Girls studying at a chain of schools in Mumbai voted for pants over skirts as their school uniform, hence ending gender specific dress code. As reported by Mumbai Mirror, The Children’s Academy group took a poll from its 2,400 students (from grade VI to grade X), to zero down on the school’s new uniform. While girls and boys unanimously opted for T-shirts over formal shirts, many girls and parents enquired why the girls were not given an option between pants and skirts. This motivated the school committee to conduct another poll, just for girl students, giving them a choice between pants and skirts. 58 per cent of 1,100 girls, who participated in the poll, opted for pants over skirts.

Gender binary dress code restricts our girls

The issue of skirt versus pants is relatively new to liberal Indians. For ages, girls were never given a choice as to what they would prefer to wear at school.

Institutions always opt for “feminine” options for girls, when it comes to school dresses

Girls have to forever care about their garments. Wearing skirts means more caution and restriction. A sense of self awareness and specific way of sitting or standing becomes a part of their daily school routine.

Gender stereotypical dressing sets different benchmarks of etiquette for boys and girls at school.

Binary dressing is one way, gender roles and differences find their ways into young minds

Boys wear pants and girls wear skirts is something even a pre-schooler seems to be aware of these days, because this is what they see in schools. Children end up carrying this bias in their minds, even off school campus. My daughter refused to wear shorts suddenly last year. We at home have always encourage gender-neutral dressing for her, and I have never seen her having such a conversation with her peers on playground.

Yet, binary dressing found its way into her stubborn little head, the result being that she refuses to wear shorts or pants, calling them “boy clothes”. Knowing her observational skills, I do not blame anyone at school for feeding her these ideas. It’s just that one day it might have dawned on her that boys and girls around her dress differently. This proves how such stereotypes affect impressionable minds subconsciously.

So there is much more at stake than comfort here. By ending gender binary dress codes in school, we will free our children of outdated gender prejudices. It will free their choice of clothes from the label of gender.

It will empower numerous girls to concentrate more on studies or even having fun, than minding their skirts

The most dynamic thing about this poll and its result is that parents, school and students are somewhat on the same page here. Which indicates that as a society we are opening up to the idea of gender equality as well. Hopefully more schools will take this as a cue, and consider liberty and comfort as factors while choosing their school dresses.

Also Read: Do We Need Corrective Dress Code for Women in Sports?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are author’s own.

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