Skirting the issue

December 15, 2011

Consternation in the car this morning as Child Two told me one of her friends got a big ticking-off from the form teacher after assembly. ‘The teacher said her skirt was way too short and she should pull it down. But my friend said she couldn’t, it wouldn’t go any longer …’

At this point, I had a great deal of sympathy for the teacher. As I see the girls walking into school in the morning, some of the skirts are eye-wateringly, hypothermia-inducingly short. And, of course, I remember Child One in particular rolling up her skirt at the waist in an effort to make it trendier, inadvertently giving herself what looked like severe middle-aged spread with yards of navy blue skirting bunched around her waist. Nowadays her skirt is pretty abbreviated – she is still wearing the one I bought her when she was ten, even though she is now 16. Sure, she has several other skirts hanging in her wardrobe, but this is the one she likes best. And it just happens to be the shortest ….. sigh.

Meanwhile, Child Two was still full of the iniquities of her friend being told off. ‘And then the teacher said, ‘I’ve got two words for you. Milly Dowler.”

‘Hang on, what?’ I said. ‘Milly Dowler,’ said Child Two. I couldn’t believe my ears. ‘What about that poor girl?’ The teacher said she only got abducted because she was wearing a short skirt. She said all we had to do was Google it to see.’

Actually, I have just Googled it, and she is, indeed, wearing a short skirt on the day she went missing. But that is not the point! Surely? Or is it? Are we saying, ‘she asked for it’? Are really we back there again? I do tell my girls not to dress too provocatively because it draws unwelcome attention. But I don’t think that provocative dressing gives anyone impunity to kill. And I don’t want my children told that Milly Dowler deserved what happened to her, on any level. She did NOT.

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  • Metropolitan Mum December 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    What on earth??!! That’s just right were ‘asking for being raped’ comes from. I can’t believe this. And he’s a teacher?

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 16, 2011 at 9:25 am

      It was a woman teacher, which I think in a way makes it even worse! Unbelievable 🙁

  • Jane Alexander December 15, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Unbelievable. Just speechless.

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 16, 2011 at 9:25 am

      Crazy, isn’t it? We could almost be in the 1950s …..

  • Helen Ducal December 15, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Firstly, if I read correctly,the teacher was a she? Either way it is an appalling comment. I hope she has been confronted about it.

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 16, 2011 at 9:26 am

      Sorry it wasn’t clear, it was a she. Child Two’s friend’s mother is going to take it up with the school. Needless to say I shall be backing her up!

  • Kavey December 15, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    My goodness. I am absolutely beyond shocked at the teacher’s comments. Will you be taking this further because it’s pretty disgusting, first to use Milly Dowler’s name in this way and second, to be giving out this message to young girls. Bloody hell!!!!!!!!!

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 16, 2011 at 9:27 am

      I’m going to leave it to CHild One’s friend’s mum to take it up initially but will certainly weigh in if she doesn’t get a proper apology/explanation/statement from the school. Awful isn’t it?

  • Potty Mummy December 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I actually don’t know what to write, I am so appalled by that teachers comment.

    You have me speechless, DM.

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

      Well that’s not easily done, PM! I know what you mean though, it’s such a tricky one. On one hand, you want girls to use their own common sense on dress. On the other hand, are we really going to tell them they’re to blame for some paedophile’s response? Should we just tell them that no man can be trusted and they have to wear burkas?

  • Samantha December 15, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    My jaw just hit the floor over the teachers comment about Milly. How insensitive and wrong.

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 16, 2011 at 9:30 am

      I agree. I find it really scary that this teacher has such judgemental views about that poor girl. It’s such a punitive view of women. Very worrying.

  • Helen Ducal December 16, 2011 at 9:49 am

    The film, The Accused with Jodie Foster was made in 1988. Have we not progressed at all??

    There is a fundemental mind set here that hasn’t changed!!

    I live in France and can’t help but think of the beaches and never mind short skirts…what about all topless women, what are they ‘saying’??
    I’ll tell you. They don’t think bodies are something to be ashamed of. If a woman was attacked on the beach would it be her fault for sunbathing?
    Ok,time and place etc BUT the problem rests with the attacker’s behaviour not the victim’s.
    And it feels worse that a woman should take this stance.
    Short skirts are a way of dressing, a fashion statement, fun. What does the teacher in question wear and should we judge her accordingly?
    I really think this teacher needs to be asked to evaluate her comments, not least in respect to Milly Dowler’s family.

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 16, 2011 at 10:46 am

      You’re absolutely right. Thanks for remembering that film – I’d been trying to think of the name as the parallels are uncanny. At the time it was such a huge thing that the ‘asking for it’ defence had to change. Looks like we have made absolutely no progress when an innocent 13-year-old is blamed for bringing about her own horrific death. I do feel it’s a duty to advise my daughters to use some common sense and be aware of the possible reactions they may cause with revealing outfits – but that’s a long way from saying ‘you have only yourself to blame.’ It seems women are still not able to celebrate or enjoy their own bodies. Terrible shame when your teens are really the only time that most of us can carry off a short skirt anyway! And I so agree with you about Milly Dowler’s family. It’s a cliche to say, ‘haven’t they suffered enough?’ but I really think it’s unspeakable to drag that poor child into an argument about skirt lengths.