The girl who wore the “boys uniform” to school

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The school dress ‘debate’

Is the school dress ‘debate’ nonsense – just have a range of options, and let students choose? From The Conversation.

January 11, 2017

https://theconversation.com/school-dress-debate-is-a-nonsense-just-have-a-range-of-options-and-let-students-choose-71069

Lauren Rosewarne

For Australians growing up on a diet of American film and TV, seeing their parade of chic and shocking school outfits can only ever bristle. Here, uniform is king; over yonder it’s been a rarity since the 1960s.

In recent days a debate has been reignited about girls being “forced” to wear skirts and dresses to school. A debate that feels less like a gender firestorm and more like a disregard for history and widespread school policy.

2017 marks my 20th year out of high school; I finished with that whole shindig back in 1997. Twenty years ago, while my public school offered a delightfully fetching brown kilt or fawn shirt dress, we ladies could also don the charming green pants.

The idea that girls are being forced into chub-rub garments that they can’t easily run in seems to ignore the developments that have transpired in the great majority of schools over a great number of years. Options exist. Pick the slacks, pick the shorts. Alternate.

In researching this article I’ve spoken to friends who are teachers, school counsellors. Parents. In the private sector, in the public. No dress distress that I could locate. At all. I don’t doubt there are exceptions. To suggest, however, that there’s a widespread catastrophe here is folly.

I’m not, therefore, devoting 800 words to selling a case on why school dresses are or aren’t sexist. We’re in an education system where they aren’t commonly compulsory, so there’d be no point. This doesn’t, however, make them uninteresting. Particularly in our current social climate.

As a high schooler I vacillated between believing that having to wear the itchy green school jumper was malarkey, to actually enjoying not having to think about outfits. Sure, I likely harboured vague notions of wanting to “express” the blackness of my soul through apparel I’d self-selected, but even then I knew that having to do so daily would have soon worn thin.

Schools like uniforms for branding purposes. For social cohesion. For classroom control. In a world of teenagers with beards and boobs, they also likely help distinguish teachers from the underlings.

Parents equally favour the fixed costs, the dodged drama about fitting in, the avoided arguments.

In 2017 the uniform story has become complicated, but not because of the mystical properties of any specific garment in a school’s ensemble. Rather, we’re at the part in our social journey where the individual is king. Where freedom of expression consumes more oxygen than all those economic and social factors that once justified the uniform.

I’m not going to write an identity politics essay. It’s January and I’m saving my energies for the start of the academic year when I’ll have to have the debate weekly with my Gender Studies students. Instead, I’ll focus on policy. On how schools can best handle this issue.

Just as Australians don’t really want to steal any of the prom king/homecoming queen/school shooting hideousness from the US education system, my guess is that there’s little impetus here to abandon uniforms. With the endless parade of stories about leggings bans and spaghetti strap scandals, I dare say most Australian schools aren’t the least bit interested in that whole can o’ worms.

So the question that remains is whether uniforms can continue to serve their purpose(s) in a world in where the concept of a “male uniform” and a “female uniform” is complicated, if not even passé, and in a culture that is – rightly – trying to meet the needs of students who don’t always identify as either.

Students not identifying as male, as female, shouldn’t be forced into apparel based on their name or their genitals or their haircut or any of the other markers we used to control gender. Doing so is not only oppressive but will create the capacity for litigation. Something schools most certainly want to avoid.

So the solution – the path of least change, least legal quagmire – is so simple it seems extraordinary that the conversation is still being had. Just have a range of sanctioned options.

Approve the dresses and the blazers and the jumper and the slacks. List the items that constitute the school’s uniform and allow the students to pick. It needn’t be more complicated than this. Get rid of the “girls” list, abandon the “boys” list, and just have a list of approved apparel.

If the primary mission of schools is education, if the primary function of uniforms is cohesion, schools need to enable students – all students – to feel included so that they can concentrate on the learning. The rest is politics and wasted breath.

Mandatory shorts and pants for schoolgirls

Instead of just adding shorts and pants to the school uniform options, Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar School has remove skirts and dresses from the uniform list for kindergarten and year 1 students.

23 October 2018

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/oct/22/melbourne-school-makes-shorts-and-pants-mandatory-to-encourage-girls-to-exercise?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Melbourne school makes shorts and pants mandatory to encourage girls to exercise

A Melbourne school has made shorts and pants mandatory to encourage physical activity and play among young girls.

Kindergarten and year 1 students at Lowther Hall Anglican grammar school in Essendon have ditched school uniform dresses and skirts. The school is believed to be one of the first private schools in the state to make the uniform change for its junior primary female pupils.

The school’s principal, Elisabeth Rhodes, said the school had reviewed its uniform wardrobe to make it more fit for purpose.

Girls had previously reported feeling self-conscious and inhibited by dresses and skirts while they were playing and some were choosing to sit and talk instead.

Rhodes reflected on her own schoolgirl days doing gymnastics manoeuvres.

“I was a cartwheeler, I do remember the dress flying up over my head, as well as when you were spinning around on the monkey bars or doing handstands, you were always worried about your dress falling down,” she told the Guardian.

Rhodes said there was strong support from girls and parents behind the move, and they had some input into the design.

“It’s a beautiful uniform even though it is less formal in the early years,” she said.

School principals were conscious of the importance of physical activity not just for warding off childhood obesity but also for good mental health.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if more schools were looking to adopt uniforms that would promote engagement in physical activity,” Rhodes said.

Eveline Jona from the Victorian Parents Council – a lobby group for parents who send children to non-government schools – said it was important for schools to balance issues such as physical and mental health with freedom of choice.

Her organisation encouraged schools to consult their community before making key policy decisions on topics such as school uniform.

The Victorian state government last year sought to give female students at public schools the option to opt for pants and shorts over dresses and skirts.

Next year Queensland public school girls will also have broader uniform choice.

In New South Wales and Western Australia, public schools have also followed suit.

Gender neutral school shoes?

Latest idea from the United Kingdom – gender neutral school shoes. Are they really anything new?

12 September 2017

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/clarks-gender-neutral-shoes-plans-john-lewis-male-female-a7942081.html

Clarks reveals plans for gender neutral school shoes
The Independent

Clarks has announced plans for unisex school shoes.

The announcement comes after the shoe brand was criticised for “sexist” shoes for children earlier this summer.

In a statement on the company website last month, Clarks says it is promoting a “gender neutral ethos” following “customer feedback.”

Its Spring/Summer 2018 line is set to be “entirely unisex.”

The statement reads: “Clarks has a gender neutral ethos that anyone can choose any style they would like.

“Over the past few seasons, following customer feedback and market research, we have focused on creating more unisex shoes and we are looking at a number of elements of our business to promote this gender neutral ethos, both on our website and within our stores.

“As a large global company, it is not always possible to implement all the changes we want to make as quickly as we would like. However, we are looking to move as fast as we can to ensure this ethos is reflected throughout our brand.

“Today we have more unisex styles in our range than ever before. This means we now have a wider range of closed-in styles, school boots and GORE-TEX® styles and these changes will continue in our Spring Summer 2018 range, which has been designed with an entirely unisex approach.”

A spokesperson for Clarks told The Independent that there is little detail about what the new unisex line will entail, but at the moment it’s planned for children’s rather than adults’ shoes.

In August this year, the shoe shop received a barrage of complaints online after one mother publicly criticised the brand for their “sexist” shoes for girls.

Jemma Moonie-Dalton wrote on Facebook that she was “dismayed” by the choice of school shoes for her daughter in the store.

“I understand, of course, that anyone can choose any style – but children are not stupid, and my seven year old daughter does not want to choose shoes from a section aggressively marketed at boys and clearly not intended for her.

“In the boys’ section the shoes are sturdy, comfortable and weatherproof with soles clearly designed with running and climbing in mind. In contrast, the girls’ shoes have inferior soles, are not fully covered and are not well padded at the ankle. They are not comfortable and are not suited to outdoor activities in British weather.”

The mother suggested that the difference in shoe style sends a message to girls that they should be “satisfied with looking stylish whilst the boys are free to play and achieve in comfort.”

Her post has been shared nearly 18,000 times and has 44,000 reactions.

Clarks has also come under fire for selling shoes for girls with names such as “Dolly Babe,” in contrast to “Leader” for boys.

The brand has apologised for any offence caused though and explained that the Dolly Babe shoe has been discontinued.

Pants at Avila College

In 2017 Avila College announced that they would soon be adding shorts to their summer uniform and trousers to the winter uniform.

October 18 2017

http://www.avila.vic.edu.au/_uploads/ppage/files/UPOLAD%2017_10_2017%20Final%20V2%20PDF%20Version%20Newsletter.pdf

School Uniform

Parents and students would be aware that increasingly schools are reconsidering features of their school uniform to ensure a variety of options are available to students.

One feature is the inclusion of dress shorts and a shirt for the summer uniform and trousers with the winter uniform.

We are currently trialling some of these options and will provide more information in the coming months as we continue to work with students around these changes.

When decisions are finalised a full uniform list will be published via the school newsletter.

Ms Janine Bauman
Deputy Principal Students

The only male student at a Catholic girls’ school

The only male student at a Catholic girls’ school.

27 May 2016

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/singlesex-schools-in-transition-as-transgender-students-gain-acceptance-20160527-gp5nkw.html

Jeremy was the only male student at his Catholic girls’ school.

He had short spiky hair, hated wearing the school’s checked skirt and in Year 12, the Avila College student came out as a transgender male.

“It was inherently a very gendered environment. It made it more difficult.”

It’s a situation many single-sex schools – whose entire existence has relied on rigid concepts of gender – are grappling with.

For the first time, the region’s peak body for girls schools, the Alliance of Girls Schools Australasia, is urging its members to support transgender students.

This includes males who transition to females and want to enrol in girls’ schools, and females who transition to males and want to remain in girls’ schools.

Earlier this week, the organisation, which predominantly represents private girls’ schools, held a conference which focused on gender and transgender issues.

“It’s an emerging issue, everyone is still learning what to do and that includes the doctors, the psychologists, the support services,” the Alliance’s president and Mentone Girls’ Grammar principal Fran Reddan said.

“It’s critical that we provide a safe environment where all students can express their gender identity.”

Micah Scott, the chief executive of LGBTI youth group Minus 18, said single-sex schools faced a unique challenge.
“Their existence is based on the concept that the sex you are assigned at birth will match your gender identity,” he said.

He said teachers needed to avoid gendered language like “good morning girls” and should provide more flexible uniform options.

Jeremy agreed, and said he felt very uncomfortable wearing his school uniform.

“A teacher told me that I could wear the trousers but said everyone would look at me funnily,” he said. He claimed another teacher picked on him.

Human Rights Law Centre director of advocacy Anna Brown said there did not seem to be a clear protection for transgender students in single-sex schools under federal discrimination law. But she said it was a grey area and yet to be tested in court.

She said schools should let transgender students wear uniforms and use toilets that reflected their gender identity. They should also ensure that sports divided along gender lines are inclusive, and that students are referred to using the name and pronoun of their choice.

Gender neutral uniforms at Northcote High School

Northcote High School has a gender neutral uniform policy. Boys and girls permitted to wear their choice of shorts, pants or dress in summer; and shorts, pants or skirt in winter; along with laceup, t-bar or mary jane school shoes.

October 2016

http://www.nhs.vic.edu.au/sites/default/files/Uniform%20Need%20to%20Know%20information%2016.10.17.pdf

SUMMER & WINTER

o Grey slacks or shorts
o Mauve, crested long or short sleeved shirt
o Crested navy jumper
o Blazer
o Black leather shoes
o Black Business socks
o School tie (optional)

SUMMER ONLY
o Striped dress

WINTER ONLY
o Check grey skirt with crested white shirt
o Black tights or socks

Summer uniform options.

Winter uniform options.

School shoe options.