It’s 2015. We have cars that can park themselves and a computer that can decide for itself to make a robot that can use a 3D printer to make a gun. This is the future, right here. My dad can go to see a doctor who’s a woman and he won’t even make a comment about how nice she was in a surprised tone of voice, like any woman who would choose a career over, or as well as, children must be some kind of abomination of nature and not to be trusted. That’s how far we’ve come.
But then a few things have made me think that we haven’t moved on at all.
My daughters went back to school this week, so the last month has been mostly taken up with us trying to find the right school uniform, something that usually involves me walking into the centre of town and scattering the contents of my purse around to passing strangers. But this year there seems to have been an extra element of stress, because now it seems it’s not enough to send us out to try and find 50 different kinds of indoor and outdoor trainers with The Right Soles, we now have to find The Right Skirt and The Right Trousers.
I’m always in two minds about school uniform; I can see both sides and change my mind daily. But some of the recent rules have just been plain silly, particularly when it comes to uniform for girls.
I know there are plenty of rules for boys too and there probably only seem to be more rules for girls because they have more choice when it comes to uniforms, i.e. they can wear either skirts or trousers, but so many of these rules seem to be about making girls feel responsible for the way men see them at the very time we’re trying to teach our impressionable, social-media obsessed girls the opposite.
Skirts have to be knee-length. Never mind that none of the girls would be seen dead in tights any other colour than opaque black, they can’t wear anything shorter. Although there isn’t an official reason for this I read that it is because short skirts ‘distract the boys as well as the male teachers.’ Aw, poor lambs, maybe we should cover up wrists and necks too, just in case. We wouldn’t want anyone (male) to feel uncomfortable now, would we….Or, we could maybe try teaching our young men that women aren’t objects to always be seen in a sexual way especially when they’re only 11. Just a thought.
But no worries because they can wear trousers, right? Wrong. Because the trousers have to be right too and can’t be too ‘skinny’, in fact the rules say ‘you must be able to pinch an inch of material around the thigh.’
This reminds me of that awful saying that was used in a cereal ad years ago, the ‘rule’ that if you can pinch more than an inch of fat then you’re overweight. And I know we’re not talking about flesh here, we’re talking about trouser fabric but it still boils down to how much you fill your trousers.
Because what happens if you you don’t buy ‘skinny’ trousers but have big thighs? (Ironically, all trousers are ‘skinny’ if you are a bit big. Please try to keep up). What message is this rule giving out? And how do they even enforce it? How will it make our daughters feel, being made to feel that they’re too fat to wear the right uniform? Teenage girls are under enough pressure as it is without this kind of thing making it worse.
One theory behind these rules is that it prepares them for being in the workplace where they have to wear appropriate clothing, but does this really prepare them? How? Surely wearing appropriate clothing to work is mostly common sense anyway, we’re not stupid, we know what is and isn’t appropriate at work. We don’t have to be talked down to like silly little girls, under the common pretence that it’s ‘for our own good’.
Imagine if these rules were enforced in the workplace? You stroll across the office towards the coffee machine only to be shouted at from across the room, ‘Hey, you there, those slacks are very snug around the thigh area, you’re provoking unnatural desires in these poor defenceless men, find some loon pants at once or cut down on the cheese and biscuits, lardy-arse!’
So we gave up and she has resorted to the age-old trick of folding her skirt over at the waist to adjust the length accordingly, just like I used to in the 80s. Progress indeed.
So we move on to the sports kit, nothing to worry about here, trainers, shorts and a top, sorted. Except we need shin pads and I didn’t have time to go into town so ordered online from a well-known sports shop. But when I tried to buy some it seemed they only came in three sizes; boys small, boys medium and boys large. My daughter looked at the screen. “Where are the girls’ shin pads, Mum?” she asked, and 11 years of finely tuned feminist upbringing went down the pan.
Surely this shouldn’t still be happening. Why am I still having to explain this kind of thing to my girls on a regular basis? Why do I have to talk to my 14 year old about what to do when a man pays her unwanted attention? Do mothers of 14 year old boys have to have this kind of discussion?
So while I accept that things have moved on a lot, I can’t help feeling that we’re all still going over the same old ground again and again and will carry on doing so until we make some changes. Or all get a robot with a gun. You choose.