Voice for women: It’s not the mother who signed up to wear the uniform to school!
Dress Codes. Probably the second most important piece of information on an invitation, second only to the details of the event itself. One never fails to glance down at the bottom right/left hand side corner of an invitation card to determine what one should be working towards wearing on the said day. Not too long ago, formal, national, smart, casual and cocktail were more or less the famous five that were thrown together to create the appearance that was required. However, things are a little different today.
As people become more open to being creative, we find ourselves glancing at descriptions ranging from Black tie optional, festive, business smart, 70s disco and casually dressy mode to a zero dress code. Amidst this mouthful of dizzying classifications, it’s easy to lose sight of possibly the most talked about dress code invading our daily vocabulary: The Mum’s Dress Code.
One would imagine that it is obvious. That a woman who has birthed and brought up a child of school going age, would know how to dress appropriately when dealing with school related activities, with that same said child. Incredibly however, the ‘School Authorities’ feel they know best and have taken it upon themselves to dictate and compel women to wear what they feel best represents the Mum’s dress code: Enter the always elegant “one-garment-that-suits-all-and-fits-all-option”: The Saree. It comes in the form of six glorious yards of material in various designs and in a multitude of colours and fabrics ranging from coffee morning casual to state function formal. It is now the front runner and favourite for the Mum’s school dress code.
Fathers however, are offered no such helpful advice. They are not told what to wear; nor that they should be attired decently, with their legs covered – up to their ankles no less (although admittedly the danger of anyone swooning having witnessed a father’s pair of ankles is vey unlikely); refrain from wearing sleeveless tops and to ensure that we cannot see the shape of their bottoms. No, men are not given these ‘helpful’ guidelines, so it is no surprise that this causes a certain degree of outrage amongst the mothers’ brigade. Unlike the women, the men are given the choice.
Having the choice to wear what we want – when we want to – is as important to us as any of our fundamental freedoms. For some it’s all about the current fashion trends and for others it is a matter of mundane function. Sometimes it is a case of workplace regulations…health issues…personal taste…comfort…convenience…any number of things. However what stands supreme, is our Right to Choose.
Personally I love wearing a saree. I favour it over all other forms of dress, simply because – for me – it always feels appropriate, elegant, comfortable, and in the end it suits me better than anything else. But it is my choice. Many of my friends and colleagues would argue otherwise and say they would prefer to wear anything but this traditional garb. Again, the beauty of choice. Having the option to decide what suits you best and dressing accordingly. Take away that choice and make it compulsory, and suddenly, even those of us who love to wear the garment find it a little…uncomfortable. The six yards of saree, goes very quickly from being seriously seductive to supremely stifling.
And supremely stifling indeed the notion has become for mothers of all walks of life, when they have to trod the beaten path to and from a school run and in general if they hope to get their big toe past the entry line of any national school gate.
Most people are conscious of dressing appropriately. The values and styles that make up the standard of what is ‘appropriate’ differs, but by and large, most people are aware or make an effort to try and be aware of what works and what doesn’t. A mother particularly makes a concerted effort, as she usually inherently feels that she represents not only herself, but also her whole family.
So why is it, that in the year 2016, women/mothers are told what they can and cannot wear to pick up their child from school? And have it illustrated by diagrams no less!? From the viewpoint of a conservative society which promotes a modest culture (if that is what we are) it is perhaps understandable that a standard is employed in order to make it simpler. And perhaps to some, the sheer volumes of parents involved in the ‘tossed salad’ that best describes the school run, justifies the mum’s dress code as it makes what is accepted and what is not, very clear. Standardisation I believe it is called…like producing a tin of chickpeas…or a bottle of coconut oil. I can understand using it for the food. But not so easy to comprehend why it is necessary to be used exclusively for the mothers. No evidence yet of Standardising the father’s dress code.
Many would agree that it is perfectly acceptable to suggest that parents in general adopt a universal standard of decorum and decency. In a day and age when someone’s neck scarf is another’s bikini top, it is understandable to feel that need. It is also important that we comprehend that the very concept of ‘modesty’; what it means to us as individuals and as a society; and what we are ready to accept, is constantly evolving. It is surely unacceptable to impose a saree-only dress code on a mother and give her no freedom to exercise her right of choice at all.
Perhaps it is time to shake up the dress code, move it into the year 2016 and remind the powers-that-be, that it is the child who signed up to wear the uniform to school – and not the mother.
All comments, suggestions and contributions are most welcome. Confidentiality guaranteed.
Please email: KJWVoiceforWomen@gmail.com