The Bar-On Brief: The original, uninspirational message behind Sadie’s and how leadership is fixing it


Leadership students posted this photo on Facebook to advertise for the new event. Design by tech commissioner Yash Satyavarpu.

By Shauli Bar-On , Columnist

The Bar-On Brief: A weekly column

Upon taking a trip to the local grocery store, I took a peek at the flower section. Most flowers were priced around $8, tulips were $10, but of course, the price tag for roses showed a ridiculous $20. As you can imagine, I passed on these.

Yes, it is that time of year again, the time where couples show extra PDA to each other and where singles curse them in the hallways: Valentine’s Day.

The traditions associated with Valentine’s Day will never die, but other ones such as Sadie Hawkins dances do not have many years left before they are forgotten, or at least modified.

The origins of the Sadie Hawkins dance, one that HHS is hosting on Friday, have little to do with equating women and men. Sadie Hawkins was a comic strip character created by Alfred Caplin, and her story is quite the opposite of inspirational.

Hawkins was unable to find a bachelor because nobody wanted to marry her. Her father hosted Sadie Hawkin’s Day, where all the single men in the town took part in a race. The loser, of course, would have to marry Sadie.

The founding purpose of the Sadie Hawkins dance is to provide a unique opportunity for girls to ask boys to the dance, a switch in the customary gender roles.  

There are two major problems with Sadie’s.

The first: its customs reinforce gender roles. They give women the “right” to ask men on a date or  the “right” to ask men to marry them, implying that men are the only ones who should assume this role on all other days of the year. We do not need a leap year or a special dance as an excuse for women to initiate dates and marriages.

The second: its customs accommodate only heterosexual couples. Times have changed, and so too should old traditions.

However, this year the leadership team is changing the original message of Sadie’s to make it more inclusive.

It is interesting to compare this year’s and last year’s daily bulletin announcements advertising the Sadie’s dance. The beginning part of this year’s announcement read on Feb. 7 was the following: “On February 17th, our annual Sadie’s Hawkins dance will be from 7-10 pm. This year, our theme is Mystique: a Carnival Under the Stars!”

The same annual dance was advertised differently last year. Here is an excerpt from last year’s message read on March 3, 2016: “Ladies! Ask your bae to Sadies! Ticket sales are this week during brunch and lunch in ASB.”

The school is encouraging anyone to ask anyone to Sadie’s regardless of gender, essentially changing the nature of Sadie’s. Leadership even planned a “Palentine’s Day” on Feb. 15, a day especially set for students to ask friends or significant others to the dance.

An alternative photo leadership students posted to advertise for the event. Design by tech commissioner Yash Satyavarpu.

With that said, Valentine’s Day’s origin is more uplifting and inclusive.

Unlike the intended purpose of Sadie’s, Valentine’s Day does not have gender roles engrained within it and does not need to be changed. Not based on faith or a belief in a higher being; Valentine’s Day and its story are actually quite inspiring.

It all started when the Roman emperor Claudius banned marriages so his soldiers would not be homesick when they went off to war. Father Valentine, a priest, defied the law and secretly wedded couples despite the emperor’s order.

As a sign of gratitude, the couples would send flowers to Valentine. Eventually, Claudius discovered the secret marriages and imprisoned Valentine before executing him.

Valentine fell in love with his prison guard’s daughter, and on the day of his execution, Feb. 14, he wrote her a card signed “from your Valentine.”

Dark, but cute and inspirational nonetheless.

In several years time, only certain phrases will be kept alive: “Will you marry me” will no longer be reserved to a single gender. And “Will you go to Sadie’s with me” will either entirely go extinct or be said in a new context.

But the phrase “will you be my Valentine” will live forever.

And with that, I rest my case.

The Bar-On Brief is a weekly column that runs Thursdays. 

Follow Shauli Bar-On on Twitter @shauli_baron