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Gender Inequality

Make High School Dress Codes Gender-Neutral

I had the pleasure to seeing Gloria Steinem speak in Phoenix last month. Geez, this woman is inspiring and knowledgeable about gender inequality. She re-invigorated me to keep pushing for equality for all genders. I would love to see our society get to the point where a person’s character and acts matter more than which bathroom they use.

I Have A Personality by EPMLE from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I Have A Personality by EPMLE from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate is not equal back in 1954. That’s over 50 years ago! And yet, we still see substantial inequality throughout social norms and even formal rules – for all genders.

This inequality is pervasive in our culture, even in something as simple as clothing. Thing about quality and variety of clothes available in the men’s and women’s sections and what a person is expected to wear at certain occasions. What messages are conveyed with different looks? In general, men’s clothing is designed to show a person as powerful and intelligent whereas women’s clothing is much more focused on portraying the wearer as pretty rather than capable. Why are these norms so drastically different?

Looking at gender norms and clothing made me thing about dress codes and question why some institutions and companies have different uniforms and dress codes for different genders. When I see this in schools and industries, I have concerns that the organization has problems with sexism.

Google allegedly has the simplest (and best) dress code: “You must wear clothes.” This tells me the company cares more about your job performance than how you look, and they have confidence that their employees are responsible enough to dress appropriately for their job tasks.

I don’t endorse the Google dress code for every situation, particularly not for high school where students act more impulsively, in part due to their still-developing brains. I do, however, endorse a gender-neutral dress code, particularly after seeing how ridiculous dress codes are for females at some high schools:

These are my recommendations for a gender-neutral high school dress code. It’s more restrictive in regards to images and verbiage on garments, but that’s mainly to make the rule easy to understand and enforce. The main rule is to come to school in clothes that are clean, tidy, with no rips or stains. Here are the details:

NO: Pajamas; Workout wear (exception for socks/sneakers); Visible undergarments; Verbiage or images on tops (exception for small logos or t-shirts/sweatshirts from a legitimate school); Hats or hoods in the building (exception for religious wear); Visible cleavage – chest or butt; Excessively baggy or tight garments; See-through garments; Sleeveless or backless tops

Shoes: Must be worn, closed toe, closed heel, socks must be worn except for open top shoes (flats, heels, etc.)

Pants, Kilts, Skirts, and Dresses: Bottom hem can’t drag on the floor

Shorts, Kilts, Skirts, and Dresses: Bottom hem must reach tips of fingers when standing with hands at sides

Shirts, Sweaters, and Sweatshirts: No midriff shown when raising arms above head; Entire shoulder must be covered

Hair: Must be clean and reasonably styled (meaning you at least ran a comb through it, purposely messy styles are ok)

This dress code may be more challenging for students who wear women’s clothing because more garments are designed and created that violate these rules. For those who want to express themselves with these garments, they can – on their own time.

The next time you’re confronted with a dress code with different expectations for men and women, ask yourself what these expectations say about how that situation views the roles of different genders. If you see inequality, I hope you’ll challenge it.

End Gender-Based Socialization & Segregation

We can all pee in the same bathroom.

With the recent wave of anti-LGBT laws considered and passed in the U.S., and people losing their minds about which bathroom people should use, I’ve been thinking about the concept of gender. Besides the fact that sperm and egg are needed for reproduction and biological, hormonal, and chromosomal differences between the various sexes (there are more than two you know), why is gender even an issue? Why do we have social differences, segregation, or even gender identity in any aspect of life?

Why can’t we just be people?

Is this a boy or a girl? Who cares? Let the kid be happy. Hop, Skip and a Jump. by peasap from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Is this a boy or a girl? Who cares? Let the kid be happy.
Hop, Skip and a Jump. by peasap from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Look at babies. If a baby is wearing clothes, I can’t tell what type of genitals it has – and I don’t care. All babies have the same basic needs: food, shelter, care, and love. The only difference I can think of between the sexes, is the location of their urethra because some brands of diapers have extra absorbent sections based on that. Beyond that, there’s no difference between a male and a female baby. I’m going to carry it around like a football until it cries, and then it goes back to the parent.

It’s amazing to see how kids are socialized differently based on gender at such a young age. Looking back, I wonder why schools make students line up by gender. Why segregate when we can integrate.

Speaking of segregation, prepubescent kids have the same body shape. Why do we have different sections for boys’ and girls’ clothing? Just have a children’s section and let them wear whatever they want regardless of color or style. There’s nothing wrong with a boy wearing a dress or a girl wearing a Spiderman costume. Ditto for toys. I’m so glad Hasbro adopted gender-neutral marketing for its easy-bake oven because a little boy who loved to bake was too embarrassed to play with a “girl” toy.

I’m pleased to see that some people are more progressive and accepting. My friend’s sons go to dance class and for the performance, each child got to pick their costume – pants or a dress. One boy opted for the pants, the other picked the dress – and he was so cute!

And does anyone else think it’s weird that was have different size charts for men’s and women’s shoes? There are gender-neutral shoes – like my Converse Chuck Taylors – and apparently stores have to re-label the boxes to help customers avoid confusion. It’s strange that my foot is a size 8.5 but if I had a penis, it would be a size 7. I have no issue shopping in the men’s section for any garment or accessory if that’s where the store put the product I want.

To circle back to the “bathroom issue” (as long as you wash your hands, I don’t care which bathroom you use), I think every public place should have gender neutral bathrooms with water closets for stalls. Each stall has walls that extend from ceiling to floor and regular lockable doors. Liberty Market restaurant has this arrangement and they have one of the coolest bathrooms in the U.S.

Gender-neutral bathrooms will eliminate problems related to helping a loved one in the restroom, men’s room without changing tables, and long lines for the ladies’ room while there’s no wait for the men’s. We’ll also reinforce the notion that boys and girls, men and women, are equal.

Gender Inequality Under the Arizona Decency Law

It’s officially summer in Arizona . . . and it’s hot. (Yeah yeah yeah I live in a desert. Suck it up.) I got home from work one day recently and when I changed out of my work clothes, I threw on a pair of workout shorts and that’s it – no shirt, no sports bra, nothing from the waist up. I’ve been known to hang around my home dressed like that. It’s not sexual, it’s just comfortable.

2013 Go Topless Day Protest with Evo Terra. Photo by Sheila Dee, used with permission.

2013 Go Topless Day Protest with Evo Terra. Photo by Sheila Dee, used with permission.

Then I realized I needed to walk down the street to get the snail mail so I had to put a shirt on. That got me thinking, “I wouldn’t care if my male neighbor got his mail in just a pair of shorts, but if I did that, I’d be breaking the law. What’s the difference?”

How can we say that men and women are equal when the law clearly treats us differently? It’s only an issue if we make it an issue. I’ve heard of cities where it’s legal to be naked in public and it’s a novelty for the high school kids to sit in the park in their birthday suits but otherwise no one cares.

I’ve had guy friends try to explain that women’s chests are more sexual than men and I don’t buy that. I think that guys may be more visually stimulated than women, but that sounds more like their issue than mine. In my experience, if someone is turned on by a body part, it really doesn’t matter if there’s a layer of fabric over it. They’re still going to look (though some of you need to learn to be more discrete about it).

And I don’t buy the argument that a woman’s breasts are more sexual than a man’s chest. I know lots of guys who get uber turned on if you touch their nipples. And given how big some guys’ man boobs are, you can’t say that women’s boobs should be covered up because they’re bigger.

What are we telling girls about their bodies by having different laws for men and women? I’m concerned that this law teaches girls that they should be ashamed of their bodies and tells heterosexual and bisexual boys that it’s ok to treat women like sex objects. Are we telling girls that showing your body could result in people not being able to control themselves? I think we’ve long established that no one has a right to touch or harass you regardless of what you’re wearing.

When I posted the question about gender inequality on Facebook, a friend responded that women going topless would result in traffic problems. And that pissed me off. What happened to personal responsibility? If you get too distracted by pedestrians to safely operate a vehicle, you shouldn’t drive. We had the same questions come up with the No Pants Light Rail Ride. If we are lawfully standing on the platform in our underwear, and someone causes an accident because they were looking at us instead of where they were going, that’s not our fault.

I know we have bigger legislative fish to fry in Arizona than changing the Decency Law, but gender equality should be a priority. It will be an important milestone, more important than most people realize, when we treat men and women’s bodies equally and with the same level of autonomy and respect.

There is an International Go Topless Day every August to bring attention to this issue. My friend and I participated last year and I did a video rant about the news coverage of the event.