Friday, 20 February 2009

Knickers!


When I enroled my daughter at a Catholic school, I signed up for the gendered uniform system, so I don't have much right to complain.

I was still a bit nonplussed, though, when my daughter passed on what she'd been told at school: girls are to wear stockings or school-issued red shorts under their pinafores, so no one can see their knickers when they're playing.

When I was about my daughter's age, I too liked to hang upside down on the monkey bars, and I developed a philosophy on knicker-showing. I couldn't see that showing my knickers was much different to being seen in togs, and I figured that anyone who didn't want to cop an eyeful of my nylon jocks could simply turn away. So I showed my knickers with abandon. (I'm a bit more circumspect now that I'm a grown up, you'll be relieved to know.)

Leaving aside my slight annoyance at having to buy ugly red shorts (and the obvious fact that, if girls had the option of wearing shorts or trousers, knicker-showing wouldn't be an issue), I don't know why seeing kids' underpants is such a problem. Is there some sexual connotation attached, some decency to be preserved? Are we reading adult sexual stuff into kids' behaviour? I truly don't get it!

Whatever the case, I think girls should be allowed to hang upside down, free from adult hang-ups.

19 comments:

Nikki said...

Yeahhhh I struggle with this one. Han isn't known for her decency when sitting. And she's 4 years old so it's all quite normal... but I can't help but have a minor freak out when it's going on in a public place like an airport. Maybe I should just chilllll

Azlemed said...

K's primary school is looking at a uniform, it will be interesting to see what they come up with, the closest catholic primary school to us has shorts as an option in summer for girls which makes life heaps easier for them

I would think that seeing knickers isnt an issue, better than seeing whats underthem.... my girls run around home when its hot in just knickers its been to hot for clothes and they are happy so i arent worried.

it does make you wonder though about the composition of school uniforms, in Chch girls wear their kilts at ankle length which makes biking impossible, the uniforms i wore in Invers werent that great either, a kilt in summer was too hot, and useless for biking, yet if we wore shorts under our skirts we got balled out by the deans.

when i went to sghs our winter uniform was great, but our summer dresses blew around in the wind which was sometimes embarrassing

girls uniforms need more care, cashmere high school in chch has a unisex uniform of grey pants for everyone. An intermediate here has the option of pants or a skirt for girls too.... its a good idea really, skirts arent the practical for playing in.

Deborah said...

My daughters' school uniform includes "skorts" which are a cross between shorts and a skirt - very practical. However, they're also happy for the girls to wear shorts, or skirts, or tunics, as long as they are in the school colours (blue and white).

showyourworkings said...

Heh! My daughter has forgotten to wear undies to school on more than one occassion. Not so good sitting cross-legged on the mat! She has no uniform but insists on wearing skirts, sigh...

Giovanni said...

I found it hard to go past the very first bit: "When I enroled my daughter at a Catholic school". Discounting for a moment the fact that IT'S ABSOLUTELY NONE OF MY BUSINESS, I wonder how a feminist goes about reconciling that decision with her worldview.

Strictly on a "if you feel like sharing that with us" basis.

muerk said...

When I sent my kids to a Catholic school I noticed this too. The irony was that at school swimming in year 0-1 the kids changed into their togs in the same changing room - boys and girls.

I personally don't have a problem with the shorts, I know at High School (state) girls got told off for wearing bike shorts under their uniforms, which seemed practical to me since most of those doing so biked and skirts rode up horribly exposing inner thighs.

Violet said...

When I went to intermediate school (about 30 years ago) it was the first time I'd had to wear a uniform. In those days girls had to wear skirts, and you could also buy school undies (they were green to match the tartan of the skirts) and little shorts (for phys ed I think). Although it wasn't at all compulsory, I got into the habit of wearing my shorts under my skirts for that very reason - so no-one could see my undies if my skirt blew up. Most girls didn't bother. Funny that some schools are
actually enforcing it...

I must admit that I'd prefer my 3 1/2 year old daughter didn't flash her knickers in public. I think she's now old enough for paedophiles to notice her in "that" way.

Anna said...

Giovanni, happy to have a go at answering that one.

Someone wiser than me once said of the Church, 'She may be a harlot, but she's my mother'. I feel the same way, except that I quite like harlots.

Although many, many aspects of the Church irk me beyond belief (from its teachings on contraception to its dodgy-as financial dealings), a good chunk of my own Catholic education was in its own way quite inspiring. I was taught by some quite remarkable people with a very deep concern for social justice. A lot of the stuff I got from my own Catholic upbringing - social justice stuff, emphasis on moral courage, importance of vocation, etc - resonated with me, and still does.

But (as Meurk will attest!) I'm a pretty selective Catholic. I think my God-given brain and conscience should ultimately determine my morality - which means spitting out some pretty hefty chunks of doctrine at times... :-)

Anna said...

Violet - I completely understand your discomfort with the idea that your child might attract the attention of a sexual predator. I'm sure most parents have worried about that at some stage. I think, though, that ultimately the predator in question is responsible for that behaviour. I think that asking your child to change their behaviour to accommodate someone else's possible criminal offending implies to some extent that the child is responsible for avoiding that behaviour. It's important (I think) to assert that it's a kid's right to be a kid in safety - including doing occasionally dickish kid things.

Giovanni said...

Giovanni, happy to have a go at answering that one.

Thanks for that, genuinely appreciated.

Keely said...

E, like most of her friends, wears bike shorts under her uniform pinafore so she doesn't flash her knickers, but that's their decision, not the school's. It would be worth asking somebody at the school why they've decided this. Maybe some uptight parent has complained, maybe there's somebody dodgy in the area that they know about, or maybe some child has a toileting problem and this is one way they can wear an extra layer and not stand out?

I'm vaguely curious how Muerks high school noticed girls were wearing bike shorts under a uniform!

Anonymous said...

During the first few years at primary school I had a tendency to not wear knickers. My older sister has never let me forget this as she had kids in her class coming to tell her about her embaressing little sister. My mother started keeping spare ones in the glovebox and would do a knicker check before I left the car.

Anna, I like what you said about the possible child predator. When it comes down to it I think that kind of a person could warp anything into an exscuse. Your child smiling or waving at them for instance.

I think that all childrens uniforms should involve pants/shorts for practical reasons and they could also double as privacy for those concerned.

I also have enough fondness for my harlot of a mother church to send my son to a catholic school. There isn't actually that much doctrine taught in religous studies these days and I think that the social justice aspect makes up for anything that I disagree with. He'll be taught enough in the home to counteract any prejudice/blind obedience that he might pick up in school anyway.

Anna said...

Nicely said, Anon! I teach my kids to actively scrutinise the religious stuff they're taught and weigh it against what they feel is right and wrong. But at primary school level, what they learn is actually pretty good - for example, my daughter's class spent time learning about the value of respect, and this included respect for other people, respect for the environment, and respect for all cultures (esp Maoritanga). I thought that was rad.

Probably, the non-knicker-showing thing irks me more because it's happening in the context of a Catholic school - and therefore the context of suspicion of women's sexuality that is part of Church history. I've known Catholics who seem to think that women get themselves pregnant outside marriage, and cast blame accordingly - as if men can't really be expected to control their sexual behaviour, so women have to do it for them. I was talking to a (lapsed and bitter) Catholic woman whose friend was abused by a priest when he was a boy. The friend's parents wouldn't believe for some time that the abuse had happened, then claimed their son must have 'tempted' the priest. So there's some pretty strange and awful assumptions about sexuality going on in the minds of some people.

In that context, it's hard not to feel a bit uneasy about rules around how kids should or shouldn't show their bodies...

stephen said...

Clearly, if this became commonplace, pervs would begin to fetishise the over-knicker-shorts, and it would become necessary to wear over-over-knicker-shorts-pants, and so on, until small girls became so encumbered with fabric that the resembled Weebles (they wobble but they don't fall down!) with feet. As an added bonus, they wouldn't be able to flex their legs enough to hang upside down on the monkey bars.

muerk said...

The bike shorts were often slightly longer than the summer uniforms (you couldn't tell with longer kilts in the winter).

Personally I think they should have been allowed, either that or they should have enforced longer summer dresses that hid the offending bike shorts.

Julie said...

I have vague recollections that we had to have these quite thick yellow knicker covers, like tennis knicker covers, on until my Catholic intermediate and secondary school shifted to a more culotte based uniform. Which was another chance for the uniform suppliers to make a killing - seeing as how there wasn't exactly a big market for yellow knicker covers outside of customers from our school.

Anna said...

Stephen, I didn't know that Weebles was actually the name for those things until now. You've made my day.

stephen said...

Anna: glad to oblige.

hendo said...

Julie! We had those too - we called them scungies but I think English novels also call them 'gym knickers' - to wear under our sports skirts (which were netball skirts), in primary school. I liked my school's one's because they were black and I wore them for years under other outfits because it meant nobody could accidentally see my undies.

Of course on regular school days in primary, where undies were free from scungies, we simply tucked our dresses into our undies. Voila! Hang upside down all you want and nobody can see your undies.

In high school, after all the girls started wearing their PE shorts with the regular uniform tops, the school changed the uniform rules to officially say that girls could wear shorts as part of the normal uniform. Much more sensible.