Whether we like it or not, clothes and fashion are important markers of status, class, gender, and sexual identity. Just ask any high school student who is trying to present their own personal style or identity and comes up against the rules and judgments of parents, teachers, and society. Most schools today have dress codes regulating the length of skirts and banning t-shirts with offensive images and drug or gang references. Some schools also have gendered dress codes, such as the Virginia school which prohibits “any clothing worn by a student that is not in keeping with a student’s gender and causes a disruption and/or distracts others from the educational process or poses a health or safety concern.”
Originally I envisioned this post as a commentary on labels or stereotypes, and how they serve to sort and categorize individuals. We all do it….give labels to people in an attempt to construct an orderly inventory in our minds. However, while they can sometimes be helpful and provide a common vocabulary, labels can often limit our understanding and obstruct our view of the whole individual. I specifically wanted to address labels in relation to gender as a follow up to Ashley Baggett’s excellent post on masculinity and Adam Turner’s awesome post in which he talks about sorting and categorizing people. In the course of my writing, however, an unexpected turn-of-events occurred. I was asked to temporarily teach a third-grade class. So, I decided to look at gender and labels from a different perspective–from a third-grade point-of-view. It turned out to be an excellent source of material and I thought I would share some things I’ve learned from these plain-talking third-graders.
This morning Mitt Romney named Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate. Now, I find Paul Ryan objectionable in a number of ways – he has cited Ayn Rand as the “one person” who inspired his political career, for God’s sake, and never mind that she was a pro-choice atheist while he is an anti-choice Catholic – but we at Nursing Clio are particularly interested in issues of gender, sexuality, and medicine, and so I would like to take this opportunity to explain why Ryan poses a particular threat to women, gays, lesbians, and, well, anyone who cares at all about women, gays, and/or lesbians.