The Uniform Hypocrisy
Today, let’s delve into the eternal love story of enforcing school uniforms and the subsequent slut-shaming of girls. Recently, I came across stories and experience of girls and how they were slut shamed by their educators for wearing improper uniform. Girls have recounted horrific experiences of being called “characterless, loose” for wearing “improper uniform”. And the worst part is that they have been slut shamed by educators and counsellors. Some of the common things that comes as a part of checking uniforms and are normalized are “ length of the skirt, tightness of the shirt, colour of your bra, colour, shape and design of your panties, if your bra is visible through your shirt, hair clips, loose hair, side partition, puff hairstyle, sleeves, ponytails, French braids and much more. To the extent that even the shape and size of girl bodies are subjected to judgement and scrutiny. “Aisi Ladki” is the tag given to the girls that are considered to be so called deviant and have maybe not followed one of these ridiculous rules. They are publicly shamed and ridiculed not only by peers but also by teachers and schools are the silent spectators They enforce the “proper uniform” on girls as young as 5th or 6th standard or even lower than that. When these topics are raised in a school environment, educators defend these rules by stating that they are “enforcing discipline”, these are to “reduce distraction” and we have “uniform regulations for boys too”. Let’s dismantle all these flimsy reasoning into pieces.
The major aim of uniforms is to ensure uniformity in school, to enforce discipline, it is there in place to create oneness among students so that no student is discriminated against and no student is left behind. It is to create a safe and healthy environment, creating a close-knit family where the focus is to enhance learning. But what schools have done is that they have reduced uniform to a source of anxiety for young girls through constant slut-shaming and judgement. Schools stoop as low as shaming them and questioning their upbringing. When you take aside a girl and ask her to wear bras because of her breast you are humiliating her, shaming her for her physical built. When you call a girl characterless because her hair is lose and reprimand her by her stating that you are doing this for attention of boys and question her upbringing then you are giving us a reflection of your misogynistic mind-set. I want to ask all the teachers, principals who have shamed girls for their attire, What is so sexualizing about a girl’s hair? Or why something so common as hair is causing your boys to lose attention in class? Also what is so sexualizing about length of girl’s skirt? Why is a cloth fabric shattering your moral foundation? Or what is so remotely sexualizing about underage girl’s legs that offends you and ruins your pristine school environment? More than being concerned about your student’s education why are you concerned with what kind of undergarments are they wearing? Are your moral and values so weak that they are shaken by non-living things such as hair clips, earrings and watches?
Schools while enforcing these rules often mention that girls are doing this to gain attention from boys and will cause a distraction to them. So basically they are putting across the idea that boy’s education for us is more important and thus we will enforce rules to keep the girls in check because ultimately they are the one to blame for ruining boy’s education, thus reinforcing the classic idea “Boys will be boys” and “ ladkiyon ko samjhna hoga”. Secondly, when they reason that they have uniform rules for boys also they ignore the difference in the way they are enforced. It is not subjected to intense shaming and judgement. Their upbringing is not questioned, their character remains intact they are just told “tuck in your shirt” or “straighten your tie” and “comb your hair”. In any instance if a male student is subjected to shaming and judgement it is equally wrong and horrifying. But mostly, this sexualizing scrutiny is exclusive and reserved for girls.
Having said so, it is important to provide solution to this problem. If schools are worried that girl’s dress code will be a distraction, then teach your male students not to be distracted. If they can sexualize girls as young as 10 years old then I think young boys can also be educated about consent and respecting privacy and personal space of their fellow classmates. And before slut-shaming girls and labelling them as “aisi ladki…or waisi ladki” why don’t you question your gaze and perception that is the schools should be answerable to questions as to why do their teachers perceive underage girls as sexual objects and sexualize them in classrooms and beyond. And before checking if your girl students are wearing what is underneath their clothes you are engaging in child abuse and sexual harassment.
There are other ways in which schools can enforce uniform regulations, where they do not resort to toxic shaming and vilifying their female students. Educational institutions should realize that by engaging in this toxic behaviour they are sexualizing underage girls, and reinforce sexist and patriarchal ideas among its students. Schools are supposed to be a safe space for all its students, if they still continue scarring young girls these ways soon their collective self-esteem will be lower than the country’s GDP.