|Posted by Transgender Education Collaboration on July 30, 2012 at 8:30 AM|
With all eyes on the UK for the Summer Olympics, I thought it would be fitting to discuss Oxford University’s recent policy change to eliminate references to gender in their dress code policies. Previously, students who are legally male were required to wear a suit and tie to formal school events and exams, while students who are legally female were required to wear a skirt or pants, stockings and a ribbon around the neck. Personally speaking, I would feel ridiculous wearing stockings and a ribbon around my neck! And it would most certainly impact my performance on exams.
School dress codes, in one sense or another, have been used to conform and assimilate for hundreds of years. Some even argue that school dress codes can be an equalizing mechanism both inside and outside the classroom. One can see evidence of this in the Native American and Mexican American boarding schools, and still today in private schools across the nation.
As a graduate of twelve years of Catholic School, I have a love-hate relationship with school dress codes. Both the benefits and drawbacks I found in wearing uniforms relate in some way to identity and individuality. I hated the fact that girls were expected to wear skirts every day. Even though wearing pants was an option, I was only one of a handful of girls who chose to wear pants a majority of the time. On the other hand, I was glad that I was able to look like my classmates even though I felt different from them; I believe this cut down on a lot of teasing that would have been present had I attended a public school. In this way, I benefitted from belonging to an in-group that included people who, in any other circumstance, could have been my bullies.
Although many schools with dress codes have relaxed the policies for female-bodied students, allowing them to wear pants in addition to skirts, rarely have we seen a move in the other direction for male-bodied students. I applaud Oxford for being inclusive of all genders and gender identities. Go, Oxford!
Categories: Guest Blog