Hey Garland. I am a student currently in high school and I was recently present when a friend of mine who is a part of that grand tradition known as the student council (read: dance committee) pitched the idea of a Sadie Hawkins dance. There was a little bit of an argument because it was my opinion that the exception proves the rule and that, if anything, a special dance wherein women ask men seems to only prop up the idea that that is not a normal thing for the ladies to be doing, and that if they believed that was the case then we should be working on that and not allowing a one-time exception as some sort of social loophole to patriarchal system. I suppose that is mostly a lady thing, but it is also a heteronormative thing. Even when things are reversed, they say, you’re not allowed to ask your gay sweetheart to the dance. Now, I didn’t mean to embark on a rant. I am more asking for your opinion. Do you think Sadie Hawkins dances are a good idea? I guess it is kind of a case of “do we redress the external imbalance with internal imbalance or try to correct it directly.” That in itself seems to be a point of contention in some conversations I have had, particularly on the feminist blogs. Could you maybe talk about that?
To be honest, until you asked this question I thought Sadie Hawkins dances were something the television made up to provide shitty sitcoms with mid-season plot fodder before sweeps. But the Internet tells me that they are indeed a thing. A thing where young people are encouraged to treat lady-initiated dating like a novelty. It’s like powderpuff football games. Or women proposing on February 29th. The point of the exercise is to highlight how topsy-turvy this scenario is, how outrageous it is for women to be anything but passive, not to empower women to be participants in their own courtship. The Internet goes on to say that the original idea came from the comic strip Li’l Abner – Sadie Hawkins was an unattractive woman past “the marriageable age.” In desperation, her father organized a race between his daughter and the unmarried men of the town. Whatever man Sadie caught had to marry her.
At one point it might have been somewhat provocative to pre-Deep Throat America for women to come a-courtin’, but now it’s a little too precious and gender normative for my taste, and rooted in the same terror of spinsterhood that tells women they aren’t complete unless they’ve caught themselves a live one. Temporarily switching the genders in the predator/prey erotic dynamic doesn’t reform that dynamic or make it any less skewed in favor of the desires of men. And you are correct, it is heteronormative. But as a recent marathon session of reality television reminded me, not homophobic and not heteronormative is not the same as not sexist or not gender normative. I was watching an episode of my new favorite show, Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, and Tabatha Coffey – an out lesbian – was berating a salon owner for not being manly enough and not taking control of his employees.
This is a lesbian lady who’s known for being forceful and uncompromising, who no doubt has run up against the “commanding male leader/castrating female harpy” double standard, and yet she’s telling him to “man up” and “grow a pair” (for added Ke$ha-flavored trans erasure.) That’s the problem with using queers as a yardstick to judge the gender politics of any given situation. It is easy to imagine that once we’ve augmented these rituals to include queer romance that it will strip them of their gender normative elements, but sadly it is not so.