Are we really still doing the prom thing?

April 29, 2019

Prom has become such a staple of our culture that it is depicted in countless American teen movies, typically glorified and romanticized as the best night of a teenage girl’s life.  |  Image source: Vogue.com via Rex Features

 

 

Prom is an antiquated event that causes more harm than good, and there is not a space for it at Kent Place anymore.  When our needs and values shift away from beloved traditions (e.g. the Christmas Nativity, the yearbook superlatives), we get rid of them.  It might be time to get rid of prom.

 

The origin of prom is patriarchal nonsense.  Short for Promenade and also previously known as a “coming out party,” the prom stems from the debutante ball, a time for young women to be introduced to society, men, and courtship.  The goal was for adolescent women to practice etiquette and formally display themselves to potential husbands.  Girls were not to wear masculine clothes or select their own dates. In short, it was a reinforcement of gender norms.

 

Like most modern-day proms, Kent Place prom is not meant to parade out our girls for eligible bachelors to ogle at them, but it is still a prom.  The fundamental message of prom is to encourage teenagers to follow gender norms. That contradicts my values, and (I hope) it contradicts Kent Place values.

 

There is so much pressure: pressure to wear an (expensive) dress, pressure to bring a date, pressure to bring a date that is a boy… pressure to subscribe to heteronormativity and traditional gender roles.  We should be encouraged to make our own choices. At Kent Place, no one is required to wear a dress and bring a boy, but that does not change the social pressure and expectations that are almost as strong as rules.

 

Not only is this pressure a problem from a feminist perspective, but it is also emotionally exhausting.  Many of my classmates are filled with anxiety over their lack of a date. Some of my peers would rather babysit a date who they do not know or do not like than come alone or with friends, and a lot of them are upset and nervous about it.  Many students do not actually care whether they have a date or not; they just feel like they must.

 

Between academic stress, standardized-testing stress, and college-application stress, juniors and seniors have more than enough to worry about.  We do not need the additional stress of figuring out with whom to celebrate pre-prom, choosing a prom table of eight friends who also like each other, finding a date, and/or worrying about the gender of said date and its implications.  We also do not have time (or money) to find a prom dress and organize hair appointments, nail appointments, makeup appointments, etc.

 

I am aware that most of that is not required, but I am also aware that many of us will do one, a few, or all of those things anyway.  

 

I am sure that if we were to eliminate prom, there would be significant pushback.  However, that might be alleviated if prom were replaced with a different event. For example, Kent Place could have a junior/senior end-of-year party at a roller-skating rink.  That is only one idea; Social Committee can probably think of something even more exciting.

 

Either way, replacing prom with a less stressful event would have an overall positive impact on the community, and most of the student body would adjust after a few years.  

 

To be completely honest, like most students, I will most likely go to prom—but I would be quite interested to see quantitative data revealing how many Kent Place students, like myself, resent it.

 

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