I’m sure you’ve already read about this, but my friend Hannah Ettinger’s sister Clare was recently kicked out of her homeschool prom this past weekend even though her dress met the dress code requirements. Why was she kicked out? Because the homeschool fathers stationed on a balcony above the dance floor determined that her dress would make their sons lust after her and therefore asked the organizers to make her leave.
When Hannah posted her sister’s story as a guest post Sunday, I doubt either of them expected it would go as viral as it has. The post has almost 500 comments and counting, and the story has been featured on Jezebel, Think Progress, Wonkette, the New York Post, Opposing Views, Raw Story, Cosmopolitan, Inquisitr, and even the American Conservative. Claire’s story has also been picked up by local media. Be sure to read Clare’s original guest post on Hannah’s blog.
I’m going to include a few quick quotes from Clare’s post, along with a bit of summary, and then offer a few thoughts.
Last night was my senior prom. I live in Richmond, VA and several weeks ago my boyfriend got our tickets to the Richmond Homeschool Prom. The theme was “Twilight in Paris.” I got my dress, my shoes, we got our flowers and we waited eagerly for Saturday to arrive. My dress was gorgeous, silver, and sparkly and I got it at Macy’s and was very excited to find it after searching over 6 stores for this dress. The only dress code specified on the registration form was that “Ladies, please keep your dresses fingertip length or longer.” Like a good little homeschooler, I made sure that the dress was fingertip length on me; I even tried it on with my shoes, just to be sure. It was fingertip length, I was ecstatic, and I laid down several weeks worth of tip money I had been saving up to buy it.
Clare goes on to explain that when she arrived at the prom Mrs. D., one of the organizers, questioned whether her dress met the dress code. She showed that it did meet the requirements and was allowed entrance.
When I got into the ballroom I laughed, because I was surrounded by girls in much shorter dresses then me, albeit they were shorter, and therefore stood out less in the crowd, but it was still frustrating. I joined my group of friends, (there were six of us), and told them what happened, they were all appalled, especially considering we’ve been attending this prom all four years of high school and usually wore much shorter dresses then we chose this year.
We were also a little grossed out by all the dads on the balcony above the dance floor, ogling and talking amongst themselves. We weren’t dancing, but swaying with the music and talking and enjoying ourselves, when Mrs. D again approached me, and gestured me off the dance floor. She took me into a corner in the hall way, with another woman, (who I’m assuming was a parent/chaperone) and told me that some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing was too provocative, and that I was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts. At this point I said to her that I hadn’t been dancing at all! Much less seductively, and that even if I had been being inappropriate, they should issue a warning instead of just kicking me out.
My homeschool community had a prom as well, and while I didn’t attend some of my younger siblings have. That prom didn’t have dancing, though. Instead, after the dinner everyone changed clothes and the gym was transformed for a dodgeball. I’m not sure that really relates to the story, but it was worth the mention!
This story is an excellent example of the way adults police teen girls’ clothing and styles, both within homeschooling circles and in our culture at large. This system seems to be predicated on the assumption that adolescent males are unable to practice any form of self control, and that the solution is not to teach them self control but rather to police the clothing choices of the adolescent females around them.
Note too that it was not the teenage boys who complained—it was their fathers. This sort of thing is typical in conservative Christian homeschooling circles (though it’s worth noting that while the prom was held at a church, it was not a Christian event). I remember a time when I was sixteen or so and a homeschool dad approached me and asked me what I was looking for in a husband. His sons were right there with him, and I had the distinct impression that he was checking me out to see if I was proper bride material for one of his five strapping sons.
At the time I was thrilled by this attention, thinking that perhaps a ticket to fulfilling my destiny as homemaker and homeschool mother was within my reach. Today I feel uncomfortable just thinking about it.
Getting back to Clare’s story, these fathers need to stop assuming that their boys are helpless in the face of “feminine wiles.” It’s ironic that they speak of teaching boys manhood and instilling honor and courage in them, and yet they still insist on controlling what the girls around their sons wear. I mean seriously, do they think female bodies are their sons’ kryptonite? If they’re so intent on raising “manly” men who are prepared to “do hard things” why can’t they simply teach their sons self control or even just basic human decency? It’s frustrating.