20180830-p500s5.html

The year is 1993. A year 11 student, wears trousers to Mt Waverley Secondary School against uniform policy.

Our family had railed against the inequity of the policy and my daughter was passionate about taking the challenge up to the school council and principal. We knew there would be repercussions and thought we were prepared.

There was a time when trousers were listed as part of the school uniform for girls. Way back in the ’70s. Yellow corduroy. Who would, even in the ’70s wear yellow corduroy? But the policy disappeared as the school’s image grew in status. Private schools didn’t allow girls to wear trousers. Could this be a status symbol?

We had made plans. During a workshop in Melbourne city I was called to the phone. My daughter had been sent home. I immediately raced to a telephone box in a busy main street to call the Equal Opportunity Board.

“I want to speak to someone who can help me about sexual discrimination please.”

She had been banned from the school that day, and only she could take out a claim against the school for not conforming to school policy. That afternoon we met an officer of the Department and she filed an objection.

Weeks later, she officially wore trousers to school. It was proved that it was against the Commonwealth Government’s Sexual Discrimination Rules and provided the child wore the official uniform, no school official could stop attendance. At conciliation that followed during the turmoil of those weeks, Mount Waverley School Council agreed that girls could wear the same grey trousers that boys wore. That weekend I commissioned a single pair of grey trousers so that she could wear them on the next school day.

The phone kept ringing. A Current Affair wanted to interview her. Channel 7 got in first. While we were being interviewed by Mal Walden, a helicopter was landing on the school grounds to interview the school’s principal.

What followed that day was weeks of sexism, sinister and debilitating, because it was underground. People frightened to take a side. Either you were with the principal on his stand of “it is against school policy” or with the other side of “stand by the girl” who has the guts to stare down the system.

Hate mail, radio conversations, women defending the school’s position, school committees riling up against our family, the newspapers full of sexist condemnation. All Australian newspapers and some in New Zealand covered the story. It was front-page news. The Midday Show as well as the current affair shows. My position in the school council was targeted. I was the devil, the pot stirrer, the one who put my daughter up to this ghastly act. I plead guilty to taking the demand for equality to the Equal Opportunity Committee and to lobbying the school community. But as a family we chose to stand up for the rights of all women.

My lasting gut-wrenching memory of the 1993 Pant Debate is of a member of the female sex describing the act of wearing trousers as being unhygienic. Granted this debate was 25 years ago, but an intelligent woman suggesting that having material covering either male or female body below the waist and over an undergarment can be more unhygienic for a female than a male?

We are proud of our daughter.

‘I wear them, don’t you?’ More schools give pants a chance

The school dress is becoming a less common sight across Victoria. From The Age.

June 3, 2019

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/i-wear-them-don-t-you-more-schools-give-pants-a-chance-20190510-p51m4n.html

The school dress is becoming a less common sight across Victoria.

It’s been more than 12 months since Victorian government mandated that all state schools must offer pants and shorts for girls. Private schools are increasingly doing the same, in the name of choice, comfort, promoting movement and preparing girls for the adult world.

Sacred Heart Girls’ College in Hughesdale, Mercy College in Coburg, Ave Maria College in Aberfeldie, and Kilbreda College in Mentone this year introduced a pant option. Korowa Anglican Girls’ School in Glen Iris will “shortly” bring in pants, while Loreto College Ballarat will introduce both pants and shorts in 2020.

Polly Flanagan, principal of Shelford Girls’ Grammar in Caulfield, said her students loved the pant option introduced this year.

“A number of girls’ schools are moving to pants and it’s probably one of those ‘it’s time’ moments,” she said. “Girls these days are not as constrained by notions of femininity and what people think of them as they might have been 20 years ago. They are making sensible choices about comfort. We have tights with our dresses, and they say the pants save them seven minutes in the morning when they are getting dressed.”

MLC in Kew has long offered pants and this year added shorts. “Whilst it was partly student driven, it was also MLC responding to the changing times and being happy to provide choices for students’ individual preferences.”

Kate Dishon, principal of Mount St Joseph Girls’ College in Altona, said her school had replaced a “dated” uniform – which included a kilt and tie – with the option of pants and shorts this year.

Melbourne Girls Grammar will next term introduce the choice of pants and shorts following a group of Year 10 girls turning up to school last November in pants.

Principal Toni Meath said research showed clothing affected confidence, sense of self and identity.

The uniform changes across Victoria have followed discussions between students, staff and parents. Many schools have introduced trans-seasonal uniforms so students are able to mix and match the articles of clothing depending on the weather.

Shorts are less likely to be offered than pants. For many schools, such as Shelford Girls’ Grammar and Melbourne Girls Grammar, it is back to the future as pants were offered decades ago.

The uptake of pants and shorts varies across schools. Darren Atkinson, principal of Aquinas College in Ringwood, which introduced them in 2017, said the take-up had not been overwhelming, but “the important thing is that it is an option.”

Mater Christi College in Belgrave, which has long offered pants, said students were “only slowly moving across to trousers. Does this reflect something of a stronger socially innate ‘princess image’ at play, perhaps something to do with enjoying the swish of the formal secondary uniform?” asked principal Mary Fitz-Gerald.

Uniforms remain a sensitive topic for some schools. Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar in Canterbury declined, via a public relations firm, to say what its uniform was.

Eva Dobozy is an education researcher and associate professor in the Faculty of Business and Law at Curtin University. Dr Dobozy said “students all around Australia complain about what they perceive as unfair practices concerning school uniforms” and gender-neutral uniforms remained a “contested idea.”

Girls’ Uniform Agenda is a 12-strong group of mothers across Australia which lobbies schools to offer girls the choice of pants and shorts, and helps parents do the same. It says research shows girls do less exercise in dresses and skirts and are more self-conscious doing everyday things such as bending over.

Co-founder Simone Cariss said the shift to the choice of pants and shorts was “definitely happening but there’s still a long way to go and it’s a little slower than we would like.” She said the group had obtained preliminary legal advice that schools which did not offer choice were breaching anti-discrimination laws.

Ms Cariss said schools tended to reject the introduction of pants and shorts due to tradition, expectations of how girls should look, and the principal’s preference for skirts and dresses.

One of its Girls’ Uniform Agenda’s youth ambassadors is 16-year-old Audrey Gray, who has attended public, private, religious and non-religious schools in Melbourne and overseas.

Ms Gray said skirts and dresses were “inconvenient”, restricted girls from physical activity such as spontaneously playing football on the oval, and had the potential to embarrass girls as they reached puberty.

“Throughout my high school experience, I’ve witnessed there are so many reasons only being able to wear skirts and dresses to school is bad for girls, especially as they grow older,” she said.

The Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia – whose members are mostly non-government schools – said “more and more schools are choosing diverse uniform options” and “schools make these choices based on a lot of different factors individual to each specific school.”

Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College principal Michelle Crofts said students were increasingly taking up the option – introduced in 2014 – to wear pants and shorts.

“Well, girls wear pants, too,” she said. “It did not make sense to not offer shorts and pants. I wear them, don’t you? In fact, when you look at women walking down the street and in work places, most are wearing pants.”

Girls’ school shoes are hobbling their chances in life

Are tlimsy, open-topped shoes marketed to little girls telling them they aren’t meant to be physically active? From The Guardian.

11 Septmber 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/11/school-shoes-girls-boys-hobbling-life-chances-flimsy-sturdy-sexism-gender

Last week, like many parents, I walked into a shoe shop to buy my daughter some school shoes. Outside it was raining, and all I wanted was a nice, stylish, practical pair of shoes for my daughter to start the new school year.

We went over to the girls’ section and, as usual, found 25 pairs of Mary Jane or ballet pump style shoes. Just five pairs of shoes on display actually covered the whole of a girl’s foot.

Out on the street adult women wore shoes that protected their feet from the heavy rain, but on the school run little girls stomped along with half covered feet, grey tights darkening in the damp.

Forget all the rowing about “gender neutral” and boys wearing dresses; whether you are ideologically invested in your daughters’ footwear and clothing or not (and by that I mean concerned by the evidence that shows overly gendered influences hold back girls in Stem subjects and beyond), surely we all just want our kids’ feet to be warm and dry?

Think about it. Boys have sturdy shoes that cover their whole foot and are suitable for running, climbing and adventuring. Girls have Mary Janes that are suitable for … a party. (A party where you get soggy feet if it rains.) And this is the picture up and down the country. It’s insane. We’re pumping millions of pounds into trying to get girls active – the brilliant This Girl Can campaign cost £10m – and yet every damn day we’re sending them out in school shoes that they cannot be properly active in.

And then we wonder why only one in 10 of all 14-year-old girls do the right amount of exercise to be healthy, or why 2 million fewer 14- to 40-year-old women than men play sport regularly. Sport England’s research that led to This Girl Can revealed that 75% of women want to be more active but that fear of judgment by others is the primary barrier holding them back from participating in sport.

Where does this judgment come from? I think I know. Because I already see it rearing its ugly little head at my five-year-old daughter. She’s already being told that “football’s for boys” – she can see that in the shoe shop where the football motifs only appear in the boys’ section – and she’s well used to the colour coding and messaging telling her which toys/activities/careers/hobbies she should be interested in according to her sex. It is good to see retailers such as John Lewis and Clarks beginning to redress some of this in their labelling, but as long as the products themselves remain so gendered it’s all just decoration on a big old sexist cake.

It’s no surprise how that translates in the playground – with girls rarely playing ball games at lunchtime – or PE lessons and after-school sports clubs, where coaches complain that boys won’t pass girls the ball, or girls are reluctant to attend. Education specialists describe school playgrounds being dominated by boys playing active games, while girls occupy the outer edges of the space, taking up less physical room. This at a developmental stage where boys and girls are still the same size. It’s the childhood precursor to “manspreading” and all that it symbolises.

Of course discussing the gendered state of clothes and toys is seen as ideological brainwashing, loony leftism taken a step too far. But the reality is that toys and clothes in the 21st century are more gendered now than they were for my generation growing up in the early 1980s. In the Sears catalogue advertisements from 1975, for example, less than 2% of toys were explicitly marketed to either boys or girls.

Why? It all comes down to profit. Why sell one box of Lego when you can sell two just by gendering the colours and themes on the box. In Jacques Peretti’s excellent BBC documentary The Men Who Made Us Spend (2014), he examined the way in which children are increasingly targeted by marketers as mini consumers – with the average British child seeing 10,000 TV adverts a year. Any parent who’s ever sat through just one ad break on a children’s channel will be able to tell you that it’s the most explicitly gendered thing you’ve ever seen – with boys and girls typically appearing separately, in a whirl of pink and high-pitched voices or blue with a backdrop of angry guitar music.

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Why does this matter? All the studies tell us that being physically active is good for our children, in particular for girls who frequently struggle with body image issues and self-confidence. Sport and exercise have the power to change our daughters’ lives – bringing enhanced career opportunities, biting back at the gender pay gap, and boosting their self esteem. Who wouldn’t want that for their kids?

This morning my daughter told me that she doesn’t want to wear trousers to school any more because they’re “for boys”. Other parents often tell me the same thing. It was almost a century ago that women in this country won the battle to wear trousers. It is enormously troubling to think we might be raising a generation of children increasingly exposed to regressive ideas about gender, sold down the river for a bit of profit.

Rowville Secondary College

Girls at Rowville Secondary College were banned from wearing t-bar school shoes from 2013. They wear black shoes and white socks with both their summer and winter uniforms, with navy tights an option in winter.

2019

https://www.rowvillesc.vic.edu.au/about-our-school/uniform/

Only black polishable leather lace-up school shoes with heel. No other style of shoes permitted

2014

https://www.rowvillesc.vic.edu.au/files/UNIFORM%20POLICY%202014.pdf

School Shoes

T-bars will no longer be part of the uniform in 2014.

This decision was made by College Council in the interest of student health and safety as an alarming number of students wear T-bars unbuckled.

N.B All parents/guardians/students were advised of this in the 2013 packages distributed Term 4 2012.

All parents/guardians are advised to purchase black polishable leather lace up school shoes with a small heel.

2013

http://www.rowvillesc.vic.edu.au/files/Student%20Dress%20Code.pdf

Summer Uniform

– College summer dress (of modest length with under garments not visible)
– OR College grey slacks and plain white College shirt
– OR College standard length grey shorts and plain white College shirt;

– College jumper;
– plain white socks (above the ankle with no logos);
– black polishable leather lace-up school shoes with heel
– OR black polishable leather T-bar school shoes with single buckle and heel.

Note:

As of 2013, due to continued Occupational Health and Safety issues, T-bar shoes will no longer be acceptable and all students will be required to wear black polishable leather laceup school shoes.

June 12th 2012

http://www.rowvillesc.vic.edu.au/images/uploads/news/Rowville_Times,_Issue_8_-_June_2012.pdf

Parents/Guardians please note that effective from 2013 T-bars will not be part of the uniform. College Council has made this decision in the interest of student safety.

16 December 2011

http://www.rowvillesc.vic.edu.au/images/uploads/news/Issue_20_December_161.pdf

Shoes

Girls : T- bars will be replaced by black leather lace up shoes. The reason for this change is that they are not strong enough as the buckle often breaks leading to students wearing them in manner that could result in injury. Increasingly students are choosing to wear them unbuckled in this dangerous and untidy manner.

Wheelers Hill Secondary College

Girls at Wheelers Hill Secondary College are not permitted to wear t-bar school shoes. They wear white socks with their summer dress, and grey, black or white socks or navy blue tights with their winter uniform.

http://www.whsc.vic.edu.au/uploaded_files/media/uniform.pdf

Summer

Dress: burgundy check school dress
Shorts: grey shorts (optional) OR navy (tailored (optional)
Socks: white socks must be worn with shorts or dress. grey, black or white socks can be worn
with winter trousers

Winter

Skirt: blue/burgundy check school skirt
Trousers: grey school trousers OR navy (tailored)
Socks: grey, black or white socks can be worn with winter trousers navy socks must be worn with skirt
Tights: navy blue

Slip-on canvas shoes, t-bars and sneakers are not permitted. OHS legislation demands that footwear be safe for the activities undertaken. At school this includes Science experiments with chemicals, Materials Technology with machinery and tools, Food Technology with boiling water and other subjects with a range of physical activities.

Shoes must be laced at all times. T Bar shoes are not OHS compliant and cannot be worn under any circumstances.

Point Cook Senior Secondary College

Girls at Point Cook Senior Secondary College are permitted to wear t-bar school shoes. They wear them with white or navy blue socks, with the option of black or navy blue tights in winter.

http://www.pointcooksenior.vic.edu.au/uniform.html

The compulsory aspects of the uniform are:

1. Footwear will be black, polishable leather shoes with a low heel (not boots above the ankle, not skate or canvas shoes or any other variation of sport shoe).

2. During Terms Two and Three the outer garment worn to and from the college must be either the blazer, jumper or spray jacket from the range. Blazers can be retained by students coming to the college from Carranballac, but must be re-pocketed with the PCSSC logo. During Terms Two and Three students may also wear the college scarf.

3. Socks must be plain white or navy blue and must cover the ankle bone. During Terms Two and Three students have the option of wearing navy blue or black tights.

4. Ties are to be worn at all times (except for students wearing summer dresses), except when students are directed to remove them in the case of warm weather.

5. If a hijab is worn, it must be white, maroon, black or navy blue. When a hijab is worn the student can then be excused from wearing a college tie. A long skirt in the uniform colours is available but must be ordered, no other colour should be worn.

Harrison t-bars on student exchange

Girls at St Catherine’s School Toorak have a student exchange program with their sister school, St Catherine’s in Bramley.

The English girls have the option of wearing loafers, mary-janes, brouges or classic laceup shoes with their school uniforms.

The Australian girls wear the same school uniforms as their host sisters, but have brought their Harrison t-bar shoes along for the trip across the world. Can you spot the four Aussies?