Skip to main content

What's in a Uniform?

While uniforms may perpetuate stereotypes and differences in social status, they also remind us that underneath the fabric, we aren't all that different--those few alleles coding for skin tone and hair color/texture are nothing in the grand scheme of the human genome. In fact, we have far greater differences internally (blood type, e.g.) than externally (hair, skin).

Uniforms were a large part of my formative years, from kindergarten aprons and hats, sailor outfits in music school, hideous military-style khaki in junior high, to shirt, tie and pants/skirt in senior high. We even had uniform hair--I was one of the last generations of Taiwanese girls with 3-cm-under-the-earlobe regulation haircuts (boys had shaven heads). Sure, our faces looked different, but with other variables controlled (no makeup or piercings, socks and shoes regulated), we also appeared the same.

The uniforms were our identity. If one wore the dirt green shirt and black skirt of Taipei First Girls, people wondered, how did she get so smart? Uniformity and social structure were implied by dress code within the contest mobility system. Each school's uniform conveyed non-verbally one's status. Using Barthes's model in The Language of Fashion, the signifier is a particular school's uniform, and the signified the social status associated with that school, from the top boys' or girls' schools to what Taiwanese call the "grazing-cow classes."

After junior high, low-performing girls are encouraged to attend vocational nursing schools, so that they'd have a job to tide them over until they snag a doctor for husband. Nurses are afforded low social status in Taiwan. They work brutal hours, underpaid. There's an assumption, perhaps a gendered one, that it's a caring profession, and only those who love it can bear it. They are called, "angels in white," though they no longer wear white (the color of death and funerals).

All that aside, I love being back in uniform. It takes the pressure off being responsible for my clothing choices. It hides the shape of the body just enough that there's nothing to stare at, not much to compliment, very little to judge. Maybe people will finally see me for my profession first, rather than, "tiny little Asian girl." After all, we humans are almost all genetically identical except for a few internal and external differences, and uniforms remind us of that, just a little.

Comments

  1. Looking professional, Yu-han.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Liz--you are the one who always looks polished &/or professional!

      Delete
  2. This uniform beats the academic one hands down, where young women of color have to overdress the part to get respect. Go girl!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Week 15. TOD = Time of Death

Dear Mom,  Some nights I still dream of you and in the dream you’re alive (and I’ve forgotten you’re not); we’re arguing about something mundane and I’m angry at you. I wake up and want to return to the dream, because I’d rather argue with you alive than think fondly of you six feet under. I’m thankful for the time we had together, how you’ve helped me grow through a bit of a journey, and as a former psychology major I’m sure you’ll appreciate that Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey presents a convenient psychosocial model. 1. Shift from Feminine to Masculine: Family have told me when I was little I was glued to your skirt, something hard to imagine because as far back as I remember we never touched or were affectionate. (None of us were affectionate, but it was no secret Dad was my favorite.) 2. The Road of Trials: I’m sorry for rebelling, for not becoming the concert violinist you’d wanted for a daughter. I wish you had believed me and protected me when I told you I was threatened and a…

Week 6. EtOh = Alcohol

In honor of the weekend (and no invisible planet hitting us today), here's a really-quite-serious, "How drunk are you?" quiz based on how pickled your brain feels (loosely adapted from Table 38-1 in Lehne's Pharmacology for Nursing Care, 9th ed.)


1. Increased confidence? Euphoria, decreased inhibitions? Congratulations, the alcohol has reached your frontal lobe. Blood alcohol approximately 0.05%.

2. Loquacious? Judgement altered? Your frontal lobe continues to be affected, and you are now at or past the legal limit of intoxication, 0.08%.

3. Tremors? Involuntary body movements? Reduced attention? Your parietal lobe's been breached. 0.15%.

4. Reduced motor skills? Slurred speech? Parietal lobe conquered at 0.2%.

5. Altered perception? Double vision? The occipital lobe's getting pickled, 0.25%.

6. Altered equilibrium? There goes your cerebellum. 0.3%.

7. Feeling apathetic? Inert? In a stupor? Really shouldn't continue, because you're down to the diencep…

DNA

DNA, Deoxyribonucleic Acid, blueprint molecules for everything that makes you you. Race/ethnicity isn't a biological thing present in your DNA, however.

There's a lot we don't know about the estimated 20,000 or so genes present on our 23 chromosomes and the simple and complex traits they govern. We do know that genes coding for superficial traits such as skin, hair, and eye color, are just that--superficial. Scientists argue that race (e.g. African, Asian) is a social construct because there aren't genes only present in Africans or only present in Asians and not present in other "races," and there aren't genes present in all members of a particular "race," either. Two people from the same perceived race can be as genetically different as two people from different races.

So there's something insidious about these ancestry sites that analyze your DNA and tell you what percentage you are of which ancestry. What these sites are calling Irish, Eu…