Sadie Hawkins Day: A Brief History

January 22, 2018

 

Logically enough, people who don’t go to Athens Academy’s Sadie Hawkins dance (like me) have more time to ponder its existence. Like, who is Sadie Hawkins, and why is she famous? The American pseudo-holiday, which encourages women to reverse traditional gender roles by asking out men, is inspired by Sadie Hawkins, a character from Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip. The strip ran from 1934 until 1977, “chronicling the absurdities of daily life in the fictional Appalachian town of Dogpatch.”

 

Sadie Hawkins Day debuted in Li’l Abner on November 15, 1937, when Sadie’s father Hekzebiah, concerned that Sadie was bound for spinsterhood, decreed that unmarried women would literally chase the town’s bachelors in a foot race; whoever they caught became their husbands. The premise of Sadie Hawkins Day―women taking the initiative to start a relationship―was quickly embraced in the real world, and in 1939, Life magazine reported over 200 colleges holding Sadie Hawkins events, typically in the form of dances. The enormous popularity of the Sadie Hawkins Day strip motivated Al Capp to make it an annual feature in the comic strip during the month of November. (It’s not historically accurate, then, for Athens Academy to hold the Sadie Hawkins dance in February.)

 

Considering gender roles were much more rigid in the late ’30s than they are today (the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in 1920!), women probably felt real empowerment on Sadie Hawkins Day. But eight decades later, is the holiday still relevant? After all, women should feel empowered to ask men out whenever they want, and men should be receptive to leveling the playing field. At the same time, men today are still more likely to do the asking―to dances like Homecoming and Prom, and also to bigger commitments, like marriage. (CBS News reports that only 5 percent of those currently married say the woman proposed.)

 

So, what’s the role of Sadie Hawkins Day in 2018? Important opportunity for female empowerment, or tokenized reversal that ultimately preserves antiquated gender roles? Stay tuned for the opinions of two students who will weigh in on the necessity of sanctioned girls-ask-guys events.

 

 

Sources

“Li’l Abner.” Encyclopædia Britannica, accessed 20 Jan. 2017.

Plevin, Julia. “The Strange History and Uncertain Future of Sadie Hawkins Day.” The Atlantic, 15 Nov. 2012.

“Sadie Hawkins Day.” Li’l Abner, 11 Dec. 2013.

 

 

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