Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pull Up Your Pants, Boy!

I received this picture in an email message today:
I hear a lot about young men pulling up their pants, especially in churches. But here's my question: Is this really the scourge that (older) people make it out to be? How much does it matter?
I understand that this pants sagging thing isn't progressive or productive. It's really kind of ridiculous. Boys literally have to hold up their pants with their hands in order to walk. They can't stand with a normal stance because their pants would fall down without widespread legs. Criminals can't sufficiently run away with their pants around their thighs. And one of my former colleagues enacted a policy in her classes that identified underwear bearing as, in effect, sexual harrassment. But is it really related to character? Isn't it just a silly fashion fad, like zoot suits or tie-dyed T-shirts or MC Hammer pants? When people argue that pulling up one's pants will cause (or reflect) a change in work ethic or morality, it's never quite clear to me how the two are related. I've had students whose pants sagged who did their work and came to class and had pleasant attitudes. Many people are eager to point out the widely accepted explanation that sagging originated from prisoners who had their belts taken when they entered the system; sadly, their beltless, sagging pants came to be mirrored by their cohorts when they returned home. If that's true, then one might be able to make an argument based on that connection to bad behavior. But even then, isn't there a complicated matrix of issues at work?
In truth, I do hope that Obama's election will contribute to the end of this trend. My father used to tell us, "Look like somebody!" I believe that the way we choose to present ourselves to the world is at least minimally important. Young men should pay more attention to that. But what I really want is for those young men who wear their pants sagging to have decent schools and meaningful work available to them. I want them to have loving, viable families mirrored for them, and I want them to emulate those families. Reducing these kinds of complex issues down to "Pull up your pants!" is about as silly as walking around with your underwear showing.

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