Should girls in Irish schools be forced to wear skirts?

Are We There Yet: A mini-feminist activist is setting out to repeal the pinafores

I met a nine-year-old girl the other day who has just been voted on to her student council. She was delighted and looking forward to getting stuck into her “mission”.

Her “mission” she told me with all the confidence of a girl for whom failure is not an option, is to introduce trousers for girls as part of the school uniform.

With indignant eyes, she explained how all the girls in her school are forced to wear pinafores.

It’s not only that it’s “freezing” at yard time, she complained, but the school dress also curtails certain activities.

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“We can’t go upside down on the monkey bars in the playground after school for one thing,” she told me. “We have to sit on the floor an uncomfortable position in assembly so our underwear doesn’t show. The boys can go upside down whenever they like and sit normally in assembly. It’s not fair”.

No, I couldn’t help agreeing, it’s not fair.

I mean when you think about it, who really wears the trousers in our primary schools? And at second level?

This mini-feminist activist, let’s call her Gloria, is not happy at all about the status quo and will be campaigning to change things in her small corner of the world.

Gloria is already planning marches in the school yard and recruiting allies among her peers – boys as well as girls.

She also has short, pithy slogans ready for the placards she’s making:

“Equal rights, no tights” is one.

And my personal favourite:“No more, pinafore”.

“We repealed the 8th,” she reminded me patiently, as if I could ever forget that fact. Now Gloria wants to have a go at repealing the pinafores. And the skirts. And the outdated idea that girls must wear skirts and dresses at school.

Perhaps it’s just Gloria but I love the idea that having seen how women successfully campaigned for our reproductive rights, there is now a mini-army of little girls across Ireland plotting to repeal the pinafores and skirts from our ridiculous uniform regimes.

I mean when you think about it, who really wears the trousers in our primary schools? And at second level? It’s hardly the most pressing feminist battle facing young girls as we approach the centenary of women’s suffrage in Ireland, but it’s still a worthwhile one.

All over the country, as we head into winter, girls are being sent out to school in skirts and dresses and bare legs and tights. Many of them have no choice in this. Meanwhile every single boy in the country gets to wear trousers and hang upside down after school should they feel like it.

In this new more equal Ireland, it’s a glaring and very old-school example of inequality.

Having a choice

When my daughters changed schools a couple of years ago, leaving a lovely place that had no uniform to an equally lovely one that did, one of my first questions was: can the girls wear trousers at school?

The answer was yes and my daughters wear them as part of their uniform most every day. Some girls in their school choose to wear skirts, and that’s perfectly fine too.

The point is they all have a choice.

And yes, for those wondering, if boys want to wear skirts to school I think they should also be allowed. Maybe one day they will.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping a very close eye on Gloria’s nascent campaign and contributing to any fundraising efforts.

Maybe Joe Duffy will have her on Liveline to debate the issue with somebody who thinks it's perfectly fine for girls to freeze in skirts and get cramps in their legs from sitting oddly in the school hall.

For balance, you understand.

Claire Byrne might do an audience poll. Perhaps PrimeTime will investigate.

At the very least, let’s get some hashtags going. #Repealthepinafores #Repealtheskirts #GoGloria

Some things to do with children this weekend

Shrek The Musical
Based on the story and characters from the film, this hilarious and spectacular production turns the world of fairytales upside down in an all-singing, all-dancing, must-see musical comedy.

Runs until November 4th. Tickets €30-€56. bordgaisentergytheatre.ie

The Ascarium
Halloween is over but the scares keep coming. Explore the watery depths and discover spooky creatures lurking beheath the waves. Help the sea witch cast her spell and claimed your reward. Just be careful your nose doesn't get turned into a barnacle.

National Sea Life Centre, Bray, Co Wicklow. 10am- 6pm. Runs until November 4th. Tickets €12.95 For more call 01 286 6939 or visit https://www.visitsealife.com/bray/discover/ascarium/

Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo
If you can make this gorgeous event at any time over the next couple of months youare in for a treat. This year's Wild Lights takes the ocean as inspiration with an entirely new array of illuminated giant silk lanterns decorating the grounds of the zoo in the Phoenix Park. From giant squid to emperor penguins, colossal blue whales and dainty seahorses, this is Dublin Zoo as you've never seen it before.

Runs until January 6th 2019. Tickets €16-€20 (under 3s free). 5pm dublinzoo.ie