Thursday, December 22

Boy + dress = national media spectacle

You'd think he was trying to hide a bomb under that kilt or something.

Nathan Warmack wanted to honor his heritage by wearing a Scottish kilt to his high school dance. Then a principal told him to change into a pair of pants.

Oh lord, here we go. Some kid tries to do something shocking, like expressing his individuality in an innocuous way that is somewhat non-traditional (though, shouldn't you argue that wearing a kilt is uber-traditional?), and some hard-nosed authority figure doesn't get it, and tries to suppress the kid's personal expression by shitting on it and inadvertantly causing a major media spectacle.

Nathan Warmack sounds like a very nice kid. He's a defensive lineman on the football team in Jackson, Mo., who "got interested in his family’s Scottish ties after seeing Mel Gibson’s 1995 movie 'Braveheart,' about William Wallace’s battle to overthrow English rule in 13th century Scotland. Warmack reads books about Scotland and visits Web sites to learn more about his family’s genealogy."

He bought a kilt off the Internet to wear to his school’s formal “Silver Arrow” dance in November. Warmack said he showed it to a vice principal before the dance, who joked he’d better wear something underneath it, and Warmack assured him he would.

So here's a kid -- the only kid in this country! -- who gives a shit about his heritage and his ancestry enough to read books about it and wear the traditional clothing to a social event, and his principal has the cajones to snuff out such an earnest display of familial pride and individuality. So stupid. So very stupid.

If only this were an isolated incident. But it seems like these boys-in-dresses stories crop up every few years or so, continually reminding us of just how seriously some people take the arbitrary notion that only women can or should wear clothing that lets their crotches, um, hang loose and unobstructed by fabric, as it were.

Other schools around the country also have wrestled with the issue. A principal in Victoria, Texas, ordered two boys into “more appropriate” attire when they wore kilts to school in 1992, saying: “I know kilts. Those weren’t kilts and the boys aren’t Scots.”
In 1993, a student in Fayette County, Ga., was not allowed to enter his prom at McIntosh High School because he showed up in a kilt and refused to change clothes.

And while they weren’t trying to dress in kilts, a few boys were allowed to wear skirts to class at Franklin Community High School in Indiana in 1997, when a superintendent said different people express themselves in different ways.

Whether these kids are trying to pay homage to their heritage, or they just want to wear a dress because it's more comfortable for them, who cares? I can't imagine that these schools in question don't have more pressing issues to confront than how closely the fabric on these kids hugs their crotches. Only the last superintendent mentioned in that excerpt gets it.

At least Warmack has the Scots backing him. They're a rowdy bunch (I can say that because they're my bunch, too) who will crack wise when they smell a BS rationale from the school's officials.

The school district’s superintendent, Ron Anderson, said McClard has the authority under the district’s dress code policy to judge appropriate dress for extracurricular activities, including dances.

“It’s mainly to protect from the possibility of a disruption or something that could be viewed as a disruption,” Anderson said.


Another Clan Gunn member, Beth Gardner, started an online petition seeking an apology for Warmack. It questions in part the notion that the kilt was a distraction.

“From what? From the intense concentration it takes to dance?”

Heh. I had heard that this country was having an ADD crisis, but I never realized that kids would be fully incapacitated and unable to shake their groove thangs if they saw some boy in a kilt or dress. For that matter, I severely doubt that kids would be unable to function in a classroom setting if they saw a boy wearing a dress there either. Sure, it might be a shock at first because it is so rare. But school administrators have an obligation to help students grow, and think of the teachable moments that could have occurred if officials took a deep breath and just let the kids be instead of doing the knee-jerk thing and quelling potential (possibly non-existent) controversy by squashing any hint of individual expression.

Warmack's kilt could have been an impetus for the entire school to think about heritage and customs, and they could have even delved into the precarious waters of gender roles and attire, and just how arbitrary, in light of the history of apparel, those things really are. But instead, Warmack's principal ticked off the Scots, the First Amendment lovers, and the gender critics, and made himself look like an intolerant ass in the meantime.


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