Billy Hallowell reflects on the end of father-daughter dances in a Rhode Island school district after complaints (including one from the ACLU) that such events left out daughters who didn’t have fathers in the home, and violated state gender discrimination law:
Is this inability to allow oneself to feel left-out or sidelined indicative of a greater problem in our culture?
After all, children, teenagers — even adults — have much to learn from life’s trials and tribulations. While feeling excluded is never a particularly positive experience, sometimes it’s a fact of life (and one that can help people learn and progress as individuals). In the end, we can’t all win all of the time. Is it realistic to teach children that they have a right never to feel like the odd man out?
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.