HEMLINES never seem to be out of the headlines these days. Barely a week goes by without some story or other in the media centred around the humble skirt.
In the last couple of weeks, we have seen a media frenzy about the so-called upskirting law (photographing what’s under a woman’s skirt without her knowledge) as well as the discovery that at least 40 secondary schools in the UK have now banned these garments from their uniform.
Why are skirts, one of the most defining features of femininity, the source of so much news interest and controversy?
While the trend towards gender-neutral clothing has some role to play, the real reason that skirts court so much controversy is that they are just so immodest.
Yes, that’s right — skirts, considered to be the holy grail of modest attire for frum Jewesses, are, in reality, possibly the most immodest item of clothing women are expected to wear, with the probable exception of the boob tube (which few women are expected to wear, certainly for shul).
Skirts are simply not as modest as trousers. Trousers (or, to use that increasingly popular America term, pants) are never at risk of flying up, or of accidentally exposing the wearer.
There is no need for an up-trouser law like an upskirt law. You can get in and out of cars, climb steps and live a normal, active life in trousers without fear of accidental exposure.
You simply can’t do this in a skirt unless it is so long and heavy as to render it impractical.
It’s time that the Jewish community took its collective head out of the sand about the modest skirt fallacy.
The Jewish community is in denial, obsessing about women and girls wearing skirts in schools, synagogues and public spaces, primarily in order to be ‘modest’.
My youngest is a Year 6 school- leaver and received a wonderful yearbook featuring all the children’s photos and comments.
Under the “most embarrassing moment” comments, three of the girls said that the most toe-curling time of their school career to date was when they accidentally flashed their underwear at school.
This should be a massive wake-up call — why on earth do we expect one gender to wear garments that put them at constant risk of exposing their under garments simply by behaving like kids?
Every time they do handstands, run, climb stairs or sit cross-legged, they are probably revealing their knicks. Why is this OK?
Every Jewish school I know insists on skirts for girls. In the name of decency, morality and modesty, it’s time to stop this and get girls into more appropriate clothing like boys.
Perhaps we can have skorts (a cross between a skirt and shorts) if trousers are a step too far for those who consider these to be “men’s clothing” (the Torah prohibits either gender dressing in the clothing of the other).
It is time for Jewish schools to join the movement and to ditch skirts.
They are inappropriate for school life at any stage and do not allow our young girls and women to enjoy dignity and decorum in the school setting.
That skirts are even considered women’s clothing is a modern phenomenon — in biblical times, both genders probably wore similar robe-type garments designed more for practicality and protection against the climate than for anything else.
For centuries in Europe, men’s and women’s clothing wasn’t all that different, mainly consisting of robes and tunics that were easy to make and wear.
More notable were class differences, with both male and female labourers wearing shorter skirts because a long robe would interfere with manual tasks.
Bizarrely, in the past, it was men’s hemlines that began to rise over time, revealing the tights (and shapely male legs) underneath.
They rose so high that codpieces became necessary. Eventually, tights became trousers.
By the 16th century, men wore the trousers, although in some places like the Arctic, both genders wore them (and, of course, in Scotland, skirts reigned for men and are still considered appropriate for formal occasions).
This idea that women should wear clothes that put them at risk of indecent exposure while doing everyday activities is a relatively new one, but should no longer be tolerated in today’s #metoo culture. And this risk is still there even when wearing very long skirts, albeit less so.
The only effective way to ensure female privacy and dignity is to wear loose trousers (under skirts if necessary, like the Muslims do) or trousers teamed with a long top, or skort-type garments.
The “skirt equals modest” argument is a red herring, possibly even designed to curb women’s freedom. Maybe they should not be doing any activity that might put them at risk of being immodest in a skirt?
The emphasis there is on “any activity” since only the most passive and sedentary pastimes would totally preclude the risk of exposure.
Pants to that, I say. It’s time to accept that women and girls lead active lives that are incompatible with skirts, especially in school.
Let’s stop skirting the issue.