Fifty years on from the introduction of the miniskirt in the 1960s, the miniskirt is still causing controversy. The item of clothing now faces a potential ban in schools in the UK.
A number of schools in the UK have banned skirts altogether for the new term this month and have insisted that girls wear trousers. In others, letters have been sent to parents to say that the current fashion for wearing skirts as short and tight as possible is causing problems in school and that teachers having to deal with the issues is distracting from teaching. The Guardian this week reported that at Kinross High School in Perthshire, some parents received a ‘stinging’ note telling them:
‘The length of your daughter’s skirt is such that she spends a great deal of time pulling it down. It detracts her attention from the learning process.’
And just last week a Scottish head teacher, Robert Kelly, caused outrage by suggesting that short skirts were encouraging ‘inappropriate thoughts’ among boys. Kelly referred to a recent anti-rape advert in his statement, which caused anger with Rape Crisis Scotland, who said that his comments sent the wrong message to teenage girls. Eileen Maitland, of RCS, said that:
‘Miniskirts don’t cause rape, rapists do. School uniform is for heads to enforce but they should be extremely careful that the messages being given to young women are not encouraging prejudicial attitudes that dress is somehow a provocation.’
Many parents and teachers, however, declared their support for Kelly. UK parenting group Netmums, who criticised Tesco earlier this year for encouraging the ‘over-sexualisation’ of young girls with their school uniform ranges, backed Kelly, saying that his comments were ‘probably no worse than our dads would have been.’ And one teacher told the Observer at the weekend that:
‘Girls hitching up their skirts is not new, but it is getting worse, and the skirts are getting so high that male teachers are constantly saying they are embarrassed by the sight of female underwear in the corridors and especially on the stairs. This needs to be addressed.’
Many schools, not wanting to ban skirts altogether, are hoping to thwart the old trick of rolling up the waistband of a skirt by looking to introduce new skirt styles to their uniform, styles that cannot be customised. It’s easy to see how introducing longer skirts that would be difficult to roll up, pleated skirts or kilt-type skirts could go some way towards solving this ‘problem.’
But I think this is a tricky issue. Whilst I don’t think young girls should be told that their choice of clothing is inappropriate or invites rape, I also don’t think they should be forced to wear trousers. I also think there is a real danger that schools may focus overly on uniforms and enforcing uniform policy to the detriment of children’s education.
There are also issues surrounding the cost and availability of school uniforms – if schools choose to have a uniform, they clearly need think very carefully about which garments the uniform includes, and about the cost and availability of the uniform to all, particularly if they are making changes to existing uniform items.
What do you guys think? Fuss over nothing, bad parenting, a danger to learning or, once again, over-sexualistaion of children?