Tag Archive | uniform

Uniform change – pantastic

I read recently about a Dunedin intermediate that listened to its students when they said everyone should have the option to wear pants. The Principal decided why not ditch all gender rules and just have uniform options for everyone. It’s a great idea to have choice but do students really have ‘free choice’? I get that it gives girls the option to wear pants, that’s great but do guys feel just as excited to wear kilts or culottes? (does anyone get excited about culottes?) It is an important step and great that a school leader listened to students.

My experience of gender norms in schools goes way beyond uniform. I think body hair is the gender marker for most children, especially for girls. If girls have short hair at primary or intermediate they are constantly asked ‘are you a boy or a girl’ – the correct answer is ‘yes’ in case you ever get asked this question. I did all the time when I was at primary school, it never bothered me but it got a bit annoying at times, so I would just tackle harder in bull-rush or soccer and let my actions do the talking.

High schools are a bit tougher on the gender thing. I’m not sure why young adults need to be clothed in gender coded clothes for their education. I still don’t understand why pants are so scary for girls schools or why boys schools panic over guys with long hair. Because a gender ‘neutral’ option is a boys option. This is my point. Society is still basically scared of males being feminine or expressing femininity. Guys have such limited gender expression beyond masculinity in our school cultures and uniforms (including hair regulations) don’t help.

So I hope high schools start following the lead of primary and intermediates but I secretly hope we move away from uniforms completely. There are other ways to express school pride, identity and unity beyond making everyone look the same. That is not valuing diversity, it is fear of difference.

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Violent acts not always deadly

16-year-old transgender student Stefani Rose Muollo-Gray had a pretty rough ride at her school when she tried to use the girls bathroom. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised but I kind of imagined the bathroom policing was for countries like the USA, so I’m a bit shocked it is so close to home. She started a petition which has drawn attention to the issue.

While it’s hard to put it alongside the horrific events in Orlando, this is probably a worse kind of violence, one that society sometimes condones and supports. Policing where you pee these days seems to be the new way to ensure we stick with binary genders based on the most important part of being a human – how you excrete kidney waste. Sorry to get all anatomical but, frankly, that is what is being questioned.

I think the issue is with teacher education actually. Heck, you get one year to become a teacher at a high school – what portion is spent looking at the complexity of diversity, gender, sexuality, culture, functioning? Not much. but Principals could do more to support LGBTQI+ young people. The violence of silence is what bothers me. To not even recognise that a school they will have Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Fa’afafine, Takataapui students and teachers in them.

But Principals could do more to support LGBTQI+ young people. The violence of silence is what bothers me – to not even recognise that a school  will have Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Fa’afafine, Takataapui students and teachers in them.

Events like the school ball can be places where schools become more aggressive by asking for proof of gayness. Or for young transgender people trying to attend a school that fits their gender identity having to go through psychological interrogations to prove they are who they are. A serious lack of uniform options for High School students enforces gender norms – it is like wearing a straight jacket (great pun). Schools make life unnecessarily hard for people on the rainbow spectrum. School leaders need to take the lead.

I hope Stefani reaches the 7500 signatures she needs and I hope it starts some hard conversations among other schools about how to genuinely make schools a safe place for everyone.

 

Coded dress

I have blogged about school balls before. I thought I was over it. But it just keeps popping up like a painful blister from wearing high heels (apparently – I don’t wear heels – I get altitude sickness – and I never passed my femininity licence).

A school has decided it can veto the style of dress worn. The main issue is the amount of skin being shown. Now on the face of it, that does sound a little OTT. However, it is a Catholic school. Why should that make a difference? Well, it is about what values the school is upholding. This is a religious school, with a particular set of ideologies and beliefs about modesty and the body. So I am not shocked that they have taken this stance. I’m more shocked that people attending the school would be. I think some people forget that Christianity is a religion.

Schools already have a sense of ownership around policing bodies, uniforms do that well and this is a school event.It kind of fits with representing the school image, like sports teams. What I do take issue with is not being able to take shoes off if they are hurting. Those wearing high heels have to suffer in order to maintain the forced gender code of femininity even if it results in excruciating pain and discomfort. I can see that being a fun night on the dance floor. My tip – just don’t wear heels or take two pairs of shoes, one for show and one for go! Another solution is to have uniform ball dresses, now there’s an idea – along with uniform ball jewellery. Let’s go all the way and have set hair styles and makeup. For guys lets say they must keep their tie and jacket on all night, gotta have some gender equality somewhere.

So as all schools head into ball season lets get a bit of a reality check. It is an old tradition we haven’t quite integrated into the 21st-century ideas of diversity and difference. It is the ‘Straightrix’ – like The Matrix that codes all forms of gender and sexuality norms. If you know that you can choose to take the blue pill for the night (no I am not encouraging drug use – see the movie!) go for it and have a fun night.

Knee jerk reactions

I remember my Mum telling me how they used to make the girls at school kneel down to check the length of their skirts. That was in the 1950’s and times have changed – or have they?

When I read about Henderson High School enforcing the knee length uniform rule I was transported back in time for a moment. If skirts are such a problem and knees are such a distraction then why not just get rid of skirts all together?

I suspect schools want to put their fingers in their ears and go ‘nanananana I can’t hear you’ if someone tries to point out the teenagers are sexual beings. So I make a plea to young people in schools of all genders, if your school does not have choice available ask why not? Start a conversation with your health teacher about how guys and girls are similar rather than different. Challenge statements from teachers that say ‘all guys or all girls’ are like that.

Why are schools so determined to keep boys and girls so clearly defined through uniforms? What might happen if students all wore the same thing? What if ALL schools had the same uniform?! Now that is a question schools probably want to skirt around.

Back to the future

In 1989 Marty McFly travelled to the future. The mysterious date was 21st October 2015. That date has arrived. No hoverboards and no self lacing shoes, but plenty of other tech was spot on. Some of the fashion looks suspiciously 1980’s but with sheen and shine added. I was also a bit excited yesterday about the new Star Wars movie – The Force Awakens trailer being released. I think I freaked a few people out at work with the intensity of my enthusiasm.

When thinking future I imagine technology. I imagine what humans might be wearing and sorry Star Trek fans – it isn’t a lycra onesie. But I hope gender kind of breaks down in the future that clothing is about what works, does the job.

So how is functionality defined in clothing? Movement? Comfort? I’m not really sure anymore after talking to some insightful young people at school. They came to me about wanting the uniform reviewed. It seems we kind of got stuck back in time with dresses and skirts and this strange third option called culottes. Think skirt but with a parting in the middle, so it looks like a skirt but is supposed to ‘function’ like shorts…yeah right.

My point is no-where in any future movie do you see culottes. I don’t think Daisy Ridley will be taking down storm troopers in culottes in The Force Awakens. Culottes are a bad compromise sometimes you have to pick a side – the middle is not comfortable. To offer truly functional options there needs to be shorts and pants as well as skirts, dresses, tunics and multiple shirt options – short and long sleeve.

But maybe the really radical future idea is no uniform. At the very least not prescribing uniform based on someones hormones, chromosomes and those bits only health teachers get to talk about.

Celebrating diversity by looking the same?

Most New Zealand secondary schools have a uniform of some kind or other. They have evolved over time (thank goodness) but they essentially do the same thing – identify students with a school and are way to ensure discipline. Some might say they help foster pride and help ‘erase’ inequality. Another idea is that wearing a uniform helps prepare people for work where you might have to wear the same thing every day. Uniform doesn’t stop there though, hair length and colour can be ‘uniformed’ as with jewellery and make up. A lot of schools will have a boys and girls uniform or if you are at a single sex school, more than likely you have one uniform option.

So where did the idea for school uniform come from? I’ve done a bit of superficial research on the history of school uniforms. Essentially they came about to bring ‘order’ to perceived chaos in English schools but quickly became a way of showing educational status through what school you went to. The Blazer evolved to give status to Public Grammar schools as they emulated private schools.  Read More…

Hair – the long and short of it

Hair. It has to be one of the most defining features of human beings. We are virtually hairless as a species. But the hair on our heads definitely seems to be one of the most significant ways we identify each other. Schools seem to have incorporated hair into the realm of uniform. I’m not sure about all schools, but most that have a school uniform probably have some rules about hair styles and colours. Two examples have come to the media in New Zealand over the last week both involving young men.

Hair length definitely seems to be a bit of a gender definer. I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that boys generally have short hair and girls have long hair or at least that is the most common expression of difference related to hair, especially before facial hair appears thanks to testosterone. But that is pretty limiting right? Hair is a wonderful medium to express your individuality, cultural or religious identity or your affinity to music.

Being ‘clean cut with a neat, short, hair’ probably fits best with a military style of discipline. Discipline is something schools take seriously. However I am wondering, if in the year 2014 we could shift our understanding of what it means to show respect and reflect school pride beyond requiring students look the same. It does seem to contradict the idea of valuing diversity a little bit.  Read More…