Sadie Hawkins: Are We Really Progressing?


Olivia Gallmeyer, Staff Writer

October has come,  and the Western halls are buzzing with murmurs of the universally loved celebration of crazy costumes and class pride we know as Spirit Week. However, this year the homecoming dance closing out the event has a bit of a controversial twist. Known as a Sadie Hawkins dance, this dance encourages the allegedly “nontraditional” value of girls asking out guys, rather than the males being the ones to invite. But in this day and age, is this custom really something that needs to be enforced?

The concept of a Sadie Hawkins dance originated in the comic strip Li’l Abner in 1937, in which a character appropriately named Sadie organized a day in which all of the single women would participate in a race pursuing the town’s eligible bachelors. The Sadie Hawkins dance appeared later in the strip; it would take place the evening before the race, and the town’s spinsters would step on the men’s toes in order to hinder their running the next day.

It’s hard to believe this odd story turned into such a notable tradition, but within a year of the comic’s publication the first Sadie Hawkins dance was held, seen as a woman-empowering movement that spread to over 40,000 venues by 1952. However, is this dance truly give girls power they did not previously possess?

During the time when the idea of a dance with swapped gender roles first materialized, the idea of a woman openly pursuing a man was considered scandalous and offensive. An approved, public event like Sadie Hawkins that encouraged this was revolutionary back then, because it allowed ladies to make their own choices without being stigmatized for defying the status quo at the time.

But in 2014, we’ve come much farther than considering a guy asking a girl out as deplorable. I’ll be the first one to say that gender equality is far off in our society, not when women still get paid 77 cents to a man’s dollar and the first reaction to sexual assault is to ask what the victim was wearing. However, it’s not exactly abnormal for a girl to ask out a boy, especially in present times. The social norm of one gender always having to ask another had been dropped, and both girls and boys have to freedom to ask and be asked as they wish.

So now, enforcing the Sadie Hawkins mentality just seems to be much more limiting than empowering. We aren’t empowering women by forcing people to ask others out; just because the gender roles are reversed doesn’t mean they aren’t still stifling. Boys and girls still have to follow a set of inherent cultural norms, Sadie Hawkins just chooses to reverse them.

Additionally, by imposing this strict set of rules, the problem of gender roles becomes much harder to fix. With traditional dances, the custom may be for boys to invite the girls, but it is never enforced the way it is in Sadie Hawkins. Now, though, there’s a set of looming social norms that are strictly imposed, making them much harder to defy.

Also, the inclusive mindset of a Sadie Hawkins dance has one fatal flaw: what are gay couples supposed to do? LGBT people already have a hard enough time in this society, where being straight is the norm. According to Sadie Hawkins tradition, the girls are supposed to ask the guys. Therefore, what are two girls or two guys to do? Are they just supposed to assign themselves gender roles to conform to, and deal with all of the problems brought by this?

There have already been cases at schools nationwide in which students have been suspended for taking a date of the same gender to a traditional school dance such as prom or homecoming, or even wearing a nontraditional form of clothing such as a lesbian youth attending in a tuxedo or a trans woman wearing a dress. However, this is becoming less and less of a case. Often, LGBT students and gay-straight alliances choose to hold their own “anti-prom” or “gay prom” to boycott dances that are not inclusive. Not only this, but school formals are becoming more accepting, with an increasing trend of transgender nominations in homecoming and prom courts.

With all this progress being made already, adding more gender and sexuality-conforming rules such as Sadie Hawkins just seems to be taking a step back.The idea of a Sadie Hawkins dance might have been a progressive idea when it was first conceptualized, but now the dance has just caused more and more issues of inclusion.

Though our society is still far from perfect with issues of gender and sexual orientation, there’s much better ways to empower women than by creating even more limits for them. The Homecoming dance is an event that should be inclusive for all, and while I appreciate the effort, Sadie Hawkins is causing more harm than good.