Friday, December 05, 2014

Dress Up

Last month some time, someone administrative from the services side sent around an email requesting that everyone on campus dress in campus colors every Friday.  This morning, I saw a little poster put up about it.

Folks, I'm an adult.  If I want to dress in colors and such, fine.  But this semi-official "everyone dress like we're high school students" stuff is just irritating.

And yesterday, a faculty member sent around an email requesting that everyone wear "ugly sweaters" or other "holiday" garb, including a list that was very Christian-centered.

Also, I'm not Christian.  For six to eight weeks a year, I get slammed with Christmas stuff.  Last Friday, for example, I turned on NPR in the morning to a Christmas song, and I immediately turned it off.  I have no idea why they had a Christmas song playing (between segments, maybe?), but I just couldn't bear it.

And I don't have any sweaters I consider ugly.  I've gotten rid of sweaters I considered ugly, but they're no longer taking up my closet space.

Why, oh why, are we at a public institution being BSed into wearing Christmas crap?

I don't know how to respond.  Christians here are so effing repressive that any complaint will be made into a war on Christmas thing. 


  1. Anonymous6:38 AM

    I hate it when DAYCARE wants special clothing. I would be so denying tenure to any colleague who suggested that. (Not really, but ick.)

    Re: the spirit colors, we have that. It isn't a big deal to do or not do it. Of course on game days the entire town is wearing colors, so going to the grocery store is a bit surreal. I kind of like casual colors Fridays because everybody is wearing jeans and a t-shirt. A few years ago our department switched to business casual for the students, so it's nice to get a break from that (since that makes me feel like I have to do business on teaching days and business casual on non-teaching days).

  2. A student complained that the professors at our department keep insulting her religion in class. We teach Hispanic Civilization, and things like the Inquisition, the support of the Catholic Church for the fascist dictatorship of Franco, etc. keep coming up. And the Catholic students keep telling us that they are offended by the professors mentioning all this in class.

    I have absolutely no idea how to teach my classes without mentioning these indisputable facts of objective reality. I abstain from making any value judgments but it still isn't enough. Forget about me, though. The professor who gets the most complaints is a practicing Catholic himself! As a Catholic (and a scholar of Hispanic literature and culture), he feels that it's OK for him sometimes to advance opinions on the history of the Catholic Church and its presence in the Hispanic world. But students are having none of that because they are "offended."

    This is extremely frustrating. We are a state university, by the way.

  3. When I taught about the Protestant Reformation recently, in a World Lit class, one of my students went to the dean and complained that I was bashing Christians. WTF, I said. How did I do that?

    Apparently saying that the Catholic church had once been the dominant Christian church in the west, and that Protestants had broken away from it during the Reformation -- and that, thus, all the many Christian sects were a product of this Reformation -- this was bashing Christians.

    This is because the local Evangelicals get taught in their homeschool educations that the Baptist church is the one true church and always has been. Always, as in straight down from Peter to now. SMH.

    Well, you can't expect me to teach World Literature without teaching the history of the Reformation, can you? I asked the dean.

    Just cool it a little, he said. Just keep in mind the Conservative worldview of our students.

    That's the political climate here in Arkansas.

  4. All I can say to this and all of the scary comments about people wanting to ignore objective reality (global warming anyone?): OY GEVALT!

    (That said, I love Christmas or at least my pagan version of it. I'm game for any holiday where we get to bring a tree into the house. But if my institution started trying to get me to wear Christmas colors, I'd revolt and get all Jewish on them. And I hate that ra-ra crap with school colors too. All I can think is that, as Chomsky says, such ra-ra we're the best stuff is, like NFL, training in irresponsible jingoism. I'd add unethical.)


  5. We get the school-colors memo now and then, but, since we mostly don't teach on Fridays (due more to students voting with their feet on the matter than to teaching-faculty preferences), we aren't really affected. Since I'm basically allergic to anything associated with "team spirit" and related concepts, I abstain when I do happen to be on campus on Fridays, and have never gotten any blowback (I think there was one email with a subject along the lines of "don't be caught without your school colors on Friday," which bothered me, but it didn't seem to have any teeth behind it. If there were, I would have objected, strenuously.) Honestly, I think it's a staff thing, and the faculty and the staff have rather different cultures (which is probably not a good thing, but it's a reality).

    Since we're self-consciously very diverse, there are no Christmas-sweater pressures. As a Christian with a strong belief in religious freedom, not to mention a strong objection to the commercialization of Christmas, I'd speak up if there were. Among other things, I could argue that it offends my religious sensibilities to see people celebrating Christmas during Advent, which is supposed to be a solemn time of reflection and waiting, but of course the real point is that there shouldn't be institutional pressure to celebrate a religious holiday -- even the highly secularized elements thereof -- at a state institution. Unfortunately, a non-Christian saying that is, indeed, likely to arouse the ire of Christians who seem to form and maintain their Christian identity in part by seeing themselves under threat by "secular" culture (even as they arguably participate in it by wearing Christmas sweaters). This kind of oppositional us/them identity-formation is, of course, also exemplified by the whole idea of teams. It may be an inevitable part of human nature (it's certainly very much there in the Old Testament, parts of which continue to cause problems in the modern world), but, if so, I'd argue that it's part of humans' fallen nature -- something to be struggled against rather than embraced.

    My personal Christmas-sweater academic tale comes from my adjunct days (in this case, at a state liberal arts college), at a time when final grades were still handed in via Scantron form. I lived about an hour from the school, and the day that grades were due (by noon) dawned sleety and slippery. Nevertheless, I got into the car and made my cautious way to campus over roads increasingly littered with cars that had come to rest at odd angles. I arrived just after noon -- 12:15 or so -- at the registrar's office, where I was greeted by half-a-dozen scowling women in festive Christmas sweaters. The faculty, apparently, were delaying the start of their Christmas party, and they were not happy. To be fair, they were working with an antiquated system that required the grade reports (also on paper) to be run all at once, so they needed all the grades before they could do anything (and they may well have had to stuff the envelopes as well). Still, the situation was probably entirely predictable, even without the weather, they could have found a better way to cope with it, and the contrast between their motherly/matronly/Christmasy demeanor and their anger that faculty weren't risking their lives to get grades in exactly on time created more than a little cognitive dissonance.

  6. Anonymous8:13 PM

    I love our "dress down" days because I get to wear jeans with whatever the special element is (school colors on some days, orange or black on Halloween, "holiday theme" as we get close to winter break), but an important part of that is that I have the choice to opt out and just wear regular work clothing and don't feel I'm being pressured into wearing something I don't want to wear.

    Contingent Cassandra, I love your tale of the scowling registrar's office staff in festive sweaters!

  7. How about a Cthulhu Ugly Sweater?

  8. Anonymous9:21 AM

    I don't normally comment but I just had to chime in as a very devout Christian who will join you on the war against ugly Christmas sweaters. Even if statements against sweaters of all things could be construed as a "war on Christmas" until those sweaters have Mary and the infant Jesus on them, I think there's no room to talk. I suspect the most Christian of Christmas sweaters one could find would have Angels, but the vast majority while they might have items symbolic (holly etc) are actually more reflective of secular Christmas than of the religious holiday! (Hey find me a sweater with the real St Nicholas on it and I'll wear it, but Santa Claus is no longer recognizable as the saintly Bishop of Myra!)

  9. Anonymous9:24 AM

    Sorry I got off my point there - my point is their Christmas sweater thing ought to be offensive to the Christians too and besides adults shouldn't be told what to wear and certainly not encouraged to wear things that are not part of their religion. That's just dumb and stupid (and not the Christian thing to do either!)

    May I apologize on behalf of some of the adherents to my religion.