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Study Finds UK Schoolgirls Feel Uniforms Make Them a 'Target' For Street Harassment

Illustration for article titled Study Finds UK Schoolgirls Feel Uniforms Make Them a Target For Street Harassmentem/em
Image: AP

As if we needed more reason to ban school uniforms, a study from the UK found that girls felt like wearing their uniforms to and from school brought them unwanted attention and touching from men.

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The UK branch of Plan International, an international organization that advocates for children’s rights and gender equality, published a report on street harassment Monday that delves into the experiences of young girls. The report is based on responses from 1,004 girls in the UK, ages 14 to 21. It finds that 35 percent of girls “received unwanted sexual attention such as being groped, stared at, catcalled and wolf-whistled” while wearing their school uniform in public.

These experiences can happen to girls at very young ages; one in eight girls said they were 12 years old or younger when they first experienced street harassment. Some described being followed home or having been filmed or photographed without their consent or being “upskirted.”

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The study states: “Concerningly, girls felt that being in school uniform made them a particular target. They described feeling sexualised and fetishised by ‘older men targeting school girls.’”

School uniforms should indicate to anyone who cares that the students wearing them are just children and should be left alone. Adult men who engage in street harassment don’t seem to care, something that the study points out “shocked” the girls who experienced it. One research subject said, “Young girls especially, who are already under pressure, or who are developing boobs and have their period and they feel like little girls, and then suddenly they’re sexualised—which is completely new to them—it’s a really scary situation for them.”

Senior Writer, Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

BecauseOfReasons
BecauseOfReasons

I’m not convinced that the findings of this study make a particularly strong case against school uniforms. The point is taken that girls feel that being in uniform makes them a target, but I do think that adult men who engage in street harassment will harass young girls whether they’re wearing school uniforms with skirts, school uniforms with trousers, or regular clothes. I feel that placing the emphasis on whether or not students should wear school uniforms is misguided.

I feel like I should qualify this by saying that I come from a country where pretty much every student is required to wear a school uniform daily, from kindergarten up until graduation from high school. I got harassed in my school uniform on weekdays and in my regular clothes on weekends; I didn’t feel like what I was wearing made a difference to that. I do think I felt more vulnerable when it happened when I was wearing regular clothes, because I would sometimes wonder if there was something about how I was dressed that was encouraging the unwanted attention, if it was somehow my fault. Whereas in my school uniform, I felt more confident about placing the blame squarely where it belonged: on the harassers who were sexualising children.