The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Short skirts or trousers only?

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SKIRTING THE ISSUE: Trouser options have been introduced at some New Zealand high schools,
but most girls still opt for skirts.

High school girls' hemlines are one of those issues that crop up all over the world on a regular basis. Skirts that are too short, skirts that are too long–it seems that no matter which skirt style schools adopt as uniform they are likely to  run into problems with non-compliance. Frustrated school officials waste precious teaching time policing the ongoing battle as the steady stream of students filters through their doors year after year.

Recently the issue has received more press than usual as some schools in Britain have combated the problem by banning skirts entirely, instead requiring their girls to wear trousers. The principal of one such school, David New, was reported as saying, "We didn't want to waste any more time on it. It [now] means that teachers can concentrate on what's important in education."

With all due respect to David New and his school, I tend to think that they're dreaming if they think they won't be wasting any more time on uniform monitoring. Although they may have won the battle of the hemline, the uniform war will continue to rage through challenges to hair colouring, footwear, nail polish, piercings, makeup–the possibilities for misdemeanours are endless. School uniforms are intended to level the playing field, saving students from the distractions of fashion with blanketed conformity.

But really this goes against human nature. People always want to stand out, and teenage girls who are beginning to experiment with their own personal style and the ability to distinguish themselves from their peers, while at the same time finding ways to fit in are particularly susceptible to trends and societal influences.

Add to this the fact that short-skirted schoolgirls are a prevalent stereotype throughout pop culture (think fresh-faced Britney singing Hit Me Baby One More Time) it’s no wonder girls resort to folding the waistbands on their skirts in an effort to show a little more leg.

When schools in New Zealand were questioned whether they would consider banning skirts in favour of trousers as a solution to the skirt problem the response was mixed. But what really interested me were the reasons schools gave for wanting to make sure that their girls adhered to skirt length regulations. One teacher said, "We are concerned for the girls' modesty... We want to protect their dignity and keep them safe. We also believe it is respectful to our male pupils to have our girls attired modestly." Some feminists might argue that changing female attire on account of male desires is unequal treatment. Personally I sympathise with the plight of teenage boys who, thanks to raging hormones and new found urges, may struggle to keep their minds off sex without the added pressure of being surrounded by short-skirted females. But I do think that saying making sure that girls are attired modestly is protecting their safety is verging on victim blaming if sexual assault should occur.

So what do you think about school girls' hemlines? Are trousers a better alternative? Or are uniform issues inevitable no matter what students are required to wear?

-Briar Barry
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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