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Break from protocol this week, folks! That’s right, just consider me the cockney rebel (or Jewish rebel, to be precise) because instead of me printing a question from a reader and replying to it I’m going to deal with An Issue. A young reader – very young, as it happens – wrote in to complain that her school, a Catholic primary school in south-east London, does not allow girls to wear trousers. As this precocious young lady so wisely observes, trousers provide better protection than skirts against falling over in the playground, as well as the winter cold; and trousers make climbing on the school equipment more fun. So what’s the deal?

As nothing gets this column’s motor going more than the suggestion that young girls are being prevented from fulfilling their potential on jungle gyms, I donned my pork-pie hat to find out what the deal was. Sadly, the headteacher (a man, as it happens) was too busy to talk to me and no one else was willing to comment on the record. So I’ll shift out of journalist(ish) mode and back into my usual opinion-writer-for-hire schtick and lay it on the line: of course girls should be allowed to wear trousers at school, just as grown women should be allowed to wear flat shoes in the workplace. Are these really still arguments? In 2017? To quote the academic text Zoolander: I feel like I’m eating crazy pills here!




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Increasingly, schools in Britain are allowing girls to wear trousers, but despite the efforts of campaign groups such as trousersforall.co.uk, some stalwarts are holding out.

I have no doubt that our reader’s school and other similar schools have good intentions. But banning girls and women from wearing trousers does not exactly set a positive precedent. Even leaving aside religious edicts, women were not allowed to wear trousers on the US Senate floor until 1993! How insane does that now seem? When those rules then changed, it instantly seemed absurd that it was ever any other way. This is exactly what will happen when – not if – all schools allow girls to wear trousers.

Doubtless, some people out there will say – some waggishly, others less so – that if girls should be allowed to wear trousers at school then boys should be able to wear dresses. My personal feeling on that is, sure, boys can wear dresses if they want but women’s clothing, from skirts to stilettos, was designed to restrict women’s movement, whereas men’s clothing is all about freedom. This is why demanding that girls should be allowed to wear trousers – and that women should be allowed to wear flats – is a practical issue, and demanding boys wear dresses is something else.

When children are eight, they should feel nothing but freedom. Girls, including my young correspondent, should be able to run, climb, jump without any concerns about hypothermia or their modesty. Lord knows enough of them will spend much of their adult lives suffering for outdated ideas of femininity.

I always think internet shopping will be less hassle than going to the high street – but it’s not! All that scrolling takes for ever, and you can never find anything.

Leah, by email

Ah scrolling: you have, so to speak, put your finger right on the modern-day malaise, Leah. Once it seemed so whizzy and modern and freeing: so much choice! Right here! Wow, who needs hoverboards when the future is here, right at our fingertips?

Oh, how quickly novelty turns to irritation. For me, Netflix is the ultimate example of this. The streaming service should be an amazing thing – all those movies, TV shows, documentaries and random comedy specials – whenever you want them, entirely for free! Kinda! Except, Jesus, all that scrolling across through those random categories – Trending Now; Because You Watched The Crown – and not just the categories! You have to get all the way through one row, and then click down and do it again, because it turns out that the future feels a lot like using an old typewriter, tip-tip tapping to the edge of a piece of paper, whacking the carriage back and starting all over again. I mean, I love to pretend I’m in the opening credits of Murder She Wrote as much as the next Angela Lansbury obsessive. But this method of looking for something to watch in the evenings loses its charms pretty quickly, and possibly explains why I generally end up just watching another five episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

The fashion equivalent of Netflix is Asos, a website that should be brilliant but quickly becomes the black hole of scrolling. And of course, this is perhaps the definition of first-world web problems: “Ugh, so many dresses for me to buy, but I can’t be arsed to look through them all – MY PAIN!” But these distributors don’t understand a basic rule of the retail experience: consumers say they want choice, but they don’t. They want simplicity. Which is why Asos, and others like them, should offer daily “editor’s recommendations” or similarly curated selections. Because contrary to what Michael Gove declared last year, people do like to take tips from experts, not (just) because they don’t trust themselves but because they can’t be faffed to wade through all the options. But I don’t think anyone needs Gove’s Asos recommendations. Compared with that, I’d rather scroll to hell.
ZUUU ZUUU Reviewed by Zuhura Juma Juma on 10:36 PM Rating: 5

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