Friday, September 25, 2015

"Accidental" Sexism?

Picture day was yesterday at my kids' school. Both of my girls said that they wanted to wear jewelry, so I took out a big bag of costume jewelry and let them drench themselves in faux diamonds. My 5-year-old son took a look at his beautiful sisters and exclaimed, "I want a necklace and a bracelet!" And so I gave him one. He had a sparkly charm bracelet and a pink shoelace necklace with heart and rainbow shrinky-dinks. He said he loved it and he felt great. We were all set for our pictures and they smiled and waved as I dropped them off at the door of the school.

Upon their return, I was quite disheartened to hear that my son was told to remove his jewelry prior to his photo. He told me that the photographer said, "Boys aren't allowed to wear jewelry in photos", and even though he protested, they made him take them off. When asked, my girls assured me that they were not asked to remove their jewelry.

The only reason I can see this happening is because they didn't think that the pink necklace and hearts were "boy appropriate" and so they removed his jewelry, in an effort to make my 5 year old look more masculine. So of course, I called this morning to complain and to search for a possible alternate explanation. I was told that the secretary would be checking with the policies of the photographers and getting back to me on officially why he was asked to remove his jewelry. I also requested a reshoot, where he damn sure will be wearing it.

When we get our pictures and he sees that he was asked to remove his jewelry and his sisters were not, what will he think? He will obviously be upset and see this as a double standard because it is one. Just as Feminism has argued that women shouldn't be treated differently because they are female, it also argues that men should not be treated differently because of their gender. My son should not have been asked to remove something that he felt comfortable in and that helped him express who he was as a person just because the person behind the camera felt compelled to uphold a stereotype.

My questions for this morning; Why are we afraid for our children to drift outside stereotypical gender norms? We live in Ohio, conservative in contrast to our previous San Francisco area home, so did they think I would complain about him having worn the necklace? Are gender norms more heavily defined in this part of the country? If this wasn't a case of sexism, why did they think it was necessary to enforce this rule for boys and not for girls?

I understand that they are a business and I assume what they thought they were doing was "erring on the side of caution" in case I didn't feel comfortable with my son having worn the jewelry. But then why would I have sent him in wearing it? And when they noticed that he was upset, why would they have continued to insist that he not wear it? Is this a case where making a business decision caused them to become "accidentally" sexist? Or was this true discrimination?

I look forward to hearing more from the school on this matter and to a reshoot that presents him in the manner that he is comfortable with, instead of being left to the comfort level of the photographer. I will also edit this article to reflect any new information that I receive concerning the request for him to remove his jewelry.

1 comment:

  1. Update: The school administration agreed with us and decided to allow a reshoot, where he was permitted to dress as he saw fit. I am very pleased with the outcome of this situation and will continue to be diligent about defending my children's rights.