Beware the Benign


Most of the country has heard of the decision by one public school system in Rhode Island to amend its policy towards “gendered” activities for its students. Cranston hosts the typical middle school events — father-daughter dances and mother-son sports outings — which facilitate family and community bonding. Such light-hearted group activities provide memories and photo-ops for posterity during this otherwise awkward phase for parents and pre-teens, and have created a rite of passage in the process.

Last year, a single mother wrote to the Cranston school department to express her frustration with the local “Me and My Guy Dinner Dance,” which would be inaccessible to her daughter, who had no male adult to invite. The local chapters of both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women defended the mother, saying that any event that was not entirely inclusive was unacceptable.

A letter co-signed by the state heads of the ACLU and NOW posits: “While federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education, known as Title IX, contains an exemption for ‘father-daughter’ and ‘mother-son’ activities, it emphasized that ‘if such activities are provided for the students of one sex, opportunities for reasonably comparable activities shall be provided for the students of the other sex.’ A dance for girls and a baseball game for boys particularly in light of the stereotypes they embody, are not, we submit, ‘reasonably comparable activities.’ To the contrary, these stereotypes at their core undermine the goal of anti-discrimination laws.”

Before dissecting the problem, it is important to separate the two issues encompassed in the complaint. Two problems arose years ago with the original concept — the father-daughter dance. The first stemmed from the rising divorce rates, wherein fewer girls could participate with their own fathers. Thus the first shift led to a form of “ladies’ choice,” by which a girl could ask her step-father, older brother, uncle, or grandfather. As the traditional family deteriorated even further, her choice was widened to include any man, leading to the “me and my guy” concept which exists today. Yet, as we see, some girls still aren’t able to invite a man for various reasons. At this point we should stop and lament how tragic it is that any girl should grow up devoid of male support or affirmation — thus risking serious pathologies, not to mention lifelong heartache.

The second shift stemmed from the standard “Me too!” response that often takes place, sending mothers scrambling for activities to share with their sons, lest the boys notice that their sisters got an extra night out. Since few boys have an interest in dancing (especially with their mothers!) they were coaxed out of the house with sports — and a mirror event was born.

As important as it is to wonder how mothers and fathers each impact the formation of their children, the prevailing question in this story concerns the inaccurate rendering of what constitutes a stereotype. It is certainly true that not all girls like to dance, and not all boys like to watch sports, but if we cannot arrange entertainment around general cultural constructs — music, dancing, sports, shared meals, corsages, shiny shoes, and traditional courtship — then we will succumb to anarchy, which will be far worse than the occasional “exclusive” event.   

While single parents and so-called stereotypes are two distinct phenomena, they are not unrelated. The more fragmented that families become, the less children are supported by strong male and female role models, which is a significant factor in both gender confusion and the wider deconstruction threatening the existing culture.

The letter above continues: “We realize that some may view these types of gender-based events as benign. But sex-discrimination and stereotyping are no small matter.” In this, the writers are entirely correct. Decisions concerning such matters are very important, and for that reason they need to be properly argued — and free of both androgynous reasoning and envy. One truism states, “Hard cases make bad law,” and in this light the center of family life must hold firm. If such “hard cases” succeed in dictating to the wider community, which hopes to leave some sort of culture to the next generation, then there will be no culture left to inherit.


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  • I am also left wondering why the Federal government, via Title IX, is allowed to regulate middle-school dances and sporting events in the first place. We’ll get this kind of nonsense for as long as we continue putting up with it. How about a group of parents getting together in a non-school-affiliated way to do a father-daughter dance or a mother-son baseball game? Leave the schools and their goofy rules, and the ACLU, in the dust.

  • Terri Kimmel

    Two words: Catholic School. No more need be said.

  • StrongorGodly

    Culture? How about leaving some sort of faith to your children? What about the 50 million children murdered by their parents since 1973 in the U.S. – aren’t your children aware of those children? Genderless society is ours courtesy of socialism: humans siezing control of the means of (re)production from God. Women are equal to men or no longer “baby machines” (i.e. genderless) because of contraception and abortion, “birth control”. Once men and women are equal there is no “opposite” to sexual relations, ergo “gay” marriage. Brave New World – where couples order their state farmed babies free of all genetic defects – is on the horizon. Of course, this is all predicated on the belief that God DID NOT create heaven and earth and all they contain, but that everything somehow “evolved” from a “big bang”.
    What is a “strong” female role model? What is a Godly female role model? One who is pregnant every year for 20 years (if she is blessed – be fruitful and multiply)? One who is submissive to her husband, covers her head and doesn’t speak in church? One who is modest (bye bye planned parenthood slut walks) and wears a dress (no article of male attire)? The Bible would have it so. How about you?

    • Culture can foster or suffocate faith, so it matters–greatly. While motherhood is foundational to the feminine vocation, the number of children a woman has is not the right criterion by which to “judge” her faith. Many women are spiritual mothers, some are barren, and others are called to bear physical children–and all of these women still fit into God’s plan, which is that they live as icons of the our Mother, the Church. Furthermore, that Church depends on Sacred Tradition as well as Sacred Scripture for the Deposit of Faith, so we rely on the Magisterium to interpret Saint Paul’s words, some of which may not be binding beyond time and place.

      I think we share many views, StrongorGodly, but others go beyond what the Church teaches, and cannot be defended without departing from that precious Deposit.

  • Cha5678

    In the pursuit of equality, as defined by sameness instead of the historical fairness in kind, many will have to lop off bits and pieces of themselves to become the squares, circles and triangles that government regulations demand us to be (or demand we view and treat others as less than they fully are to fit their square, circles or triangle shape).

  • Nice article, Genevieve! Awesome to read your work again! I’m sorry I lost track of you over the last couple years! Hope to get back in touch!