This week, more than 50 teenage boys at Isca Academy in Exeter went to school wearing skirts. They were protesting at the sexist uniform policy that forced them to wear long trousers through a heatwave where temperatures topped 30 degrees C.
Here is a film from local news website DevonLive featuring the boys:
And it got me thinking about how sexism isn't just a female issue.
The actions of these boys made me consider what I might want for my own three sons as they grow up. So here are some lessons I'd love my boys to learn from the lads at Isca Academy.
- Take action. If you see inequality, don't be afraid to stand up and do something about it. These teenagers saw that something wasn't fair: girls at their school can choose to wear a skirt or long trousers, but the boys don't have the same choice. Instead of sweating in their slacks and moaning about it, they decided to take action.
- Be fearless. I have always imagined teenage boys to have a massive pack mentality (can you tell I haven't got to the parenting a teenager stage yet?). So to do something that could potentially have you ribbed and made fun of must have been quite a brave thing to do. So don't be afraid about what other people think. If you believe in what you are doing and others feel the same, they will join you. By showing bravery, you can often encourage shyer members of the pack to join you. And that is exactly what happened at Isca. Three boys started the movement off and a day later there were more than 50 joining them to take a stand.
- Just because something is not be the cultural norm, doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. In this country, boys don't generally wear skirts or dresses. But just because you don't see something on a daily basis doesn't mean it is wrong. I'd love to think that by wearing a skirt to school, these boys have broadened their minds and gained more of an appreciation that sometimes people might dress or do things differently, but that being different isn't wrong, it's just part of our wonderful, diverse world.
- Sometimes rules are made to be broken. I've always been someone that respects authority and tries to toe the line. But as I've grown older, I've realised that while rules are often made to protect us, sometimes we need to break the rules to get ahead. I want my kids to appreciate why rules might be in place and to respect the rules that keep us safe, while having the wisdom to challenge the status quo when the rules don't benefit the people around them.
- Sometimes bending the rules is more effective than breaking them. I love the fact that technically, these boys aren't actually contravening the school uniform rules. They are wearing regulation school attire - skirts. And that has had much more impact and strengthened their case a lot more effectively than if they were to wear non-regulation shorts.
"We know that our students face a rapidly changing and competitive adult world. They will have to be confident and skilled learners, flexible, capable of taking risks, creative, and compassionate."
I think the school should be rather proud that its students have done just that!