I was browsing CNN’s website when I came across this article about prom. Given that mine pretty much sucked, I was curious as to what part of it the author thought was so damaging.
I can say that my prom experience was probably like a lot of others: a lot of anticipation and preparation, hoping that I’d experience the magical, fun night that I saw on tv and in the movies when in reality, I barely stayed at the prom (held in my high school’s gym) because my date (a boyfriend at the time who had already graduated) was bitching about how “small” everyone was there. And then barely staying at post-prom because he kept up the shenanigans there, leading my friends to start a fight with him. In other words, the night sucked and I vowed at my sorority’s bi-annual formals that I would drink and make up for the lack of partying at prom. Despite the big letdown, I have nothing against it and think it’s just some normal right of passage that all high schoolers should have the opportunity to attend.
The article’s author, on the other hand, pretty much views prom as the downfall of high school society, or at least that’s what it seems from the language and descriptions used. Rachel Simmons is a self-described “girl expert,” amongst other things. To start, that declaration makes me suspicious and just kind of creeps me out. I have to say that just because you are a girl does not make you a “girl expert.” The other issues I have because Simmons seems to generalize/exaggerate a lot…
- “She learns that the most valued girls must wait to be asked” – I don’t know. Maybe my school was unconventional, but this was not the case from what I experienced at my school and have seen elsewhere. Sometimes it was the “most valued” girls who asked guys, sometimes it was the…I guess least (?) or mildly (?!) valued girls who felt they must wait to be asked, or sometimes…what Simmons doesn’t mention at all…they don’t wait and, gasp, go together in a group!
- “In all but the most progressive communities, prom glorifies heterosexuality…” – I know there have been issues with non-heterosexuals and proms (rather, high school in general), things are changing and evolving as we speak, and I myself don’t know and won’t understand a homosexual experience of high school and prom. But at the same time, I don’t think that straight vs. gay vs. bi vs. whatever is a damaging prom debate versus a societal issue as a whole. Individual schools and districts continue to have issues and debates on this, but I don’t think that sexuality or choice of attire is some generalized, widespread issue that puts females down.
- “Girls will spend lavishly on expensive dresses and shoes, along with professional tanning, hair and makeup. The final look is a far cry from Molly Ringwald’s original, homespun vibe in the ’80s teen classic “Pretty in Pink.” Instead, girls are angling for the Hollywood red carpet look. Oscar gown knockoffs, such as a copy of Jennifer Lawrence’s pink Dior dress, are among the most sought after this season.” – Really? Because even though I’m well over prom age by now, I still walk through stores that are big on selling prom dresses and I haven’t seen a single dress that in any way resembles some extravagant Oscar gown; if anything, I’ve seen plenty of beaded and sequined nightmares, taffeta terrors, and skanky side-cuts. Pretty in Pink was a move, a good one, but I don’t think that many teens have the sewing talents needed to make their own dresses. I don’t think that even if they did, anything has looked like Molly Ringwald’s character’s dress since the movie itself! Prom is expensive, I get it. But it’s not all wallet-raping bad.
- “Meanwhile, boys can get away with renting a tux for less than $100.” – I feel like the “girl expert” has some issues with males here… Guys do get off easier than ladies when it comes to prom, but on the other hand, girls are responsible for themselves and a boutonniere. Guys are responsible for their “$100” tuxes as well as the night for both him and his date: expensive dinners, limos, corsages that definitely can get costly (or at least moreso than boutonnieres).
- “When I went to prom in the early 1990s, I seesawed between my wish to get asked by the right guy and ride in the cool kids’ limousine with the burgeoning realization that I was gay. I had a fun night, but I was far from my authentic, assertive self that night. Prom felt mostly like a job I had to do to maintain my position in the social hierarchy.” – I feel like while Simmons has some valid arguments, she generalizes way too much, and it feels like this sentence confirms that her general issues with proms really stem from her personal issues she had with her prom experience.
I don’t know…I don’t know how to explain this without sounding like I’m self-gender-hating or something like that. But while I consider myself at least somewhat socially liberal and open-minded, I don’t like anyone or anything that is too extreme or is too pushy. And that’s exactly what my one Women’s Studies class in college was like…agenda-pushing. And that’s why I hated it, or at least was annoyed by it. And this article reminds me of Women’s Studies 101. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think prom is some girl victimizing event to the extreme that the article portrays. I feel like the article is extreme, which makes me want to push back against it and the author even more.
And even though prom is over for me, I can say that back then and even now when I dress up, it’s because I want to, for me, because I like to and it makes me feel good. So does finally feeling like I don’t give a rat’s ass if I run out and do an errand without makeup. These aren’t based on some societal pressures and it’s not because I’m narcissistic. It’s because it’s something I want to do.