Graduation caps: disappointment and frustration all over again

This year, I was proud to announce that Central York High School has taken gender-segregation out of its graduation ceremony–I was wrong. Annoyed with the convoluted and gender-focused organization of the ceremony, I wrote the school board a proposal paper to improve the commencement: instead of girls wearing orange and boys wearing black, everyone wears one color or gets to choose. Thankfully, the school board changed the policy.

It was great seeing the school board open to new ideas and taking in all point of views. They could see the injustice in forcing the graduating seniors into these useless gender-based categories, and they made the correct changes.

Or so I thought. A few days ago, I received a letter in the mail, and I quickly scanned over the dress code, before I noticed something off and read it again. And again. And one more time just to make sure that I wasn’t being paranoid.

The following is directly from the memo sent to all the homes of the current seniors. 

Attire for the Commencement Exercise:
In order to provide appropriate atmosphere and promote respect for the members of the graduating class and their guests,
the following rules for attire will be observed by the Class of 2013:
1. All seniors receiving a diploma must wear a cap and gown for commencement.
2. Women must wear a dress, skirt and blouse, dress pants and blouse, or pantsuit under their gown.
3. Women must wear dress footwear, but are not required to wear heels. Shower shoes, crocks and flip-flops are not permitted.
4. Women must wear the collars provided.
5. Women choosing to wear dress pants or a pantsuit must wear solid dark dress pants. Jeans are not permitted.
  6. Men must wear a white dress shirt, a long tie, solid dark dress pants, dressshoes, and dress socks. Jeans are not permitted.
7. Caps shall be worn with the tassel on the right side. When the class is formally declared as graduated, all tassels
are transferred simultaneously to the left side.
    8. During the commencement program, men will remove their caps during the pledge and the national anthem. Women should not remove their caps at any time.
9. Caps/gowns/tassels are for the graduates to keep and should not be returned to the school.
10. Those wearing flip-flops, athletic shoes, blue jeans, khakis, or other unacceptable attire will not be allowed to
participate. Appropriate formal attire is required; no exceptions!

I go through weeks and weeks of work to drill into the administration that gender-equality really does matter, even at events at high school. The school board finally changes it, because they believe that gender-equality is great, too. One week later, I receive this horrendous letter? Did the idea of gender-equality simply not transfer over to the rest of the ceremony?

Women must wear special collars. Men cannot wear dresses. Men can wear shower-caps and Crocs. Men must remove caps, but women must keep theirs on. One administrator even remarked that “his ladies” didn’t have to remove caps so they didn’t have to “worry about messing up the hair.” That’s fantastic! At first I wanted to pay respect to that national anthem, but because I am a girl, and I therefore inherently am obsessed with the appearance of my hair, I’ll just opt for keeping my cap on instead–well, I guess I’m being forced to.

To say the least, I am disappointed in the way the graduation ceremony is organized. It reminds me of calculus; my teacher always says, “You cannot just acknowledge the theory. You must understand the math and apply it to the problem.” Fighting gender-equality is not just a one-time thing in the previously-segregated colors of the graduation gowns. I won’t bring this up against the school board again, but that doesn’t mean that I am not annoyed with the still sexist aspects of graduation that the classes of Central York have to endure.

About Amanda Chan

I am a current senior in high school, and I really like fruit. And feminism.
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