//GCSE French: promoting equality in fashion//

Today I sat my GCSE French reading and listening exams and I have to say I am very impressed with the topics covered by the exams. Although there were the usual questions on relationships and jobs, there were also a few more interesting, current topics such as a UN summit on global warming, selfies, e-cigarettes, the mysterious ‘orange badge’ (which I think may be the French version of the blue disabled sticker for cars in the UK) and Skirt Day – journée de la jupe.

Although I love French, I have to say the course content does seem a bit random and I do feel like I haven’t really developed my conversational French much since I started the course three years ago. However, the relevancy and up-to-dateness (is this a word? Well if not it is now) of the topics included in todays exams really surprised me and made me feel like I am actually applying my French in a useful way and learning more about the world around me – which is why I chose to learn a language in the first place.

The thing that impressed me most about the exam though was the part on equality and fashion where we listened to a girl talking about ‘la journée de la jupe’ (national skirt day). I don’t know if Skirt Day is an ACTUAL thing – I’ve done a bit of research but only came across a French film called ‘La Journée de la Jupe’ in which a French teacher discovers a gun in one of her students bags, accidentally shoots one of the students in the leg then holds the class hostage and one of the terms for letting the students go is having a Skirt Day to allow her to wear a skirt without being criticised by people with conservative attitudes about how women should dress. Apparently one part of the film actually came true – it was requested that La Journée de la Jupe become a nationally accepted day but this was sanctioned by the French Ministry of Education. However, in 2014 27 colleges did take part in a Skirt Day and boys and girls wore skirts to fight against sexism as part of the #JourneeDeLaJupe campaign.

Although the French exam itself didn’t explain this to me, I kind of got the general idea that Skirt Day was about allowing girls and women to wear what they want without being sexualised and criticised. The girl speaking about Skirt Day in the exam herself said things along the lines of: ‘Skirt Day had happened last year and had been a great success’, ‘the idea is for girls to be able to wear what they want’, ‘the headteacher didn’t like the idea of it at first as he thought students would insult each other but changed his mind after seeing that it was a great success’, ‘boys were allowed to wear skirts in support too’ and ‘her boyfriend wore makeup to show his support’.

The whole idea of Skirt Day seems really good to me. Although I don’t exactly live in a very multicultural area so have never experienced a clash of cultures where I may be criticised for wearing ‘revealing’ clothes such as skirts, I have certainly experienced being sexualised because of what I choose to wear and have seen many other girls experiencing the same treatment.

Ultimately, I think Skirt Day represents the fact that everyone should be allowed to wear what they want and what they deem is appropriate without fear of being judged and criticised. Not only does this sort of tension arise between different cultures and religions, it occurs between different sexes too and the stereotypical ways men and women should dress. The fact the this girl who was speaking in the French exam said that some of the boys even wore skirts and makeup to support and that many boys did do just this back in 2014, really interested me because all around us we are exposed to the media which portrays – or dictates – the way we should dress and behave, yet boys were still willing to defy this to support Skirt Day (yes I know the French exam was all fiction, but I have a point, trust me). Perhaps it is because something such as Skirt Day would represent something much more than just allowing women and girls to wear skirts without having to face criticism from people with conservative attitudes. Perhaps it would represent equality in the fashion world – or the need for equality.

It’s not just about women being able to wear skirts, it’s about everyone being able to wear whatever they want without judgement. The fact that the item of clothing in question is a skirt is irrelevant – skirts are just one example of clothing which causes tension within society and Skirt Day would, in my opinion, be a step towards reducing this tension, uniting society and providing greater equality in the fashion world.

Whether you are a female who has faced criticism and sexualisation for wearing skirts and other such clothing or just someone who doesn’t want to conform to the ‘expectations’ of the fashion world and just wants to be able to wear whatever clothes you want – whether they are deemed to be ‘male’ clothes or ‘female’ clothes – freely, Skirt Day would be beneficial to you.

I think Skirt Day should definitely become an accepted day in order to help fight sexism and tension between cultures and religions withing our society. And why not make it International Skirt Day?

I’m really interested to find about more about the #JourneeDeLaJupe campaign now, so merci to the AQA exam board for making my French exams so interesting and inspiring!

//Scouting for girls, scouting for all//

Today I read an article summarising the 2016 UK Scouting census which was full of statistics – some which made me very proud to be a member of such an inclusive youth movement, and others which made me realise there is still a long way to go before Scouting around the world is fully inclusive.

This year marks the 25 anniversary of girls being accepted and welcomed in to all sections of Scouting, for all age groups. 25 years is a relatively short amount of time compared to the 109 years that Scouting has been running in total. For just under a quarter of the Scouting movement’s lifetime, girls like me have been allowed to explore the outdoors, enjoy thrilling adventures and most importantly have fun with other youngsters whilst boys have been able to do so for 109 years.

Although 25 years of girls in Scouting is a very important and exciting milestone to have reached, it does disappoint me a little that it wasn’t until 84 years after Lord Baden-Powell hosted the first ever Scout camp on Brownsea Island and therefore created the Scouting movement, that girls were given the same amazing opportunities that Scouting has to offer as boys had nation-wide.

Despite this, I do feel very lucky and honored to be a representative 25% of the Scouting movement in the UK on this blog. Although I do wish the percentage of females in Scouting was higher, I’m sure, over the years, this figure will continue to grow and I want to be a part of that.

Over my 8 years in Scouting, I have seen the number of girls in my group steadily grow. When I first started in Cubs in 2007 – which was, coincidentally, the 100th year of Scouting – I was one of two girls in a Cub pack of around 30. A few years later when I moved up to Scouts, there were probably around 5 girls at any one time. Now I am an Explorer scout and am proud to say that my Explorer unit has a healthy, almost equal, balance of girls and boys.

Scouting has been such a life-changing experience for me –  I have grown in confidence, for a start, but I have also experienced so many extraordinary things that outside of Scouting I could never have dreamed of participating in and achieving .

For example: I have been white water rafting in the rapids of an Austria river, I have zip-lined over a ravine despite my fear of heights, I have led a group on a 10 mile hike in the middle of the night, map reading as well as completing various challenges along the way, I have learnt valuable skills such as first aid and fire safety, I have attended a national camp with over 7,000 participants from around the UK, I have visited the birthplace of Scouting – Brownsea Island, I have been on more muddy, wet, cold Scout camps than I can count on my fingers yet all these memories make me beam with happiness at as I remember them. I have done so much in Scouting that I never thought I could ever and would ever do, however there is still so much more I could do to ensure other girls and young people get to have opportunities like these and memories to last a lifetime.

That is why I’m blogging about Scouting, to get the word out that ‘Scouting is for girls and Scouting is for all’. That’s also why I have been a Young Leader at a Cub pack for 2 years now, to show the next generation of young people what Scouting is all about and to inspire more youngsters to join the adventure. As my Explorer leader said to me a few weeks ago – ‘people like you are the future of Scouting’. In the next 5, 10, 15 years it is going to be young people like me who already help to run and organise Scouting on a small scale, volunteering our free time despite having to study for exams and complete vast amounts of school work, to help youngsters get everything out of Scouting that I did when I was their age. It is going to be us that are going to be the face of Scouting in the years to come, adding to the already 115,000 strong network of adult volunteers in the UK. It’s my way of giving back to Scouting, for saying ‘thank you’ for everything it has helped me achieve and for making me the person I am today.

However, despite the fact that UK now has 573,000 members in the UK alone, it has been estimated that as much as 50% or more of the British population do not know that girls are welcomed into Scouting, and we need to change this.We need to spread the message that Scouting is for all.

Although in the UK I am able to be a Scout, in other countries around the world girls don’t have the same opportunity as I have to take part in Scouting and it’s not just girls either – in some other countries, youngsters are prevented from joining Scouting because of not just their gender but their sexuality, their race, their religion…the list goes on. Although I would love to see the day when the proportion of female Scouts in the UK equals or even beats that of males, even more so would I love to see the day that all youngsters around the world have the chance to be involved in such a wonderful movement.

Yes, Scouting in the UK is inclusive, and we are very lucky to have that, but Scouting around the world at the moment isn’t entirely inclusive. Not only do we need to spread the message within the UK that Scouting is for girls too, we need to do so in every country around the world. Scouting isn’t and shouldn’t be a gender specific youth movement in any country and in order to move towards a more equal society, we need to spread this message. Even if you are not or have not been involved in Scouting yourself, even if you don’t know anything about Scouting whatsoever, I hope that you will take away from this post that Scouting is for all and understand why it is so important to me and many others that this message is spread across the world so that Scouting isn’t known as ‘a youth movement for adventurous boys’ but ‘a youth movement for adventurous young people’.