Back in June some Swedish train drivers took exception to the restrictions in the dress code for men. Apparently Sweden was going through quite a hot spell but the dress code was restricted to trousers and skirts, no shorts allowed. The dress code didn’t specifically mention gender because no one expects men to don a skirt. However that didn’t stop several of the men driving the trains from wearing them to get a break from the heat. These men were not trying to be fashion forward like David Beckham or Kayne West. They were just tired of sweltering on the job. There was also a group of boys at Cardiff school in Wales who turned up at school in skirts to specifically protest the exclusion of shorts in the dress code. The Swedish workers got shorts added to the dress code. The boys at Cardiff were herded into the headmaster’s office. I guess the moral of the story here is that an adult protesting illogical policies can get results but a student protesting the same just gets detention.
The “guy in skirt” protest reminded me of an incident when I was in high school where several of the boys showed up in skirts to protest the restriction allowing only girls to wear earrings. This was the 80’s when guys felt the need to wear an earring in your left ear to signify you were straight. Apparently there was no mention of gender when it came to the rules regarding skirts and minimum length and they exploited this loop hole to lodge their protest. I wasn’t in the loop on anything social at school and remember thinking I had missed some Sadie Hawkins memo on school spirit wear. When I learned of the protest I shrugged it off like the higher powers of the school district did. Earrings for guys seemed like just another fashion trend and I wasn’t into fashion.
Out of curiosity I pulled up the school district’s current dress code to see if my classmates in skirts had helped propel progress in gender equality and found these two relevant entries:
All students are expected to wear clothing and undergarments in keeping with their gender. Undergarments must not be exposed at any time.
The wearing of heavy chains or spiked jewelry or “grills” is prohibited. Pierced body ornaments must be restricted to the ear and appropriate for school.
Apparently they were unsuccessful and may have even set things back a bit. I realize the rules explicitly don’t prohibit boys from wearing earrings since boys with earrings have become normal. But the “in keeping with their gender” line is quite clear that the social boundaries that exist in our culture are still strictly enforced in our schools. When I was in middle school it was drilled into our heads that girls had a larger role to play in society beyond wife, mother and a handful of traditionally female careers. When I asked the obvious corollary about men being stay-at-home-dads I was assured by my teacher that would be just fine but the snickering from my classmates told me otherwise.