Wearing the pants

I finally saw that appalling “say no” ad in all its shameful glory on the tellie last night.

You know, the one with the deluded mum scaremongering  that saying “yes” will lead to boys wearing dresses to school.

Eye roll. Don’t they do that in Scotland all the time as a mark of national pride? Those kilts look an awful lot like our school uniforms to me.

I’m even more stunned that – in 2017 – Aussie schools are still forcing girls to wear dresses.

What IS that all about? Aren’t we supposed to be doing everything we can to encourage gender equality?

My 13-year-old has never been the frock type. From a very early age she’s preferred to be clad in a gender-neutral, mainly black wardrobe.

She hated it when she went to high school and had to wear a tunic every day. She was slightly happier in winter because she could wear it with thick, black leggings … but then she wouldn’t STOP wearing the leggings in the middle of summer … I finally cracked it and said NO MORE LEGGINGS because I was worried she’d expire from heat exhaustion.

There’s an option to wear long pants, but she initially refused because they were so dreadful. Nasty rayon things. And there was no short-sleeve option for the accompanying shirt, it was long sleeves all-year round.

I sense that her school is doing everything it can do discourage students from swaying from the “true” uniform path, despite it being a public high school that shouldn’t be hung up on such things. What AM I talking about? It even has a regulation length for the white ankle socks. Seriously.

The 13-year-old became more and more unhappy as year 7 progressed. It sounds weird, but it turns out much of that unhappiness stemmed from being forced to wear a dress.

When I asked if she would like a pair of school-issue trousers this year, she jumped at it, despite the rayon discomfort.

It was incredible the difference that change of uniform made to her demeanor, though I’m a bit worried about how she’ll cope with the heat of summer since there aren’t any shorts on offer.

I read yesterday that girls attending state schools in Victoria will soon – maybe – have the choice to wear pants or shorts as part of the uniform.

Again, it’s 2017 people!

Victoria’s Education Minister James Merlino told 3AW: “The vast majority of government schools offer the option of shorts and pants to girls but some don’t. Options should be given, it’s a relatively minor change.”

He said the issue had been raised with him and the government by parents, and he believed it was common sense.

“My girls, nine days out of 10 they want to wear pants or shorts to school,” he said.

“This is about making sure that every student is comfortable, is physically active, and in the 21st Century it’s common sense. Girls should be given the option of pants and shorts, full stop.”

Yes, they should. And not the ugliest, most uncomfortable ones the school can find.

Jenna Price wrote an article for The Canberra Times about the issue called “Why I agree with the no vote campaigners – let’s ban dresses at school”.

She said: “Boys. Wearing dresses. At school. Clearly a societal tipping point.

“If boys wore frocks at school, our social fabric would be torn asunder.

“Why? They would be forced into behaving like girls. Cooking. Cleaning. Making nice. Sitting with their legs together so no-one can see their undies because girls are taught from an early age that their underwear might excite.

“Boys in shorts: they can do handstands, hang upside down from monkey bars, climb trees and anything else in their way. Run. Jump. Stand still.”

She also reveals that Amanda Mergler started an organisation called Girls Uniform Agenda when her kids had to move schools because her daughter loved shorts. “While the school policy itself said girls could wear the shorts available to boys, girls had learned to police femininity even in year one. Her poor daughter was told she had to use the boys’ toilet because she was wearing boys’ shorts.”

That is appalling. But then I’m equally horrified that my 13-year-old was disciplined recently by a teacher for having her arm around her friend in the playground. I’m putting it down to her being one of only a couple of girls at the school who wear the awful pants (oh, and the fact she’s tall with short, shaved hair). It was described by the teacher as an “inappropriate display of affection”. Seriously.

I don’t think a girl in a dress with a ponytail and her arm around a friend’s shoulder would have received the same admonishment.

Obviously if you let girls wear pants, who knows what funny ideas it might put in their heads?


It’s weird that so many people don’t get the angst of the dress thing – and not just those disturbing mothers in the “vote no” ad.

When Jenna canvassed people on Facebook about it, many women started falafelling about how much nicer it was to wear a dress and how they would hate to wear shorts or pants.

“But I prefer to wear skirts. I feel uncomfortable in trousers,” one said. Another noted she was uncomfortable with her size at school, so wearing pants at school was a “nightmare”.

They were missing the point that it’s not about what they do or don’t like, it’s about ensuring every child feels comfortable at school, rather than being shoehorned into a gender stereotype of how they should look and dress. I’m not saying dump uniforms all together, as much as my 13-year-old would love that, but I’m definitely putting two hands firmly in the air for giving kids options and not fretting that the sky will fall down if you do.

And if my kid gets chipped for putting her arm around someone again I will go freaking nuclear.

Song of the day: Hunters & Collectors “Throw your arms around me”


4 thoughts on “Wearing the pants

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  1. I am with you. I am really fortunate that my daughter goes to a private school and when we broached the topic of her wearing pants or shorts, they were all for it. Sure, she is the only one in her year level wearing pants and/or shorts but who cares – she certainly doesnt. She is comfortable and happy. I am shocked that the public schools are so far behind a private school. Such a lot of BS. We need to change the socialisation of our children in order to improve equality and tolerance on a broader level. Oh, dont get me started!! I can feel a rant coming on.

  2. My kids’s public high school has a strict policy of full school uniform, which can be shorts, long pants, skirts, white shirt with school logo (short-sleeved all year round – which is nuts). Everyone must be in school uniform. What combination they choose is up to them. Girls can wear shorts or pants or skirts, and so can boys, and yes, there are boys (seniors – I think the juniors feel the peer pressure more) who opt for the skirt (which does look like a kilt) – not many but some. So long as it’s school uniform the school isn’t fussed. Their public primary school had a unisex uniform of shorts and short-sleeved shirt in summer, pants and long-sleeved shirt in winter. The sky continues to not fall.

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