Thinking Queer: Sexuality, Culture, and Education

By Susan Talburt; Shirley R. Steinberg | Go to book overview
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Chapter 10
School Uniforms, Baggy Pants, Barbie Dolls, and Business Suit Cultures on School Boards: A Feminqueering

Glorianne M. Leck


School Boards and the Policies They Construct

Clothing is very much a social artifact -- a form of communication. -- Nathan Joseph, 1986

School board policy makers have typically held power as representative members of the successful middle and professional class. Their gender display and work costume -- the slacks or skirt, blazer or suit jacket, and tie or ruffles -- seem designed to reveal their performance of "right" attitudes toward work, competsssition, gender, sexuality, nationalism, self- restraint, and religious conformity.

School boards that have voted to endorse school uniform policies appear to believe that by changing the image of the children attending the school they can change the social and academic environment. Their assumption is that requiring students to wear specific costumes of clothing will reduce inappropriate displays of sexuality in the school setting and will reduce the often extreme social consequences of adolescent fashion competition.

Results of studies done by Behling and Williams indicate that "persons are perceived to have a variety of personality traits depending on their physical appearance." Further, it appears clothing alone can create the perceptions of an individual's value. Individuals who dress in harmony with cultural norms are viewed more positively. In this sense "suits are 'good' and ragged jeans and worn out T-shirts are not" ( Behling 1991, 11).

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