This is not the first time it happens, but this is the first time since I started this blog. I am glad I can come home and finally share my views on school uniforms.
As I was driving down the street today, I saw 3 girls walking to school in what I would call very inappropriate outfits. The problem really was the length of their skirts. They were walking to their Catholic High School, just a normal day for them. For me, however, it was another moment of outrage. Why do school uniform have to be so short for girls?
I feel like I have some experience regarding this issue so I can comment on it without reservation. So let me start by saying that I used to teach in a Catholic school. Of course, like most, if not all, catholic schools, girls and boys had to wear uniforms. Girls wear skirts, usually khaki (sometimes navy blue) color skirts. They are also almost always unbelievably short. Back in the day, when I first took the training to teach at a Catholic school, we were also trained to enforce the dress code (which I hated doing by the way). We had to make sure that everyone was wearing their uniforms but most importantly, we had to make sure that the girls’ skirts were not too short. We were actually taught to take a ruler and measure the length of the skirt and to reprimand anyone who had skirts which length didn’t fit the standard. What comes next might shock you a bit. One day, I noticed that one of my students, a junior, had an unbelievably short skirt. I told her that she needed to get a new one as soon as possible. A few days later, while she was sitting in front of my desk (first row), not only did I notice that the poor girl had not followed my instructions but on top of that, I could clearly see what was under her skirt. She obviously did not have her legs crossed. After class, I asked her to come to my desk. I told her that she had to be more careful, cross her legs because it was not appropriate and that she was lucky I was a female teacher. The next day, her mom came barging into my classroom, yelling at me, telling me I had embarrassed her daughter and that she had had that skirt for 2 years and had never got dress coded. I said to her, ” I am shocked that you would not want me to warn your daughter about this and also, you child has grown in 2 years and her skirt obviously is too short”. I was completely baffled at the mom’s reaction. But really what is the most worrisome is how no one ever questions the decency of those uniforms.
I understand the reasoning behind uniforms. It supposedly prevents bullying. You cannot tell someone’s socio-economic status by looking at them because they are all looking uniform. They also represent tradition which is obviously a big deal in many religious or private schools. What I do not understand is why uniforms have to be so explicit. It is obvious that, regardless whether a kid breaks some dress code rules or not (that is really a whole other topic), skirts are too short anyways. Why can’t school require girls to wear skirts just at the knee? I figure that this way, hopefully we’d see girls walking around with skirts just above the knees since no one seems to follow any rules anymore. Why would a catholic school not take more effective steps to prevent leg exposure which I am sorry to say but sexualize girls more. Doesn’t anyone remember Britney Spears video, Baby Hit Me One More Time? Well, I am sorry to say but the girls I saw this morning had skirts as short as Britney Spears, if not shorter. I cannot even imagine how awkward it must be to be sitting down. Also, I would never let my child go out with such a short skirt on. So what are the parents thinking? It’s OK because they are going to school? It’s OK because it’s a uniform? It’s OK because it is a Catholic school? I have arguments to rebut every single of these arguments.
Instead, I’d like to focus on what I think is the answer: eradicate the idea of uniforms in schools all together, ESPECIALLY private schools. I think we live in an era where kids need to express themselves. It’s not going to hurt them to express themselves even if it means they want to dye their hair pink or wear all black. It is part of life, part of discovering oneself. We’ve all gone through some crazy phase, we’ve all experienced and most of us are no longer stuck or doing these things we experimented. I once dyed my hair black in high school. I wore a LOT of black. I didn’t go as far as some people who painted their nails black or had tongue piercings, etc. But my point is, it is a healthy thing to let our kids be weird, or just be creative. Guys might not care, but there is some sort of pleasure in being able to pick your own clothes in the morning. You check the temperature, whether it is rainy or sunny, what you’ll be doing, who you want to impress if you have a crush on a boy in your class. Why take these things away? Because it is a distraction? I wholeheartedly disagree. I was always a straight A student and God knows I am weird. I know many people who were considered out of “the ordinary” in high school or college who are now very successful.
Another thing, kids who go to schools that do not impose uniforms on them actually dress more appropriately if you ask me. Public schools actually have strict dress code. I know for a fact that the three girls I saw this morning would be sent home in most schools because their skirts were too short. Most schools do not let you show a bra strap or wear spaghetti tank tops. They don’t even let you wear tights or leggings! However, you can wear whatever you want, logos (as long as it is not offensive), colors, and I don’t think they care what color hair you have.
So it’s an easy choice for me. I vote for removing uniforms from schools entirely. I’m sick of seeing slutty looking girls walking around. Think about how happy child molesters must be. Parents don’t think of that? Girls are vulnerable. Why put them more at risk? Why expose them to the world in this manner? Doesn’t it just perpetuate the stereotypes we are trying to eradicate? Women are not just some piece of ass or breasts or legs.