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Fashion and Discipline

Back in the bloom of my youth I went to a typical high school and dressed like a typical teenager. That involved a lot of jeans and T-shirts. Alberta had a junior high school system as well, which covered grades 7-9. It was fairly conservative and run by a principal reviled by most, Archie Wilcox. He was known for being draconian and supposedly had influence in getting his job through a brother on the school board. He was so nasty that at one time his tires were slashed and this was in a day before people were carrying guns or even knives at school. And when he started having an affair with one of the teachers and all of the students knew about it, we laughed at him. He was not loved at all. One day he was addressing the class in his lover’s classroom and his fly was undone so we all snickered at him. He nearly blew a gasket, not knowing what we laughed at.

In this stalag (Simon Fraser Junior High) we were not allowed to wear jeans and one day my homeroom science teacher said, “I need to talk to you about your jeans.” I heard, “I need to talk to you about your genes,” and looked at him confused until he elaborated. I was wearing a pair of light blue not quite jeany material but the cut was too jean like. So I was told I needed to change.

Our homeroom in grade 9 had a rep for being bad and unruly. I’m not sure why but we were definitely feisty (maybe it was one of our boys who slashed Wilcox’s tires). One day I was going down the hall, looking back over my shoulder, and ran into the doughy bosom of Mrs. Acton. She, like Wilcox, was old school, and was his right hand man from what I recall. She wore her hair in a bun, seemed always old and was built  like a battle tank matron.

She looked me over from the sharp edge of her glasses and told me to go see the principal about my top. It was what we called a pop top, sleeveless, and short. It showed about an inch of my midriff. So I went to the principal’s office where he told me I was not conforming to the dress code (or something…I don’t quite remember). I do remember saying back to him, “But this doesn’t affect our learning any,” and I repeated it, unrepentant. Wilcox bubbled a bit and I remained adamant. So I was sent home to change.

I wasn’t as knowledgeable or set in my opinions as perhaps I am now (though I like to think I’m always listening to the other side). Home was a 20-minute walk each way. I arrived home and told my mother what had happened. She agreed with me that my dress didn’t affect my learning but she made me change anyways. So grumpily I complied. (The part of this that may have also influenced her was that my sister had had problems with Wilcox–due to illnesses, I think, and my younger brother transferred to another school because of this principal. He was definitely not someone my family cared to associate with.)

In later years, I thought maybe the instructors were worried about the boys not learning if they were staring at girls in midriff tops. The truth is, that as teenagers everyone is trying on and forming their personalities and sexuality. Girls will show off their bodies if they can. People will wear what they consider sexy, especially if they’re trying to attract the opposite sex.

Now I’ve heard that some schools have banned T-shirts that portray slogans. To make it fair, they ban all slogans to be sure the racist or bigoted ones are gone too. Some ban certain tops, or jeans so low they show the butt crack or underwear, or skirts so high they show the butt. Will it affect learning in general? No. I’m all for banning racist, prejudiced and bigoted comments from a learning environment. Teenagers also like to push boundaries, theirs and others. But what about the clothing  now that I’m no longer constricted to wear, or not wear by teenagerhood, school and all that entails?

Well, I work and I’ve almost always worked where the dress code was lax (or been self-employed). When I worked in a department store we weren’t allowed to wear jeans or dresses that showed our arms (I don’t think that part lasted long). Most places, unless they’re dealing a lot with the public, don’t care if you were jeans, shorts, skirts or T-shirts as long as they’re clean, not so old they’re scruffy and torn, and decent. Decent usually means no short shorts and no bellies showing. Some places may required little to no cleavage showing. It varies depending on the profession.

But as to schools and teenagers…well, they’ve never been the epitomes of fashion. Not that some people ever grow up to have a fashion sense. Teenagers are great experimenters in all aspects of their lives. With their individualism comes trying on everything from attitude to clothing. Too many, I think fall to peer pressure but some go their own way. And should some aspects of their clothing be banned? Well, they should probably remain decent but decency in dress has to be defined. Is a skirt two inches below the butt indecent or okay? Is a top showing some cleavage or a navel fine? Fashion and styles have changed (and come around again) from when I was a teenager, but not that much.

Some of the issues are still the same. The conservative people and administrators will still see certain fashion items as wrong, slovenly or indecent. My mother always equated jeans to working on farms because it was only farmers who wore them when she was growing up.

Granted times have changed and these days there are more and more cases of guns in schools (remember I’m talking mostly Canada here–gun mileage in your area may vary) so the range of what is acceptable may have changed with more “worldly” attitudes, but I think as long as the essentials are covered, in all positions (such as bending over or walking up the stairs in a short short skirt), then teenagers should be allowed the freedom to find themselves and experiment.

Of course, I don’t have kids. I could be singing a different tune if I did.

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The Power of the Swastika

There is hardly anyone who doesn’t know what a swastika is, and, because 20th century Nazism understands the stigmatization of that symbol as it relates to hatred and racism. There are those who still support and believe in that particular symbolism, and are often called nationalist or neo-Nazi. The symbol is now so abhorred that Germany has outlawed it (along with a few other countries) and cringes as a nation every time it is seen. Games or other products in Germany can in no way display the swastika. They are a nation carrying great shame from Hitler’s crimes of the past.

So when someone of Western culture uses the sign, it is suspect ,and the person will be taken to be a neo-Nazi or white supremacist/nationalist as a woman in Winnipeg was seen to be. When her daughter inscribed a swastika on her arm, went to school and the teacher scrubbed it off, the mother decided to re-inscribe it the next day and send her daughter to school. Which resulted in social services taking away the two children. The couple began the fight to get their children back, citing freedom of political views.

As the case is beginning today, the mother, now separated from her partner, has softened her tone. Earlier interviews showed she was adamant about her beliefs and that the removal of her children had strengthened them. On CBC’s “The Current,” the woman stated that if she needed to change her beliefs to get her children back, she would. Perhaps her lawyers finally coached her that adamantly voicing her belief in her political beliefs damaged her chances of ever getting her children .

She also stated that she wasn’t a racist and believed only in white pride and going back to her Norse (she might have said Nordic) roots. That the swastika symbolized peace and love. But she also said she didn’t believe in interracial marriage. Umm, that’s racist or at least bigoted. Maybe not the big racism (you know, beating people and destroying their property) but it is still racist, as in you’re okay but I won’t mix with you because of the color of your skin.

Is there any truth to her claims of the swastika going back to her Norse roots? Yes. In fact, the swastika is pretty much a symbol once used universally throughout the world, just as the Greek key design was likewise used in Celtic lands and Mexico (and elsewhere I’m sure). There are conjectures of how and why the sign arose, from basket weaving designs to religious symbols, but the swastika and variations thereof is very old. It dates to neolithic and Bronze Age times. Some of the groups that used the swastika in one form or another were: Celtic, Germanic, Native American, Navajo, Hopi, Japanese, Baltic, Etruscan, Finnish, Hungarian, Polish, Tibetan, Indian, and Slavic. The meanings have varied but it could symbolize the sun, man, god, fire, majesty, power, good luck, wandering, etc.

The swastika can be a variant of the sun wheel or sun cross  (a cross in a circle), which is older than the Christian cross and can represent the four directions. It is also very prevalent throughout Hindu and Buddhist culture to this day and figures largely in Chinese, Tibetan, Indian and Japanese culture. Items have sometimes been shipped to Western countries with these symbols on them (which may mean vegetarian or be a good luck symbol), which has caused considerable consternation and protest at the cultural misunderstandings.

So, in essence, anyone in our culture knows what the historical connotations are and should you want to exhibit pride in your skin color there are probably many better ways to do it, unless in fact you are racist and believe white is better. This woman (who can’t be named for protection of her children’s identities) doesn’t really get my sympathy. But maybe her song is changing.

The thing I always find amusing was that Hitler picked a symbol used for centuries by many races of color. That it was also Germanic probably helped but this indicates his ignorance of the great scope of symbols and culture. He also wanted a pure “Aryan nation” (and I believe this woman may have been a member of the Aryan Guard). What Hitler didn’t know was that India would have been considered an Aryan nation because the way anthropologists interpret Aryan is through the root language. It’s linguistics not racial types. And really, people in India are of the Caucasian race (people of the Caucasus region) to begin with. Bet that would have had Hitler spinning like a top. I wonder what the modern Aryan nations and neo-Nazis and others who want “Aryan” supremacy think of that and I wonder if this woman would marry a Hindu from India, since basically he would just be a very tanned Caucasian.

But maybe the next time this woman sends her kids to school (if she ever gets them back, and whether social services can intervene in political views is another matter) maybe she’ll have a higher wattage bulb turned on and realize the swastika has negative symbolism in Western culture. Unless she proves she’s Buddhist or Hindu she’ll have to keep her views secret and raise her children to be happy, peace loving racists.

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