Monday 14 October 2019

Liz Kearney: 'Whatever they wear, let kids be themselves'

Notebook

'It would be nice to think we can still celebrate the differences between our sons and daughters while allowing them whatever freedom they need to be truly themselves, no matter what clothes they're wearing' Stock image
'It would be nice to think we can still celebrate the differences between our sons and daughters while allowing them whatever freedom they need to be truly themselves, no matter what clothes they're wearing' Stock image

Liz Kearney

Growing up, I was your classic tomboy. Boys - either the ones I read about in books or the ones I watched playing out on the street - always seemed to be having far more fun, running around and kicking balls and generally getting into scrapes.

Meanwhile, the girls wore ribbons in their neatly curled hair and were expected to play with dolls while remaining clean and tidy.

That just didn't seem very appealing, and so for most of my childhood, I refused to wear dresses, and stuck resolutely to shorts in summer and jeans or cords in winter.

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My school uniform, a green pinafore, was the only time I ever wore a skirt. I don't remember minding all that much - not that anyone ever asked, given that it was the 1980s and no one was interested in what kids thought back then. But I was thinking of it this week when it emerged our local primary school has just adopted a progressive gender-neutral uniform policy, a move first proposed by the student council.

The girls can now wear trousers and the boys can wear pinafores. It is not an entirely new idea; schools are increasingly relaxing their uniform policies. In the UK a number of co-ed schools have banned skirts altogether.

I would have jumped at the chance to wear trousers to school. It would have felt liberating. And in an era when we're encouraging our kids to be as active as possible, offering them the chance to wear the clothes they feel most comfortable in makes sense.

It's equally likely that banishing gender-specific uniform rules might just give any child struggling with their sexuality or gender a more relaxed environment in which to express themselves.

There is a bigger picture, too, of course. In society more generally, there is a move to ascribe every difference between boys and girls as being down to social conditioning.

Today we have gender-neutral toilets, gender-neutral clothes and gender-neutral pronouns. Even debating this topic feels difficult and many are reluctant to contribute for fear of appearing politically incorrect.

Yet at the same time some of it seems baffling, particularly if you're the parent of an instinctively pink-clad, princess-loving little girl, or a boy who's obsessed with dinosaurs.

In my own case, I came to understand my tomboy phase wasn't about wanting to be a boy. It was about wanting the same freedom as any other kid, male or female. And that's the crucial part: it would be nice to think we can still celebrate the differences between our sons and daughters while allowing them whatever freedom they need to be truly themselves, no matter what clothes they're wearing.

Nothing wrong with short cut to the top

A big round of applause for the enterprising Swiss mountaineers who flew their aeroplane virtually to the top of Mont Blanc, then set about climbing the last 400 metres with crampons.

I am a big fan of the opportune short cut and if ever there was a moment when it was tempting, it would surely be when faced with scaling an icy 4,500m mountain.

Unfortunately the local police took a different view, describing it as "an intolerable attack on the high mountain environment" and have opened a criminal investigation.

But is it really such a bad thing to knock some of the hard yards off an athletic endeavour?

Preparing for my first women's mini-marathon this year, I read complaints on running forums that many runners get as far as the UCD flyover then duck under the tape, knocking a couple of kilometres off the distance. Many were incensed, but I found myself applauding their resourcefulness. Not that I was brave enough to try it, mind.

Irish Independent

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