Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gender bias and the schools

Parents, School Tangle Over Boy's Long Locks

Really?  Do the educators in Texas have nothing better to do than fight against a hairstyle?

You may have noticed that Patrick has long hair.  Actually, it's currently longer than mine since I just got mine cut.  In fact, Patrick has the longest hair in the family.  He says he wants to grow it to the floor.  I rather doubt it will go that far but hey, it's hair.  Hair cuts.  Hair grows.  You have to pick your battles and hair isn't one I'm about to pick.

The only issue with the little boy in the story is his hair.  If the school is concerned that it's in his eyes or is a safety issue, they could easily request that it be pulled back and out of his face.  But instead, they choose to say the following: "[S]tudents who dress and groom themselves neatly, and in an acceptable and appropriate manner, are more likely to become constructive members of the society in which we live."

Let me take this in parts:
"[S]tudents who dress and groom themselves neatly..." There is nothing in the story about the child being dressed improperly or ungroomed.  He is not dirty.  His hair is not uncombed.

"and in an acceptable and appropriate manner"  I am guessing this is from whence the whole thing stems--"acceptable and appropriate" for the stereotype of a boy ONLY, because girls are not bound by the same rules for hair.  If it is a safety issue, then both genders should be bound by the same rules.  If not, then it is simply gender bias.

"are more likely to become constructive members of the society in which we live." The little boy in the story says he wants to grow his hair long enough to donate it to Locks of Love (or a similar one, they don't name the charity in the story).  In case you're not familiar with them, Locks of Love gives wigs made of donated human hair to children undergoing cancer treatments.  Your hair has to be a certain length to donate--I believe you need to donate 10 inches.  It sounds to me like he's already showing concern for others and a desire to help them.  How is that being an unconstructive member of society?

And long haired men never succeed, as we well know:

This one's for you, Mom.

Oh wait, he's an elf.  My bad.  But meow...

Many of the commenters say awful things about the child based on the length of his hair.  I won't address those because honestly, no words I can say are going to change the mind of someone so narrow-minded.  But other comments need to be mentioned in relation to my own son.

Several of the commenters say that the child is being taught that he should get to flaunt the rules because of the fight over his hair's length.  Since when did the length of one's hair have anything to do with being taught respectful behavior?  Maybe we're "lucky" in that our school district does not have a dress code about hair lengths on boys and we don't have to fight it.  But if we did, and we would fight it, it would in no way absolve Patrick from having to be respectful of his teachers, pay attention, and do his work properly.  However, it would teach him to stand up for himself and fight against things that are not right and are unjustified.

Others claim that his parents are the ones forcing him to have long hair, that a 4-year-old wouldn't make that decision on his own.  I beg to disagree, because when 4-year-old Patrick came home and said he wanted long hair, he was pretty adamant about it.  Jason really didn't want Patrick to grow his hair. I held to the old "pick your battles" party line, and we decided to let Patrick choose.  He grew it for a while, got tired of having snarls combed out (because it DOES have to stay clean and neat, regardless of its length), got it cut once, and then decided to grow it again.  It's been growing for about 18 months now, with only an occasional trim, and comes down a little below his shoulders.

Still others say that his hair is a distraction to the school.  In what way?  It is in his eyes, so I can see that might be distracting to him.  And I can understand if the school asked him to pull it back so that he wasn't distracted by it.  But how is his hair distracting anyone else?  It ISN'T, plain and simple. 

I actually found it ironic that many of the supportive commenters were advocating that he should just pull it back so it wouldn't be an issue.  Patrick has pulled his hair back in a ponytail for school on a couple of occasions.  The first time he did, another child said he looked like a girl.  Patrick punched him.  I would call that more distracting than having his hair down--which has not been an issue for anyone, including the other boys in his class.

Frankly, I love Patrick's hair long.  He had a trim the other day and it really looks great.  I don't see him looking like a girl.  I see him looking like Patrick, a child with interests in science and art and pretty much anything you introduce to him.  I see a child who comes home with wonder about the things he's learning in school.  And never once, beyond the one incident, has his hair been an issue for anything.

Ostracizing the little boy in Texas won't help.  Shaming him for having long hair isn't doing anyone any good.  I wish the school district would also learn to pick their battles and realize that in the grand scheme of things, a 4-year-old boy with long hair is a nonissue.


Jess said...

Amen. I mean, come on. That the child wants to donate his hair to a charity only makes this more ridiculous.

I suppose the school IS right, it DOES violate their dress code. However, their code is unfair and needs changing, and now is the time. That little boy's hair isn't even THAT LONG honestly.

In a similar vein, but without the gender issues, a town around here has had an issue with a child who has a sports team's pattern in his hair. This one is ridiculous, too, and not distracting if you ask me!!

Sarah said...

Thanks for this post. Especially for pointing out that this kid is a far more productive member of society than most, given that he wants to donate his hair to Locks of Love!

Plus the photos of long-haired babes doesn't hurt....

Amy said...

Hey Morrey family, This was a great post. Thanks for the great pictures as well!!