Political correctness is an exercise in punishing the literate for the sins of the illiterate. Those who are informed are able to acknowledge that while the farthingale (“hoop skirt”) style that frequented centuries gone by reflects an impracticality that denotes a life of leisure (and thereby implicates accompanying servitude), it of course does not denote inherent racism.
But some white frat boys at the University of Oklahoma were caught on video chanting about lynching and hurling racial slurs, which prompted not only a worthwhile investigation of darker elements in fraternities and sororities, but a fear of incorporating the traditional elements of historical reenacting. As reported by the Athens Banner-Herald,
…Part of the talk was about dress at such events as KA’s ‘Old South Week’ and SAE’s ‘Magnolia Ball.’ The discussion included hoop skirts, and the messages conveyed by such dresses or other articles of clothing, Wilson said.
‘The discussion was about more than dress, but about how you present yourself, and dress was part of that,’ he explained. It wasn’t administrators who made the ultimate call on attire, it was the fraternity and sorority leaders, Wilson said.
‘A standard aspect of event planning for Greek organizations is that costuming for events must be evaluated as to its appropriateness,’ read an email sent out Tuesday by Ashley Merkel, president of UGA’s Panhellenic Council, and Alex Bosse, president of the Interfraternity Council.
‘The student leadership, staff and advisors agree that Antebellum hoop skirts are not appropriate in the context of some events. We will continue to review costuming and themes for future events to ensure their appropriateness for our organizations.’…
While it is without a doubt important to be tasteful and tactful, it is worth considering if there is a deeper fallacy at play here. We are supposed to learn from the past, not hide from it. Americans should know what Confederate uniforms looked like. Even acknowledging the glamor and foibles of hoop skirts plays a role in our understanding of human nature.
The header picture is Winslow Homer’s “Croquet Scene,” 1866.