Saturday, April 27, 2013

Prom Issue

I realized a second after I hit "publish" yesterday that I hadn't written about what I was really thinking about yesterday. What has been bothering me was the prom issue of the school magazine, which was distributed yesterday and which rather displeased me.

Disclosure: I am not a card-carrying feminist. I believe in equal pay for equal work, that women are underrepresented in various fields and that that is a problem that should be fixed organically (meaning: not affirmative action), and that girls face social pressures that most boys do not. However, political correctness bothers me inherently and I did not expect myself to be so offended by some of the [censored] things said in yesterday's issue.

Clarification: I am not against prom. I think it sounds like a lot of fun and the only reason I didn't go this year was because the tickets were $10 more expensive than my cutoff. What offends me are the attitudes toward/around prom that were put forth in the school newspaper.

Warning: this is going to be shaped distinctly like a rant. I mention fairy tales later.

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"How to behave like a gentleman and lady": "Your goal is to look as elegant as possible."

I have nothing against elegance; in fact, I like it and I see nothing intrinsically wrong with having it as a goal, as long as you keep in mind that trying to be effortless is an oxymoron of great magnitude. Further, there is indeed a correlation between how you're dressed and how you carry yourself.

However: telling girls that they should focus on how they look instead of how they feel cuts against my notion of progress. What is the purpose of a school dance? To have fun with your friends. I haven't been to a prom (and I'm not going until next year) but extrapolating from my experience at formal, self-consciousness about your appearance is a good way not to have fun.

"When you're talking to your date, don't control the conversation. Allow the other person to do at least half of the talking."

In other words, each of you should talk half the time. Fair enough. But "don't control the conversation" needs to be explained. Don't bring up interesting topics? Why didn't they just write "let the conversation go naturally"? These lines do not so much offend me as bemuse me.

"Hold the door open, stand up when she approaches the table and pull out her chair...Ladies, let the boy do these things for you. It's much more elegant to show you appreciate the effort that to tell him he doesn't need to be courteous."

People should hold doors open for one another in general. As for the rest of it - chivalry is a weird concept. It blends treating people nicely (a good thing) with the assumption that they can't handle it otherwise (a bad thing). Being treated like a glass figurine may well be fun for some girls; however, many of the girls I'm friends with would not, in fact, "appreciate the effort." Does that make us unclassy? So be it.

It seems bizarre, in 2013, that it should be necessary for boys to do everything and for girls to be told not to tell the truth.

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"Who's got it worse for prom?"

I hope I will not be taken as prejudiced against my own gender when I say that I agreed much more with the argument that boys have it harder, on average. Also, the article arguing that girls have it harder was full of...whining.

"Imagine the feeling a girl gets while waiting around for a prom date, especially if all of her other friends have already been asked. Also, remember that girls cannot make any other plans because they have no idea if anyone is going to ask them or not, and they don't want to seem clingy or aggressive by asking the boy themselves."

Fairy tale thinking is often useful. For example, the next three weeks I will be in the Testing Mountains where I must slay nine giants before descending into the valley where I may frolic among cypresses and libraries and movie nights with friends. (Incidentally, that is why the next three weeks I will not have live posts.)

However, choosing to see yourself as the princess in the tower who needs a knight to come and save her? Not useful. Why on earth should a girl not make plans even before knowing if she's going to have a date? And why shouldn't the girl ask if she likes someone who is available?

That paragraph irked me so much that I am seriously contemplating asking someone to prom next year. No, not a specific someone, but I came up with a Very Cool proposal that involves integrating 1 with respect to y. *

"Girls are attracted to confident boys, so if you act reassured there will be a greater chance of her saying yes. In reality, no girl is mean enough to say no unless she has a boyfriend of a boy she has already made plans with."

Way to generalize. I would be put off by a guy who assumed that I would say yes if we hadn't already discussed plans. Leaving room open for rejection shows greater trust ("I trust you will not laugh at me even if you say no") and respect ("I cannot take you for granted").

Also: girls who reject prom proposals are not "mean". They are being honest with themselves and with the asking boy, which is far more honorable than leading someone on or accepting out of pity. A friend of mine turned down a boy for formal (which I know isn't prom) because she knew he would take it the wrong way if she said yes (i.e. he'd assume that she was open to a relationship with him).

"So get off your lazy bums and ask a beautiful girl to prom."

Let us examine the arguments the writer has made thus far:

0) All girls dream of going to prom.
1) A girl can't go to prom unless she is asked.
2) If she is asked, she must say yes to the first boy who does so.
3) Only beautiful girls are worthy of being asked.

Therefore: only beautiful girls can go to prom, and they will go with the first boy that asks them, potentially leading to a disappointing evening all around.

Fairy tales again: a thief sneaks into a garden in which the statues are women who have been turned to stone. He steals the prettiest one and reanimates her. This ends well for no one.

-the statues left behind are still stone (because of course you can't have fun if you don't go to prom)
-the pretty statue is stuck with a thief (she obviously needed him to reanimate her and she can't help that he was the first one to arrive)
-the thief has to go through all the trouble of reanimation, and he can't be sure that the girl actually wants to be with him because she has to go with the first one to rescue her (since they couldn't discuss anything beforehand)

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Those two articles were the most cringeworthy in the issue (aside from a bitter anti-prom rant that was simply uncomfortable to read). However, there were other things that bothered me:

1) It's okay not to go to prom because tons of celebrities didn't go to their proms!
2) The perfect girl is demure, blushes at the drop of a hat, likes soppy romantic movies, and does whatever you want.

In other news, the last good humanities teacher I've ever had used to be an amateur calf wrangler.

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* Explanation:
∫dy = y + c
In other words: yes + si'

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