I have blogged about school balls before. I thought I was over it. But it just keeps popping up like a painful blister from wearing high heels (apparently – I don’t wear heels – I get altitude sickness – and I never passed my femininity licence).
A school has decided it can veto the style of dress worn. The main issue is the amount of skin being shown. Now on the face of it, that does sound a little OTT. However, it is a Catholic school. Why should that make a difference? Well, it is about what values the school is upholding. This is a religious school, with a particular set of ideologies and beliefs about modesty and the body. So I am not shocked that they have taken this stance. I’m more shocked that people attending the school would be. I think some people forget that Christianity is a religion.
Schools already have a sense of ownership around policing bodies, uniforms do that well and this is a school event.It kind of fits with representing the school image, like sports teams. What I do take issue with is not being able to take shoes off if they are hurting. Those wearing high heels have to suffer in order to maintain the forced gender code of femininity even if it results in excruciating pain and discomfort. I can see that being a fun night on the dance floor. My tip – just don’t wear heels or take two pairs of shoes, one for show and one for go! Another solution is to have uniform ball dresses, now there’s an idea – along with uniform ball jewellery. Let’s go all the way and have set hair styles and makeup. For guys lets say they must keep their tie and jacket on all night, gotta have some gender equality somewhere.
So as all schools head into ball season lets get a bit of a reality check. It is an old tradition we haven’t quite integrated into the 21st-century ideas of diversity and difference. It is the ‘Straightrix’ – like The Matrix that codes all forms of gender and sexuality norms. If you know that you can choose to take the blue pill for the night (no I am not encouraging drug use – see the movie!) go for it and have a fun night.
Have you ever sent or posted a picture of someone (possibly yourself) and then wished you could jump in a time machine and go back and tell your past self ‘nooooooo don’t do it’. What about someone hacking your account and finding those ‘awkward’ pictures then threatening to post them? Maybe you haven’t personally experienced either of these but I talk with lots of young people who have found the digital world can be pretty unforgiving when it comes to personal stuff.
I don’t think I have any pictures of me at parties as a teen. I don’t think I could have focussed the camera all that well while dancing. My youth is secretly stashed away in a photo album at my parents house, lucky me. But a lot of young people have very personal, intimate and what many older people might consider ‘private’ pictures shared online. Up until recently the law said very little about what made for offensive harmful communication online. We have finally caught up and there is a new Harmful Digital Communications Act that has been passed. I’ve also been chatting to the police a bit about what they reckon are some of the important ways young people can keep safe in the digital world. Here is what I think are the key points.
• Once you send an image of yourself to anyone or post it anywhere online regardless of your expectation of being private you lose control of that image – it can go ANYWHERE
• Your facebook profile pictures are easy to ‘take’ and use elsewhere
• If you send any picture of someone under 16 and they are naked, partially clothed – ‘sexualised’ it might be considered sharing child pornography – regardless of ‘consent’
• Taking pictures of someone in public while technically not a crime – if those pictures are used without someone’s consent it might be considered a harmful communication
• There are places you can’t film or take pictures because people might reasonably expect privacy (bedroom, bathroom, changing rooms)
• There are 10 points that make a digital communication harmful – it must not:
a. disclose sensitive personal facts
b. be threatening, intimidating, or menacing
c. be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the same position
d. be indecent or obscene
e. be used to harass
f. make a false allegation
g. contain things published in breach of confidence
h. incite or encourage anyone to send a message to someone to purposely cause harm
i. incite or encourage someone to commit suicide
j. put someone down (denigrate) for their colour, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability
I think it’s great that people’s right to dignity, respect and mana are being considered when it comes to our online lives. But having laws probably wont stop all harm, just like having drink drive or speed laws doesn’t make the road safe. If you do get stuck or are not sure what to do, talk to someone at school or contact netsafe. They can guide you as to what to do. If you know someone is feeling stressed or worried about any of the above support them to get help coz we can all make mistakes right? I really like this website ‘share this instead’ as it gives some great ways to respond if someone is putting the pressure on to send nudes. Check it out.
I like the grandparent test myself – if you wouldn’t want your grandma/kuia or grandpa/koro to see or read it then do not post it!
I read somewhere that ‘movies are like the modern version of the campfire’ and I think what that means is they have become a way of telling stories about ourselves. Books do this of course but the visual aural spectacle of watching something on the big screen (and in 3D if you don’t get motion sick like me) is probably how a lot of people come across powerful themes like dystopia.
If you’re not familiar with the term, dystopia is the opposite of utopia or living in a ‘perfect world’. Typical features of dystopia are totalitarian governments with severe or extreme forms of control that are often dehumanising or degrading in some way, and sometimes include a version of environmental disaster (natural or unnatural). Dystopian themed literature exploded in the 1930’s and 40’s perhaps in response to world events at the time with some real classics emerging such as Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley and my all time favourite 1984 by George Orwell (written in 1949..clearly didn’t predict the true horror of 80’s fashion).
With The Hunger Games, Delirium and Divergent arriving to push dystopic themes into the ‘hearts’ (fluttering?) and minds of young people, it is probably important to look beyond the visuals of these productions to some of the important messages they potentially have.
I saw Divergent recently and putting aside the romantic under/overtones the messages around how societies might re-organise themselves after an apocalypse of some kind follows a familiar pattern. The first is the idea of social structures changing especially government and law. In Divergent society is organised into faction based on roles performed by people. Once you reach a certain age you are tested to see what faction your personal qualities best suit. You then get the choice to go with that or stay with your faction of birth. The risk is if you choose another faction you say goodbye to your family. The second idea is of revolution and where that comes from is resistance. In Divergent, if you are someone who’s skills, qualities and abilities fit multiple factions you get an ‘inconclusive’ result meaning you are divergent and this is a threat to the governing social structure. Divergents hide and do what they can to stay hidden as they are hunted down.
I liked the idea of some following their hearts rather than the test result, breaking free of family tradition. The idea of ‘fitting in’ versus belonging runs strongly through Divergent. It reminded me of schools in many ways and how quickly they test you to see where you fit. The factions in this case could be generalised stereotypes of ‘sporty’ ‘sciency, mathsy (geeky)’ ‘languagy’ ‘arty’ you get the idea. Gradually the lines between the factions appear to strengthen as the expectation to choose your future pathway draws nearer. Psychological tests are beginning to appear in schools as a tool to help young people ‘choose’ where they fit. Teachers and parents sit eagerly awaiting your decision, they know you, your potential but here you are secretly ‘divergent’ screaming on the inside ‘yes I’m good at sport but I love literature and chemistry, why do I have to choose?’ It isn’t an extreme leap to notice as well that families have certain hopes and expectations for where their children should belong. Walking away from that to follow what deep down you know is important to you can feel like being exiled or disowned.
We not only label people by looks we have drawn imaginary lines around knowledge and skills and forced young people to ‘fit’ and for me this resembles a socially acceptable form of dystopia. I like divergent ways of being and want to reassure any others hiding out there that you are not alone and your place is everywhere and anywhere.
Really the only difference between the topias is ‘dys-u’ how strange language is at times.