Tag Archive | identity

Celebrating diversity by looking the same?

Most New Zealand secondary schools have a uniform of some kind or other. They have evolved over time (thank goodness) but they essentially do the same thing – identify students with a school and are way to ensure discipline. Some might say they help foster pride and help ‘erase’ inequality. Another idea is that wearing a uniform helps prepare people for work where you might have to wear the same thing every day. Uniform doesn’t stop there though, hair length and colour can be ‘uniformed’ as with jewellery and make up. A lot of schools will have a boys and girls uniform or if you are at a single sex school, more than likely you have one uniform option.

So where did the idea for school uniform come from? I’ve done a bit of superficial research on the history of school uniforms. Essentially they came about to bring ‘order’ to perceived chaos in English schools but quickly became a way of showing educational status through what school you went to. The Blazer evolved to give status to Public Grammar schools as they emulated private schools.  Read More…

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Hair – the long and short of it

Hair. It has to be one of the most defining features of human beings. We are virtually hairless as a species. But the hair on our heads definitely seems to be one of the most significant ways we identify each other. Schools seem to have incorporated hair into the realm of uniform. I’m not sure about all schools, but most that have a school uniform probably have some rules about hair styles and colours. Two examples have come to the media in New Zealand over the last week both involving young men.

Hair length definitely seems to be a bit of a gender definer. I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that boys generally have short hair and girls have long hair or at least that is the most common expression of difference related to hair, especially before facial hair appears thanks to testosterone. But that is pretty limiting right? Hair is a wonderful medium to express your individuality, cultural or religious identity or your affinity to music.

Being ‘clean cut with a neat, short, hair’ probably fits best with a military style of discipline. Discipline is something schools take seriously. However I am wondering, if in the year 2014 we could shift our understanding of what it means to show respect and reflect school pride beyond requiring students look the same. It does seem to contradict the idea of valuing diversity a little bit.  Read More…

Big shoes to fill or just find a better fit

I got thinking a lot after I saw this pop up on Facebook.

As long as human beings have been conscious of their own existence in the universe there has been wonderment about the meaning of life and the place we have in it. There are traditions, rituals and beliefs that stretch back to the ‘dawn’ of our species. Indeed, how our collective ‘sun came up’ is one of the most contested and debated ideas of all time. Religion has been around longer than science (I think), but for its short time in our cultural landscape, science has weighed in just as much into the debate and for some it has turned into arguing two sides ‘evolution vrs creation’.

But we cannot ignore the fact that a very large percentage of the worlds population follows one form of religion or another. I did a quick google search (as you do) and was pretty amazed at the incredibly diverse faiths, traditions, beliefs and religions of the world. Some have emerged in more recent times to dominate in terms of numbers of followers but within Christianity alone there are so many denominations it kind of makes my head spin. I suppose one of the things that really interests me is the way cultures shift and change through migration and colonisation, especially for indigenous cultures.

I was watching Avatar recently (for about the 10th time) and aside from the futuristic offworld giant blue people and crazy scary flora and fauna, the parallels of one group trying to impose its beliefs and values on another are pretty clear. There is a pattern we shouldn’t ignore or be afraid to examine because it might help us understand and possibly reclaim some different ways of relating to nature and each other.  Read More…

Ready to pass The Ball?

All across New Zealand, High Schools are gearing up for Ball season. It’s a curious event The School Ball, generations have experienced it. I’m from a time when we actually had to formal dance and I was secretly delighted having been sent to ballroom dancing lessons and couldn’t wait to show off my skills. But I’m not sure if that is something young people miss or want, I’d be interested to find out. If we are going to hold onto such a tradition should we be making more of an effort to hold onto some of the rituals that came with The Ball up until a few years ago. Some of the markers of the modern ball are schools recognising that not everyone wants to take someone of the opposite sex and I think this is a change worth celebrating.

I do know, that regardless of your date, a lot of effort goes into preparing. It is a chance to dress up for a night and some of the worries about the big night are just the same. Do parents still give ‘the talk?’ and the ‘curfew’ or has the age of technology enabled a more fluid kind of arrangement? I know we never had ‘the Police talk’ but then our ‘after ball’ was a few mates around with the record player/tape deck (now there is a generation marker for you) turned up loud. I’ve got a feeling after balls have taken on a whole new meaning or am I missing something? What does The School Ball actually mean to young people and do we still need it? What do parents think of it? Is the After Ball actually more important? And how is technology influencing the capturing of the moment the good the bad and the ‘ugly.’  Read More…

Why do we need to say girls can do anything?

It’s a curious saying yet it was one I grew up with and always remember wondering ‘but what do you mean?’ I can’t remember where I saw it (most likely facebook) but someone pointed out the problem with saying this implants the idea for girls that they couldn’t do anything in the first place.

I wonder if there are more examples of these slogans and statements that whilst trying to develop a positive sense of identity have an unintended effect of casting doubt or implying some deficit for being female. Of course history tells us there have been significant barriers and some very interesting ideas about what women and men can/can’t do.

I’m grateful for all those who broke moulds on both sides of the gender divide. I know our reproductive systems are different and body hair tends to distribute itself differently but how on earth did that translate into dividing almost everything in life by gender?  Read More…