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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Michigan Students Hold Girls-Only Prom to Accommodate Different Cultures, Set Excellent Example

American teenagers generally look forward to their high school proms, if, for any reason, to spend a night in a fancy dress for once. But mostly, because many see it as your standard teenage rite of passage. And while some are not interested in going to the prom, there are some who have been dreaming about it since they heard it was going to happen — but had a feeling they couldn’t go or wouldn’t go for a variety of reasons. In the case of Tharima Ahmed of Hamtramck High School in Michigan, her Muslim religious beliefs forbade her from dancing with or dating boys; her everyday life — without dancing — requires her and other Muslim girls to wear a headscarf in the presence of males. So, your regular prom was not a possibility for her. Then she had a brilliant idea: throw a girls-only prom where she and others could (literally) let her hair down, or just attend a prom without a date. A girls-only prom with the theme “Once Upon a Dream.”

Ahmed, a Bangladeshi-American in one of the most culturally diverse areas of the United States, has been, like other teenage girls, exposed to American teen pop culture and partakes in it as much as she is able to as a Muslim. She is one of many girls in Hamtramck whose family comes from places other than Hamtramck, and they also wanted to be able to attend a prom without worrying about going against their religious beliefs. When she first had the idea, Ahmed conducted an informal survey among her peers and found out that a majority of girls — 65 percent — wouldn’t be able to attend a traditional co-ed prom because of their religious beliefs.

But when other non-Muslim girls started expressing interest in Ahmed’s idea, that’s when it really took off. Because, seriously, what a great idea — no pressure to get a date! (Let alone wondering if, once a date has been obtained, there will be sex at the end of the night.) About $2,500 was raised, mostly through bake sales, and the organization officially started. Ahmed also had the support of her school, and invitations were extended to alumni who were unable to attend their own proms.

One hundred girls attended the “Once Upon a Dream” prom, where they saw their hijab-wearing classmates headscarf-free for the first time and joined together for an evening of music, food, and dancing (and a five-minute break for prayer at 8:00 PM). In other words, these girls who had thought they’d be denied the prom experience got their prom, and all the memories to go with it.

(New York Times via Jezebel)


  • Cassy

    I don’t know how to feel about this because (and sorry if this is offensive, civil humanist over here) rules like no-boys-and-girls dancing come from such ancient, totally sexist times I don’t see how encouraging their place in modern society is helpful to anyone. But at the same time, I understand that these girls are following their religious rules willingly. It all just kind of rubs me the wrong way.

    Glad they all had a fun event regardless.

  • Anonymous

    why can’t she just go to the prom with a friend? that’s what some do anyway. it’s not mandatory to find a date so i don’t see any real conflict.

    making an entirely separate even defeats the purpose of the prom which is a collective formal event among peers, not some exclusive party.

  • Lily

    I think part of the point was to be able to go hijab-free…maybe even do a prom hairstyle.

  • Jocelyn Dugan

    I think it’s fantastic. I think that these girls are clearly respecting the values placed before them and then they are finding a way to still experience one of the most exciting parts of high school in the US. I don’t think it’s our place to judge their rules or their etiquette- it’s important to them. This is no different then a church hosting a prom or dance.

  • Anonymous

    Then what’s the point of being hijab-fee when she’s usually wearing a hijab anyway?

  • Jocelyn Dugan

    It’s not that they can’t have a date, it’s that they cannot go at all. If she went, she’d have to stand up against the wall and feel awkward. This is a much better solution.

  • Anonymous

     whats the point of getting your hair done, buying a new dress, and wearing high heels when you usually wearing jeans and a t-shirt?

    because its prom and that what everyone else gets to do!

  • Anonymous

    Nothing is really preventing her from going though. From my high school experience, plenty of people don’t stay with a date. Why can’t she go with her friends as a group instead? I don’t see the need to create a separate party.

  • Anonymous

    THE POINT is that her religion prohibits her from A) dancing and B) dancing with BOYS. Both of those things are present at traditional proms. It’s not just about the hijab; it’s that she would not have been able to do anything at the traditional prom, which would have made it pointless to go. Not having to wear the hijab is just another “perk” of having an all-girl prom.

    And just to respond to your definition of prom as “a collective formal event among peers,” well, this is still a collective, formal event among peers. These peers just happen to be all girls. Furthermore, traditional proms could be seen as “some exclusive party,” as you said, to those people like Ahmed who have different cultures and are therefore excluded from the events.

  • Anonymous

    If you read the article, she’s not prohibited from dancing. She just can’t dance with boys. So why can’t she dance with her friends at the prom which is what she’s doing anyway in her own party.

    The point is her religion isn’t really forbidding her from going to the prom. She can go. It probably had more to do with her parents.

    The only difference from her party and the prom is really just wearing a hajib.

  • Wolf

    Have you ever been to a prom? The boys and girls mob the floor and mingle together as they dance.

    So she could NOT attend the prom that would have had both sexes because there would have been no guarentee of no boys dancing with or near her group of friends.  And that is a religious requirement, nothing to do with her parents.

    And simply going, then standing there like a wallflower is no one’s definition of fun or memorable.

  • Bel

    I think the real problem here is the American conception of the prom.  I’m Canadian – the whole affair seems a lot more casual ’round these parts.

  • Lily

    I know a sixteen year old girl who held an “anti-prom” party this year (her words; not mine). It was pretty much the same idea that Ahmed had. Throw a prom that you would want to go to. She got to have an excuse to get dressed up, take loads of pictures, and eat fancy food.

    I don’t see how it’s different than Ahmed’s prom (non-Muslim girls went to hers, too) and I don’t see why either would be a problem.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, she can go, but you are missing the point of this whole story. Would you want to go to a prom or event that compromised your beliefs (religious or otherwise) to the point that you wouldn’t be able to do anything but stand against the wall and not participate and watch everyone else have a good, care-free time? Maybe YOU would, but she and many other girls like her wouldn’t. This is the motivation behind her having an all-girl prom. And it’s not just that she can’t dance WITH boys, its that she can’t dance in a boy’s PRESENCE, meaning if there are any boys in the same place as where she is, she can’t dance. Hence the problem, and why she decided to create an all-girl prom.

    So, the main point is that she would not have been able to have fun at a traditional prom because of her religious beliefs (which, believe it or not, maybe SHE wanted to honor her religion and wasn’t being forced to do so by her parents…) and so she decided to create an event for herself and girls like her where they could have fun without feeling the guilt of going against their religion.

    Lastly, the REAL main difference between Ahmed’s prom and her school’s prom is THE ABSENCE OF BOYS, which means she doesn’t have to go against her religious beliefs, which means she can participate and have fun and, yes, not be forced to wear a hijab (which is really just a minor MINOR detail in all of this).

  • Anonymous

    Have you? People usually stick with their clique of friends. She wouldn’t be dancing with a boy if there’s one near. That makes no sense. If 100 girls went to her party, do you really think she’d be a wallflower? Besides, people aren’t constantly dancing at the prom. I don’t know when you had your prom, but it’s nothing like the one I had in 2008. Lots of people with no dates have a good time and some of them don’t even dance at all.

  • Christopher Haley

    I’m glad that this was able to happen. It saddens me to think that if the genders were reversed, this would probably never happen. Like if a guy came up with the idea of having an all-boy prom for the same reasons, he would get shot down by everyone. Girls would think he’s misogynist and exclusive of women and boys would think he was gay and probably beat him up.

  • Anonymous

    If she went with her friends, she would still have to wear the hijab and be wary of any boys trying to hit on her.  She wouldn’t be able to chillax like you should at the prom.  And hey, it sounds lovely to go without the pressure of needing a date–even girls who go with friends are seen as kind of lonely-ish at ordinary proms.  If I went to that school, I’d go, even though my religion has no problem with standard proms.

  • Bel

     I’m sure she’s got a better handle on what she does and doesn’t feel she can do than you do.

  • Skye Alexander

    Um…some girls bring other girls to the prom as dates. And wonder if, once a date has been obtained, there will be sex at the end of the night.

  • Anonymous

    Oh! So only really well put together people with shiny hair every day should be allowed to go to prom? A casual lady can’t have an excuse to gussy up and have a special night because she wears jeans?

    Thanks for letting me know! I’ll make sure my daughter knows from an early age that she can’t go to prom unless she’s gorgeous and really well dressed through all of high school.

  • Becky Topol

    If you take another look at the comment thread, I think you’ll see that the comment you responded to was a semi-sarcastic response to a comment asking why a girl who usually wears a hijab would want to NOT wear a hijab to go to prom.  Nobody’s actually suggesting that girls should wear evening gowns all the time = )

  • relmneiko

    Gender segregation is wrong. It’s the foundation on which extremely gender unequal societies exist and shouldn’t be considered ok. Yeah let’s seclude all our weak little wimmens for their protection, they should be seen by men they’re not related to! Dancing leads to RAPE! They need to stay in the home! I mean, if a bunch of black students got together and organized a black prom so they could have their own deal away from white students… people would be going “what the fuck”. School dances (in my experience) are always heavily supervised and not sexual and grindy like you might see at a club. If your religion says you can’t participate in a little bit of harmless, innocent fun… you religion is stupid and oppressive. Why are people tiptoeing around this shit because “oooh you have to be respectful of their religion”? Why is religion an excuse for awful fucking behaviour and misogyny? Yeah, I guess it’s their choice to do all this, but there’s also women that support genital mutilation and women that oppose birth control and women that believe in the superiority of men (and I’m not just bashing Islam here, there’s fucking crazy Christians out there too). All the Abrahamic religions are toxic misogynistic institutions that need to stay in ancient history where they belong. How can people believe that shit in the modern era? Agh! So much anger about this stupid shit!

  • Addie/Annie D

    My friend is a Muslim so we know all about how restricting her lifestyle can be. While we were in high school, she missed out on quite a lot of what an average girl would experience. We threw her a graduation party, prom (junior & senior), wacky dress up, etc. 

    You can’t argue about someone & their cultures whether it’s old school or not. It’s their lifestyle and choices. The best you can do is to respect their wishes like you would with any other person and just enjoy whatever you have with that person. Whether it be a classmate or a great friend. 

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I have to agree that any segregation whatsoever seems to be heading down the wrong path. I’d rather not start an argument over religion (since history has proven that the faithful are impossible to convince otherwise) but religions are generally very segregationist, sexist, and what have you…it’s not really the dance that has to change, so much as the believer.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Most heterosexual men wouldn’t see the point of a dance without women. Fuck, I see little point of anything without women.

  • disasta from alaska

    an excellent example would be to renounce all oppressive, patriarchal religions for what they are – written by men who want to control everything.  they also happen to be false.

  • Anonymous

    during my junior prom, one of my friends was asked to leave the dance because she wasnt dressed formally enough to meet their precious high standards.  i left with her, and i told the chaperone to go to hell.  i got a detention and it was the easiest time i ever did.  you can go right to hell, too nymph1816.  why cant people just go to a dance and have fun?  why does prom always bring a cloud of drama with it?

  • Life Lessons

    While I despise gender segregation, I’m really happy for these girls and I know I would have gone!

    Perhaps one day, they can have a prom with boys as well. Keep moving forward. :)

  • Travis Kyle Fischer

    Likewise. Not exactly a step forward, more a step sideways. Still, better to make the most of it than do nothing at all.

  • Jocelyn Dugan

    Her parents are preventing her from going. Her culture is preventing her from going. Her values are preventing her from going. Her religious beliefs are preventing her from going. This has nothing to do with a date- it goes much, much deeper than that.