It is common knowledge that guys generally like Sadie Hawkins dances, while girls generally don’t. Also common knowledge is the supposed reason for this: guys are happy to be relieved of the elaborate pre-dance ritual that is the “ask,” while girls think it’s a pain.
For me, the real issues concerning the Sadie Hawkins dance are more complicated and have to do with how our gender roles play out, day-to-day, at Columbus Academy. The purpose of a Sadie Hawkins dance is a role-reversal: suddenly, the guys are the ones who have to wait for an invitation, and the girls must concoct creative (and often flamboyant) methods of asking.
My issue is with the roles themselves. I feel it is representative of the unequal power dynamic—wherein guys make the decisions and girls must abide by them—that is slowly, but surely, eroding in our society. That brings me to the real question about the Sadie Hawkins dance: is it progressive or regressive? The answer depends upon the motives of those organizing the dance.
If the Sadie Hawkins dance is viewed as a novelty, it only serves to reinforce outdated gender roles. A “change of pace” implies a change back; it is a momentary diversion. More insidious is the underlying quality of a joke this attitude carries with it. If a Sadie Hawkins dance is no more than a burst of energy in the middle of winter, this suggests the idea of a girl asking a guy to a dance is, in reality, preposterous and not worth taking seriously. It dismisses empowerment and equality.
I think Sadie Hawkins dances can be used as a tool to cut away at the gender norms that constrain us. I have heard these dances criticized as “condescending” to girls and women—which they are if viewed from the perspective above. An enormous amount of social pressure rests on both genders to act to type.
Changing the way dances are planned at Academy is not as simple as thinking, “I should ask him this time.” This is why Sadie Hawkins dances may help: they take away social pressure from one direction and replace it with pressure in the other. This counteracts the norm, albeit in a small and easily reversible way.
The problem we face at Academy, then, is a lack of dialogue: we do not know what factors go in to deciding to hold a Sadie Hawkins dance. Unfortunately, for this Winter Formal, the time for discussion has passed. In the future, however, I would strongly urge Student Council to hold an open forum on the subject of Sadie Hawkins dances. This must become a self-perpetuating conversation because it is relevant to both individual students and to the direction of the school as a whole.
In fact, I would like to begin this conversation with a proposal: why not have only Sadie Hawkins dances for a while? That would be a start.
Submitted by Ezer Smith’13