To Orange, to White, or to Not

Why the gender color robe norm won’t change.

Woodside seniors making their way to graduation.

Woodside High School

Woodside seniors making their way to graduation.

Noelia Arteaga , Sports Editor

I was making my regular rounds on the Paw Print website, making sure that all the Journalism 1 (J1) students had turned in their articles. Scrolling through the homepage of the website I came across a headline by a J1 student, Liam Lee, with a featured image of Woodside graduates throwing their caps in the air.

Instantly, I was confused as to why we were writing about graduation in December. Upon reading the headline “GSA Aims to Eliminate Gendered Graduation Robes,“it was clear to me that this article contained a much deeper agenda than simply saying that “graduation is right around the corner.”

The immediate wave of confusion, awe, and for lack of better word, “triggeredness,” I experienced was overwhelming. Instantly, I clicked on the article. Not to my surprise, this article was well written and did an excellent job addressing the issue. Although this article was not an opinion piece but simply a news article, its outstanding delivery and subtle persuasiveness ignited a stronger feeling of what I was already experiencing.

Lee declared that the Gender and Sexuality Alliance club (GSA) is trying to get rid of the graduation robe color gender separation; girls currently wear white and boys wear orange. These students explained how it is unfair that gender-neutral or non-binary students are “forced to pick” one color or the other. They are concerned with safety regarding family members who are homophobic or do not know that they are “out of the closet.” They aim to remove this “stereotype” and wanted robes to be assigned by last name.

I don’t agree. I don’t think many people are going to agree. I don’t think it’s going to work.

Let’s be honest, no one wants to wear the color orange. The Woodside Paw Print editors strayed away from an overwhelming amount of orange while redesigning our page. Varsity sports teams stray away from the color orange. Football wears black, varsity basketball wears black, varsity soccer wears black, volleyball wears black. Very few people purchase orange Woodside gear.

And one of the GSA’s solutions is to alphabetically assign colors, which would force the rest of the Woodside student body to wear a color they don’t desire or will match with what they wish to wear on graduation day.

Everyone could wear orange, but again no one likes it and no one should be forced to wear a color they don’t want to wear.

When it comes to graduation, someone has to wear orange. Many boys outfits have more neutral colors like black, navy blue, and grey. While girls wear a bigger variation of colors when it comes to dresses. Boys wearing orange is just much easier, style wise. While white will complement any color. This is the same for any color. Boys outfits are more flexible with other colors while girls are very different.

And this is not just Woodside’s graduation that sees girls wearing white and boys wearing the school color. Carlmont, Sequoia, Paly, and many other schools across the country exercise this common aesthetic style.

It is all of Woodside who is graduating; everyone should have their say on whether we want robes to be assigned alphabetically or leave the robe organization as it is.

“I think they should just be given the choice of either color… regardless of how they identify, this is the school that they attend and those are the school colors,” stated junior Chase Eavis.

Of course no one here at Woodside is “forced” to wear either color. When seniors reserve their cap and gown, they have the option for either white or orange. It also states that orange is “traditionally worn by males” and white is “traditionally worn by females.” Yet no one is forced into white. No one is forced into orange.

In Lee’s article, Zeejai Leonard, president of the GSA club, has an agenda to change the gender robe segregation.

I think they should just be given the choice of either color… regardless of how they identify, this is the school that they attend and those are the school colors.”

— Chase Eavis

Leonard states in Lee’s article that “the first part that [they’re] trying to go for at the very least is getting rid of the part that says what tradition dictates.”

Don’t get me wrong, but that is very hard. We may remove the “tradition” part from the graduation robe reservation form, but no one will be able to remove tradition. Tradition is not something written down on paper or on a computer screen. Tradition is something that is deep rooted, a “transmission of customs and beliefs from generation to generation.”

Same thing goes with stereotypes. There are many stereotypes for all ethnicities, nationalities, ages, economic status, gender, etc. I could state a few in this article but I would only be contributing to the epidemic of degradation. I’m sure anyone reading this can think of a few. Many people make an effort to stray away from associating people with such stereotypes, but ultimately it is inevitable. The stereotype of “girls wear white” and “boys wear orange” will continue to exist even after it is removed from the form.

Another problem was addressed in Lee’s article by Danny Whitting.

Whitting argued in Lee’s article that “the fact that there is a segregation of males and females by color is the main problem. It makes it hard for those who are insecure, questioning, or neither a girl or boy to choose a color for their gown. They are forced to choose a color that categorizes them as one gender or the other.”

To me this is very similar to the problem with choosing either girl or boy restrooms, and the way Woodside solved that was by adding gender-neutral restrooms to our campus. So should we add a gender-neutral robe? Have an option for light orange or black? I think that would be even more degrading because these students would stand out even more, creating yet another safety issue for students with problems regarding their sexuality at home. Stella Haussler, a junior who also openly identifies as pansexual, agrees.

“By that logic then the bathrooms that say gender-neutral are degrading too,” Haussler believes.

Obviously they aren’t.

Scenarios like this makes me realize how hard it is to change societal standards, maybe even impossible. Trying to change how the whole student body sees graduation robes will take even more generations to create a new tradition. I honestly don’t see this generation being the one.

Woodside High School maybe an inclusive school, but there are still lines as to how far someone will go to include others before it threatens their own conformity, the same way the LGBTQ+ community draws their own lines. People are selfish, no matter what end of the spectrum you are on. It is selfish for Woodside students to want to maintain the robe policy as it is, but it is also selfish for the GSA to try and change an already meticulously designed system for the select few.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I too know what it’s like to feel out of place or like I have to conform to societies norms. I identify as a bisexual cisgender female, and I am in a very happy relationship with my girlfriend. Being in a serious relationship with a girl for the first time in my life was rather scary and intimidating, afraid of what my extended friend group and extended family would think. Luckily, everyone was very acceptive. Although I feel like now is not the time for this big change, I hope in the future there will be a better alternative for gender-queer students.

I would like to apologize to anyone who may have been triggered by this article. Don’t take it to heart, its just my opinion.

“If kids want to identify as no gender go ahead, and don’t base the gowns and caps off gender but just a preference in color,” Haussler advised.