Let’s face it: middle school dances are terrifying. In my youth, I spent my first dance alone in the corner of the cafeteria wearing my mom’s lipstick and a clip-in french twist hairpiece, hoping that the cool girls dancing in their cool circle would come talk to me. They didn’t, and a part of me has always regretted not getting up and dancing with them (I was and still am a horrible dancer, but who cares?). School dances offer a safe place to really explore the changing middle school social scene, to wonder about important things like, “Will the cool girls talk to me? Can I dance like they do? Does my hairpiece look cool?”
An eleven-year-old girl from California named Jamie Hena recently faced such a middle school dance, and unlike me, she danced. She actually did exactly what I’m sure all her classmates did: she twerked. Twerking is in now; it makes sense.
Unfortunately for the young lady, her mother, Frances Hena, had prohibited twerking because she feels that her daughter “is just a child and she can’t [perform the suggestive dance].” ABC also reports that Hena adamantly believes that the school should prohibit twerking altogether: “That’s ridiculous to even think that’s okay at a school dance.”
Ms. Hena Writes this Sign for the Girl to Hold as Punishment
Yes, Frances, the dance includes pelvic-thrusting and chest-pumping. I understand that you feel it’s inappropriate for a child to perform such a dance. But ultimately, it’s Jamie’s body and the school dance is her chance to explore her adolescence in a safe space with teachers and chaperones and other kids who are just as nervous and awkward and curious as she is. Instead of prohibiting the dance, perhaps Ms. Hena could have explained to her daughter that the dance might have sexual connotations that an eleven-year-old is not yet ready to fully grasp.
Instead, the mother punished her daughter for twerking. And I’m not talking grounding; I’m talking public humiliation. In response to Jamie’s friend reporting the twerking incident, Frances forced her daughter to hold a sign that read, “I was disrespecting my parents by twerking at a school dance” and stand in a busy intersection during rush hour. Drivers and passengers wizzed by, smiling and laughing at the child.
A Passerby Giggles
In this cruel punishment, the girl’s body became an object of ridicule. The disgusting irony of this punishment is not lost on me. If Jamie’s twerking is as inappropriate as Ms. Hena feels it is, why would Jamie’s public humiliation not be equally unseemly? The twerking itself may not have been sexually suggestive, but the holding of this sign in a public intersection certainly is: the poor girl stood in the street for two hours as people gawked at her as they passed.
As a gal who felt totally awkward and uncomfortable in adolescence, I’m glad I had parents and mentors who encouraged me to get on that dance floor, to have ownership over my body. Middle school is a time when kids are allowed to explore themselves and become comfortable with who they are. No child should ever feel as though her body and what she chooses to do with it are things to be laughed at and derided.
Ms. Hena Watches Over Jamie as She Stands for 2 Hours
Jamie, you have every right to comfortably explore. Your parents are your safe space; they are there to help you navigate the confusing world of middle school, to make you feel safe as you slowly emerge into womanhood. Nothing more, nothing less.
Thanks to ABC News
Images via ABC News