🌶️ Sporty Spice 🌶️ – Gender Stereotypes and School

Not long ago you wouldn’t catch me dead in a pair of running shoes, unless they were paired with gym attire. Oh how things change!

Fashion is constantly evolving and the rigid rules that were once enforced due to social, political, economical, and religious reasons are consistently developing. Can you believe that it was only in 2016 that cabin crew for British Airways were permitted to wear trousers? I firmly remember a female teacher in school used to adversely reminisce of the days when she was only permitted to wear a skirt to work. Once the law changed (unsure of the exact year), out of protest she refused to wear anything but trousers.

In the mid 1920s, Coco Chanel liberated women through her revolutionary fashion designs. In a bold stance she firmly opposed restrictive corsets and like a breath of fresh air, embraced materials such as wool, jersey and silk. Not only did Coco believe that women should be free in their clothing of choice, but due to economical restrictions of WWI, the jersey fabric was the most practical and feasible option, as was wool during WWII.

It was only in 2013 that France officially lifted a 200-year-old ban that by law, banned women from wearing trousers and “dressing like a man.” If a woman wanted to wear trousers she was obliged to seek permission from her local police. (CAN YOU IMAGINE!) It is as though women were seen merely as mermaids; beautiful, mythical, enchanted creatures that were biologically and genetically impaired of a pair of legs that could god forbid open unless, they were married. Speaking of mermaids, ‘The Little Mermaid’ is another topic that is critically debated, whether it promotes feminism or in fact doesn’t. You decide!

Strangely enough, many people message me asking about my school years but it’s something I have never talked about, until now. I went to an all-girls Catholic school for a good chunk of my developing teenage years (13-16 years-old), which I can confirm was an extremely suffocating environment and I cannot say I would recommend it. When I look back, I recall gender stereotypes and daily reminders of  ‘how a virtuous young lady should behave.’ It was only when I reached university and was introduced to feminism that I truly understood the intrinsic level of misogyny and sexism that is being promoted in schools across the globe. In the past six months Ireland has been a focal point for highlighting such behaviour. Sadly, I cannot be the only one who isn’t surprised with the worrying reports that have emerged, when the foundations of this deplorable nature are cemented at a young age.

When I was in school The Hail Mary (Catholic prayer) was recited before every class. We learned how to cook (I accidentally set the kitchen on fire in my attempt to cook bacon – Wife fail), only played ‘lady-like’ games such as netball, and at times were scorned for asking inappropriate (more like logical) questions in relation to sex during our non-existent sexual health classes. To avoid embarrassment, our teacher had devised a ‘question box’ which would give everyone the opportunity to ask whatever questions that were on our minds. However, the majority of questions were thrown in the bin because they were deemed ‘unacceptable’ for young ladies to be discussing. I guess these genuine questions were only appropriate for boys and their locker-room banter. (Boys will be boys! I’ve heard this expression way too many times!) Never ever did the current controversial topic of consent arise in these talks, nor was there an official outlined curriculum to discuss these evolving and relevant issues. As Catholic girls, all sexual relations outside the honourable realm of marriage were an absolute paradox to be sidestepped.

My daily objective in school was to be late each morning, in the hopes to miss the morning assembly (Just another 15 minutes of prayers and mind-numbing propaganda to get you motivated for that day – Who needs coffee when you’ve got that?). Additionally, it was also the perfect opportunity not to come into close contact with the vice principal, who made it his mission in life to ensure my finger nails were free of any colour that potentially expressed any individual personality. It genuinely baffles me how schools view nail polish as the devil living on your finger tips.

On my last day of school and the final encounter with my vice principal, I sat in his office; a bottle of acetone in one hand and a cotton ball in the other, I asked one question. “Sir, Do you have any life or career advice you can give me?” I was awaiting for him reply with something ground-breaking, or at least somewhat inspirational. His reply? “Yeah, I do, Holly. Don’t be late for your wedding!” 

I skipped out those gates on the last day of school and never looked back. I then moved to an amazing school that didn’t impose restrictive uniforms, ban makeup or nail polish and encouraged diversity in numerous forms; physically, emotionally, spiritually, and culturally. You can’t just mask the corridors with quotes and expect diversity to magically and immediately emerge. Diversity develops in practice and through actions, not words, which is what I witnessed. After two years at this radically liberal school, I never thought I would graduate from high school and actually love an educational institute where I felt like I could be myself.

I know this post has been long-winded and you’re probably like, ‘what’s the point of all this, Holly?’, but I like to share my experiences (and from reading your messages and e-mails, you appear to enjoy them too – Woohoo win-win!) and demonstrate how these situations have shaped my current train of thought on important subjects that affect all of us, whether directly or indirectly. Rules can be a good foundation to start with, but it’s important to move outside certain conventional boundaries that prevent self-expression and individuality.

Take risks, mix conflicting colours or styles, but do it with spirit and belief. I shutter when I think of the word ‘rules’, a previous boss even once pointed this out. In my mind, at times I do feel that rules are made to be broken, but only if there is a genuine ethical or moral point to be made that could potentially be a catalyst of positive change in the world.

Don’t be a rebel without a cause!

******* IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT ME TO DISCUSS THIS ARTICLE – PLEASE E-MAIL – HOLLYLENNYDUBAI@GMAIL.COM *******

INSTAGRAM – HOLLY.LENNY

FACEBOOK – NAKEDWITHOUTMYLIPPY

Scarf – It was my grandmother’s / Necklace – Market piece / Sunnies – Market piece / Top – Zara / Trousers – Zara / Shoes – Nike

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