KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 ― From the length of students’ socks to the colour of their underwear, schools in Japan are notorious for their strict ruling on what children can wear to school.
One rule that stands out is girls are disallowed from keeping ponytails or pigtails to schools as the sight of the neck area may excite boys.
A former middle school teacher Motoki Sugiyama told Vice that the ruling came about as administrators are worried that hairstyle would expose the neck area thus causing male students to get sexually excited.
“They are worried boys will look at girls, which is similar to the reasoning behind upholding a white-only underwear colour rule,” Sugiyama reportedly said, referring to the ruling where most schools require girls to wear white undergarments so that they won’t show through their uniforms.
“I have always criticised these rules, but because there is such a lack of criticism and it has become so normalised, students have no choice but to accept them,” the now retired teacher said.
While there are no nationwide statistics on how many schools implemented the ponytail ban, a 2020 survey suggests that one in 10 schools in the southern prefecture of Fukuoka prohibited the hairstyle.
Sugiyama taught at five different schools during his 11 years in Shizuoka prefecture and all the schools banned ponytails.
He has since made it his personal mission to expose unreasonable demands on students, joining a growing call on schools to drop rules that are outdated, sexist or that inhibit a child’s self-expression.
In June last year, the Japanese government asked all prefectural boards of education to revise draconian school rules following complaints from students and parents.