By Philip Anderson
Disclaimer: the views expressed here are my own and may not necessarily reflect those of All Shorts Limited.
Definition: gender neutrality (adjective form: gender-neutral), also known as gender-neutralism or the gender neutrality movement, describes the idea that policies, language, and other social institutions should avoid distinguishing roles according to people's sex or gender, in order to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than another.
Earlier this year You may have heard the Radio 2 DJ Sara Cox on her soapbox banging the drum for girls to be allowed to wear trousers at school instead of skirts just like the boys in the name of gender neutral uniforms for all.
Yet, might one be forgiven for concluding that, what she was actually saying: the only acceptable clothing for girls is boys wear with 'Male' being the default gender? A case of females desperately fighting for supremacy by meandering after the male persona?
Official figures from the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) estimates that, of the 15.5 million children living in Britain, 2,000 identified as gender neutral in 2017 cutting across 71 variations, with in excess of 50 weekly referrals to the Tavistock Centre in London.
Today, a number of primary and secondary schools now allow boys to dress in skirts and girls in shorts, and actively encourage gender neutrality from a very early age; as young as five in some cases; With one secondary school in Oxfordshire last year reportedly banning boys from wearing shorts in the hot summer months – but who said they were free to wear skirts instead if they so desired.
My findings reveal that across the UK, approximately 80 state schools - 40 primary and 40 secondary - have introduced gender-neutral school uniforms.
“We introduced the policy more than a year ago,” said Paula Weaver, headteacher at Allens Croft Primary School in Birmingham, the first school purported to have adopted a gender neutral school uniform.
Adding: “Children are expected to wear uniform, but they can wear whatever part of that uniform they want.”
For other schools it’s about obliterating anything that remotely resembles gender stereotyping.
“This year we’ve gone from a girls’ uniform and a boys’ uniform to a skirt uniform and a trousers uniform,” explains Liana Richards, deputy head teacher at Uplands Community College in East Sussex. “It’s about recognising the rights of students who feel they might not fit into the binary genders." No mention of the “Rights” of parents – least of all, the rest of the pupils.
Why all the fuss towards a universal neutral dress code?
It is felt this latest move is part of a government-funded initiative to support LGBT children in schools and be more open to them questioning their gender or sexual identity.
Questioning their gender and identity” at five? Remember, we are talking a mere 2000 children out of a total of 15.5 million who identify as gender neutral.
Even a few high-street retailers have dropped "Boy" and "Girl" from their labels, with John Lewis amongst the first, prompting these angry comments from fellow shoppers:
“You have let us all down John Lewis,” wrote one. “if only people stopped pandering to the PC brigade. There are only two sexes, male or female.”
“John Lewis’s introduction of ‘gender neutral’ kids clothes is a worrying sign of the times,” added another. “Expect mental health issues to rocket.”
Even TV presenter, Piers Morgan weighed in on the debate, writing “Britain is going officially bonkers” in a tweet that has attracted countless thousands of likes.
With ruan-shah writing in Families – the straight-talking blog for parents - in 2018: "Being gender-neutral and gender-fluid is not something that is easily accepted by everyone, especially other children because they are not experienced with this concept, and cannot understand this. The child’s peers will see them as different and an outcast, and whenever someone is different in any way, others cannot understand them and see them as an easy target to bully."
Is it not possible for both genders to wear different items of clothing and still live as equals in today's modern society?
What is it about girls wanting to dress and look more and more like boys?
What is really behind this whole war on gender?
On the one hand, girls would argue they are fighting solely on grounds of equality and the desire for acceptance. Whereas boys who do not identify with gender neutrality would probably see it as a personal attack on their masculinity.
Up until 30-40 years ago, the majority - if not all prepubescent girls all wore skirts or dresses for school and recreation along with either ankle or knee-high socks. Again, denoting their subordination to their senior female counterparts who generally went about in tights or full length stockings; nothing to do with gender stereotyping; merely a case of and accepting their position in, the human hierarchy.
Rules were far more stricter then than they are today. Seldom did prepubescent girls - and boys for that matter - challenge the status quo. Granted, the war - it was suggested certainly gave rise to independence and more liberal thinking for a percentage of women with several turning towards more intense manual and managerial tasks - positions normally occupied by men.
Nevertheless, the education system held on to the Dickensian tradition of single-sex schools - or at least single-sex classes with clearly defined boundaries for boys and girls for upwards of three or more decades post world war II. Until then, there were separate playgrounds for each sex and partitions dividing the girls from the boys in the main buildings in co-educational schools.
Only post the abolition of these gender divisions did tensions amongst these genders escalate, with integration providing much cause for debate amongst educationalists and pupils, respectively.
Furthermore, Bare legs on British prepubescent upper-class boys still denotes subordination and trousers a sign of manhood, particularly amongst the Royals.
Any boy in short trousers is looked upon as a minor of immature years. Only when he reaches a certain age - 8-9 upper-class, 11-13 middle and working-class - does he graduate to long trousers; a clear sign he has reached the age of maturity when he will doubtlessly inherits certain responsibilities befitting his years, as in the case of HRH Prince George; A trend which has fallen out of favour with the majority of today’s suburban Britain.
In addition, making younger boys wear short trousers was also used as a form of discipline in years gone by. Should a boy persistently breach school rules post his transition to long trousers, a head might strip him of that privilege and insist he goes back into shorts for a period of time till he repented of his ways and subsequently prove himself someone befitting the right to wear manly attire. Could you imagine the uproar if a head executed that same policy today?
Yet, one might equally argue that it is acceptable for society to impose gender neutrality on everyone else, irrespective of their views.
Perhaps we should introduce gender neutral schools for those who identify with gender neutrality? Yet, given the fact that, of the 15.5 million children in Britain, only %0.1481 identify as "Gender Neutral", the move might seem somewhat unlucrative.
How would you vote? Post a comment below and remember to invite your friends and associates to join in the discussion, too.
Thank you for reading.
Engendering Sons: Doable or Desirable
Gender Neutral Parenting - Pros and Cons
Gender Neutral Parenting - Has it Gone Too Far - The Telegraph
40 Secondary Schools Across England Have Banned Skirts
School Uniform Should Be Gender Neutral in Wales - BBC News
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