This week we spoke to Author Poppy O’Neill about her reaction to advice from teachers at her daughter’s school that girls should behave ladylike while wearing their Summer Dress uniform. Yes, that means you can’t show your knickers at all, even while doing headstands against the PE equipment shed. When did parenting include the idea of raising girls to be ladies, at all?
At a time when many schools are talking about the modesty of school uniform, the length of skirts, the lack of choice – its time to ask why girls are being actively policed on their actions, bodies, and dress. Why have a girl or boy uniform at all, which surely only serves to reinforce gender stereotypes further.
Please read Poppy’s letter below.
Don’t tell my daughter to be ladylike.
When the sun comes out, my five-year old daughter likes to wear her Summer dress to school. Its part of the uniform and its lovely to wear a cool cotton dress on a warm day.
When I heard the head teacher of her school was telling the girls to be ‘ladylike’ in their Summer dresses, lest someone catch a glimpse of knicker, I was shocked.
My daughter is five, she and her friends are little girls. They are not grown women, they are not ladies, so there’s no need to suggest to them that they should be like ladies.
When you tell little girls to be ‘ladylike’, what are you really telling them? When you tell them not to show their knickers in their Summer dresses, are are they hearing?
They hear: reign in your play. Don’t do that handstand, don’t climb that ladder. Appearance comes before freedom.
Why? Because someone might see your knickers. And what are knickers for, again? Oh yes, for covering your private parts. Knickers don’t also need to be covered, and them being seen is not a big deal. If it is a big deal for you, then that’s your problem.
If a Summer dress is, in the teachers eyes, not suitable to play freely in, why is it part of the school uniform? Why are we telling little girls to cover up, be modest, be ashamed of their bodies?
Please think about how you talk to little girls and boys. They are always listening, always hearing the subtext. You have the power to give them the self esteem so many are sorely lacking, a positive body image that brings with it the confidence to not care what others may think of them.
Do you have something to say? A blog, letter, poem – you name it – write for us, and help raise awareness about the issues affecting your children or the children in your life. Please email us!