Father-Daughter Dance: Brouhaha Extraordinaire

Mar 5, 2018 by

The date is rapidly approaching. On it will be tested not merely whether civilization can hold up without cracking up, but whether we can respectfully also maintain a sense of absurdity.

Surrounded by global bleakness. does our last hope of finding our compass and our bearings really hinge upon whether the “Father-Daughter Dance”, a tradition in many schools, should be canceled or renamed because of hurt sensibilities and non-compliance with Department of Education mandates that there be no gender-specificity references in the absence of a clear demonstrable educational purpose?

Like most invocations to change the world, this calls for enlightened bemusement and perhaps a new artistic movement. Haven’t things gone far enough?  Or has there been no progress at all?

The Father-Daughter Dance controversy hit the New York tabloids with human-interest tales drawn from the stakeholder population of a Staten Island school. It’s split people into fractious camps. It doesn’t take much these days to provoke a schism in societal harmony.

The Father-Daughter Dance, doesn’t sound like a contentious activity. Many students come from fatherless homes and in some cases transgender issues apply. Where there are profound issues of sensitivity and equity, one must curb oneself against levity. It is not a superficial matter.

Have there been prior reports of people being traumatized by Father-Daughter dances. If not, is it because the experience was suppressed out of fear of reaction or has the event not been perceived as a bad thing?  Has the pain been internalized, rationalized away, diverted by means of  sorely tested coping skills or, as some on Staten Island claim, has it been seized upon as another piece in the jigsaw puzzle of progressive activism?

Students are resilient and must adjust to many difficult challenges as they grow up, as we all have done. But does that mean that they should be told to “grin and bear it” if they say they are in agony. Do we take them at their word? on what side do we err, if we must?

Maureen Kelleher, an education reporter, blogger, editor of Education Post and former teacher, blames the resistance to ridding the scourge of Father-Daughter dances on “right-wing culture warriors” who are “just waking up to the decades-old shifts in family structure and gender rules”, and  “are also unaware of the realities of the 21st century economy and the irregular and non-traditional work hours so many parents are juggling.”

Kelleher feels that the repudiation of these dances will achieve the salutary effect of reducing “sex stereotyping” and recommends any “particular subset of the school community” who wants an old-fashioned “father-daughter dance” should “host the event in a hall or a church basement”, although that would “send a terrible message.” She expresses concern for those who “don’t want to be boxed into categories like ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ “.

Some alternate names for the dance have been proposed, which, though not objectionable, may beg the larger question. They include “Sweetheart and Me” and Kelleher’s personal favorite, “Loved One and Me”.

Sometimes a seemingly minor incident or misunderstanding can trigger disproportionate consequences. Europe tripped into war over the corpse of a single useless archduke. Without stopping to mockery, might the Father-Daughter Dance dispute set off a culture war or would it be a too-long delayed signal of an existing one?

Remember that not every war for justice is just.

Ron Isaac

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