- What is a gender-neutral school uniform and who’s wearing them?
- What has the reaction been towards gender-neutral school uniforms?
- What are some of the pros and cons of gender-neutral school uniforms?
In a bid to help bridge the gender gap, Valayanchirangara Primary School in Kerala, India, has made its first move into promoting gender neutrality by introducing gender-neutral school uniforms for its students. The movement has been – mostly – celebrated by teachers and parents alike, so we’re here to examine the pros and cons of implementing such dress codes and whether we should expect to see this forward-thinking movement become the go-to for schools the world over.
What is a gender-neutral school uniform and who’s wearing them?
For Valayanchirangara Primary School, the newly-established uniform consists of short-sleeved shirts and knee-length shorts, cargo green for girls and teal blue for boys. The choice was made to enable girls to play more freely after the school’s headteacher witnessed the difficulties they faced when in the playground and while playing sports.
Following this, more schools across Kerala have also adopted gender-neutral uniforms, with several women’s rights groups coming out in support of the unisex uniform initiative.
Kerala isn’t the only place taking a stand against gender conformity; in 2019 one of the oldest and largest independent providers of school uniforms in the UK, Stevensons, made the decision to stop marketing its clothing for boys or girls and to, instead, promote its wares as gender neutral by, for example, changing the colour of the clothes packaging to a more gender-neutral colour.
Proving that taking a stand can make a difference after a pupil launched a campaign against their school’s gender-conforming uniforms, Norton Hill School in Somerset has now amended its policy to allow girls and boys to wear blazers, where before only boys were allowed to wear them and girls had to wear jumpers. This has now prompted the school to also look at changing their PE kits to be gender neutral too.
What has the reaction been towards gender-neutral school uniforms?
While reactions to uniform updates have certainly been positive – Kerala’s Valayanchirangara Primary School “were able to implement it easily and without any protests” and its students were more than happy: “I feel very thrilled and comfortable with the uniform.” – not everyone is on board. Certain Muslim organisations in Kerala have accused schools of forcing western dress on their children with some prominent groups warning the state government against enforcing gender-neutral uniforms in other Kerala schools, stating that it would be un-Islamic for girls to wear trousers (Kerala state is 26% Muslim).
Back in the UK, Priory school in Lewes sparked a demonstration in 2019 among parents and students after introducing a gender-neutral uniform policy that instructed all pupils to wear trousers.
So, while it’s difficult – and always has been – to please everyone, it’s safe to say that gender-neutral school uniforms could be on the horizon for many. But is this best for everyone? Let’s look at the pros and cons…
What are some of the pros and cons of gender-neutral school uniforms?
- It addresses gender stereotypes
- Freedom of expression
- Freedom of expression works both ways
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