Poor Kate White was the victim of a massive pile-on over the weekend. White, in case you missed it, is the principal of Bathurst Public School which, in a remarkably 1950s moment, decided shorts would no longer be on the uniform list for girls.
Apparently, the tikes were wearing them inappropriately, and becoming competitive about brands. Well, goodness. That’s a turn-up. Mainstream and social media were as one – evil, anti-feminist, should be sacked. Let girls be active participants.
Well, yeah, totally (not the evil bit or the bit about being sacked, but the rest).
What puzzles me much more is why no one ever piles on Ascham. Or St Clares. Or Canberra Girls Grammar. Or PLC Melbourne. Or any other one of the hundreds and hundreds of private schools around Australia that insist young laydeez wear frocks – or as school shops like to call them – tunics.
What is it about the independent school system that insists on making young active women wear clothes more suited to sitting demurely side-saddle behind their white knights?
I actually felt a bit sorry for Kate White. Here she was being monstered because she decided to take shorts off the uniform list. For girls, at least.
She was being reprimanded for a bit of social engineering, which we never seek to challenge when it is driven by those in the private and Catholic school systems. Why do we allow private schools to police femininity on a daily basis?
Sharon Peoples, a fashion theorist who specialises in the study of uniforms and is a lecturer in museum studies at the Australian National University, says school years are when children are forming personalities and behaviours.
”That’s why we see school uniforms as so important … there is a more rigid idea of what makes femininity and people who send their children [to those schools] accept the idea and that’s what they are paying for,” she says.
”It’s part of a political regime, the rules we have about uniforms.”
Interesting, isn’t it, that we demonstrate outrage over this tiny public school in rural Australia yet accept the fact that about one third of our daughters never even have the choice.
Rosa Storelli, then-principal of MLC in Melbourne, decided that trousers would be an option from 2000. That, she says, was not even a question for her.
”You have to give [students] the choice,” she said. ”Giving young people a choice is part of the educative process.”
Jane Needham, a senior counsel and mother of three, says her daughter is about to head to a co-educational school where the girls wear skirts. Already her year six daughter is plotting to get that changed.