TROUSER BLOG – It is not what you wear but what it represents that matters

In the same way that there are no rational arguments for girls not being allowed to wear trousers to school, the burkini saga this summer has been instructive in demonstrating that it is not what you wear but what it represents. As someone with fair skin and fair hair who goes to the beach plastered in factor 50 sun cream, I find the idea of a burkini rather attractive. Presumably the material it is made from is nice and light so it is possible to swim in it. I wonder if the French police would arrest me if I wore a burkini with a straw hat instead of a headscarf. 

The burkini saga and women being arrested for wearing too much on the beach demonstrate how much attitudes have changed in the last 70 years. In Spain in 1952, bikinis were banned from Spanish beaches. The then mayor of Benidorm, who wanted to attract tourists to his town, got on his scooter and drove all the way up to Madrid to ask General Franco (a right-wing dictator) if he would agree to allow bikinis to be worn on the beaches of Benidorm – thus overruling the Catholic bishops who were outraged at the affront to Catholic modesty. Franco agreed, the bikini survived and thrived so much that it became normal wear on Mediterranean beaches. Now it is those who are modestly dressed who are being arrested. 

Now that the long summer holidays have ended, our thoughts are turning back to trousers and why girls are banned from wearing them in some schools. I have already seen comments in the press about the costs of schools uniforms, particularly in schools that insist that pupils buy the uniform from specific retail outfitters, which are usually more expensive. This is something that is certainly not recommended by the DfE in their advice to school governors – but those parents who complain about the cost of the uniform are probably unlikely to have the resources to take legal action. However, it does display a kind of arrogance on the part of school governors who assume that everyone can afford an expensive school uniform and those that cannot should —well! — take their children elsewhere. 

It is probably unfair to accuse all schools about being inflexible about uniforms.  One  school (which shall remain nameless) was so concerned about the effects of the current hot weather on their black tight- and skirt-wearing girls, that they sent a letter to parents saying that the girls could wear short white socks for the first week. O that they are so considerate when the weather gets cold, and send round another letter saying that girls can wear trousers.

2 responses on TROUSER BLOG – It is not what you wear but what it represents that matters

  1. Hi Claire,

    It’s Emma again. I hope you won’t mind me posting another comment.

    I can see what you mean about Muslim women in burquas. We went to Broadstairs for a day trip in the summer and saw some. Personally I was happy that I could wear a bikini on the beach and a T-shirt and shorts to walk around the town because it was nearly 30 degrees that day and what they were wearing would have been very hot and uncomfortable. Plus I would imagine it would be hard to swim in what they wore, and possibly dangerous.

    Re what you wrote about some girls being allowed to wear socks instead of tights because the weather was so hot at the start of this term, maybe it would be better to campaign against tights rather than skirts? My mum used to have a medical problem to do with her women’s bits, which caused them to itch and be painful if she wore tights or trousers several days in a row. The girls at the school you wrote about were obviously suffering.

    One reason my mum chose the school she did for me is that the uniform doesn’t allow trousers or tights, so we have to get used to our legs being mainly bare. It’s lovely in the summer and only uncomfortable for a short while in the winter. And I think it’s probably the best option health-wise.

  2. Dear Emma
    We are happy to have your comments. Just to make things a bit clearer for you- we are not campaigning against girls wearing skirts/ tights/ socks or whatever – we are campaigning against girls not being allowed to wear trousers as part of school uniform -if they wish to. You can check out our web pages to see why we and many others think that trousers are a suitable form of uniform dress code for girls and that there are no sensible arguments against giving all girls this choice. If you are happy wearing skirts and short socks then that is fine- other would rather wear trousers particularly in cold weather and we would like all schools to give them that choice.

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