Feminism | Posted by Nellie B on 05/24/2010
Prom and Assimilation
As a senior in high school, I am less than ecstatic about senior year and its attendant rites. That’s right: it’s prom time.
It’s a fortuitous year to be queer and prom-bound, as Constance McMillen has brought the issue to the forefront of America’s pop culturally-inclined social consciousness. You may have heard this already: McMillen asked to take her girlfriend to prom. School went nuts, canceled their prom, then sent Constance to a fake prom with other excluded kids while the rest of the class partied in secret. The one-two punch of bigotry and cruelty sent buzz not just through the gay community but the media at large. Impassioned Facebook groups such as “Let Constance Take Her Girlfriend to Prom!” sprouted up, along with offers of an alternate prom paid for by LGBT grande dame Ellen DeGeneres and a gig for McMillen to grand marshall the NYC Pride Parade.
And so, since young activists like McMillen are putting their lives on hold to fight for the right to take same-sex dates to prom, we should all be going to prom too! Like, in solidarity and to be an activist! I’m oh-so-oppressed! Right?
The whole argument reminds me of the gay marriage debate. I’m not talking about the culture war of “sinners” versus “equal rights,” I’m talking about the age-old queer debate of assimilation versus sovereignty. The mainstream, HRC-loving gay community has taken up gay marriage as its rallying cause, and it is a worthy cause. But just because gays can now get married in some states, that doesn’t mean they are all jumping to exercise a right that’s grounded in patriarchal, state- and church-based tradition. Similarly, the right to go to prom is not the only issue facing queer students.
Think about prom: Us ladies are supposed to get dressed up and pretty in long dresses, etc., for the most magical night of our lives, spent with the boy (excuse me, partner) of our dreams. We dance and maybe lose our virginities, in the grand tradition of the event. Sound familiar? Prom, and its paraphernalia, sound a lot like marriage. And yes, queers should be able to participate without fear. But as in marriage, some of us would rather not give hundreds of dollars to the prom-industrial complex—or the marriage industrial complex—and choose to commemorate the culmination of secondary education differently. Some of us like to opt-out of capitalist, patriarchy-based institutions altogether. I’d rather work for queer kids to be safe in school every day, not just on prom night.
Why are you going to prom?
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