You’re not homeless… or are you?

Street Football Wales (SFW) has been taking a team to the Homeless World Cup (HWC) since the inaugural tournament in 2003.

Every year, without fail, there will be questions asked about one or more of our players and their eligibility. The criteria set by the homeless world cup is that players must be homeless or have been homeless in the last 12 months (24 months if also in drug / alcohol rehabilitation) or make their living as a street paper vendor.

At SFW we have a lot of teams in our league programmes made up of players currently living in hostels or people sleeping rough and accessing homelessness services. We also have a lot of players living in temporary supported housing or refuge; sofa surfing; sleeping on floors in other people’s houses and living in unsafe accommodation.

All of these situations mean that people are eligible to play for a HWC team. Because all of these situations are classed as homelessness.

If you are reading this knowing that you have somewhere to live where you are free from fear, with privacy when needed and are not at imminent risk of having to leave, then you have at least two crucial basic human needs met – those of shelter and safety.

For too many people, these are basic needs that they are still aiming for, yet which they often minimise or overlook, because they aren’t actually ‘on the streets’.

The HWC is coming to Cardiff in July this year and the tournament shines a light on homelessness, presenting people experiencing homelessness to the world as footballers – providing respite from the label of ‘homeless person’. And with this comes a much-needed reality check for the wider community and (hopefully) a reduction in the stigma and negative judgement around homelessness.

As a key partner, SFW is keen not only to share in the positive messages around how we can address homelessness locally, but also to raise awareness of the spectrum of homelessness that exists. To do this, we will (as we always do) select teams representative of this entire spectrum – Our Dragons and Warriors will be people currently or recently sleeping rough; living in hostels or hospitals; care leavers living in temporary supported housing; those who are sofa surfing and/or living in unsafe accommodation.

We really want to get the message out there that homelessness takes many forms and that no matter what ‘type’ of homelessness someone is faced with,  their experiences and the challenges that go with it are valid.

There are a lot of ‘hidden homeless’ people in education, in work, volunteering and even playing sport professionally, with no one around them aware of what they’re going through. Too afraid or embarrassed to ask for help, a lot of ‘hidden homeless’ people won’t even consider themselves to be in need, because they have a roof over their head where they sleep at night.

It’s complicated.

I’ve linked a couple of articles below which highlight some of the less ‘typical’ experiences of homelessness, as well as the kind of experience that we might feel more familiar or comfortable acknowledging. It’s incredibly brave to open up and share such a vulnerable experience with the world and I have a lot of respect for people who have shared their experience to raise awareness and/or potentially help others going through something similar.*

Here’s hoping that the HWC coming to Cardiff will help shed light on the scale of the problem that exists, that we can influence policy in Wales, and that people experiencing all forms of homelessness feel less alone and more able to access support to address their situation.

c4 Final Whistle 04

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/07/sabrina-cohen-hatton-firefighter-fire-safety-heat-of-the-moment

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/20/working-homeless-britain-economy-minimum-wage-zero-hours

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/nov/17/fara-williams-football-homeless

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/homeless-mans-heartbreaking-message-tory-15739289

 

*I also have a lot of respect for those who choose not to share their experiences – it’s just that I’m talking here about those who have.

Street Football Wales – what do we do?

Because we don’t provide hostel accommodation or housing.

We don’t deliver planned support.

We don’t provide drug or alcohol rehab.

We don’t provide outreach to rough sleepers.

So, what’s the point of us?

Before I explain, let me just say this – since 2003 when SFW was born, it’s been a project that’s almost impossible to describe. Unless you’ve been involved or come and seen the project in action, you’re likely to be a bit confused. Sceptical even.

SFW exists to help tackle social exclusion. It’s not a project for a particular age group, gender or ethnicity. It’s not aimed at a specific ‘client group’ such as offenders, people experiencing mental ill health, homeless people or those who are economically inactive.

SFW is for everyone who’s experience of living day to day involves feelings of being socially excluded – whatever that may mean to each person. Yes, of course, being socially excluded probably means experiencing some of these ‘labels’. And yes, because SFW was born from having been at the first ever Homeless World Cup, homelessness is one of the more prevalent experiences of people involved.

But this doesn’t mean that we pretend to exist to solve any of the challenges people face, and we don’t pretend to exist in order to save anyone from their problems or experiences.

We exist to accommodate a little bit of escape from the crap, in an environment where it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, what you’re going through or even whether you’ve kicked a ball before. You won’t be asked about your ‘needs’ and there won’t be a sniff of a star chart, assessment form or support plan anywhere!

At a match day, training course or other activity, you will be treated first and foremost as…. drumroll…. PEOPLE! Hopefully you’ll get to know each other, and we will get to know you and then as a community of SFW staff, volunteers, players and visiting organisations we will support, encourage and lift each other. We can provide some opportunities that might have a positive impact on the course of your life, or which might just help kill time.

Some people will participate with SFW for a season at most – come to league match day’s and that’s the extent of it. Others will be around for maybe a couple of years. Start with playing at match days, dip a toe in some of the training offered and perhaps get selected to play at a tournament or two.

Then there are the ‘veterans’ of SFW – people for whom the project becomes a part of their lives throughout their personal journey. The long-term volunteers, players whose road to recovery is lengthy (with a few detours en route!), people who are in employment and who use annual leave to attend match days.

 

At SFW we don’t mollycoddle. Make your mistakes, take the consequences and grow from the experience. We don’t make excuses for aggressive, discriminatory or disrespectful behaviour – although we often understand where this comes from and will listen to what people need or want in order to change, we don’t patronise or pretend to have all the answers.

What we DO is believe in you. That you can change (if you want to); that you can  play football; that you can control your anger; you can lay off the drink or drugs; you  can join a mainstream sports team; you can learn and get qualifications; you can  volunteer or work; you have got skills; you have got potential; you are interesting; there is hope!

We understand the domino effect of developing self-esteem… physical activity, training, volunteering and being part of something are all things that are recognised as having a positive impact.

But there are also other things – being listened to, being believed in and having the courage to try things. Being allowed to learn from mistakes, feeling welcome and respected, building friendships and being able to help other people – these all give us feelings of self-worth. As a project we are always learning and improving from our own mistakes and feedback too.

 

SFW is also the organisation that selects players to represent Wales at the annual Homeless World Cup tournament, Again, this is something that can be hard to understand without having experienced it in some way.

Playing for your country at any level in any sport is a huge achievement and a real honour. There’s something extra in doing so whilst dealing with homelessness and any or all of the associated challenges.

We know, having seen first-hand over 16 years, that being a Welsh Dragon or a Welsh Warrior (the names given to the male and female international teams respectively) is life changing. It doesn’t always mean coming home from a tournament and life being all sunshine and rainbows and often people will return to their lives making no real immediate changes at all, but even then it will have been worth it.

How? Because in the build-up, during training and at the tournament itself, players will have been seen as footballers. Not people with ‘issues’, not ‘clients’. Just footballers. They will have broken out of their comfort zone and succeeded in facing some seemingly impossible physical and mental challenges, and somewhere along the way, those experiences, the resilience and strength needed to face them, will be called upon again.

And you know, even if the ‘only’ outcomes of being a Dragon or Warrior are the memories made, that’s ok. Some people have no significant positive memories and having a hand in changing that is enough.

So, going back to the question of what SFW does? Hopefully we provide opportunities to get involved in things that people wouldn’t otherwise be doing. And from there? Well, maybe we will be a part of some people’s journey to recovery from mental illness or addiction. Maybe accessing an advice surgery from one of the visiting organisations will be the start of a positive change. Maybe the peer support from other participants will have an impact…?

SFW is one potential stop on some people’s journey through life. We have a map that we can look at together, but ultimately, we all follow our own path – and as long as you know that our ‘stop’ will always be there, that you can stay as long as you like and you can always pop back, it’s job done.

 

It’s hard for men. Poor things.

Last week my newsfeed was full of people expressing sympathy for that 27 year old fella who got a custodial sentence for his conviction of engaging in sexual activity with a child and making and distributing indecent images.

The girl was 12. He met her on tinder where she was pretending to be 19. The things being said about the girl were absolutely sickening to read… How she’s a slut, a little whore who knew exactly what she was doing. And there was plenty more being said about women and girls in general being lying sluts who want to wreck men’s lives. And comments asking if we have SEEN twelve year old girls these days? Looking like hookers about the place. Manipulating men, teasing them, luring them into their evil traps.

Some points I want to make:

1. TWELVE. The girl was TWELVE YEARS OLD. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that a child that young on tinder going to men’s houses is vulnerable. So even if people felt it was harsh on this guy because he wasn’t actively looking for a minor… Why weren’t they angry at the criminal justice system rather than at a troubled child? I’ll tell you why… Because it’s any fucking excuse to spew misogynistic shit to ‘prove’ that the war against men is real, motherfuckers!

Didn’t you know there are millions of 12 year old girls (and probably 11 and 10 year olds) tricking men like this. It happens every day. Damned sneaky little girls!

2. The man PLEADED GUILTY. He chose not to go to trial. So what the hell was a judge supposed to do? Change up the way things are done and say “so you’ve said you’re guilty in A COURT OF LAW. But, for a laugh, shall I ignore that and just let you off scott free you poor lamb?”

If someone stands in front of a judge and PLEADS GUILTY to something, all that’s left to do is dish out the punishment. But again, nobody was shouting about the injustice of the ‘process’ or asking why he entered a guilty plea. Nope. Only shouting about what a horrible, life ruining slag that girl is.

3. Regardless of any of the other details, people were expressing ABSOLUTE sympathy for, and defending a man who sent photos & video of the girl to his friends using disgusting language. Specifically how he had “nailed that bird” and that she was “filth”.

EVEN if she had been 19 and not 12…EVEN if she had posed for the pictures consensually… Sending them to his friend would be an offence in itself. He is no stand up guy – this behaviour in itself is fucking horrible and should be enough for most people not to bother wasting their time defending him. Sending those pictures and saying those things is NOT normal or acceptable.

4. Turns out he was wise not to go to trial. Because fuck me, he is a PREDATOR. He probably didn’t want his previous convictions potentially being disclosed at a trial. Or indeed for his other victims to find the courage to come forward afterwards…

And suddenly… nothing but silence from people who were, hours before, calling for all baby girls to be tattooed with their date of birth to protect men! (Seriously!)

Silence from the people who were saying these things: (Actual comments)

She’s a nasty little skank and I hope her parents are very proud. I bet she’ll keep doing it to other men.’

‘If it was the other way round there’s no way the woman would have to sign the register. No such thing as “male privelage”, in fact it’s the other way round if anything!’

‘Y can’t her pic b put up so no other guys fall victim to this little trollop’

‘Completely innocent man now has his life ruined by a little slag who’s no doubt done the same thing to more innocent men who are now shitting themselves in case she actually does decide to open her mouth.’

‘Pond scum, no doubt dragged up not brought up. Sickening. And yes, I do blame its parents.’

‘She’s the offender here, little lying bitch hungry for cock’

‘She intentionally set out to trap him. What was he supposed to do? ID her?’

‘What 12 yr old has a fucking body stocking?!! Really!! She should be punished! She’s ruined his life with her lies what a slag!!’

‘These bitches who claim there older when there minor. She’s the predator not him’

It’s seriously heartbreaking to see the things being said about the girl in this case. It’s terrifying to see things the things being said about women in general. To read how men are absolute victims of women and girls – truly believing that they are at constant risk of being falsely accused of rape. That they have need to ask for ID before having sex with a woman.

Maybe it IS scary for those poor men who specifically like to have sex with random younger women, living in real fear of those predatory girl children. I mean, suppose now they’ll have to get to know a woman before having sex with her.

It will probably be difficult and life changing for them to have to adjust their behaviour and beliefs about women and to start trying to view them as people and not just bodies to fuck.

So, for the majority of men who AREN’T freaked out by a constant threat of rape allegations against them – please, if you encounter men who aren’t sure how to navigate the world anymore, help us all out and share your secrets with them.

Compliments (Yes, that’s the title)

I was given a compliment today. I was told that when I listen “You really listen and that makes me feel safe and important.”

I’m almost 100% certain that my husband and daughter would disagree, but whatever… (See what I did there? Hilarious, I know!)

poster-please-dont-interrupt-me-while-im-ignoring-you-1809909

I like compliments. I like receiving them, but I especially like to give them, knowing how much it can mean to people. And if a compliment that I give someone means nothing at all, it doesn’t matter. Nobody was hurt.

For years now, I have been consciously trying to move away from the superficial (and dangerous) culture of obsession with appearance and I’m always aware of this when I compliment people. By which I mean that I consciously try to give compliments that aren’t appearance based as much as possible.

Think about it though, how nice would it be if we all put a bit more thought and authenticity into our compliments so that they actually mean something and are given and received with genuine appreciation?

Obviously I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with complimenting appearances at all, but for women in particular; it’s almost an expectation of some kind that we all should be conforming to. When we habitually compliment each other on appearance, we reinforce the internalised belief that appearance is what matters and that our value as women is all based on whether or not we fit a narrow definition of ‘attractive’.

“I like your hair”

“That’s a nice dress”

“You look slim” (There’s a WHOLE other blog post there….)

“Is that tan real? Wow”

“I love those shoes”

“Nice skirt, it looks so high fashion”

“Look at you with your long red nails”

Yes, these are nice compliments to receive – although the likelihood is that you already know your dress is nice, that’s why you bought it. Same with the shoes. You probably like your own hair too. And your nails. But these kinds of compliment alone, all the time, are very superficial and often not particularly genuine.

On the other hand, complimenting someone about their character – their parenting; loyalty; passion; attitude; resilience; work ethic; kindness; achievements; the unique things about them that you like or value is far more authentic and will inevitably mean more.

I mean, who remembers compliments about their hair or clothes with any great emotion? On the other hand, who forgets compliments about their character and who they are as a person?

For me personally appearance based compliments are irritating. I cut my hair short, in part because I couldn’t bear how important it seemed to be to the rest of the world that my hair was so thick and shiny. It gave me a “Shut the fuck up about my hair! It’s just dead stuff hanging off my scalp!” attitude.

Likewise, when I lose weight and people ask me if I’ve lost weight or tell me I’m looking slimmer… irritation and a “Why do people assume weight loss should be celebrated. Well fuck that! I’m going to get even fatter!” attitude.

Yes, I am fully aware that this is my issue (One of many!). Yes, of course I like being told I look beautiful or nice or pretty, and yes of course I tell people they look beautiful or nice or pretty.

But what I’m saying is, a thoughtful compliment about anything other than appearance will do more for most people’s self-esteem than “I like your top” ever will. Self esteem is so often mistakenly linked to appearance, which keeps us in the grip of low self esteem if we don’t fit that acceptable standard of beauty (which most of us will never perceive ourselves of having achieved). Whereas if people are built up around traits unrelated to physical appearance, self esteem really does flourish.

kid pres quote

Telling someone that you love their creativity or admire their integrity will last a lot longer than “Your hair looks nice”.

Telling someone that they’re brave or positive will help build them up in ways that “I love your shoes” can’t.

I’ve probably forgotten hundreds of “You look nice in that” (Some genuine, some patronising and others just for the sake of it no doubt)

But I will never forget being told that my passion inspired someone.

So this is my mission to the 3 people who read my blog… Try and balance appearance and character based compliments a bit because yes, we all like a nice comment about how we look, but we all benefit from genuine, thoughtful compliments about who we are.

Ooooh, suits you sir…

I had planned to attend an awards do at a university yesterday – the MD of the company I work for had been nominated for an award and I wanted to share the experience with her. I’m not at home in an academic environment and ‘professionalism’ is one of my least favourite social constructs, but my colleague is an awesome woman and the least she deserves from me is to step out of my comfort zone to support her in celebrating her success.

If you know me, or have read my blogs you’ll know that I’m not all about appearances or fashion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about what I wear – I like clothes and accessories, it’s just that I like clothes and accessories regardless of whether they’re fashionable, regardless of whether they have a label, and regardless of whether they match!

I thought about what I would wear to something like this, and my checklist was as follows:

  1. That I feel comfortable
  2. That I don’t embarrass my colleague
  3. That I minimise the potential for being judged negatively by other people present

I thought I had it planned, and even invested in a new top, and then there it was,  “Dress code smart / business”…

Maybe you know what smart business means? I didn’t . I googled. Some of the highlights of my search included words like: tailored, conservative, skirt, dress, nylons (!!), heel, blouse, neutral, blazer.

formal

And then I realised that I don’t own a single item of clothing or pair of shoes that fits the bill. If my wardrobe was a google search result you would find the words: bright, floaty, denim, colourful, patterned, boots, sandals…

floaty

So I flaked on my colleague. And although I’m sure she wouldn’t have minded what I was wearing in the slightest, I just couldn’t face any of the options that stood before me, which were:

  1. Buy a suitable outfit and shoes resulting in feeling uncomfortable, unconfident and impostor-like.
  2. Wear what I planned to but feel unconfident and judged.

For me, not going was the least anxiety inducing option and I took it, but it did get me thinking about dress codes and about why the hell they’re still a ‘thing’?! (I’m not talking about ‘no trainers’ at a nightclub – although I don’t get what that’s all about either to be fair)

I work in the third sector where I haven’t had to adhere to any formal dress codes. I’ve only had one job where this wasn’t the case, and that was at a chartered surveyors. I hated having to appear as something completely different to who I am, and as someone I actually didn’t want to be.

It was the only time in my life that I’ve had separate ‘work clothes’. Before and after that job, my wardrobe has consisted of only 3 catagories – ‘Clothes’; ‘going out clothes’ and ‘clothes that don’t fit at the moment’. I’ve never even had summer / winter clothes because I’m always boiling so cotton and light materials are all I need all year round thank you.

I hate that people are expected to look the same in the name of ‘professionalism’. I’ve met many men in suits and women in pencil skirts and blouses who are anything but professional – for example, sleazy, arrogant, aggressive, ignorant and clueless…  Of course, this applies to people in casual clothes too, but THAT’S MY POINT. Wearing a certain type of clothes doesn’t make anyone more or less professional or competent.

And then there’s the classist aspect of dress codes. Suits and so-called ‘smart’ clothes are the territory of the middle and upper classes. Poor people generally can’t afford to section off their wardrobes into categories, seasons and events. (No, don’t even start with your Jeremy Kyle inspired narrative of how the working classes are all walking around in expensive trainers. I will shut your bigoted ass down before you can say “brainwashed”)  Poor people get bullied in school for not having the right clothes and shoes. They know from a young age what isn’t for them. Children from poor families don’t generally see their parents going to work and / or social events in ‘formal’ clothes. ‘formal’ clothes are for well off people.

So then, the first time a person not from a middle class background is expected to conform to a formal dress code there is likely to be a fair bit of anxiety about fitting in. We all know that ‘impostor syndrome’ is real for a lot of people, particularly those who have achieved success without formal higher education or for people who have grown up lacking self worth. Being expected to look a certain way and dress a certain way often compounds deep rooted feelings of being out of place. It’s easy to tell the difference between the people with genuine confidence who are used to dressing up from those who are ‘dressed up’ because they have to be. So if the objective of dress codes is for everyone to fit in, it’s an epic fail, because clothes only cover bodies – they don’t change the way people hold themselves or impact on their self-worth.

Some forms of dress are worn to appear authoritative and we all then have a lovely visual aid to help us ‘respect’ that authority. Again… no thanks.  I’m all about challenging traditional hierarchies and power structures when it comes to appearance. I do actually like a hierarchy of responsibility and accountability in a work environment, but I don’t see the necessity for this to translate into what we wear. In fact, two of the men I respect most, and who are widely respected in their work by their peers are men who rarely, if ever, wear a suit (You know who you are you sexy things!)

‘Professional’ dress codes literally exist so that we can all tell the difference between ‘professional’ people and everyone else.  And all dress codes are literally just a visual aid to hierarchy. Power structures from yesteryear demand that certain dress codes are adhered to in order for respect to be earned.

It’s bullshit.

And for a lot of people, what they wear as an expression of who they are is particularly important, like some transgender and non-binary people. And anyway, the work that most people do isn’t impacted in any way by what they wear, so surely a person’s standard of work is  more important than what they’re wearing?

Why can’t I be me? In my clothes? Well, actually I can – I am. And so far so good – no one’s died or vomited or frozen in shock. I’ll be me, you be you, they be them! We all like to dress differently and nobody’s style is right or wrong! Of course, common sense applies – I won’t wear anything with offensive slogans on or clothes that are dirty or broken & I’ll leave the hot pants and string vest in the ‘going out clothes’ area of the wardrobe…  But I won’t ‘dress up’ just because some guy in a suit is coming to visit, or because I’m going to a meeting. I will be respected regardless of what I’m wearing, and if anyone chooses not to respect what I’m saying / doing because I’m not dressed the ‘right way’, well to be quite honest I don’t care.

There are some occasions where I would happily conform to a request for dressing a certain way or in a certain colour – like weddings and funerals. I’m not about to spoil someone’s wedding or disrespect someone’s bereavement. But neither of these is about power or professionalism. I would also wear formal dress to court if I were accompanying someone, so as not to jeopardise their situation.

In a few weeks’ time, I’ll be spending most of my work life in a community hub and rest assured that the only thing that will matter there is that people feel comfortable to be themselves; that people will be able to express themselves and that, provided they’re actually wearing clothes, nobody will feel ‘less than’ or ‘better than’ anyone else. We will have stakeholder meetings, AGM’s and various other events and the dress code will always be: Wear your favourite clothes that make you feel confident.

(But rest assured, I’m not a complete fluff… if someone interprets that as a green light to wear their favourite gimp suit I will ask them to change!)

gimp

Clothes Maketh the Woman

I want to ramble about clothes.

Let me first make it clear though, what this blog is NOT about… It’s not about fashion. It’s not a critique of fashion trends or expression of self through clothes. I have no strong opinion on fashion as an industry, I don’t buy into the body positivity movement or the idea that any one body shape is better than another. I’m not offended by any style of clothing (Actually, that’s a lie. I have a physical reaction to men in super tight trousers that don’t reach their ankles, teamed with a deck shoe…But I know that this is my irrational problem!), I don’t care if people want to cover up completely or let it all hang out. Personally, I couldn’t care less about labels or brands – I don’t particularly feel anything much about people who do. Everyone has a body of some kind and everyone puts clothes on their bodies. Brilliant.

So, what DO I care about? Well, being a feminist killjoy, I care about the ways in which girls are oppressed and how they carry their oppression with them into womanhood. And yes, clothes are on my hit list right now!

It’s been lovely and warm recently, as we enjoy some spring sunshine. I am incredibly lucky to live in a flat that overlooks a beach and a playground of sorts. One of my favourite things to do is people watch – everyone is happy in the fresh air at the beach, so I get to see happiness through my windows every day. And not just happy people – all the happy dogs being walked are a joy to watch too!

What I have noticed, however, is how differently girls and boys enjoy the playground, depending on what they’re wearing.

Sunny days for boys means trousers / shorts and t-shirt. Trainers or sandals on their feet. Beachwear of shorts / wet suit / t-shirt. That’s about it.

Sunny days for girls has the added options of leggings / dresses / skirts and / crop tops / vest tops / floaty tops. Beachwear with the added options of swimsuit / bikini (despite the top half of pre-pubescent girls bodies being identical to that of pre-pubescent boys! But that’s for another blog) / tankini / sarong.

“So, what’s your problem?” I hear you cry. “Get to the point already Rosa”

Well, my problem is that all of the additional clothing options that are aimed solely at girls, result in an inequality that offers boys more freedom than girls even when they’re little children and all they want to do is play.

Skirts and dresses restrict girls’ movement and they force girls into a premature and unnecessary awareness of modesty. For boys to have more freedom than girls because of how we, as parents, are clothing them in the name of ‘conformity’ is actually really awful when you think about it.

A three year old girl doing a cartwheel or climbing in the park, should not have to face commentary from other children or adults about being ‘careful’ that she’s not showing her knickers.

A four year old girl should not, when all the children sit cross legged in assembly, know that she needs to push her dress into her lap to hide her underwear from view.

A six year old girl should not stop herself in her tracks, from following her trouser wearing peers climbing railings, because she’s conscious of what she’s wearing.

An eleven year old girl should not feel anxiety about going to school on a windy day, because her skirt might blow up.

A twelve year old girl should not have to consider when it’s ‘safest’ for her to climb the stairs depending on who might be behind her.

A thirteen year old girl should not feel forced into shaving her legs because not doing so would leave her open to ridicule and bullying at school.

So, I suppose I’m on the school uniform part of my post now then? And what might my thoughts on that be, I wonder?

Well, I’m not a fan of school uniform full stop – I don’t buy the argument that it creates an ‘equal standard for all’ whether children are from families that are rich or poor. I mean, as if children with shit uniform, shit shoes, shit bags, shit phones, shit haircuts, shit coats, dirty clothes, etc aren’t easily identifiable and targeted by bullies.

In fact, I happen to believe that uniforms just make it easier to identify anyone ‘different’ – not harder. But I digress, because, I’m not going off on one about uniforms in general… so, since they do exist in most schools in the UK, does it not make common sense for all children to wear a gender neutral uniform of trousers/leggings/shorts and t-shirts / polo shirts with trainers?

You know, nonrestrictive clothes and shoes that allow for physical activity without having to think about modesty and without the hyper sexualisation that often accompanies the so-called choices that girls have, particularly in secondary school.

And speaking of ‘choices’…I know that people might say let the child choose what they want to wear and what they feel most comfortable in. My response to that would be there is no real ‘choice’.  Girls know from infancy, that what they wear really matters and that the more feminine they are, the more they’re liked.

 

So, bearing that it mind, let’s look at so called ‘choice’ when it comes to school uniform.

When they start nursery / school, boys are expected to wear trousers that come in one style, a shirt and jumper or blazer – again, all one standard style. The only real decisions to be made are the shoes – however, of the styles available to choose from, you can be pretty sure that they’ll be sturdy and comfortable.

Girls, on the other hand, have all kinds of ‘choices’ – skirts with or without pleats, long or short, tight fitting or ‘A’ line, pinafore dress, plain blouse, blouse with fancy collars or puffed sleeves, plain ankle socks, tights, frilly ankle socks, tight or loose trousers, high waisted or low, jumper or cardigan… and then the shoes – patent, matt, slip on, buckles, laces, gems, sequins, secret little glitter emblems on the soles… all kinds of stereotyped and wholly unnecessary embellishments. Girls shoes are shit. They break and they don’t make running or climbing easy.

So what message are we giving to girls? The tired old message that what they look like matters more than what they do. The shitty message that it’s a good use of time to think about clothes and appearance when in actual fact, their time could be better spent thinking of anything BUT!

The message that boys are more active, more boisterous whereas girls are passive and less physical. Well, apart from all of the other ways that girls are oppressed to conform to these stereotypes, clothes play a big part. It’s not rocket science to understand that it’s easier to act on the desire to be active when your clothes and shoes aren’t restrictive.

Like I said at the beginning, this isn’t about fashion or hating on feminine clothes – it’s literally just about wanting girls to be equal to boys when it comes to feeling comfortable, confident and safe in their skin. It would just be nice for parents to think for a second about what restrictions the clothes they dress their children in have. A pair of leggings or shorts under a dress or skirt would help. One piece bathers for girl children, rather than bikinis as though they have reason to specifically cover their chests. Trainers instead of flimsy impractical shoes that fall off or cause girls to slip when they run. Jeans, shorts, leggings, jeggings – nonrestrictive and practical.

And as for school uniforms – I really am at a complete loss trying to understand why dresses and skirts are still a thing for schools. Especially when we’re trying to promote physical activity in children, which skirts, dresses and shit shoes restrict. It makes no sense to me and I have yet to hear a single rational argument as to why girls should wear a skirt to school, so if you have one, tell me – I’m all ears.

 

 

Stop asking me ‘what about men?’ 

Everyone who follows my blog knows that my best work is written in rage, or port. But Christmas has gone now so no more port.
Well, at least I still have rage. So back to that.

Recently I have been getting increasingly frustrated with ‘whataboutery’ every single time I write or speak about women or girls.
For those of you who don’t know what that word means, ‘whataboutery’ is when someone responds to a difficult issue or question with a counter issue or question that completely derails the conversation.

Example:
Mai: My research focussed on the murder of women in Yemen
Randomer: uh, this is a bit sexist. What about the murder of men in Yemen? Don’t you care about men?


Example 2:
Pam: I’m really upset with you for stealing from my purse
Mel: What about that time you stole from the local shop? You’re not innocent…

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