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September 26 2012

Father-Daughter Dances: Abolished in Rhode Island

Charlotte Hays

As the child of divorced parents, I simply accepted that there would be occasional moments of awkwardness. That was then. This is now: father-daughter dances are no longer permitted at high schools in Rhode Island because some girls might not have fathers.

The ACLU has stopped such “gender-based events” as father-daughter dances and mother-son baseball games from taking place:

An effort to halt these practices took form after a mother, upset over the fact that her daughter doesn’t have an active father in her life and, thus, feels left out of the aforementioned dance, complained to the civil rights group.

In the end the ACLU was successful in nixing the dances and baseball games, as the school district very quickly bowed to its demands and cancelled both traditions. Cranston Public Schools Superintendent Judith Lundsten said that the events were being halted so that the district would be in compliance with state-gender discrimination law.

“I acknowledge that many of these events have long traditions and for many parents, these types of gender-based events are not an issue,” Lundsten wrote in a letter to school groups. “However, this is a public school system and under no circumstances should be isolating any child from full participation in school activities and events based on gender. Please be all-inclusive when planning your events.”

Billy Hallowell, who covered this unfortunate development, comments:

Certainly, one can sympathize with the young woman at the center of the debate. So, too, will many feel for those families that would have enjoyed these continued traditions, but will now no longer be able to. One wonders: Is this inability to allow oneself to feel left-out or sidelined indicative of a greater problem in our culture?

In a post headlined “Gender Egalitarianism Run Amok,” Rod Dreher writes:

It’s hard to know when one is taking a stand for compassionate inclusivity, and when one is yielding to a mindless egalitarianism. As a general rule, I don’t mind if my child has to miss a certain event or activity because he or she doesn’t fit the criteria for joining it. Perhaps there is a good lesson to be learned about the importance of difference, and the importance of standing by what you believe in, even if it means you don’t get to participate. Perhaps too there is a good lesson to be taught about social norms and their importance.

In the matter of the father-daughter dance, one reason the ACLU objected was that they consider it anachronistic to assume that girls would rather go to a dance, and that boys would rather go to a ball game (there was a tradition there of mother-son baseball games). So the whole tradition has to end because the ACLU and its local allies wished to enforce a gender-egalitarian ideology onto this community. The effect here is to say “there are no social norms” for these things — which, of course, is a social norm disguised as a neutral position.

I grew up in a loving, single-parent (plus colorful grandfather!) home. But neither my mother nor I regarded divorce as anything less than tragic, and neither of us would have wanted to normalize it by abolishing father-daughter dances. But then--thank heavens!--I didn't grow up with a sense that I must never, under any circumstances, be uncomfortable.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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