Published: 20th July 2018
Should students have gender-neutral uniforms? The debate is on!
There have been some suggestions that the skirt ban in schools is a reaction to the problem of ‘upskirting’ – the new fad of low-held mobile photography to shoot through the lower, open-end of skirts
The uniform makes for brotherhood since when universally adopted it covers up all differences of class and country
— Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout movement
Baden-Powell might have been thinking about uniforms separately for boys and girls in the context of Scouts – and in terms of class and country. Boys and girls in their school uniforms might have spawned expressions like ‘trousers chasing skirts’ – though it could be the other way around also. Now there are more issues like transgenders and religious taboos. So, there are moves to have gender-neutral uniforms for students, among other things, to placate transgenders and Muslims.
Writing in the Guardian, Donna Ferguson says: Parson Street Primary School in Bristol now has a gender-neutral uniform. It’s about a culture of acceptance and helping children say ‘I am who I am’, says its Head, Jamie Barry. For Headmaster Barry, introducing a gender-neutral school uniform policy at his school was just basic common sense. “Why would we define our children by the clothes they wear? We still have the same uniform; we simply removed all references to gender in our uniform policy.”
Cavendish Road Primary in West Didsbury introduced its new policy last September. “We felt that in this day and age it was inappropriate to designate certain clothing items to one gender,” says the headteacher, Janet Marland, “We wanted our boys and girls to know they had the same rights. Plus, we had concerns about what some of our girls were wearing – footwear without proper grips or sturdy soles, and tight-fitting pencil skirts that restricted their movement. This was preventing them from playing safely on climbing frames.”
According to the Mirror, 40 British secondary schools have banned skirts as part of a move towards gender-neutral uniforms.
There have been some suggestions that the skirt ban in schools is a reaction to the problem of ‘upskirting’ – the new fad of low-held mobile photography to shoot through the lower, open-end of skirts — especially when in public transport.
The new regime has divided opinion among parents and students, with some agreeing with it, while others do not. One mother said: “My daughter and her friends are appalled by this. The school is creating a hostile environment for girls.”
Another parent added: “My daughter said she has got a gender and it’s female, so being gender-neutral when she has got a gender is a big deal for her, as she is proud to be a girl. Girls should be allowed to wear skirts if they want to.”
In India, the question of proper attire for students, especially girls, crops up every now and then. In the latest instance, after a massive uproar, a prominent private co-education school in Pune withdrew its bizarre order mandating all girl students to wear only white or beige underwear on campus. In Mangaluru, wearing the veil by Muslim students became an issue in a century-old Convent college and is still simmering. This issue has been raising its head every now and then in Dakshina Kannada district and elsewhere also.