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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23 Responses to Graduation caps: disappointment and frustration all over again

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m with you here, Amanda. I have a serious problem with the fact that the school is not willing to allow students to identify as the gender they please, and wear the dress clothes of their choice. If I want to wear a suit and tie, what is the purpose of stopping me? If a boy identifies as female, androgynous, or even male, for that matter, that individual should be free to express him/herself in formal attire that suits them. Let the ladies wear suits, and let the men wear dresses. It’s appropriate attire for the occasion, and if anyone believes it to be improper due to gender, he or she needs to re-evaluate his or her view on the difference between sex and gender identity.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Crocs cannot be defeated! Viva la resistance!

  3. Anonymous says:

    But in all seriousness I support your case to stop the constant oversight of anachronistic gender roles and expectations.

  4. JohnQ says:

    To me the most offensive thing is that women if they choose to are not allowed to remove their cap to show respect for the national anthem and the flag. To all these right wing traditionalists stuck in the 1950’s that seems Un-American and Un-Patriotic. Wonder what their take is?

  5. Business Professional says:

    Amanda, I am curious to know if you are aware that it is very common in business/organizations to define company dress codes by gender. These codes are typically communicated prior to an offer of employment and are essential for businesses to operate within their set standards as to how they would like employees to represent the company internally and to the public.

    This is something to consider as you move forward with your education and career. Being that Pennsylvania is a state, like many, who practice “at will” employment, you may need to reconsider your stance on the gender definitions and expectations. You seem like a bright student with a lot of potential and while you may not like the idea of having gender expectations, your future success and employment may depend on your ability to work within a company’s defined system because they have certain freedom, liberties, and rights to conduct their business as they see fit.

    • Amanda Chan says:

      When I do get a job, I hope to be lucky enough to find one that values the actual work I do–not the size of heels I wear or how great I look in a pencil skirt. Surely, I wouldn’t reject a great job if it mandates a sexist dress code, but that certainly doesn’t mean I’ll be quiet about it forever. Besides, companies should be looking back and revising their outdated dress codes probably written in the decades that were ignorant of a woman’s right to not wear frilly dresses or of a transgendered person’s right to wear a men’s suit.

  6. Beth Kennedy says:

    my daughter logan was not allowed to attend her graduation at CYHS wearing birkenstocks, and therefore did not attend. very proud mom

    • Amanda Chan says:

      Your daughter is courageous. The school has no right to mandate what gender your daughter should identify with, and kudos for refusing to settle.

  7. American says:

    I would also like to second Business Professional and encourage you to look up the “appropriate” protocol when it comes to honoring our flag, which includes men ONLY removing a cap from their heads. You may also be interested in why there is a difference in the protocol.

    At some point, while you children are all high and mighty with your outrage, you somehow forget that traditions were set in the past due to our founding ideas and ideals. I know, I know, we should all change to protect the desires and wishes of adolescents who have never provided for themselves or their community.

    I simply will suggest that you ask a Veteran, who has fought for your right to be so outraged, why respecting the flag is so very important to them. And then maybe you can realize why your self-important banter here is offensive to your community.

    • Amanda Chan says:

      I am sorry that you find it improper that I should not respect the flag because of my gender. Surely, you don’t mean that half of the country’s population shouldn’t take their caps off for the flag simply because they are women? I think discriminating upon sex would be more inappropriate than a woman taking off her hat to the great American flag. Also, maybe the high school should go back to tradition—we might want to look into segregating the schools and making the girls take sewing classes. In all seriousness, the original Central York tradition was to have the classes vote on a color and then the whole class would wear that single, unifying color. Not the silly orange for girls and black for boys. Founding ideals and values? Great, that means one color for the whole class.

  8. Logan says:

    I graduated from Central York in 2006. I refused to sign the similar set of rules I was required to sign if I wanted to go to graduation. For several days during morning announcements I was called down to the front office and told to sign the paperwork. Each time I refused. Eventually my mother was required to come into the school and talk with the principle.

    While I appreciate the statements made by Business Professional I think he/she is missing a major point. I value ethics more than my career. I have the right to not work for companies whose values I disagree with.

    On a side note I also recently got married wearing Birkenstocks.

    • Anne-Marie Hober says:

      Good for you!
      One thing, the word is “principal”.
      But hold on to your ideals and principles – in the end that’s what really matters. The world needs more people with ethics!

    • Amanda Chan says:

      This is great. It’s both pathetic and laughable that a mere 7 years ago, they were still enforcing this code. Ironic that Central claims to be the trailblazer in contemporary education and technology–yet they force the students to dress like outdated gender roles.

  9. Bobby says:

    “I had wrote”…hmm. Maybe Central should reconsider more than the attire for graduation.

  10. Bobby says:

    I seriously hope this is the biggest problem you ever have to face.

  11. So Sad says:

    I read your letter in the newspaper and was so disappointed in you that I actually took the time to find your site. Please, find something real to protest. Put on your dress and shoes and pretend just for a moment that you are a grown-up. As for Business Professional, I totally agree and will just add this. If you would show up for an interview in the company I own without the proper and expected attire, I doubt we would even have a conversation, regardless of your skills or qualifications.

    • Amanda Chan says:

      How about I put on my white collared shirt and tie, and I’ll protest it. Of course, I am not asking to abolish the dress code–I am simply pointing out the inconsistencies that the dress code forces upon the different genders. If I show up to a job interview wearing men’s shoes, and I am denied that job solely because of my choice of shoes, do I really want to work for that company?

  12. Anne-Marie Hober says:

    Do NOT listen to all the nay-sayers and traditionalists! The world needs more people who, when someone says “no”, say YES! and keep working for change. Your proposal and blog give me hope for the future. You are amazing.
    Just remember YOU students EARNED your diplomas; the ceremony is for show and in the grand scheme of life, not important. YOU matter.
    As for Business Professional’s comments, there are MANY places outside of Pennsylvania where you can live, prosper and be happy. There are MANY career paths outside of corporate America that encourage creative thinking and equality. YOU set your own goals and priorities. Dream big!

  13. anonymous says:

    Seriously, it’s graduation, get over yourself! You are not the only one graduating! Get off your high horse already!

    • Amanda Chan says:

      Thanks for reminding me! I almost forgot. Something about the numbers 402 students and 1 student confuses me to no end!

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