Sisterhood Blog

Cross-Dressing in Grade School

By Elana Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share
Istock

Yesterday was “boy-girl” day at my daughter’s school. What does that mean, exactly, you wonder, as I did when the news arrived home? Turns out, it is part of the Purim lead-up week, when every day the school has another dressing-up theme, like the less-charged “pajama day” or “face paint day.” The school this year instituted a day when boys dress up like girls and girls dress up like boys.

Now granted, the school may have found inspiration for this misguided idea from the many adult men who have dressed up as women over the years. When I was doing my research on partnership synagogues, one of my interviewees told me that I should write about how at his synagogue one year, no less than six men dressed up as women, and that in his opinion that says something about the men who are willing to pray in an egalitarian way. Presumably he was implying that a man dressing up like a woman is more in touch with his feminine side, whatever the heck that means. Or maybe that he just likes women. Or maybe he thinks that in the partnership synagogue, a place that pushes gender boundaries, it’s okay for a man to test his secret desire to go trans.

However, it is telling that you don’t find many women dressing up as men (except for specific-costume men, like Charlie Chaplain).

Women don’t dress like men because there is nothing odd about becoming a man. Pants and shirt, you’re done. It’s not so interesting. But the whole lipstick-scarf-skirt thing is, indeed, like putting on a costume. Many women put on this costume every day. I can imagine why it seems like fun for men. I can also understand why, as a daily routine that actually involves plucking, waxing, squeezing and brushing, putting on the real “woman costume” isn’t always as fun or painless as it seems.

It is also telling that in real life, there are three times as many women undergoing sex change operations to become men than the other way around. In real life, being a man is more appealing than being a woman — more privileges, more freedom, less painful procedures. This is backed up in gender research by Barrie Thorne and others who found that it’s much easier socially for a girl to be like a boy than for a boy to be like a girl. “Tomboy” is a compliment while “sissy” is an insult. One study found, when kids imagine being the other gender, boys perceive becoming a girl as a pain, but girls perceive becoming a boy as fraught with possibility.

“So what does it mean to dress like a boy?” I asked my 8-year-old daughter as she planned her costume for the next day. “You know,” she said. “I’m going to wear a kippa, and….” She was having trouble with what else.

“But there are girls who wear kippot,” I said, “and there are lots of boys who don’t.” She gave me a pained look.

“Look,” she said, drawing a picture of a circle on a piece of paper. “This is all the boys in the world. This corner over here is for the ones who don’t wear kippot.” She then drew another circle. “And see this? This is all the girls in the world. And this corner over here is for the ones who wear kippot.” She was proud of herself. I smiled. She had a clever point about averages, even if it wasn’t entirely accurate.

“So what are the boys going to do to dress up like girls?” I asked.

“You know,” she said with a sigh. “They’ll put on make-up and nail polish. And they’ll wear skirts.” I pointed out that she doesn’t wear skirts to school. “And,” I added, “there are men in the world who wear skirts. Like the Scottish men who wear kilts. Or like Moshe Rabbeinu. He probably wore a dress. So did the Rambam.” Pained look again.

“Look, even if Moshe Rabbeinu wore a kilt,” she said, and then, exasperated, said, “just look at the circles, okay?”

I sometimes torture my children this way. I decided to stop. “It’s fine,” I said, putting my arm around her and smiling. “Just remember that boys and girls aren’t as different as some people think they are.” When she realized the interrogation was over, she was relieved. We hugged, and for that brief moment, all was good in the world.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Purim, Cross-Dressing, Clothing

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.