Graduating with a Uterus

In today’s fragile political climate, it is often easy for symbols to be misrepresented. During the Fullerton Union High School graduation, senior Scarlet Marenco had her graduation cap confiscated due to her depiction of a uterus on the cap. Marenco aspires to be an obstetrician-gynecologist, and her love for science drove her to pursue the pre-med pathway, and also led her to decorate her cap the way she did.

Scarlet Marenco’s graduation cap.

“I did have a thought while making it that there would be a possibility that they were going to tell me to take it off,” Marenco said.

Marenco was led inside the gymnasium where she was not allowed to bring any devices, and she was immediately called out by one of the assistant principals who claimed that her graduation cap was “inappropriate,” and she was not given the chance to explain.

“They said that I had to take my cap off and that having a uterus on my cap was the equivalent of having a penis on my head. It was terrible to compare an internal organ to an external organ, which has a negative connotation. It’s an organ inside the body, there’s nothing wrong with it,” Marenco said. “I complied because it felt like they were giving me an ultimatum that if I didn’t take off my cap, then I wouldn’t be allowed to walk. The main issue with the situation surrounding my cap was the uneducated decision of deeming a uterus inappropriate. It totally demonetizes the reproductive anatomy and the anatomy of someone who has a uterus. There is nothing wrong or inappropriate about any organ or physical part of the human body. People need to stop demonizing women’s bodies.”

Many students in the graduating Fullerton Union High School class shared a similar sentiment, reposting images of Marenco’s cap to indicate their support of her and her cap’s display. One student, incoming senior Haley Won, had several ideas to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Predominantly, she suggested that the administration should consider checking caps ahead of time “so that in advance we know next time if we are or are not allowed to wear our caps.”

According to the Fullerton Associated Student Body Instagram post on May 30, all graduation caps “must follow dress code guidelines. If dress code guidelines are not met, the cap will be confiscated on graduation day and [the student] will be given another cap,” a protocol carried out in the present case.

The guidelines referred to can be found in the Fullerton Union High School Student Handbook sent out to each student with every new school year. As Marenco’s cap was considered to be “inappropriate,” it may have been considered to violate subsection B, which reads, “Clothing with inappropriate messages (e.g. alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, sexually related scenes, weapons, obscene symbols/pictures, etc.)”

While the uterus could be qualified as “sexually related” or “obscene” due to its classification under the female reproductive system, a more modern feminist critique could render this perspective outdated. Additionally, the uterus, or womb, is used to develop and prepare a fetus for birth and cannot be penetrated. Hence, the comparison of Marenco’s uterus image to a penis on her head is not exactly transferable past the fact that both belong to the reproductive systems.

Yet, the statement proceeding the subsections that all clothing items, including graduation caps, are “judged by the Principal and administration of Fullerton Union High School” was a warning to all students, including Marenco, who were aware of this going into graduation day.

Although Marenco faulted her cap being confiscated as a result of a greater political bias, Laura Rubio, the principal of Fullerton Union High School, had something else to say.

“It was deemed at the time that we couldn’t have that cap come through because the message was a little hidden. I know that Ms. Marenco wanted to portray that she wanted to become a gynecologist and she was standing up for female reproductive rights, but I think that the message was a little lost in the cap,” Rubio said. “We had to make a really tough decision, and that’s something that sometimes as administrators we have to deal with.”

Rubio went on to state her intentions behind graduation caps and what they should actually depict come graduation day.

“At the moment, we did feel that the cap did not portray that celebration. She [Marenco] was not in trouble; she was not going to be held back from walking,” Rubio said.

To avoid this confusion again, Rubio intends to set down more specific rules for next year’s graduating class in order to avoid possible confusion. Rubio promotes Fullerton High School to be an open place for inclusivity and acceptance but believes that the graduation ceremony should not be the forum to make statements other than celebrating the graduation itself.

There are many interpretations that can be made of this confiscation, but one clear idea that has been set forth is that there needs to be a set guideline for the decorations that can be permitted on graduation caps to avoid future confusion.

2 replies »

  1. The principal sounds like she acted entirely appropriately. Not sure why this is a story.

  2. Laura Rubio should be fired, she’s incapable of doing her job impartially and has applied her very own bias to the incident. FSD should be better and do better for our children.