Our hemline, our choice

Submitted by Matthew on 9 October, 2013 - 10:25

Many young women attending secondary school will be aware of the almost fanatically zealous way schools pursue a particular aspect of the uniform policy: namely the length of the school skirt.

Schools routinely rebuke pupils for any length deemed too short, remind us to check our skirts before going into assembly, and occasionally deliver an admonitory spiel with a threat of some form of sanction following.

Usually this is done under the pretext that “male staff will feel uncomfortable” or even sometimes about how members of the general public feel about our attire.

A cursory examination reveals these reasons as deeply problematic. Using male staff as justification for school policy disturbingly transmutes school students into sexual objects and carries the dangerous implication that what we wear is responsible for whether we are objectified or not.

This message must be fiercely combated at every turn.

Adjusting our skirt lengths for the benefit of the “general public” suggests that the public have a right to control what we wear — that a woman should dress for the gratification of others, robbing her of her own agency as an individual. Let us not forget that what is deemed an “appropriate” length is nothing more than an arbitrary judgement — every single aspect of regulating skirt length is suffused with the worst kinds of patriarchal moralism that causes harm to women on a daily basis.

There is many a running joke based on this and other nonsensical facets of uniform policy (how does nail varnish affect our ability to learn?). However, we must understand that this is their point: that they are nonsense. They are not in place to serve our educational betterment; they are there as an insistence on submission to authority even when, or more truthfully especially when, it is senseless to do so. They are there to get us accustomed to a societal structure where the vast majority of us will be systematically disempowered and expected to accept this state, preferably without question.

The struggle against uniform regulations under the shadow of capitalism’s everyday horrors may seem a tad frivolous. But the school is the place where we learn and develop ourselves, and what better lesson to learn than that we are free to wear what we want rather than what others prescribe for us?

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