READER REPORT:

No trousers school uniform rule discriminates against our daughters

JOANNE MCDOUGALL
Last updated 17:03 29/02/2016
School uniforms
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"School uniforms are not about fostering social and gender equality and keeping costs down."

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Crazy school rules designed to control If you don't like the rules, pick another school No trousers school uniform rule discriminates against our daughters School's winter uniform takes the cake School uniforms: Parents need to grow up School rules and students' appearance The uniform problem at schools is class size, not clothes 'School uniforms are used to control and intimidate' Parents have the power to get school rules changed Schools should teach, not preach uniform rules

My uniform battle occurred many years ago in 2002 when my daughter wanted to wear trousers to high school.

Canterbury's Rangiora High School was supposed to introduce the option, but we chose Kaiapoi High instead. Kaiapoi had a female trouser option on their prospectus, but the design was unwearable and my daughter ended up using a standard navy dress trouser. She was never bullied for her choice.

The interesting thing is that Kaiapoi no longer has a trouser option for females, and Rangiora never produced one, even though there have been numerous attempts to get them introduced.

The claim that "girls just don't want to wear trousers", is absolute rubbish. Many girls do, parents want them to, and society allows it, but in Canterbury schools they can’t or won’t, due to rules or manipulation. Many girls feel uncomfortable looking different - schools play on this - and there is always the spectre of bullying.

READ MORE:
* School uniforms: Parents need to grow up
* Sydney high school wins battle for 'gender neutral' uniforms
* Massey uniform won't change, board says

Once a school defeats a challenger, they no longer have to comply with change.  I, however, am an expert on all the stupid reasons why girls can’t wear trousers to school. Many schools are using students to assist with uniform choice in order to disarm parents. This does not alter the fact that the lack of a trouser option is discriminatory. Parents need not tolerate this. No young woman should be prevented from wearing trousers because a bunch of schoolgirls say so.

Girls lose the right to wear trousers as soon as a school uniform is introduced. Special costumes that are worn nowhere else in society are imposed and even primary schools get involved in this fine bit of social engineering (culottes and skorts). Many are now introducing non-gender specific clothing and it’s about time our secondary schools followed suit.

Skirts are decorative and feminine. They restrict movement because one needs to be conscious of loose fabric and modesty at all times. Trousers, in contrast, are practical and warm. They can be forgetten about and one can move with impunity.

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Girls should be able to appear professional and be on equal footing with boys. Try googling schoolgirl costumes – blazers, pleats, plaid, knee socks, black stockings – you don’t see trousers in porn. These uniforms have been fetishised because they are so different to normal female attire.

READ MORE:
* School's winter uniform takes the cake
* Controversial uniform policy saves parents money, school says
* School uniforms are used to control and intimidate

School uniforms are not about fostering social and gender equality and keeping costs down. If they were, there would be no blazers and no problems with girls wearing trousers. So, why are females discouraged or prevented from wearing trousers to school?

I can come up with the following reasons – branding, misogyny, sex and power. Schools want to market themselves. Sex sells, and girls look pretty in dresses, thus make schools look good. Power over the appearance of a large number of obedient females, and better still, power over their mothers, who must submit their daughters to be dressed.

How hard would it be to ensure every girl in New Zealand had the right to wear trousers to school? Who really objects to such a simple thing? Why do narrow-minded values override the wishes of parents and young women who have nothing to do with them?

“They look nice in dresses”, “It’s tradition”, and “Because I say so,” are not adequate reasons.

Women pay taxes, so why is the Ministry of Education providing funding for schools that discriminate against our daughters? Is it just so they can provide visual gratification or support outmoded traditions?

At the moment, girls in New Zealand secondary schools may be educated only if appropriately dressed, and the only recourse, if one wants to look dignified, professional or remain active, is to claim to be a boy. Actually, a really good idea!

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