Koda’s story

Hi!! My name is *Koda and I’m a 14 year old student currently studying at a school with a strict uniform policy in Victoria.

While the school that I attend is very nice and overall and has great ratings from both parents and students, one downfall is that it encourages an old-fashioned dress code; one that requires girls to wear dresses and skirts, with the exception of a PE uniform that consists of a shirt and shorts which is worn during PE classes.

The girls’ dress code consists of a short-sleeved dress that must be worn in the summer months, and an optional long-sleeved shirt and skirt that can be worn during winter. The school I attend is a public school, and is not the only one in the area to enforce such a code.

I personally have found the dress code to be inherently sexist, especially after coming from a primary school that offered gender neutral uniform options; shorts and a shirt being the “default” uniform and a dress being optional for girls. Towards the end of my primary schooling years, I transferred between three different primary schools at one point, and each of them offered these options, so a secondary school enforcing sexist values seemed absolutely preposterous to a kid who’d always had the option of wearing shorts.

Since high school, I have had friends who were constantly worried about their dresses blowing up and flashing them, to the point where one friend would always ask me to carry their books so that they could make sure their dress was not blowing up on our walk to class. I always wore a pair of shorts underneath my dress (which I got in trouble for on multiple occasions), so this was not a worry of mine, but several of my friends have expressed their reoccurring worry of it.

I usually sit in the same spot at recess and lunch each day, and I see the same group of boys playing football each day. Yet, I also traverse the school grounds often with friends or to go to the canteen, and never once have I seen a group of girls playing a sport in their dresses. I mentioned this to a friend once, who told me that she would love to play soccer or football at lunch, but didn’t because she was worried about flashing herself because she didn’t have the option to wear shorts. I’ve also had friends who’ve told me that they find the material of the dress to be extremely uncomfortable.

Just this year I found out that I could request a personal uniform change, and I immediately started inquiring about how to go about it. It was a relatively simple process: I emailed the principal, organized a meeting, explained what I wanted, and was given a temporary boys’ uniform from the school while they organised a clothes voucher to help pay for a new uniform. One of my friends also expressed that she wanted to wear the boys’ uniform, but did not organise anything due to fears that her request would be denied because she was “copying me”.

While I am glad that I am now able to wear the boys’ uniform, because I am one of the few kids in the school who has actually gone through with the uniform change and because it is seemingly very apparent that I am a girl wearing the boys uniform, I have received some backlash from other students at the school. I have been jeered at by other students and had people I’ve never met before walk past and say to their friend, “there’s that weirdo.”

While I’m not particularly offended, why is this even an issue? Why is it so “weird” for a schoolgirl to wear a shirt and shorts?

My guess is because it’s not an option. Girls at my school aren’t allowed to wear shorts, not without a “fight”. And the ones that do fight for their rights are ridiculed for it.

*not real name. Name changed at child’s request.