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!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • 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.