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How did socks become sexualised? This student wants to know

Wednesday 5th July 2017

Follow up question: What does it mean for how society looks at school girls?

 

School girls in uniform, with socks.

Photo: Left Hand Rotation/Flickr

After a teacher at Nelson College for Girls made a passing comment that over the knee socks were creepy porn-video looking, unless completely covered by the skirt, Year 13 student Madi Fulton Buckle was left thinking: Are over the knee socks seen as too sexual?

Two decades on from Britney Spears’ 'Baby One More Time' music video, what was once a distinctly unsexy item of clothing, socks, has been sexualised.  Then there’s the bigger issue: The sexualisation of school girls.

Madi is questioning her friends, school and community about the issue for a documentary, which she hopes will bring attention

Let’s start off with this idea of the sexualisation of socks. Where did this come from?

There was talk at my school and comments made that were kind of warning us about how people might perceive us depending on our socks, kind of as silly as that sounds.

I kind of look at it as a representation of our society, which sparked this question of “where does this come from?”

I wanted to talk to people about it. Talk to guys about it - and girls about it - and see what they thought about this idea that socks can determine a person's perspective on what they think your behaviour is in terms of being sexual or not.

Do you think that socks are sexualised?

If you look at the media and the porn industry, women in the male gaze can be sexualised wearing socks, definitely, and this is linked into our everyday lives.

On a much deeper level, it's about the sexualisation of our clothes in general. It's often not about our behaviour but about what we’re wearing, which is completely absurd because I guess any piece of clothing can be sexualised if you’re acting sexual in it.

I definitely think there's this kind of stigma of this school girl look that is over sexualised and shouldn’t be, definitely in an educational sense, be sexualised at all.

I guess that whole schoolgirl look has been played on a lot, with Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea.

Yes, definitely, definitely! And that's where we see it happening in the media and that can happen with anything. We can see celebrities, or movie stars, or singers, or muscians, they can sexualise anything they want.

I mean that Britney Spears video, ‘Baby One More Time’, was pretty iconic but that was her claiming the look in the way she wanted it to be. And that's not a representation of all girls wearing that uniform right. If we look at well known TV shows, like Home and Away, that's their typical outfit.

My mum went to the same school as me when she was younger. That was a part of her uniform wearing these socks. But it was interesting to hear my school worry about the way the rest of our community might view us if we do have that bit of skin showing between the sock and the skirt.  

We’re all doing it. We’re all sexualising girls in this way, we're just not consciously doing it. I think it's a really good conversation to talk to adults about and I want to talk to boys about it.

This whole idea of "sexy school girls" is kind of weird as it plays on looking at a child in a sexual way.

Yes, exactly. That's why it's kind of controversial, and that is why people are kind of shocked by it. But it’s not actually. If I think about our society, I don't actually find it that shocking anymore.

It is something that is happening, I mean, if you look at what the majority of our young boys are watching on the internet in terms of pornography it's quite understandable that these links are being made. I think it's just really something that needs to be addressed because it shouldn't be happening on a school or educational level in anyway.

You’re doing this as been part of your Year 13 media studies documentary, right?

Yeah! I thought this would be a really interesting thing to talk about. I have this friend of mine explaining a story that happened to her while being at school that made her think of the over sexualisation of over the knee socks and then I talk to a group of Year 13 girls and a group of year 12 guys, and I kind of get some good banter going.

It's quite light and humorous, because I'm using the example of over the knee socks as something that can be sexualised, but there's much larger scale there. It's a small example but exists in a far larger picture.

When is this going to be finished? Will it be available for the public?

It's actually due on Friday. I’ve gotta hustle it along and finish editing. At the moment we have a school festival in Nelson which is in November that it will be screened at, but other then that I'm not sure what will happen.

And what do you want people to take away from this idea?

I want people to question their thinking. I don't think there is an easy way to just erase this because it's really engraved in our society and were surrounded by so much sexualisation in the media and constantly exposed to it.

But I think if we start talking about it, it can be, not necessary erased, but make us more aware as a society.

*Interview edited for brevity and clarity. 



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Hannah is an AUT journalism student who also volunteers for 95bFM.
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