conformity

Busting for neutral territory

Animals don’t wear clothes, we are the only animals who have constructed such intense meanings around the coverings we wear. All animals excrete (actually so do plants, not sure about rocks and minerals) and we also have insane rules over who can excrete where and how. I’m a bit perplexed at the responses to the new guidelines around sexuality education and the insistence that unless we have separate bathrooms and gendered uniforms in schools young people will enter the ‘real world’ confused and unable to know how to conform and play by the (gendered) rules of life.

But I’ve been beaten to it by Philip Patston, his blog is well worth reading. The issue for me is when do we say ‘woops let’s leave those assumptions in the past’. I think gender is screaming out for a need to move on, or an extreme make over. Something like the androgynous 80’s but without the shoulder pads! Schools as social institutions have been shaping young minds and bodies, beating any resistance into shape by shoving young people into set uniforms, and other rules designed to identify them clearly for a particular gendered role in society. I’m not going to run through the tired justifications for uniforms particularly the myth that they create some ‘fairness’ or sense of ‘equality’ or ‘school pride’. However schools are more like brands these days – and parents as ‘consumers’ rate brands according to criteria perceived as valuable. Uniforms are part of the branding.

Toilets however are part of life. We have actually divided the world by excretory plumbling specs – mainly how our kidneys expel waste. How weird is that? I love the ridiculous paranoid rantings of the likes of Bob McCoskrie, the hand wringing over students playing for one team one day and another the next because they can’t decide what gender they are is laughable. Actually, it would be a question of reliability and commitment Bob – absolutely it is about picking a team because the wrath of the ditched players due to someones fluid identity would not be worth bringing upon yourself.

Dying for change

I have just read the funniest thing that wasn’t meant to be so hair-leer-ious. Shelley Bridgeman has declared war on non-conformity. Young people it seems have a simple choice of follow the rules or go to another school. I hear you Sally but there is a flaw with your logic about students being able to ‘choose’ another school, because we still have a ‘one size fits all’ model. There is an obvious solution, build more schools to give students choice that offer a truly MODERN learning ENVIRONMENT. Schools that are actually trying to break out of the 19th century prison model of discipline and punishment and live in a world where how we dress, and look does not reflect a ‘lowering’ of standards, but where the quality of the relationships is reflected in how people talk and interact with each other, to allow for individuality to be expressed in colourful ways and genuinely hold people to account on things that matter. Conformity and obedience to authority are far from ‘quaint values’ surely a good history teacher should be able to give you a lesson on that Mrs Bridgeman – make sure you sit down with your arm crossed and don’t ask any questions.

Faking It – Just Tantastic

It is officially summer…apparently. Kiwis everywhere are readying their bodies to embrace the sun, our skin will burn before it actually gets warm here. I Love living in a country where you can be wearing a jacket and beanie and be worried about burn time…if you had skin exposed beyond your face. But I have a confession to make, I get nervous toward the end of October knowing that at some point I will be exposing my legs to the world which have hibernated for some months. The skin on them is a bit like a chameleons – it changes colour depending on the temperature and conditions. It can range from pale blue, pink and sometimes blotchy purple. I believe that riding my bike could pose a hazard to motorists should the sun strike them and reflect off them. But my upper body face and arms are quite different, they just quietly move to a gentle toast tone, you know the one, where your bread just looks golden but not overly brown – perfect for butter and marmite (the toast not the skin). So I feel it is my duty to ensure public safety and succumb to tanning moisturiser, it is a sacrifice I feel passionate about and take very seriously. But I do wrestle with the irony of my own self-consciousness at times while I try and talk about diversity. Then again, I am comfortable being in a contradiction, it’s like a comfy sofa now, well worn.

Body consciousness is usually talked about weight but more than ever skin tone is seen as just as necessary – models typically boast perfect tan. It’s not enough to be buff, you need to be buff and brown. The only exception is if you are a pouty vampire, or from a dystopian future and are clad in some skin hugging item, or a dystopian vampire. Then you can be as pouty, pale and pasty as much as you like. But then it is the opposite for teeth – OMG you have to have the white teeth, to match the tan, or no tan if you are a vampire. Those canines better not have stain on them or be yellow, crikey it’s off to get some whitening for you. There you go, another dose of chemical correction.

Ok, back to tanning. Those of you who use these creams will know the trials and tribulations. It is not as simple as slapping it on, it’s more like painting a house or cleaning windows. Then later you realise you missed a bit or over did it in a certain place and get the streak effect. Then there are the areas of demarcation – those skin surfaces that should never look tanned in the same way your legs do, like below your ankles. Do you rub it in or leave it to soak in? Oh the anguish, the mirror checking. Sometimes it pays to remember your age when factoring in how much to put around your knees because they soak in extra and can end up looking perpetually bruised or dirty. And don’t forget to wash your hands – the orange palms are a dead give away. But once that colour starts building it pays to know when to stop or ease up because there is a fine line between golden brown and oompa loompa orange. That could work for blending into my bike, but beyond that maybe not.

Ironically, I was watching a piece on a guy – Neil Harbisson who only sees the world in black and white and has a chip implanted in his head to hear colour. He is an artist and does sound portraits of people. Curiously when he scans for skin colour everyone comes out as a version of orange. There you have it folks proof deep down we are all working for Willy Wonka.

Sure, it’s probably toxic, with numerous chemicals that could cause all sorts of horribleness but for a few weeks a year I will maintain my regime of faking it. Heck at least I’m being transparent about it.