Pop-Culture | Posted by Jessie W on 04/26/2010

Prom and New Opportunities: Setting Ourselves Up To Fail?

ohhh prom dresses...

ohhh prom dresses...

My mother is a wonderful, funny woman. She has several interesting stories from her past which she shares with me, including one about prom. For her prom, she decided to go dressed in a long, powder blue dress. Her date somehow managed to catch his matching powder blue jacket in the car door and was a half hour late because his mother attempted to get the tar out by bleaching it, turning the entire side of the jacket white. My mother and her date went to a fancy restaurant and her date began to scream that he was dying due to a small piece of glass in his Boston cream pie. As if the night couldn’t get any more exciting, another girl at the prom wore the same dress as my mother but in green and then at her after prom she beat her date at mini-golf so he, being a very sore loser, left her there. I’m praying that I don’t have that same amount of excitement, an identical dress as someone else there, or other typical prom “dilemmas.” But it is prom season and let’s just say I’m a little overwhelmed with all the hype it’s given. I want to go, but there is so much pressure to have the perfect dress, hairstyle, make up, shoes, and all that other superficial jazz. It really takes away from what prom actually is: the last true chance for the seniors (and sometimes the juniors) to bond.

At any rate, I went on Elle.com to look for some fashion tips and beauty advice for prom and found an intriguing article called “Female Depression: Why Women Are Unhappier Than They’ve Been in Years.” The main argument of the article is that as the female movement produced new possibilities, it created new ways that women could fail. For instance, because there were so few jobs available for women, there was more competition, and it was easier to fall short. According to the article, since women haven’t had the same amount of time to experience similar things men have, we have more potential to be disappointed and ultimately depressed. With this theory in mind, I’m eligible to attend prom, an event that is always built up in movies and life in general, but what if I can’t find a dress? What if someone is sporting the same exact hairstyle? With so much pressure and new possibilities, I’m automatically setting myself up for failure.

female depression

female depression

However, I’m still debating whether or not I agree with this article. Women shouldn’t blame new opportunities for their depression, if anything it should be the opposite. Moreover, the female movement occurred a long time ago, and we shouldn’t be caught up in the past. And men have just as much difficulty getting jobs.

Being the nerd that I am, I searched through websites for information about depression. One article in particular, “Why Women Are More Susceptible to Depression: An Explanation for Gender Differences” stated that studies show females are more depressed than men, and it’s caused not only by external factors and stereotypes, but by biology. Hormones increase one’s emotions, and therefore increase one’s rate of depression. Women who are experiencing menopause in particular undergo estrogen depletion, which tends to make women feel less womanly, older, and infertile. The article also theorizes that depression is dominant in the X chromosome, and since women have two X chromosomes and men only have one, women are more susceptible to depression. Stereotypes, the same article says, can also lead to these emotions and many women feel the need to live up to conventional roles of perfection no matter what they do. Additionally, the media portrays women as extremely thin with beautiful skin and luscious hair (this is something I’ve certainly encountered while searching for prom tips), and the article states that consequently women become depressed because they feel they don’t fit society’s demands and stereotypes. Due to such high physical appearance standards, women suffer from eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, and according to the article, more women are diagnosed with eating disorders than men, and depression disorders are known to appear with other syndromes.

I think that there’s some truth in comorbidity and how severely stereotypes affect women, but that shouldn’t be a reason why studies show women to be more depressed than men. Men too have social pressures and stereotypes, as well as opportunities to fail. What if at prom they forget the corsage? How will their date react? If movies illustrate prom to be extremely significant for girls, how will they face that pressure to make their date’s night perfect?

What are your thoughts on depression and gender? Prom? Better yet, do you have any fun prom stories you’d wish to tell?

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  • Carrie @ at 1:03 pm, April 26th, 2010

    Also, women are taught to keep their feelings to themselves, which leads to depression. Women sometimes feel angry about stuff, but they are taught to never express anger towards others. Without any outlet, they direct the anger towards themselves. Self-directed anger=depression.

    Men, on the other hand, are encouraged to express anger freely! That’s why they end up letting all that negative energy out, preventing them from becoming depressed.

  • typhonatemybaby @ at 1:09 pm, April 26th, 2010

    a couple of things from the guys side:

    There are actually some unwritten rules that the more sartorial (read as “pretentious”) among us (like myself) seek to adhere to.

    If wearing bow tie and tails:

    ALWAYS tie the tie yourself,or at the very least make sure it was at least tied and not a clip on.

    Make sure its white. If you are wearing a tailcoat, white tie, lest one commit a monumental social gaffe. This does not apply if you are wearing a tuxedo, in which case clip ons are acceptable only in the case of NON-windtipped shirts.

    And thus we all see why a labelled myself as pretentious.

    another thing: if wearing a Kilt then it should be noted that underwear should not be worn. a true Scotsman never wears underwear with his kilt. Unless he finds the wool itchy in which case fair enough.

    The rules regarding bow ties cover women as well, the kilt rules do not.

    Also: the colouration of the suit is to be taken into account.

    if the event is happening under electrical light AND in the nighttime then a suit of “midnight blue” is advised, as this causes a curious optical illusion whereby the suit appears to be “blacker than black”, as ACTUAL black actualy appears drab and semi-morbid under such conditions. HOWEVER if the event is taking place under DAYLIGHT then a suit of midnight blue is to be avoided under ALL CIRCUMSTANCES (unless the event is of lesser formality than the traditional ball, or highland ceilidh) , as this shade will simply make you look like a cheap magician.

    However, such attention to detail has been lost, except in the occasional cases of victorian fashion enthusiasts, tailors apprentices, of which there are few, steampunks, who will turn up looking amazing, and put you all to shame, and, on occasion, the noirish formations associated with more traditional goths.

    Now, as long as the suit is still in one piece and doesnt have a price tag on it, you are fine.

    Once again, can i emphasise that any girls thinking of cross dressing had better look better than everyother guy there, or retorts to insults may be hard to come by.

    PS: This post was only partially ironic.

  • typhonatemybaby @ at 1:15 pm, April 26th, 2010

    that said, yes, women have a harder time over it than men.

  • Steph @ at 8:18 pm, April 26th, 2010

    Eugh, prom (or grad, as we call it here) dress shopping. SO glad I’m wearing a tux.

  • Gina @ at 2:55 am, April 27th, 2010

    I agree that there are aspects of a woman’s biology that leave her more susceptible to depression than a man. However, I disagree with you on the assumption that there is a “depression gene” as you described it. To my knowledge, nothing like that has been revealed in research, at least not to the point where we can go ahead and assume that it is a recessive trait in males. Depression is a multi-factorial condition that does involve hormones and many environmental factors as well. All of these interact with one another in ways that are difficult to track. Molecular biologists have their work cut out for them.

    There’s my two cents. On a completely different note, you’re a pretty good writer for a high schooler. You have a bright future ahead of you.

  • natalie @ at 3:57 am, April 27th, 2010

    Is it me, or does the woman in the blue prom dress look abnormally tall – like her legs are over twice as long as her head and torso. Is she on stilts or is this a photoshop job?

  • Katherine @ at 10:35 am, April 27th, 2010

    Part of me is glad that I never went to prom – I avoided all the bullshit associated with it. It all felt like playing dress-up so that you could parade around in front of people (people I never wanted to be in the same room with anyway)
    But, part of me feels like I missed out on a ritual of cultural importance. I don’t know what it’s like to go dress hunting or get my hair done up or feel like I was parading around in front of people. It almost feels like it’s some coming of age ritual, a milestone of womanhood that I skipped.

  • Lisa @ at 7:39 am, April 28th, 2010

    It might be different, because I live in Australia, but I *loved* going to balls during high school; I think I went to seven or eight altogether. I brought one dress in Year 8 (when I was 13) and I wore that dress to every ball I went to. It was not a big deal at all, lots of girls did it. As for choosing hairstyles, I went to the hairdressers and told them to go for it! I never had the same hairstyle twice :)
    I think what I’m trying to say is, balls are what you make them. If you stress about it, it’ll be stressful. If you go with good friends and have fun getting ready, you’ll probably have fun there as well.
    I hope your prom goes well!

  • Melissa @ at 6:14 pm, May 2nd, 2010

    Are you sure that women really suffer from depression more than men do? As in, is this a difference in actual prevalence, or just in the number of cases that actually get diagnosed?

  • Jack Koopmann @ at 6:05 pm, May 13th, 2010

    Seems like tons of xbox enthusiasts here, I am a fan also and enjoy to play video games… my gf says I play too much, but man it’s so amusing. I’ve been playing mw2 and halo for weeks and can’t stop! What would you fellow gamers recommend? In any case, looks like a nice website, is this wordpress? I’ve made a few pages myself and it’s not easy. Thanks for taking time to writing this up.

  • A @ at 11:17 pm, September 18th, 2010

    I think that all the opportunities that women have created for themselves that have given more reasons for depression have given an equal amount of moments of joy. For example, a woman might be able to apply for a job at a company that she might not have been able to a few decades ago. If she doesn’t get the job, she will be upset, but if she does, she will be elated.

  • Zey @ at 8:05 pm, February 2nd, 2011

    I agree with Lisa.
    I had two proms. One was at 16 at our high school graduation and the other was 18 at our college graduation.
    Our high school graduation prom (or ball, as we called it) was much flashier. The second prom was at a bar, so it was slightly more casual and miniskirts and all were allowed.

    I went to the first one and not the second.
    In the first one, I had a night to unleash my feminine side without consequences (a little bit of a social issue, I admit). But it was a moment where I can be someone else for the night and blend in without being judged for trying to get male attention or trying to be a “man-hater”. I remember wearing a dress that did touch the floor and I remember choosing between two heels (a huge change from sneakers/trainers): the one that was glittery but uncomfortable or the one that was more “smart” and comfortable. I chose the glittery one. A huge difference to a girl who always wears men’s clothing because they are “much more comfortable and I can breathe in them”.

    But by the time it came to the second prom, I felt like I was starting to put on a bit of a show to others, and I didn’t want that.

    See, even though I spent weeks hunting for the right dress (which was fun hours, I LOVE looking at fancy clothes for some reason), wore uncomfortable shoes and spent time on other areas of physical perfection, like makeup, I did it all for fun and I did it all for me. I will NEVER wear anything to impress other people. My huge dress covered the heels I wore, but I still wore those shoes but it – for some strange reason – made me feel empowered. The dress itself was a bit long; I must have swept the floors while I walked but I loved the way I looked in it, it gave me confidence. The makeup was great too. My sister did the whole thing, giving me jewellery on the way, and I felt like a work of art. Had my sister not bothered, I wouldn’t have either. There was no pressure, no conformity. It was just a night where I could overdress and (as Shania Twain) put it “feel like a woman”.

    I know, I know: the usual response is for me to “stop dressing like a man start being feminine and we won’t need outdated rituals like proms!” This is a very simplistic way of putting things. Some feminists, from my personal life, claim that I’m dressing in an androgynous manner so I can be equal with the men. The truth is I’m dressing in that way because that’s my style, because that’s who I am, because I feel impressed when I look into the mirror. Generally dressing up in men’s shirts and wearing no makeup is my version liberty from societal pressures but that doesn’t mean I don’t support the occasional red lipstick or the miniskirts. I like ‘outdated’ rituals like proms because it’s like a masquerade party, or even just a normal party; a little bit of difference, anonymity and fun – so long as you don’t go overboard. If it bothers you, I really wouldn’t suggest you go.

    Though I must admit, I am one of the lucky ones. I have heard that other schools force you to bring dates for prom. Now THAT is an issue that I think is worthy of a feministic argument.

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