Is your homecoming theme sexist?

Do themes like “zookeepers and animals” objectify female students?

Darcie Kim

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Homecoming at New Trier is a unique experience, with people dressing up in themes ranging from ‘80s skiers to fantasy football. It is no mystery that the variety of homecoming themes is extensive, and in fact, the wide diversity of themes adds to the overall hype of the dance. However, the issue lies in the fact that some people have recently begun to question and take offense at certain themes they feel are sexists towards women.

It’s uncommon for a school dance to encourage students to wear costumes that fit whatever theme they please rather than the typical formal dress code. This freedom to choose a theme has led some groups to pick costume ideas such as “hunters and prey”, “pirates and booty”, and “zookeepers and animals”. In these specific cases, the girls were the “prey”, the “booty”, or the “animals”.

People have begun to take notice of the possibly sexist implication of these themes, and are claiming that females are being objectified into costume ideas. However, in response to this, senior Miles Purcell said, “I would say that people are reading too much into [these themes]. Sure, some of them are rather suggestive but that doesn’t make them sexist. It doesn’t matter what the theme name is, if someone wants to dress a certain way that doesn’t break school rules then they will. It’s a school dance, you’re supposed to be having fun, so dress fun and what that entails is up to you, not other people.”

On the other hand, some students feel that these themes have crossed the line that separates fun but suggestive from sexist and unjust. They are startled how people do not recognize what they view as apparent objectification of women. Junior Margot Fiegen brazenly stated, “The girls in my group are not anyone’s property, while it may seem like a funny joke, we are not the punchline.”

Fiegen also recounted her personal experiences to explain why she feels girls concede to certain themes, “We strive to be cute or get attention from the amount of skin we are showing. As someone who is used to comments from adults, teachers, and peers about showing too much skin I think people continue to dress up as these themes because it is one night.”

While junior Isabella Roselli agreed with Fiegen that she believes that sexism exists in the context of school dances, she had a different approach to explain the reason why girls do not speak up to what considers injustice. “[People] want to seem like the cool girl archetype. I think deep down, sexism is something all women understand and hate, but men act as though we don’t deserve to be angry about sexism in our culture, and I believe it pertains to this. If you get to go to the dance with someone you really like, why would you want to butt in and say the theme is sexist? Girls are just afraid to say something,” she said.

However, Purcell also made the compelling argument that girls did not have to follow the mainstream ways of dressing up as a theme if they felt confined in any way. He explained that one had the liberty to twist the theme’s name to fit their liking and comfort. He explained, “Let’s say I’ve been assigned to as a ‘booty’ for a ‘pirates and booty’ theme and am uncomfortable with that. I could go as a literal treasure chest; it would be funny and I would be sticking it to anyone who expected otherwise.”

Between Purcell, Fiegen, and Roselli, the one thing they all agreed upon was that sexism is undoubtedly present in our current society. Whether or not that sexism is a part of our school dance is still up for question, but its existence as something that needs to be eliminated is indisputable. Although women have been victims of sexism for generations, more advancements have been made in the past century than in all of history.

As Purcell put it, “Women are more often the victims of sexism not because of any big old scientific reason, but because sexism has been a part of human society since its beginning, and only recently have there been huge strides in gender equality. Sexism is an old, outdated part of society that we are progressively getting rid of.”

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