Guest blog from our NSW Girls Uniform Rep, Karina McDougall
We talk a lot about schools and policymakers offering girls a choice to wear shorts and pants with their uniform. But what about when schools offer that choice to girls, but parents deny their daughters the freedom to exercise that choice?
Take for example this conversation which took place in the uniform shop of one school this week:
Daughter: Mum I want some shorts!
Mum: No you have dresses. I’ll buy you the shirt if you like and you can wear it under your Winter dress.
Daughter: But mum I want the shorts!
Mum: No you wear the dress.
Daughter: But what if you buy me some shorts and I wear them under the dress?
Another mum: If you’re worried about the cost, you can always buy her the shirt and buy some shorts from Best and Less.
The mum (tersely): No – she only wears the dress.
What would it be like if that mum (or any other woman), went to work and, because she is a woman, was told by her employer “You can only wear a dress.”?
This would be offensive, unlawful and humiliating.
Women have fought hard to have the law, and society, recognise that this type of treatment is discriminatory, unacceptable and prohibited. However no such regulation exists at home. And so our children rely wholly on us, their parents, to mirror those values in our treatment of them.
Why parents need to listen
Most parents want to make decisions that are in the best interests of their children. By allowing girls the freedom to choose shorts and pants, we tell them that they are respected, empowered and in control of their bodies. We support them in choosing a uniform option that we know is better for physical activity, which is so important for good health and well-being. We help them to know that their looks are not more important than their ability, comfort and freedom to move. We also show ourselves to be an open-minded and empathetic role model.
We treat our children the way we want to be treated – to be allowed the freedom of choice.