I’d like to tell you a story. It’s about a young, handsome, blond teacher who was eager to please at a new school.

Now, so far throughout his time at this school things had gone relatively smoothly. Until the day this guy chose to wear a cardigan. It wasn’t anything outrageous. It didn’t have sequins or fluorescent animal patterns or anything. It was just an ordinary grey cardigan which he had worn in many schools before.

The scene went something like this.

[8.45am. Children begin to enter classroom. Sir is busy preparing resources for the first lesson.]

CHILDREN: Is that…a cardigan? Sir’s wearing a cardigan. Why is he wearing a cardigan?

[Sir hears this and smirks to himself]

SIR: Bore da.

[A child splits off from the group and steps towards Sir, eyeing the cardigan suspiciously.]

GILR: Sir…..is that a cardigan you’re wearing?

SIR: Oh. Yes, I think it is.

GIRL: Why are you wearing a cardigan?

SIR: Because it is cold out. I was cold.

GIRL: So you a put a cardigan on?

SIR:…..Yes.

GIRL: But Sir. Only girls wear cardigans.

SIR: Hmm. Well, that can’t be right because I’m not a girl and I’m wearing a cardigan.

GIRL: Hmmm…

SIR: That’s a bit like saying you can’t wear trousers because you’re a girl. That would be silly wouldn’t it.

GIRL: (Thinks) Yes. You’re right.

That wasn’t the last case of Cardigan-confusion our friend encountered that day. At several points in the classroom, on the yard and in the canteen he was faced with a perplexed child querying his choice of clothing. Luckily he was able to confidently reply (with just a hint of a jazz hand) ‘Because I’m the height of fashion, that’s why!’.

He finished his day with a final cardigan-confrontation on the school yard.

[Sir stands on the yard surrounded by a group of boys]

BOY: Sir. People are saying you were wearing a cardigan earlier.

SIR: Yes. That’s true.

BOY: Oh (thinks) But why were you wearing a cardigan, sir?

SIR: I was cold.

BOY: Cardigans are only for girls though.

SIR: Well, that’s ridiculous. Of course they’re not. Lots of men wear cardigans.

BOY: My dad doesn’t.

SIR: Well….I’m not your dad!

Now our wool-loving friend wasn’t angry about all this. The majority of the children didn’t mean to appear cheeky or rude, but were genuinely intrigued. Our friend was shocked and surprised that he had caused such cardigan-controversy. He’d worn the same cardigan in four or five other schools without any cardigan-comments. Why was it such an issue in this school? There were no major differences in schools other than the location but for some reason these kids just could not understand why a man would want to wear a cardigan. What ridiculous statements to make – ‘Only girls wear cardigans’ – had these children not seen people before? The cardigan crew can be seen in boybands, presenting TV programmes, and even in clothing catalogues! These children had expectations of our friend which he had broken. To them, a cardigan was not a ‘male’ piece of clothing.

With a particularly cheeky knot of pupils, this was the first of several incidents alluding to our friend’s gender. During a game they had devised, it was announced that ‘Sir is a girl!’ to raucous laughter. To which our friend was able to coolly reply ‘Well….what would be wrong with that? You’re a girl and you’re great.’ The laughter stopped and the children paused to think this over.

Our children seem to have it drummed into them that to act feminine is to be weak. I’ve heard ‘he’s crying like a little girl’ so many times. Why can’t he cry like a little boy? Little boys cry just as much as little girls. As is evident by the crying boy in the first place!

All this links back to a comment I’ve previously made – Teachers should be able to be themselves and model self-confidence and security. It would have been easy for our friend to give in to the fuss made by the children and continue sans cardy. However, this would have given a wrong message. Our friend wore that cardigan with pride.

But why was it such a huge fuss in the first place? Why couldn’t these children grasp the idea that cardigans were not just worn by girls? Who had armed them with this false information in the first place? If we want an open-minded, accepting world then we need to instill it in our children now instead of giving them false ideas about who should wear what. Clothes do not have a gender.

I know this whole post might read as a slight over reaction but I am very passionate about allowing children to develop into tolerant, diverse young people and to encourage them to be who they want to be. In this case, the children had never seen a bloke in a cardigan before. To me, that was slightly unsettling and although it may not be the end of the world, their reaction was an unsettling indication of the values they had acquired from their environment. Being in any way feminine should not be an insult or a weakness and wearing a cardigan should not be cause for concern.

Needless to say, I wore the cardigan for the rest of the term.

I mean, he did.

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