Cross-dressing show was 'misunderstanding'

Third-grade boys won’t have to wear women’s clothing as a class assignment: Maude Wilkins Elementary in Maple Shade Township, New Jersey has canceled the Women’s History Month fashion show. It was a “misunderstanding,” says the superintendent.

Teacher Tonya Uibel sent home a 16-page packet with suggested fashions such as “bellbottoms, poodle skirts and cheerleader outfits” and photos of Twiggy and Madonna. She explained the assignment was mandatory.

“If your child is a young man, he does not have to wear a dress or skirt, as there are many time periods where women wore jeans, pants and trousers. However, each child must be able to express what time period their outfit is from. Most of all, your child should have fun creating their outfit and learning about how women’s clothing has changed!”

Excluding the modern era, what are the many time periods in which women wore jeans, pants and trousers?

Creating an outfit isn’t fun for everyone. Janine Giandomenico said her son begged her not to make him dress as a woman. He was afraid of being ridiculed, which made his mother wonder why the fashion show was on the same day as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s “Day of Silence.”  Students are encouraged to remain mute “to call attention to verbal and physical abuse of gay students.”

The fashion show would have presented a challenge, even if the third-grade boys had claimed to be wearing “Rosie the Riveter jeans” or a “Hillary Clinton pantsuit.”

In a letter to parents, Principal Beth Narcia claimed boys weren’t asked to dress up as women.

There are many different time periods that had women and men dressing in pants, suits, and even sweat suits. Students were just asked to dress as a time period, not as a woman.

Dressing as a pants-wearing male in the early 21st century would have been earned an A, I assume, just like wearing a Madonna outfit from her wear-the-bra-outside period.

Instead of the fashion show, students will draw a picture of a person dressed in clothing from a specific time period as the end-of-unit project. So now the history assignment favors kids who can draw instead of kids who have mothers who can sew.

If kindergartners can analyze George Washington’s financial, class and racial values, surely third graders could learn something more substantive about women’s history than the fact that fashions change over time.

About Joanne


  1. Richard Nieporent says:

    I didn’t think it would be possible to top the lunacy of the Maine Human Rights Commission. Boy, was I wrong. I guess now there will not be a problem with boys using the girls’ bathroom. 🙂

  2. Again, another reminder why home education is the best option for my family.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    Seems to be a problem here.
    Either the teacher was so stupid as to not run this past the principal, or the principal was so stupid as to think that, 1, this was a good idea and, 2, nobody would complain, and, 3, it would not go public, making her look like an idiot.
    Of course, the teacher might be so stupid as to not think of 1, 2, and 3 above.
    In any case, they’re stupid.

  4. What is the objective of the teacher’s lesson?

  5. Perhaps Joan of Arc?

  6. Math Teacher says:

    When my daughter was in 8th grade, students were assigned to come to school in the character of an historical figure from the American Revolution, spend the day in costume, and present arifacts and other information pursuant to that person. It’s a long-held tradition at our middle school that many students do look forward to.

    Needless to say, there are few famous women from the American Revolution and some girls have to be comfortable impersonating a man for this assignment. The assignment has never been challenged around issues of cross-dressing or gender confusion as far as I know. My daugther went to school that day in the guise of Thomas Jefferson and luckily for us, a friend of mine happened to have a short-waisted jacket with tails and a tri-corn hat. The rest we improvised. It was a pain-in-the-rear, but my daughter enjoyed herself immensely.

    Though I agree that a third grade project focusing on women’s fashions through history is of questionable value, and would not condone cross-dressing in this particular context, I find it interesting how much more acceptable it is for females to impersonate males, than the reverse.

  7. Reason #346 to avoid government schools.

  8. Styles can say something about the role/issues of women during a certain time period (corsets disapearing with suffrage, huge shoulder pads in the 80’s, etc.), so I can see something in this lesson plan. Girls are asked to take on male roles in classrooms all the time. Try performing Julius Caesar or Romeo and Juliet without giving the girls male roles — but make one of the boys Portia and all hell breaks loose.

    I did have a group of boys one year who adored cross-dressing at every spurious excuse: spirit days, Halloween, etc. They even gender swapped Taming of the Shrew. Kate is fabulous as a 6’4″ rugby player in an old prom dress.

  9. Richard Nieporent says:

    I did have a group of boys one year who adored cross-dressing at every spurious excuse: spirit days, Halloween, etc. They even gender swapped Taming of the Shrew. Kate is fabulous as a 6?4? rugby player in an old prom dress.

    So gender is just a social construct? Of course there is a much older theatrical group (besides the ancient Greeks) that only uses males as actors. The Hasty Pudding is a theatrical student society at Harvard University that uses an all-male cast with female parts performed by actors in drag.

  10. It is interesting that boys are more opposed to cross-dressing than girls are. Maybe now of course women’s clothing styles are similar enough anyway, and in the past women had the attraction of being able to wear trousers, while for men it was all down-sides.

    I went to an all-girls secondary school, and for generations when my school put on a play, girls played all the roles, male and female alike, when the boy’s school put on a play girls at my school were brought in to play the girls’ parts. Although I am also aware of the 6’2″ rugby player eager to wear a skimpy dress effect.

  11. Richard, no, gender is complex.

  12. Richard Nieporent says:

    Richard, no, gender is complex.

    Really? It is a wonder we are able to procreate.

  13. Richard Aubrey says:

    I think the point is not that sometimes it’s fun in a what-the-hell way, but that in the issue in question, it was originally presumed to be mandatory.
    Various commenters have been referring to voluntary exercises.
    Until the word got out, in which case it was unfortunately not as intended.
    “mistakes were made”. A new grammatical tense called the past perfect exonerative.


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