Stuff Mom Never Told You
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Why do some girls become debutantes? | November 25, 2009

 
Cristen

Yeah, the table cost $14,000, and their dresses usually cost several thousand dollars, and some families will spend upwards of $10 grand just on this dress. And I thought that the responses to some of the girls were kind of interesting from this New York Mag slide show. For instance, New York Magazine asked one of the debutantes, Elizabeth Penneman from California, they said, “Can you be a debutante and also a feminist?” and her response, after a long pause, said, “I think it would be difficult to be the stereotypical feminist, but I think you can be a debutante and still support women’s rights. No one comes in thinking, ‘Okay, this is where the woman gets married, hopefully to a rich husband.'”

And think that that, like her response, does point out like kind of the stereotype of the debutante being just this sort of silly tradition to show marriageable women off to men because I think at this debutante ball, and I think at a lot of the other big ones as well, there are usually at least two men for every girl. And I think all of these at the International Ball also have a military escort. So it’s just swarming with men and these gorgeous girls in their finery. Oh, and it’s also they’re all wearing white too, which seems a little symbolic there.

Molly

Yeah, it’s a little loaded.

Cristen

They’re purity.

Molly

So I think it’s fair to ask, you know, do we still need this? Do we still need a ball that reminds people of days in which women were presented as eligible bachelorettes? And also do we need to spend this much money? You know, all these articles had to point out that times are tough right now, and is it really great that we’ve got girls parading around in these thousand dollar dresses, and it’s just one night, not even a wedding night.

Cristen

Right because that was one thing that – there was an article, or a paper I should say, written about debutante balls and kind of understanding the sociology of it specifically in the United States. Because, as we’ll talk about in a second, it’s something that originated over in England! And they say that these balls kind of contradict this idea of the U.S. being sort of a classless state, as opposed to England that had far more rigid class structures. Because debutante balls were something that were normally reserved for the upper classes in the U.S! I mean you had to be tapped to do it, and you have to have the money. You have to have the $14 grand to even buy the table.

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