Lizz and her daughter’s story

I probably hadn’t given it much thought. Girls not being able wear shorts/trousers for school. After all we are firmly in the 21st century and it has been illegal to force women to wear skirts/dresses for years. I honestly didn’t think it was an issue.

After all, my daughter was attending the local primary school, wearing shorts and t-shirts each day like many of her peers.

The last time my daughter wore a dress was when she was 2 years old. I had forced her to wear it, after buying it for a friends wedding. It was pretty plain and comfortable. However I spent the whole day dealing with a distressed child variously trying to remove the dress or crying because I stopped her doing so.  Six years later and she hasn’t worn a skirt or dress since. No big problem in a contemporary society such as ours.

Then came the issue of high school! Only then did we discover that the opportunities for her to attend a coeducational school that supported her learning, social and cultural needs were severely limited by her discomfort with skirts/dresses. Having worked around teens, I am aware how difficult life at high school can be. I don’t intend to make things worse by enforcing antiquated uniform requirements that restrict her comfort, movement and sense of self.

In writing to several of the local high schools I was bewildered to learn that if I told them my daughter did not want to wear a skirt/dress, they had no interest in having her attend their school. They did enquire at all as to who she was or what she might bring to their school, be it in the academic, sporting or leadership arena. If she wasn’t willing to wear a skirt/dress, they were completely disinterested in having her as a student.

It shocked and horrified me. What messages do they send to our girls? Fit in or move on?? Or that girl’s well-being and safety is secondary to a schools tradition.  It’s not fair or acceptable.