Sixth-graders at Kanesville Elementary School in Utah had a Valentine’s Day dance with a unique policy: students weren’t allowed to say “no” when asked to dance.
CBS reported than one mother, Natalie Richard, approached school officials and opposed the rule, saying that it is teaching children that rejection is not a normal part of life, and that psychologically, it is instilling the idea in girls that they can’t say “no” to a boy.
According to the school district, the Valentine’s Day dance has been this way for years and the rule was enacted to promote inclusion.
“We want to promote kindness and so we want you to say yes when someone asks you to dance,” district community relations specialist, Lane Findlay, said to CBS.
Inclusion is important. Kindness is important. But telling young girls that they can’t reject a boy’s proposal to dance? That is the embodiment of rape culture in our world.
Dancing, especially slow dancing, includes a form of intimacy – usually, the boy’s hands are around the girl’s waist, and their bodies are close together. Of course, couple’s dances can be romantic and positive, but only when there is consent and trust between the individuals. Teaching children to submit to uncomfortable situations is threatening their future abilities to make positive choices.
Although the rule just states that “students” have to say yes to other “students,” it is ignorant to pretend that the majority, if not all, of the students who will ask other students to dance will be boys. This trend is something inherent in our culture, and although perhaps outdated, it can be a classically-romantic sort of gesture. But the assumption that boys ask girls alongside the threat of not being able to reject a dance immediately hands the power over to the sixth-grade boys, and diminishes the girls to property, to something to be chosen and easily obtained.
One could argue that the school does not want to hurt any of the children’s feelings. Perhaps, they want the boys’ masculinity to be validated in order for their fragile middle-school self-esteem to be raised.
But this argument makes pertinent the comfort and well-being of men only, while the women are forced to suffer through potentially mentally and physically awkward and threatening situations.
The existence of policies such as this within school systems is alarming. Women are struggling as it is to bring forward the reality of sexual assault in a society that masks the problem and allows this violence to breed as an issue that supposedly “doesn’t exist” or “isn’t that bad.”
We are letting rape culture thrive among the youngest generation. How can we stop the culture of silence when it is being sown among our youth?
Richard told CBS, “my daughter keeps coming to me and saying I can’t say ‘no’ to a boy. That’s the message kids are getting.”
Has the coming forward of so many sexual assault victims during the past year taught us nothing?
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