CONGRATZ TO THE CLASS OF 2014 =D . I hope you all had fabulous days, regardless of the weather, and had millions of photos taken with family and friends fit to burst with pride.
Part 6: A Patriarchal Graduation
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my graduation. My parents wandered around looking super proud, my dad actually wore a suit (he only wears them when forced), my mum looked like a news reader – smart and fashionable – and my brother was on his best behaviour, smiling perfectly in all the photos. Adding to this the free wine and a nice, sunny day, it was truly lovely… But I did have a few complaints.
‘How the fuck am I meant to fit my hair under this hat?!’ When you have a short, curly bob which rarely obeys you on the best of days, there is nothing more panic-worthy than being given a mortar board on a day which you want to look smart, and preferably ‘nice’. This, I noticed, was a generic complaint. No matter who I talked to, we were all looking for the earliest opportunity to be rid of our ridiculous headpiece…
Except women couldn’t remove theirs during the ceremony. That’s right, at the start of the ceremony graduands were informed that only men were allowed to remove their mortar boards once they were in the ceremony hall and, in fact, women could be removed from the hall if they took theirs off. I’ve attempted to research into why this is, but have struggled to find an historical, factual root(if you know why, please fill in this part of the mystery in the comments). The only reason I’ve heard, I sincerely hope is just urban myth – women aren’t allowed to remove their caps since it represents a ‘cap’ on their learning. The fact that this little scrap of information exists, be it true or otherwise, is deeply disturbing itself.
Complaints about the robes came in torrents too ‘IhatethisIhatethisIhatethis… My hood keeps riding up!’ After going to military school and spending 7 years attempting not to look stupid wearing my blues (photograph attached for your hilarity), I am no stranger to slightly ridiculous, incredibly uncomfortable uniforms – the kind of uniforms that your parents insist upon proudly photographing you in. So when it came to my graduation, a day dedicated to wearing robes that made you look like Professor Snape, and a hat which inevitably makes you look like a pineapple, I was prepared for the inevitable battle with the required outfit of the day.
What I failed to take into account, however, is that the graduation robes were initially designed for men. Women going to university and respectively graduating was not commonplace looking back 100 years ago, let alone before that (women have only been graduating since 1878…), and subsequently robes were designed to be worn by men. The structure is designed for broader shoulders, so even upon taking into account chest size, the robes do not sit properly upon the shoulders of most female wearers and again are awkwardly shaped around their breasts (I felt very lucky to be part of the itty bitty titty committee on this day). The hoods, too we’re initially designed for the male physique and broader shoulders, so often, do not sit properly on women’s shoulders – even when pinned in place.
My final feministy comment on the subject of graduation is more of a sad observation than an angry rant. As a Mathematics student, I was graduating with a majority of students completing both Bachelor and Masters courses in fields of science and technology… But there was a lacking of self identifying women students. Given that, at Lancaster University, there are actually more women students in the population than male students, the fact that there is still a noticeable imbalance in the number of women enrolling in scientific subjects is a sad one.