5 High School Traditions That Are Unexpectedly Feminist
Contrary to the popular saying, high school probably isn't the best time of anyone's life, unless you somehow possessed the magical combination of clear skin, good social skills, and naturally straight teeth (so you didn't need six interminable years of braces like the rest of us). It's also known for emphasizing conformity and gender norms, but that doesn't mean feminist high school traditions don't exist. Indeed, there are a number of traditions many of us encounter throughout our high school years that are actually surprisingly feminist.
Frankly, it's easy to talk about all the ways that high school sucks. Prom is rooted in patriarchal traditions, bullying is disturbingly common, and to top it all off, teenagers smell so bad. Like, I took to carrying around tiny deodorant in my bookbag just to keep up with my overexcited sweat glands. On the other hand, there's enough negativity to go around, and although some high school traditions are not-so-feminist, others are weirdly progressive. This is especially true in light of how mainstream feminism has become in recent years; even in the *mumblemumble* years since I graduated, there's been a huge shift in how gender equality is viewed in American society. In fact, research shows that the current generation of teenagers are astonishingly progressive even when compared to Millennials, who are generally viewed as one of the more liberal generations.
And so, without further ado, it's time we gave high school traditions some credit for being surprisingly feminist. Well, some of them — dress codes will forever be The Worst.
1. Sadie Hawkins Dances
For those who may not know, Sadie Hawkins dances are a tradition encouraging girls to ask boys out rather than the other way around. These days, of course, it seems pretty outdated, but when the tradition became popular in America during the late 1930s, giving permission for girls to make the first move was surprisingly forward-thinking. Fortunately, Sadie Hawkins dances are much less popular today, probably because it's more acceptable for women to ask men out if they want. (At least in theory.)
2. Sex Education (Depending On Where You Are)
It's no secret that certain areas of the American sex education system leave something to be desired; they can be ill-informed, ineffective, and often preach abstinence rather than educating teens about safe sex. That being said, things are changing for the better in some parts of the nation. Just this year, for instance, California moved from optional sex education, which required parents to sign their children up for courses, to a mandatory model beginning in seventh grade. Furthermore, certain sex education programs are now including information about gender identity and LGBTQ issues, and some educators are considering integrating early sex education into elementary schools. It's not perfect, but it's progress.
If you're not up to date on the ever evolving language of Teen Speak, promposals are exactly what they sound like: An elaborately staged way of asking someone to prom (that probably costs way too much money). They're a relatively recent tradition, which may be why they've turned out to be surprisingly feminist. Although many of the more popular promposals online (because of course they're almost always captured on video for YouTube's sake) feature boys asking girls out, a number feature girls asking boys, boys asking boys, and girls asking girls. In fact, last year a straight teen asked his gay friend to prom when he complained about not having a date. Teens these days are far more flexible in their ideas about sexuality and empowerment, and I am so here for it.
4. Fighting Dress Codes
Dress codes have been reinforcing gender norms for decades, but over the past few years, fighting back against them has become a tradition in its own right. Stories about students who were sent home (and by extension miss out on their education) for wearing tank tops, short skirts, or other supposedly "distracting" outfits don't receive quite as much media attention as they did in 2014, high school students haven't stopped calling them out for policing students' bodies.
5. Super Close Female Friendships
Hear me out on this one: Although close female friendships are encouraged throughout childhood and adolescence (and then discouraged once you meet a romantic partner, but that's a topic for another day), high school is when the BFF relationship is usually at its closest — not least because teenage BFFs go through all the weirdest, most humiliating bits of adolescence together. It's a bond that never really goes away, and ladies supporting ladies is pretty much as feminist as you can get.