Up until one week ago, I paid little attention to the High School sport of Girl’s Field Hockey. But browsing around the web I came across a discussion regarding a boy who had recently moved from the UK where he played field hockey in school to the US. He wanted to continue playing but discovered that as far as HS sports are concerned in the US, field hockey is exclusively for the girls. Under Title IX he could make a case for playing on the girl’s team since there was no equivalent option available to him, the same argument that girl’s have used in the past to play sports not available to them on boys teams. Fair enough perhaps, but his coach then told him there was one requirement he would need to fulfil – he had to wear the same uniform as the rest of the team to play. Unlike most sports where women now more commonly wear shorts, field hockey at the High School level at least is still a game played by girls wearing kilts or skirts. The uniform regulations for High School field hockey are very clear in that all the team have to be dressed in the same manner.
When I first read this, my immediate reaction was that this surely must either be an obvious deterrent to put up to put the boy off from joining or a joke. Surely no school would actually make a boy wear a skirt I thought to myself, and surely no boy would wear one either to play. But I was wrong on both accounts.
In fact, after doing some research on the internet, finding youtube videos, reading press articles, looking at team photos and action shots which showed boys wearing the same uniform as their female teammates, it became very clear that this was indeed not a myth but a fact and something that boys who wanted to play field hockey were willing to accept to become part of the team. Talking with people in the field hockey community revealed that this was almost a non-negotiable issue. If the boy wants to join a girl’s field hockey team then he wears the same uniform as the rest of the girls, it’s only fair was the common unified message.
Part of me wondered why the girls continued to wear skirts in this sport, let alone expecting the boys to do the same, and although I did not get a clear answer to this question, it appears to be a tradition.
But seeing the boys wearing skirts, accepting this and unifying with their female teammates had me wondering a bigger question. Rather than women and girls fighting to get out of skirts and into pants in certain situations, what if boys were required to wear skirts too. Within one generation of both girls and boys wearing skirts for school (say Grades 1-5) the gender association of skirts being symbolic of a female only garment could be swept aside and replaced by a more realistic attitude about what a skirt really is, an alternative lower body garment to pants.