Monday, December 6, 2010

The Mean Girls of Morehouse: Defying the Norms of the Renaissance Man

The article entitled “The Mean Girls of Morehouse” was published in the October issue of VIBE Magazine. 5 men who call themselves “The Plastics” defy the standards of dress that are enforced by the very conservative policies at Morehouse College. The dress code that is being enforced does not allow students to wear “women’s” clothes as have these harmless men. Morehouse, a historically black college for males is an institution that is outwardly homophobic in its dress code policy and treatment of queer students and is very intolerant of the personal beliefs of students in the expression of their gender and sexuality.

A panel discussion was held at Morehouse the week that the article was published asking these students about their experiences at the institution and allowed for them to voice their opinions on different issues and how the administration has handled these situations. Many of the students discussed the difficult time that the administration and the general campus has given them in regards to the dress code and their sexuality during their years at Morehouse. The dress code prohibits caps, do-rags, sagging pants, and sunglasses as well as “women’s clothing” such as purses, tunics, tops, and heels; however, what is more strictly enforced according to the men in the panel is the part that prohibits them from freely expressing their gender. Although they consider themselves men, most of the students who spoke on the panel do not abide by the hetero-normative standards of dress as well as the norms in general and resist these standards daily.

This issue reminds me of the article “Sexuality and gender in the Native American Tribes” because of the ideas of femininity and masculinity and how they are not honored by the traditional Western standards. The ways in which some of the Native American tribes dressed and their ability to switch roles amongst the various gender identities indicates that queerness is natural and normal. The idea that in order to be natural one must adhere to the constructed notion of gender and match their daily interactions to their biological sex is proven to be a constructed idea in itself and is rejected by the culture of gender expression and roles in the Native American tribes. In the same way, the norms that The Plastics at Morehouse are rejecting have legitimate reasoning behind them that show us that gender and sexuality are ideas that cannot be placed into a box and vary based on the different cultures that we cross as well as the people that we cross. Everyone does not have the same formula for how they express their gender and sexuality in the same way that gender and sexuality are expressed differently in various cultures.

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