My name is Amy Armstrong. I am a physiotherapist and the mother of two daughters; Harriet aged 3 and Maisie aged 1. The injustice of girls’ school uniforms has infuriated me since I was in school.
Through the petitioning of my own mum, pants were permitted for girls in the winter terms at my primary school. I spent every recess and lunch time running around with the boys playing footy, basketball, soccer and other games. The dresses we had to wear during the summer months made being active much harder as we were constantly in fear of showing our underwear.
When I went to catholic and independent secondary schools, girls had no option but to wear long heavy tunics in winter and dresses in summer. I spent many lunch times envious of the boys on the basketball court or footy oval whilst my girlfriends and I were forced to do not much more than sit idle and talk. As a result I was often getting in trouble for remaining in my sports uniform longer than required because it meant I could be active during breaks and it was also much more comfortable and forgiving.
Physical activity is so imperative for a healthy lifestyle yet school girls are robbed of the opportunity to partake every day. Kids spend majority of their waking hours at school and could easily achieve their recommended daily amounts of physical activity during breaks. Current girls’ uniforms are so restrictive they are in fact telling our young impressionable women that their health is not as important as the boys at their school.
It is no wonder teenage girls drop out of playing sport when they are actively encouraged not to participate every day. Perhaps the gap between men and women in sport would be less if girls could practice their chosen sport everyday like the boys do. Maybe rates of osteoporosis in older women would be lower and in line with rates in older men if pre-pubescent and pubescent girls were able to do more weight bearing exercise and lay down more bone.
Through the encouragement of my parents I was able to remain in organised sport right throughout school and beyond. At 35 I have just returned to playing VFL women’s football after having my second child. Part of my motivation to play is to demonstrate to my daughters and other mums that it is normal and important to be physically active at every age and stage of life. I am hoping my daughters will face fewer barriers to maintaining interest in being physically active and living a healthy lifestyle.
I am passionate about the options for uniform equality because of the importance of physical activity and the barriers which wearing dresses and tunics create, I am also passionate because schools, which provide the building blocks for every child, are still emphasising gender stereotypes and archaic traditions. How can we tell our girls they can be and achieve anything yet be forced to dress them in a way that limits their opportunities?
When it’s time to decide on a school for our daughters we will be searching for a school with equal uniform opportunities for girls and boys.