clothing · fitness · gender policing

Girls, skirts, shorts, modesty, and movement

Bright pink girls’ running skirt with blue waistband

Have you ever found an issue that brings out all the views?

Mine this week is girls’ school uniforms and exercise. New research shows that girls’ clothing is part of the story about the play gap, why even young girls move less than boys. Their clothes are more restrictive and there are modesty concerns about young girls getting their rough and tumble on in skirts and dresses.

Here’s this explanation of girls’ lack of movement from Australia news:

“When they get to high school it’s becomes harder to get girls active during recess and lunch than it is for the boys. It’s not surprising then that girls participation rates in physical activity drop off significantly in their early teenage years.

People talk a lot about how girls behave in schools as though it’s providing vital evidence for a genetic-like inability to be naturally active and into sport. “Girls simply aren’t interested in sport” we’re told, “boys just naturally want to run around whereas girls don’t”.

But it’s the girls’ uniforms that are acting like physical shackles. The majority of school uniforms still see girls wear dresses that fly up, blouses that allow little arm movement, stockings that sweat and ladder and long skirts that don’t permit the freedom of mobility needed to run and kick without tripping over in painful schoolyard shame.”

So some of the debate is about relaxing dress codes that require girls to wear skirts and dresses. Fine.

But some schools have gone further. A school in Melbourne has made shorts and pants mandatory for everyone.

It’s still telling girls what to wear, say our Facebook readers. That’s the overwhelming response there. There’s also the worry, given the cultural context, that there is some Islamaphobia going on. But the school says they’ve done it to encourage girls to move more.

Of course, in schools with school uniforms they’re already in the business of telling girls and boys what to wear. Boys can’t choose dresses either. I’m not a big fan (okay, I hate) gender binary school uniforms. What about kids with non-binary gender identities?

So there’s that issue too, I think.

Then there are the other routes that people have taken to either let girls move more in skirts or protect their modesty. What’s their motivation? It’s hard to tell.

We’ve written about this before here on the blog, about schools that require girls to wear shorts under skirts and dresses. See How clothing rules and modesty obsession limit girls movements.

Other people have views too. See Please don’t slut shame my toddler.

What do you think? About what? Well school uniforms, for one. Telling girls and boys what to wear. Being active in skirts and dresses. There’s a lot going on here. How do you think it through?

Blue and White checked school uniform skirt

8 thoughts on “Girls, skirts, shorts, modesty, and movement

  1. I went to an all girls Catholic school and we had to wear a skirt year round (it gets cold in Ireland in the winter) and the all boys school down the road had pants as their uniform. It always upset me the unfairness of it.

  2. It’s as if we need to mature as a society to be able to handle multiple styles of school uniforms, because at the moment a “girl” uniform disables her movement and play (not to mention locking her into a heteronormative girl box), so I agree that gender binary (or can we say neutral?) uniforms are best. I am not opposed to uniforms. I like the idea of leveling that particular playing field in the school setting so learning can be the focus; even as I love clothing for how we can use them to express ourselves.

  3. In the comments on the article about mandatory pants, many people said something to the effect of “who cares if little girls underwear show it’s not a big deal” . I agree that making a big deal out of that, is part of the problem. But, one reason I rarely put my own little girl in skirts/dresses was because OTHER people, complete strangers, had no problem commenting things like, don’t flip upside down, you’re undies will show. I didn’t want her to feel limited in movement, so we mostly wore shorts/pants. I myself rarely wear skirts even though I love them, because I hate feeling like I have to be sure to be “ladylike” and not accidentally sit wrong or something. I like freedom of movement too. I personally think , if a school is going down the uniform path anyway, it’s fine to say , pants and shorts only. The whole “be feminine be girly” thing is so common, even from parents. Making the uniform more gender neutral at least gives them a break from that kind of thinking.

  4. I like the idea of me uniform for all, if there is to be a uniform.
    Everyone wears pants or shorts and tees shirts, with long or short sleeves.

    That said, as one gets older there’s so many more reasons why some people don’t want to sweat. Hair and makeup take time.

  5. For all girls’ schools that insist on a uniform, give the girls an option, skirt or pants or if they want/can afford it –both. I’m sure the girls would like some variety for their bottom garments on various days of the school week. It would get boring just to wear a skirt …all the time.

    What do I know? I never went to an all – girls’ school.

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