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.”

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?

St Catherine’s School Toorak

Girls at St Catherine’s School Toorak are permitted to wear t-bar school shoes. They wear them with pale blue socks in summer, with the option of grey tights in winter.

http://www.stcatherines.net.au/about-us/our-uniforms/

Senior School Uniform

Compulsory Uniform

– School pullover
– School blazer (Years 7 – 9)
– School braided blazer (Years 10 – 12 only)
– Pale blue knee-high or ankle socks
– Black shoes (lace-ups or t-bars)
– Pale blue pullover (Year 12 only)

NB: Pullover must not be worn off campus as outer garment

Summer Uniform

– Senior style dress
– Pale blue knee-high or ankle socks

Winter Uniform

– School skirt
– School shirt
– School tie
– Grey tights or pale blue knee-high or ankle socks

Kurunjang Secondary College

Girls at Kurunjang Secondary College are permitted to wear t-bar school shoes. They wear them with their choice of white, navy or black ankle socks in summer, with the added option of black or navy tights in winter.

http://www.kurunjangsc.vic.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/UniformPolicy.pdf

TROUSERS (Girls) College navy blue school pants with embroidered KSC letters

SHORTS College navy blue tailored shorts with embroidered KSC letters

PULLOVER Navy blue V neck with embroidered College logo

POLO TOP Light blue polo top with embroidered College logo

BUSINESS SHIRT Short or long sleeves, cotton polyester. College blue with embroidered College logo.

BLAZER Navy blue with embroidered logo

SUMMER DRESS Kurunjang check, cotton polyester. (Only be worn with white socks.)

TARTAN SKIRT Kurunjang check tartan skirt, with box pleats and side pocket. Should be worn ONLY with navy tights or white socks

SOCKS
Summer – White anklet calf length
Winter – navy anklet calf length and knee high

TIGHTS (girls) Navy, micro fibre/opaque. Only to be worn with tartan skirt.

http://www.kurunjangsc.vic.edu.au/students/college-uniform/

Footwear
Black plain leather, polishable lace up school shoes for boys and girls. Girls are also permitted to wear black leather, polishable T-bar shoes. Please note: Shoes should be all black, with shoe laces totally black.

Socks
Students are reminded that socks at the College should be plain, with no logos or other designs.

Keilor Downs College

Girls at Keilor Downs College are permitted to wear t-bar school shoes. They wear them with short white or black ankle socks in summer, and navy tights in winter.

2017

https://www.kdc.vic.edu.au/assets/uploads/2018/03/KDC_2017-School-Shoes.pdf

As of 2017 students will be expected to wear leather-style school shoes with a distinct heel as part of their everyday uniform.

Students are only to wear runners on the days they have PE and/or sport classes