29 May 2012

Just step a little way out of accepted, conventional behaviors, and see what happens.  From the LA Times  Think also of Rosa Parks who refused to sit in the back of the bus.  Freedom in "everyday" life comes slowly and with pain.  Anyone who thinks we are "free" in American, or any other society, is demented. 

Bomb thrower in green taffeta
By Shawnda Westly
   FOR MOST GIRLS, prom is a rite of passage: the perfect dress, the prettiest corsage and the handsome date; it’s an experience they remember their entire lives.
   Twenty-five years ago, as a junior at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, my choice to go to the prom without a traditional date made the whole experience memorable for an entirely different set of reasons. It made me suddenly an outcast and a radical, a bomb thrower in a green taffeta dress.
   Three different boys asked me to the prom, but at the time, I didn’t have a steady boyfriend. So I chose not to waste the night on what would have been essentially a first date. Instead, I decided to go in a group with two of my girlfriends.
   When I tried to buy prom tickets, I learned the school was only selling tickets to couples, one boy and one girl. The activities director said three unattached girls could cause “jealousies” on the dance floor and fights would break out.
   At the time, I was an honors student, varsity tennis player and a fairly reserved, non-rebellious young woman. When the school administration denied us tickets just because we didn’t have male dates, it didn’t seem right. Why should I be kept from the junior-senior prom because I didn’t have a male escort? The policy made no sense, so I petitioned the school administration to change it.
   I never thought my request would land me on the front page of local papers, or on “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.” I also never expected this very newspaper to editorialize in support of my stance.
   Nor did I expect the backlash. It was a stunning lesson for a 16-yearold: If you step even slightly out of line with tradition and acceptable norms, you will be punished. I saw firsthand that society doesn’t just promote its traditions; it does all it can to enforce them. The message from most students and parents was to do it their way or you can’t do it at all.
   At school, banners went up vilifying the “Stag Prom.” Walking through the halls, I was called “dyke” and “bitch.” Our phone rang off the hook with complaints. I received threatening letters, including a pornographic collage of pictures with cutout letters conveying a violent and salacious message I never even showed my parents.
   My friends backed out. But two others, Dana Sonksen and Steve Silverman, stepped up to join me.
   The constant bullying made me scared to go to school. Would a cheerleader yell profanities at me? Would another football player let me know he planned to slam dance into me? I kept my mouth shut, and I didn’t pick fights. Finally, the school administration decided to change the policy.
   Then the big day arrived, and something happened I never saw coming. A lesbian couple, both dressed in tuxedos, obviously romantically involved, walked into the dance. Everyone, even my friends and I, stared. One thing was for sure: The heat was off me. For breaking a bigger barrier, I assume the two of them endured enough hatred and bullying to make my troubles seem like a cakewalk.
   In a sense, what my enemies feared most came to pass: When you challenge convention, there’s a ripple effect. “Stag Prom” turned into “Gay Prom.” One freedom led to another. But I’m proud to say that Edison never looked back. The school survives, the prom survives, Huntington Beach survives — and so does freedom of choice.
   Not every school is Edison, though. Just a few weeks ago, in Philadelphia, Amanda Dougherty, 17, was told she couldn’t attend her prom at Archbishop John Carroll High School because her date suddenly had to back out. The archdiocese said in a statement that the school held other dances during the year that didn’t require dates but that prom was a “special social occasion.” According to Fox News, Dougherty found another date.
   The archdiocese was right, of course: Prom is a special occasion; it was for me 25 years ago. And like so many things in life, it’s one we all should have the right — with an opposite-sex date, same-sex date or no date at all — to experience and remember.
   SHAWNDA WESTLY is the executive director of the California Democratic Party.


  1. I am new to this blogsite, but I have very much enjoyed the last several postings.

    And especially this one. I salute you Schwannda. If I didn't appreciate the male anatomy so much I'd get a girl friend just to shock the hell out of people.

    Now, may I have the space and the grace to vent a little?

    I don't see much difference between those on the spiritual path and those on the religious path.

    When it comes to 'freedom' both camps seem caught up in some type of mental hypnosis or something of the sort.

    Many that I have heard and thought were free are just as bound in their day to day lives as the neighbor next door. They are stuck in their conceptual prisons shouting their freedom with learned and logical precision.

    Maybe I am missing something here, but what exactly are they free from? What is there to be free from but the conceptual wrappings that have mummified us,sucked the life out of us and kept us in check in almost all areas of our lives? Karl Marx said that religion is the opium of the masses. And let's not be prideful and think that this excludes spirituality for the most part. People, we are drugged and screaming we are free all at the same time.

    Many are happy to be on their spiritual path; they meditate, read, enquire, visit teachers, travel to ashrams...whatever it is that many of them do; but when it comes to their day to day lives many of them continue in the death traps that society and religion have fit them for.

    They believe if you are married that you should not feel or express love for anyone other than your spouse. I've been married for a short time and several weeks ago, this really hot guy came on to me, and he kissed me...for 40 minutes. My emotions were not involved, but I deeply enjoyed that 40 minutes of intense passion. Then it was over. I know, I'm a bad girl, but I liked it. I felt like I was in high school again.

    They hold to all sorts of moralities, shoulds and shouldn'ts to maintain an image. Oh, this image of being good is the hardest to let go of.

    They continue to find their sense of identity in jobs they hate for the most part, but they must appear responsible, hardworking, faithful citizens. Who wants to be useless?

    Many get caught up in the 'sacrifice myself for my kids' syndrome. And they create another whole identity and sense of self worth out of that.

    This is obvious by the innumerable amount of bumper stickers where proud parents find it necessary to publicize their children's minor scholastic achievements on the backs of their cars. Really? Who do you think these stickers are for?

    I am all about loving kids if you have them. This is not what I am speaking about.

    I'm just wondering, is freedom just an idea, something to ruminate over, talk about with other spiritual/religious junkies, something to hold onto just in case life starts to really suck?

    Should it...might it be visible at a physical level? What kind of impact does it have in the manifest world, if any?

    At what price does freedom come? Is it costly or do we just become free and continue to live our mostly comfortable, mundane, and undisturbed lives?

  2. continued....

    That 16 year old in the green taffeta dress would say that her freedom wasn't cheap. To her, it wasn't a sissy mind game or something she spoke casually about. She walked it and it cost her.

    She paid the price that was demanded for that particular expression of freedom. I hope she is continuing in that same pattern.

    She inspires me.

    I am in no way suggesting that we purposely set out to change any particular thing in our lives, but when our outer lives no longer line up with the internal freedom that we are beginning to experience, what will we do? What will we do?

    This is where the price is paid. This is when freedom becomes costly. Until then, it's more of less something else to keep the mind busy, something else to numb us to lives most of us can hardly bear.

    But, I could be wrong about all of this.


  3. Luckily we don't have proms in Britain - because I would never have found a date.