Every year, Heritage’s student government picks four themed dress up days for Homecoming Week, associating with the overall theme. This year was, of course, no different. Although this tradition has been beloved by the Heritage community for years, the dress up days may be more problematic than they seem.
Many of the themes are undoubtedly harmless, such as days where everyone wears outdoorsy gear or days where everyone wears sports jerseys. It’s the days that target specific groups of people that raise concern.
This year, those days were “outwit,” where students dress up like a stereotypical nerd, and “outlast,” where students dress up like a stereotypical old person. Key word being stereotypical. There’s a lot to unpack here.
First of all, “outwit” day essentially carried the narrative that if someone wears glasses, they’re a nerd. Glasses were the main accessory on nerd day, and several students were counted simply for wearing glasses.
While this seems knit-picky and petty, it’s walking the line between harmless mocking and nerd harassment straight from Glee.
While “outwit” day had its issues, “outlast” day raised the most concern. While the majority of students seemed to skip this day for dress up, those who didn’t focused on one main prop: canes. Canes are used to aid people with a physical disability, not a fun prop for able-bodied people to use for school spirit purposes.
Once I realized how insensitive this was, I was pretty taken aback that nobody else seemed to notice or care. But, I can see how it would be hard to notice, as it took me a while too. Here’s the way I can explain it best: If a high schooler with a physical disability who has to use a cane on a regular basis were to walk through the doors of Heritage, past the Student Government counters, would they be counted for their disability? Assuming the counters are paying attention, the answer would be yes.
Theoretically, a disabled teenager could be counted as dressing up like an old person for using a cane. Yes, arguments can’t be built on theoreticals, but the mere idea is what makes the situation disturbing.
Broken down, “outlast” day was interpreted as “dress up like you have a physical disability” day, and, while the themes themselves aren’t the issue, they’re enabling indirect mocking and harassment.
If Heritage sticks to the non-offensive ideas, such as the previously mentioned “wilderness” day and “outplay” day, we won’t have to worry about the people we are hurting as a price for our own fun and enjoyment.
Heritage is indirectly perpetuating bullying, and we need to think twice before unfairly targeting protected groups of people again.
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