Promposal Culture at South: The Gender Divide

By Rebecca Levy

By Emily Bulczynski
Managing Editor of Features

As spring rolls around at South each year, it’s hard to miss constant talk and excitement around semi. Whether it be walking past someone with a poster and flowers at the end of the day or the regular facebook notifications that your friend has been asked to semi, it is clear that South’s students are buzzing with anticipation of our school’s annual semi-formal dance.

It’s also apparent the majority of the promposals at our school occur when a boy asks a girl with some sweet gesture. While there are certainly exceptions to this and girls asking boys is accepted by students, the overriding majority of boys asking girls creates a gender divide within South.

Specifically, English teacher Deborah Bernhard feels that this tradition of a boy asking a girl reinforces gender stereotypes and creates an environment where girls feel like they need to wait for a boy to ask them in order to feel validation.

In addition, she believes that the situation adds unnecessary stress to both genders, as girls feel the need to find boys who will ask them to semi, and boys are pressured to think of creative and extravagant gestures to surprise their date.

“I think it just puts more pressure on the entire situation, and it reinforces the dynamic that a woman has to wait to be asked or that a man has to make the first move,” said Bernhard.

While further exploring this gender dynamic from a student perspective, all six students who were asked whether they see this divide between boys and girls answered that it was, in fact, prominent to them. But, while this divide is noticed by a lot of students and faculty, many students noted that it was not necessarily a bad thing and that it is less stereotypically divided at South than it may seem.

For example, junior Adi Shneorson, who is one of the class officers working to make semi a special event, said that in her opinion, she doesn’t like that many people feel as if a boy must ask a girl. She also pointed out, though, that she thinks South has been moving in a more gender inclusive direction.

“I think that in the past, it’s been seen as boys ‘have’ to ask girls,” said Shneorson, “but they really don’t and I think that our South and our grade is pretty inclusive about girls asking guys, girls asking other girls, and guys asking other guys.”

Junior John Floros, who has gone to semi twice already- as a freshman and as a sophomore- has experience with being asked by girls to semi. Traditional etiquette dictates that the girl asks the boy if the boy is not a junior or does not attend South.

However, Floros also said that he thinks that semi is supposed to be about building a positive event for students at a stressful time of year rather than focusing on the stigmas that arise from the traditional patterns around promposals.

“This time of year for both semi and prom, people get really creative, both guys and girls across a couple different grades, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Floros.

Floros emphasizes that it is important for students to focus on the fun parts of being creative with their promposals rather than get caught up with the etiquette of who should ask whom.

Junior Sanne Glastra, who just moved to Newton from California this year, also felt that semi is creating a positive and exciting atmosphere at South around this time of year.

When comparing the promposal culture at South to that of her old school, she noted that she was really excited to see a more accepting gender dynamic of promposals than that of her old school.

“I feel like a lot of girls actually ask guys, and it was really refreshing because at my old school, that has never happened,” Glastra said. “There’s not one girl ever or at least in the last two years who has asked a guy [at my old school].”

Another difference that she saw between her old school and South is that people at South are promposing for semi much further in advance. While at her old school they had multiple dances with dates each year, she believes that the reason why South students are very immersed in the promposal culture for semi is because it’s the only major event of the year.

When people begin asking as far as two months in advance, Junior Sanne Glastra said, it can make people feel like they are obligated to have a date to semi, even though they’re not.

Similarly, Juniors Hannah Nesson and Alex Norman agreed that the social media presence of promposals for semi can make those who are not involved feel excluded and it can add pressure for kids to create a grand gesture for their date.

Nesson noticed that the social media presence can also create the sense that everyone is getting asked to semi all the time. While she also noticed that the gender stigma of a boy asking a girl exists, she acknowledged that at the end of the day, who asks whom isn’t what really matters.

Norman said that while he thinks that promposals are a nice way to creatively show someone that you care about them, he thinks that at South, there is excessive pressure from the social media presence of askings. Having older sisters, he has seen them have great experiences at semi and prom without making a big deal of promposals.

Whether the perfect gender balance may never be reached or if it is one that will get better with time, Nesson summed it up that in the end, juniors should just go to semi with either a date or with friends, who they’ll have a fun and memorable night with.

Looking at the existence of the gender divide and the possible stress, South definitely has room to improve on the semi culture; however semi provides many other positive experiences and South may be more progressive than we think when compared to other schools.

These traditions allow South’s students to be able to freely express themselves and to add positivity and excitement to the school atmosphere. Additionally, Floros pointed out that semi is an event that boosts school spirit that he believes the South community is lacking.

Looking forwards, students are hopeful that the gender divide will diminish with time in the South community. Hopefully, students will increasingly feel that South is an inclusive enough of a community to be able to ask whomever they would like to semi in whichever way they want. For now, as Nesson said, it is important to remember that semi is simply meant to be a fun time.