A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

School Dress Codes: Good or Evil?

As we start back to school in this country there has been talk about school dress codes.  I am a bit conflicted about what I hear and read.  I hear a resistance to the sexualization of our young girls and a resistance to the clothing which proclaims that sexualization.  This sounds good.  On the other hand I hear a resistance to the idea girls should be ashamed of their bottoms, their boobs, their shoulders, and a resistance to the idea we should primarily be concerned about the distraction our girls might cause to boys.  This makes sense to me as well.  I hear and read school staff reiterating the dress codes apply equally to males and females and I find this less than honest.  The codes might be written in a way which speaks equality but the truth is, the codes are far more frequently applied to females because they are far more likely to break the dress code.  Is this because our girls are naturally more disobedient?  Is this because our girls feel the pull to be sexy more strongly?  Are they more slutty than boys?  Or is it because of aspects of our culture which sexualize our daughters more so than our sons and then shame them for the sexualization we have inflicted upon them?  

Obviously, I think the latter more likely.  However, I am not sure it would be helpful for us to then acquiesce to the sexualization rampant in our culture and encourage girls to wear whatever society pressures them to wear.  What if instead our dress codes became counter cultural rather than shaming?  What if we re-articulate the reasoning behind our dress codes?  Our dress codes need not be about distractions or shame.  Rather let our dress codes be about valuing minds and healthy bodies and healthy sexuality with equal power, equal expectations for all.  Our dress codes could seek to undermine the culture which exploits women and teaches men to consider women as objects of lust or shaming.  

My body is never merely a distraction to someone else.  My body is an instrument of my power in the world.  It is an agent of change.  It is a conduit of my strength.  It is my health.  It is a vehicle for my agency as I work to make the world a better place.  My body houses me and when it is healthy and strong I can better face the challenges of life and be a force for good.  If our dress codes loudly and proudly proclaim this view of the bodies of our young men and women then they will address what is unhealthy in our society rather than shaming our young women for the consequences of that ill health.

A dress code might begin by saying “This school is an academic environment.  We are here to learn from one another: students learn from staff, staff from students, and students learn from one another.  In addition to academics, together we seek to help each other learn what is healthy and what is unhealthy, what is helpful and what is unhelpful.  Certain aspects of our world encourage us to look at each other as sexual objects, to diminish our bodies to nothing more than what is sexy or pretty.  In this place we see our bodies as vehicles of things such as health, strength, will, and mind.  Our bodies are important for our health and our ability to act in this world.  Therefore, we seek to dress in ways which counter the culture of over-sexualization.  In order to better guide one another into a healthy view of our bodies and to act as agents of positive change in our society we adopt the following dress code….”  

Our young people are thoughtful and vulnerable to the messages we send.  It is not in their best interest for us to keep policies in place because that is the way it has always been done, or because it is more comfortable for the adults.  Our schools and the staff of the schools do a wonderful job of teaching and caring for our students.  This is not meant as a criticism of them.  It just may be time we as a nation and communities rethink and articulate better reasoning for why we do what we do in regards to dress codes. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

No More Pink and Blue? OH NO!

Target recently announced it would be removing gender biased labeling from certain sections of their stores.  I assumed this would be met with applause by those of us concerned with the effects of gender bias and the rest of the world wouldn’t notice.  Much to my amazement the applause was present but also extreme anger and threats of boycott.  

I have difficulty understanding why this would make anyone angry.  If you think trucks are for boys and fashion dolls are for girls, do you really mean to tell me you can’t tell by looking which is which?  You really need the pink and blue color coding and a sign delineating the girls’ section in order to figure it out?  

The only conclusion I can come to is that this is really a rebellion against political correctness.  It is a rebellion against being told our words or our actions are offensive or biased.  I understand it can be tedious to worry about offending others.  It would be so much easier if we could all just say whatever is on our mind without thinking about anybody else.  And, after all, that is a cherished Christian value.  Scripture often tells us to say whatever comes to mind, for good or ill, and worry not for the feelings of our neighbor.  Oh, wait….maybe that wasn’t it.  

“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:11) This is just one of several times when scripture talks about the importance of being careful of our words.  

If we think the hearts of our neighbors matter, if we think words have power, then it seems political correctness might not be the enemy.   Laziness, indifference to the concerns of the outcast and the powerless, fear of change, these might be enemies more worthy of our time.  

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go gaze upon my daughters’ extensive building block collection and rejoice future parents might not have to work to convince their daughters it is okay to consider building blocks which aren’t pink and might even feature trucks and helicopters.  May parents of all children experience similar liberation from the limitations we arbitrarily place upon children as if pink and blue gender coding is God ordained.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Confederate Flag, Dukes, and Compassion

I have pondered for several days my response to those who are defending the Confederate Flag and mourning the loss of the Dukes of Hazzard.  After a bit of contemplation here is what I have to say:

Look, I fell in love with my first husband while he was wearing a Confederate Flag do-rag.  I understand the symbol of rebellion thing.  I understand the nod to history.  I watched the Duke’s of Hazard as a kid.  I understand they are just a couple of “good ole boys.” The thing is I have met a few people since then.  I have heard stories from the hearts of my brothers and sisters of varying races, ethnicities and positions in life.  Therefore, I have come to understand what I see as a symbol of rebellion might hold a different meaning to someone else.  I have come to understand “good ole boys” sometimes use their “good ole boy” connections to maintain their position and power and money.  They may be just helping out friends like “good ole boys” do.  Yet the consequences are sexism, racism, classism, and a world which is far from the ideal of equal opportunity.  

I understand it is just a TV show.  But, listen to that again: it is just a TV show.  Doesn’t it seem like we ought to be able to let go of “just a TV show” even on the off chance it is sending a message of the acceptance of racism or hurting the hearts of our brothers and sisters?  

Remember, racism isn’t just about people using the word “nigger” and hurting someone’s feelings.  Racism is played out in ways which cause poverty and death.  Do we really want to say: “I care about equality for all people unless it interrupts my TV viewing?”  Do we really want to fly a flag just to prove we aren’t held back by political correctness when it might be communicating a message of hate or at least indifference to those who are suffering from racism?  Consider if there was something threatening the lives of your children.  How would it feel to you if someone said, “I don’t care if you say this symbol communicates support for this thing which is killing your children.  I don’t think it has anything to do with that so I am going to wear this symbol loud and proud.  Your children will probably be fine.  See how I love them?” 

Pretty sure you would call B.S. on that.