‘Sadie Hawkins’ re-opens discussion of gender vs. tradition


The excitement surrounding winter formal always begins early, with talk of corsages, dresses and, of course, dates. But this year, the buzz has been more focused on an unofficial possibility of this year’s winter formal becoming a ‘Sadie Hawkins’ dance; this would mean that girls would be asking boys to be their dates instead of the ‘traditional’ guy-ask-girl format.

“[Sadie Hawkins] started in 1937 from a comic book strip,” senior cabinet advisor Erik Bennett said.

The comic strip that Bennett is referring to is one of Al Capp’s illustrations as part of the Li’l Abner comic strip. The Sadie Hawkins dance was created from the character named Sadie Hawkins with the idea that women should be able to ask the men to the dance.

In the 30’s and 40’s, the dance was a symbol of women empowerment and a movement to break down traditional gender roles. Sadies was, to young women at the time, seen as the only time it was socially acceptable to ask a male to a dance.

“Obviously these days girls don’t need a rule allowing them to ask someone out - they can do that themselves any time,” senior Ellie Feder said. “And yet, we still have Sadies because it is not quite the norm yet.”

Many students believe that Sadies has been an every-four-year tradition at Burlingame and that this year’s winter formal became a Sadies and girls asked boys to be their dates.

“I do remember [my older sister’s] Sadies dance,” senior Hannah Sarwar said. “I think her and most of her friends had a lot of fun being able to ask for formal one year and it was fun for them to be able to plan it out instead of being the ones asked for once.”

Though Bennett said that he doesn’t believe that any official tradition has really ever existed, yearbook advisor Michelle Riley explained that the tradition is more of a cultural, unofficial one.

“Sadie Hawkins is an unspoken but strong tradition at BHS where every four years, the girls ask the boys to the winter formal,” Riley said.

Differing viewpoints and a lot of contrasting information has made formal into another gender controversy that has altered Burlingame traditions in the last three years. After changing the name of Powderpuff to Homecoming Bowl, removing the words “King” and “Queen” to be simply Homecoming Court and switching to all red graduation gowns last year, students are beginning to group formal with that trend.

“Whether people like the idea of [Sadies] or not, it shouldn't limit who asks who,” Sarwar said. “Anyone can ask who they want to and it shouldn't be a problem. That being said, I don't think Sadies should be taken away from the school as it has been a tradition for so long.”

Other students, Feder included, believe that Sadies is still needed to encourage girls to make the ‘anyone-can-ask-anyone’ format a regularity.

“Guys still traditionally ask girls to dances and girls usually expect to be asked,” Feder said. “Until that is no longer normal, we still need someone saying, ‘Okay girls, it’s your turn to ask.’ It’s a weird thing, but I kind of feel like that’s just where we are right now.”

Whether or not winter formal is being called ‘Sadies’ or not, the unspoken tradition will seemingly continue this year.

“I think most girls will definitely want to ask guys this year anyways because the tradition that been going on for so long. It’s just to be able to carry [the tradition] out and keep it going, and also to switch things up for once,” Sarwar said.

Members of the senior class cabinet explained that telling students which gender should be the ones to “ask” for dates is not up to them to decide.

“There has been no formal discussion about a Sadies Hawkins dance,” senior class president Eliza Van Hamel Platerink said. “It’s never been a senior cabinet thing.”

“Dates have always been a social thing that is something the student body does,” senior class treasurer Oliver Nix said. “Class cabinet and the planners of the event play no part in that whatsoever.”

Platerink asked students to omit “gender” as part of the equation when it comes to finding a date for formal.

“Our senior class cabinet is sort of just promoting that everyone just ask whoever they want regardless of student demographics,” Platerink said. “We believe people should ask whoever they want.”

Posted on December 19, 2017 .