For thousands of teenagers across the United States, prom is one of the biggest events of their lives. It’s almost an unofficial sign of coming of age, marking their ascent into adulthood; the end of their high school lives. With so many expectations pinned on to this one single evening, many strive to make it a memorable one, for obvious reasons. However, for one young woman, what was supposed to be the best night of her life, turned into one of the most stressful experiences she will ever encounter.
Twilight in Paris
Clare Ettinger was a 17-year-old girl who was a homeschooled student. She had the opportunity to attend a special prom hosted by the local community for kids like her who did not attend regular schooling. Clare was understandably excited. She, along with her boyfriend, was dressed to the nines for an evening full of fun with friends. The theme was appropriately decided as ‘Twilight in Paris.’
The Perfect Dress
Clare, like most girls her age, put a lot of time and thought into picking out the perfect dress for the special evening. After traversing across what seemed like a million different stores, she came stumbled upon a glittery, silver dress at Macy’s. She knew it was the perfect dress she had been looking for. But at no point during the process of trying on the dress and purchasing it, did she have an idea that it would become so controversial.
Although she loved the dress, she knew she could not wear it to here prom unless she passed ‘the fingertip test.’ This special test was devised as a way to monitor the appropriate length of dresses. The test prescribed that the dress should extend past the fingertips of the wearer when the hands are hanging by their sides. So Clare tentatively did the test, knowing that she couldn’t buy the dress with the money she’d saved otherwise.
What a Relief
To Clare’s relief, the dress extended past the tip of her fingertips, even if by the slight margin. The dress adhered to the dress codes for the prom, she could finally wear her dress! But even with the tangible assurance, she still could not have predicted the chaos a simple dress could create for the evening to come.
Sharing With Her Friends
With prom just around the corner, Clare was eager to share her excitement online. She shared pictures of her trying on the dress captioned, “channeling [her] inner Marilyn Monroe.” And of course, she once again made sure that the dress was the appropriate length.
Not Taking Chances
But Clare wanted more assurance. With her important night hanging in balance, she was not going to take any chances that will put it in jeopardy.This compelled her to do another fingertip test, but this time, with her accompanying heels. Probably because of the shoes, the margin had lessened a bit more. But she knew that she would be able to pass the test if asked to by a chaperone.
Confronted at the Prom
Never in a million years could Clare have imagined the fiasco the dress would create. The dress was specifically picked out for this special occasion. She felt phenomenal wearing it and her boyfriend and friends seemed to agree too. She could not have anticipated the ensuing bedlam.
Upon reaching the prom, Clare could hear a volunteer – Mrs. Duncan – say that the rule for dress length was “fingertip length.” Clare appeasingly stated that it was simply due to her long legs that the dress appeared shorter than it was. But the volunteer was not going to budge, and simply declared it too short for prom. Clare could feel a fight coming on…
Passing the Test Again
Clare’s determination to wear the dress was as strong as Mrs. Duncan’s to not let her wear said dress if not more. Clare even showed the moderators that her dress was adhering to the standards set by the school, although both she and the and Mrs. Duncan were well aware that it was a really close call.
Keeping A Watching Eye
Even after the test, Mrs. Duncan could clearly be seen unsatisfied with the results. She continued to warn Clare that she will need to make sure that her dress “stays down” throughout the pro while reiterating that it was too short to be allowed. She continued to keep a really close eye on Clare to make sure that at no point did her dress broke the set rules.
Upon reaching the dance floor, Clare came to the rude awakening that most of the girls who were sharing the dance floor with her indeed wore a dress that was even shorter than hers. However, you need to keep in mind that none of them were nearly as tall as she was. While she was on high alert as she danced on the stage, she noticed something really bizarre.
Both Clare and her boyfriend came to an agreement that the dance floor had an awkward feel to it. Part of the reason why it did was the presence of the chaperones. In fact, many people weren’t even dancing but just standing around the dance floor. And numerous Chaperones, including men, were up on the balcony watching the prom goers having a good time.
While a ton of drama following the prom mainly revolved around Clare’s dress only, both Clare and her friends were conscious of the huge amount of male parents present at the scene. Clare remarked that she felt “violated” by the mannerisms of the parents who were assigned to keep an eye on them from the balcony.
And even before Clare could worry any more about the chaperone situation, she saw that Mrs. Duncan had returned. She dragged her aside with the help of another chaperone and told the poor girl that she along with some other male chaperones think that she was dancing a bit too provocatively and coupled that with the dress, other attendees were having “impure thoughts”.
Who’s Taking Responsibility?
Following Mrs. Duncan’s speech, Clare clarified that as all the teens were enjoying their prom, it shouldn’t be her responsibility to make sure that her dancing isn’t making the male chaperones uncomfortable. In fact, it should be the fathers who should feel ashamed for sexualizing a young student who is just trying to have some fun with her friends on the dance floor.
Something Feels Wrong
But it wasn’t just Clare who felt uncomfortable by all the males looking at them during the dance, but other girls present at the prom too felt extremely uncomfortable by this. But of course, only Clare had to endure the penalty and given the situation she felt that everything that was happening was extremely unfair. Why should she be the scapegoat?
War of Words
Clare was definitely not the type of person who would take any sort of criticism just lying down. So she decided to remind Mrs. Duncan again that her dress was indeed of the specified length and she wasn’t, in fact, dancing inappropriately at all. Even her friends decided to back her up on this. Even Clare’s boyfriend had to get involved in all of this.
Clare’s boyfriend went and made it clear that they would need a written clarification to why they were being kicked off the prom. On top of this, he also demanded to get a full refund for the tickets, not only for Clare but for everyone who came along with her. But this wasn’t enough to sate Clare, after all, she didn’t dress up so much just to be kicked out of the prom right away.
As the argument was starting to heat up more and more, James finally decided that he needed to talk with the manager of the event. However, Mrs. Duncan didn’t appreciate that someone was challenging her authority. In fact, she totally denied to discuss this topic anymore and another chaperone had to be called in to resolve this issue.
Who Is Right?
After a huge heated debate and a lot of back and forth, other people decided to intervene and calm both the enraged women down. But it didn’t take them long to come to a decision about this whole conflict and someone was not happy at all by this decision. But this was going to be the final straw.
In the end,Clare ended up being escorted out by the security. She was absolutely heartbroken at this point. Later she even went on to point out the fact that since the whole prom was for home-schooled students from 8th standard and above. She was standing out of the crowd because of her fully developed physique and the sparkly dress. She felt that she was being singled out by the male chaperones present there.
Another Point of View
At this point Clare was desperately looking for someone, anyone who would be willing to back her argument up as she was being dragged out of the prom. Crying, she even questioned the security guards if according to him to decision was just. Even according to his convictions, she should not have been kicked out for something like this. Adding salt to the injury was the fact that everyone save for Clare got a refund.
Getting the Word Out
A few years ago, if a student who felt they were being unfairly treated like Clare, would not have much to get justice for themselves. But with the help of the internet, Students like Clare were given voice. She knew that she had to get her story out. And so she decided to kick off a discussion on the internet telling everyone about what had happened to her on the prom.
Raising a Ruckus
Clare was fortunately successful in getting her message out to the world. The might of the social media is unchallenged and countless people went to Richmond Homeschool Prom’s Facebook page to give them a piece of their minds on what they had done to the poor girl. While administrators were hard at work with deleting all the hateful comments, the page soon got taken down.
In just a matter of a couple of days, Clare’s dress had become the topic of discussion throughout the nation. Everyone asked the question of whether people need to be judged on how they dressed and it the discrimination against Clare was justified. However, Mrs. Duncan had her own view to share on this platform.
Mrs. Duncan’s Side of the Story
When Mrs. Duncan got the mic, she started stating her side of the story to the world, she explained that the spandex fabric of Clare’s dress kept rising up higher on her legs causing a lot of skin show. She added that it got up to the point where it was just below Clare’s butt and that was in no way acceptable. She tried to explain that the chaperones were only trying to do their jobs.
Clare claimed that after the dance both she and her friends saw several students doing the “truly dirty dance”. She claimed that there were students making out left and right on the dance floor. Which is why it came as a shock to her that only she and her friends were being kicked out of the place. Meanwhile some students pointed out that they saw Clare dancing in a sexual way with her boyfriend.
Sticking to Her Story
Regardless of all the stories coming out of the prom, Clare decided that she was going to stick to her story. That she had initially told that it was the male chaperones who kept on complaining about her dance. She claimed that it was clear that they had been eyeing her.
Clare claimed that it felt that she was being shamed for having a more mature body than other girls who were in attendance. Again she iterated that it didn’t feel justified that she was being blamed for all the people lusting after her “And if you think I am, then maybe you’re part of the problem,” she added.
Clare at this point had managed to generate a ton of support online with the help of various social media sources. However, there was still one group that never reached out to the distressed girl, it was the Richmond Homeschool Prom Officials or chaperones. And on top of it all, none of Clare’s friends ever received the refund they had been promised.
Making a Stand
Clare in the hopes that her current ordeal with one day makes a difference in the life of other girls who might go through something similar in future decided that she was going to take a stand right here and now. Here for both Clare and Mrs. Duncan, this case became a reflection of how teen sexuality is viewed in the society and how it was becoming an issue.
Who’s to Blame?
No matter whose side one might choose to take in all this, there still remains a ton of question that needs to be answered. While teenage girls want to push this issue and even challenge the dress codes, can it be considered the girl’s fault that other adults feel that her dress is inappropriate? Or is it the adult’s fault for sexualizing the poor high-school girl? And most importantly how is either party supposed to deal with this situation in future.
As soon as this story hits the news headlines, it achieved a viral status around the world. One thing that I think we can all learn from this is that the time is changing at a really accelerated pace and rules should change with them to keep up with the time or else issues like these will keep arising endlessly.