As CBS 46 reports (courtesy of brethren Meredith Corp. KCTV), Skylar Davis had been bringing a Vera Bradley purse to school since August with no complaints from school administrators and ostensibly no insults from peers. It didn’t seem to bother anyone until a few months later when his presence was requested in the assistant principal’s office. The assistant principal asked the student to part with the purse (either forever or in that particular moment); the student would not part with the purse and is suspended until such time that he agrees to bid the bag adieu.
To the notion that it’s just a purse so there’s no reason to find it odd that a male student wants to carry one, and at the same time, there’s no reason that the student shouldn’t just listen to the assistant principal and take off the handbag, it isn’t that simple.
It’s not just a fashion accessory. In the example of Skylar Davis and Anderson County Junior/Senior High School, a Vera Bradley purse transforms into a badge of self-expression and representation of defiance. There may be other mitigating factors in the story of Skylar’s Vera Bradley bag and the assistant principal’s office, but it made me think about the subtext.
What do authoritative figures loathe and fear the most? Not the breaking of rules that are clearly articulated and available to everyone, not the cries of double-standards and the inconsistent enforcement of these rules. No. What really gets under the skin is the willful refusal to comply with the authority figure’s demands.
Regardless of how calmly the instruction is made to take off a hat, turn a shirt inside out, wear a longer skirt, pull up a pair of pants, lower the volume of one’s voice, or to take off a purse, if the student does not do as told, the authority figure experiences a punch to the ego and a threat to his control.