A group of 17 Welsh teenage boys turned up in skirts to school this week to demand sex equality for boys!
The Year 10 boys at Whitchurch High School were fed up of being forced to wear long trousers in the middle of a heatwave, when the girls can choose to cover or bare their legs.
The brave boys—inspired by Swedish train drivers who made a similar successful protest—don’t particularly want to wear skirts, but they would like the choice of wearing shorts—a choice they see as being equivalent to the choice to wear skirts or trousers that girls are given.
As one of the young gender warriors, 15-year-old Tyrone Evelyn said:
“It’s just appropriate for the weather – we don’t want to be hot and bothered. Girls can wear skirts, so I don’t see why we can’t wear shorts. It’s a reasonable protest.”
A similar campaign was staged by a beskirted 12 year old boy in Cambridge in 2011 and both incidents highlight how men and boys are systemically forced to conform to rigid stereotypes of masculinity.
When it comes to dress codes, it’s perfectly legal for schools and employers to apply different rules to men and boys such as:
- You must wear trousers, but women and girls can have a choice of skirt or trousers
- You can’t have long hair but women and girls can choose any length
- You can’t wear jewellery (eg ear-rings) but women and girls
- You must wear a tie, but women and girls don’t have to
The legal rationale for this discrimination, according to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, is that “employers do not have to impose exactly the same dress code on men and women, if the dress code applies ‘conventional standards of dress and appearance'”.
In 2003 a male employee claimed the Government was sexist over rules insisting that he wore a tie at work. While his initial claim was successful, the Government fought back and won the right to make male employees wear ties.
These sexist and restrictive rules can also be applied to the way men want to wear their hair and as a result one anonymous campaigner has launched an online petition demanding equality for men to wear their hair long .
This rigid enforcement of gender stereotypes not only discriminates against men, it can exclude transgender employees, according to America’s Human Rights Campaign.
“If an employer has a dress code, it should modify it to avoid gender stereotypes and enforce it consistently,” says the campaigns guidance on workplace dress codes. “Requiring men to wear suits and women to wear skirts or dresses, while legal, is based on gender stereotypes”.
Of course no such rules apply to delegates at the Third National Conference for Men and Boys, you can wear whatever you want so start growing your hair, get something pierced, throw out your ties and buy your ticket for the conference today.