23 Jul Courageous Shift in Japanese School Uniform Policy: Genderless School Uniform Starting from April 2021
Japanese government has reformed a policy on Japanese School Uniform recently, to fit the agenda of gender neutrality. Everybody love the cute and trendy school uniform in Japan, until society progress further, and new problem emerge. The new policy came after a couple of problems faced by the students and external influence of international agenda about gender equality. The solution is very simple, a dress code that does not simply follow nor stuck in the gender norm, a gender neutral uniform for gender equality, unraveled in this article.
The New Japanese School Uniform Policy
If we follow the usual gender norm, the uniform set would be “boys wear trousers and girls wear skirts”. Although the Japanese School Uniform seems cute and fresh in style, a couple of problems emerge according to gender equality agenda. Skirts that girls wear is quite short (some of them are above knees even) making them uncomfortable in cold weather, and it’s getting worse because they are not allowed to wear trousers. Another reason is to appeal to the students with specific sexual orientation and identity.
Referring to those students in which their physical gender is in contrary with their psychological gender identity, in short, a transgender (that doesn’t necessarily undergone sex change surgery). So a growing number of schools in Japan are making their uniforms gender-neutral, to solve the problems above. Japanese school uniform now introduce trousers for girls’ uniform, it’s still outnumbered by the skirt wearer, but it is accepted naturally without complains. If you’re asking about the boys, well yes, they can choose to wear skirts.
Boys can wear skirts and girls can also wear trousers, and the style of school uniforms will no longer be determined by gender. Although, a skirt-wearing boys might draw too much attention, or even worse, a target for harassment. Among the 47 prefectures in Japan, about 19 of the prefectures have adopted the new Japanese school uniform policy, and it started to start in motion in April 2021. According to plan, this uniform choices will be expanded nationwide to all prefectural high schools starting next spring.
Schools can either ask the students what they want to wear and provide them with the uniform according to their wishes, or just straight up distributing both pants and skirts to a student so that they can choose what to wear at home, it’s all to promote full freedom of dressing. The new Japanese school uniform policy is introduced to promote gender equality and to help those who has a different gender indentity outside of the regular gender norms to fit in and prevent them from depression and pain because of the dress code.
Thoughts and Reaction to the Policy
With the new uniform set, girls are able to move around more easily and give them a sense of security for not having to show their legs. Takahisa Hasegawa, principal of Sanyo Junior High School in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, believe that school is a miniature society and to keep in mind about the changes of times and circumstances, schools came up with the a plan to Japanese school uniform genderless. It might looks good on them, but the Japanese schoolgirls are facing a couple of problems, making them uncomfortable.
Fun fact, in November 2014, Fuji Kitaryo High School in Yamanashi Prefecture once held a school uniform exchange event where the boys put on skirts and girls put on pants. The response are quite interesting, the girls felt happy and comfortable, while some of them liking the uniform in terms of style. Meanwhile, the boys shows intriguing response after being put in a girl’s perspective. The boys were feeling cold feet, both metaphorically and literally, and a couple of embarassment when they walk the stairs while someone’s staring from behind.
Perhaps that is where and when they begin to spot the issue of Japanese school uniform. So far, the policy reform has been widely approved by the girl group, they no longer have to be freezing in the cold weather, and they don’t have to guard the bottom of their skirts while they ride bicycles, walk up the stairs and sitting down, it’s a great win for them. An interesting reaction came from a high school student in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo. This student has a female physical gender but has a male psychological gender.
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Since junior high school, the student has been very distressed because of the skirt dress code requirement. Fortunately, she later chose a high school with the genderless Japanese school uniform, and she got rid of the mental pain, a good ending indeed. However, it seems like it has caused a controversy in Japan, mainly because of the “boys wearing skirts” situation, even though it is free to choose, with no coercion. Apparently they think that gender awareness is important to children, and that schools which allow boys to wear skirts serves as a bad guide.
If you’re wondering if the LGBTQ community has something to do with this, you’re not so far-fetched. This policy is influenced by a growing trend over the needs of LGBTQ students. Students with a specific gender identity often feel mental distress over having to wear uniforms that don’t match their gender identities. A representative from the LGBTQ Community of Edogawa, Ryosuke Nanasaki, has stated “By increasing the choices, it offers a lifeline for students who need it”, thus the genderless Japanese school uniform is presented.