"My school uniform sucks!"
Have you ever heard your daughter utter those words? It’s not surprising if you consider that school uniforms of today, despite many advancements in equality between the sexes, are still, well, downright sucky.
Yesterday I watched a young girl riding her bike to school in a very archaic school uniform. A long dress skimmed her back wheel and her slippery black school shoes regularly slid from her pedals. I rarely ride my bike in a long dress or a pair of slippery shoes -- so how can we expect our six-year-old daughters to do it and enjoy exercise and activity?
Thankfully my daughter, Olive, hasn’t made such a ‘sucky’ claim (yet). Her school uniform is a simple cotton polo t-shirt and a pair of culottes, functional for running, swinging and climbing. More importantly, it is comfortable and suitable for sitting and lying on the floor in her classroom while playing, listening and reading without constantly flashing her underpants, or being self-conscious about her body.
But this type of school uniform is rare. And, as far as school uniforms go, I think it is about time we broke the tradition of restrictive female school uniform tradition. We are raising the next generation of girls with confidence, encouraging and inspiring them to have the freedom to play and explore, yet the clothing we are forcing them to wear each day isn't matching our philosophy.
Box pleated skirts -- really? What parent out there has the time to wash, let alone iron, such attire for their young daughters? Not to mention the fact that skirts and dresses go over girls heads when they hang upside down. Don't believe me? Give it a go -- throw on a skirt and try and do a handstand, hang upside on a monkey bar or do a cartwheel.
The consequence is more impactful than we realise. When wearing inappropriate school uniforms, girls stop taking risks. They stop hanging upside down. They stop playing.
Very few girls are joining the boys on the sports field during their class breaks, not because they don't want to play, but because they are dressed inappropriately to participate.
Every time I’ve raised this issue I receive the same response: "Just buy them a pair of bike tights or bloomers to wear under their uniform". But is that a real, long-term solution?
I think it’s high time we change the uniform options provided to our young women. Shorts, culottes, trousers -- whatever it might be, give a functional choice that promotes play. As they get older, they can, of course, elect to express their growing femininity through dresses or skirts. But why enforce it on them when they’re still exploring their bodies and their personalities?
And while we’re at it, why don’t we address cumbersome school shoes. School shoes should be comfortable and safe for climbing, running and playing -- not slippery black formal shoes that have no grip on play equipment or grass. Don't even consider playing on wet grass.
Do you think this is a problem? Do you think girls need more functional and appropriate attire? If so, please complete this very short survey, as we want to do something about it.