Graduation.. a question of headwear!

29 Nov

Graduation season for Irish universities is coming to an end now. I couldn’t wait for mine in October, new dress, dinner with the family, seeing the crew again and getting a shiny degree! (whats not to love eh?!) A question did play on my mind though when it came to the traditional graduation dress, this was ‘to mortarboard or not to mortarboard?’

So proud of you Elle!

A mortarboard, also known as a square academic cap or a graduation cap, is the square cap with the tassel that students wear at graduation. We’ve all seen them in friends/family photos and TV shows and films (cheesy student American movies aren’t complete without the classic ‘caps thrown into the air’ graduation freeze frame). However the mortarboard tradition is a bit unusual in Ireland.

‘Done the college thing and now to the home I go’ no, no, not for me thanks!

In the US and the UK both men and women don these caps at graduation. However, in Ireland it’s just the cailíní that wear them.  That was all fine and well to me until I heard the supposed reason behind this tradition here. Apparently us girls wear them as a sign of ‘capping’ our education, as traditionally girls could not progress any further.

When I heard this I initially laughed. However, coming up to graduation there were a few playful jibes going around from my male classmates and friends about us ladies reaching our educational limits. I soon realised if there was truth in these tale I was not wearing a mortarboard! (Ain’t no cappin’ this young ones education!)

So I set out to research whether this tale was fact or indeed fiction. Reasons online for men not wearing caps included that the graduation robers decided not to give men caps as they lost or damaged them frequently unlike women (believable ;)). Another was that men were so disgusted women were allowed to graduate that they boycotted wearing them.

I also stumbled across some articles on DCU past president Ferdinand Von Prondzynski blog from 2009. At the time it was mandatory in DCU for women to wear mortarboards and optional for men, which he too found ridiculous. What I like about Ferdinand is he’s not a man to sit around and do nothing. He recommended that DCU stop treating males and females differently regarding the cap and one month later DCU’s Academic Council made the wearing of mortarboards optional for male and female grads. Even though this change was brought in he or anyone else online was unclear as to why there was a distinction in Ireland between men and women wearing them.

In the end I was just so confused by the whole thing! It really seems funny to me that only women would wear them when there is no solid reasoning as to why except ‘its tradition’.

But I did infact don the mortar board, I liked the look of them, I was too afraid to ask any lecturers if they knew the real meaning and I couldn’t find anything that concreted it as a sexist-education-capping-symbol!

So did anyone else hear these mortar board tales? Do you think there’s any truth in them? Ladies and gents did you or do you plan on wearing a mortarboard come graduation?

Caroline Keye B.A. – Can I get a whoop whoop!

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5 Responses to “Graduation.. a question of headwear!”

  1. sineadfoy23 November 29, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    According to the woman who worked for the robing company at our graduation, it dates from when graduations were held in churches and women had to cover their heads in churches. As this is 100% anecdotal, put as much stock in it as you want.

    • cazeriney November 29, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

      Thats so interesting Sinead! Hadn’t heard that one, silly of me not to ask the actual robers, I was in such a rush getting sorted. Had you heard the ‘caping your education’ story before?

      • sineadfoy23 November 30, 2012 at 9:58 am #

        I didn’t actually ask, she volunteered when she heard I wasn’t going to wear a hat. I had heard the capping story alright, and had thought that was the case. Ultimately, I ended up not wearing one anyway because I don’t exactly follow church traditions and whether capping is the right story or not, enough people believe it to be true for it to matter.

  2. Made In Ireland November 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    Great post Caroline! Hadn’t realised it was an Irish tradition.

  3. bashfoc2 November 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    Such a lovely background picture… the blog’s great too!!

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