by Ericka Jones, Peer Advocate Counselor
Prom season is the period between April and June in the United States. High school students start preparing for their prom in April and then the conversation tends to die down in June after prom is held. As this season starts to infiltrate social media posts, so does an influx of posts depicting the “kindness” of a nondisabled student asking a disabled student to prom. This act is not only dehumanizing to the disabled person being featured, but it perpetuates the idea that disabled people could not date nondisabled people without an ulterior motive or pity. Even more troubling, it is not often shown that the disabled person featured has both agreed to the date and has also agreed to pictures being taken. VCIL does not support this exploitative act.
The problem with these “promposals” (prom proposals) is the way the story is framed. It’s never a nice story from the perspective of the disabled person. It’s instead often a nondisabled person’s family member boasting about how wonderful the asker is for asking out a disabled person. Asking someone to prom or any other event should not be shown as an act of charity or that the asker is some sort of hero. It should be two kids who both agree to go to a fun event together. Documenting asking someone to prom puts unnecessary pressure on a young kid who is just trying to navigate life, just like all the other teenagers are. Having a camera in your face while being asked on a date makes it more difficult for someone to say no and creates a power dynamic. And then to have the whole experience plastered on social media as a charity event is humiliating.
What is worse is a trend that has touched our own backyard of Barre, Vt. Organizations and schools across the United States hold whole separate prom events catered to disabled people. The Tim Tebow Foundation holds one right here in Barre, catered to “special needs individuals.” This is problematic because it’s segregating the disability community even more and normalizing inspiration even further.
Instead of normalizing separate events or posting disabled people on social media for likes, we would like to see real inclusivity. For starters, don’t have separate events for disabled kids. This just adds to all the moments in their life where they will feel excluded. Include disabled kids in organizing these events so there is a true disability voice, and if you want to ask your friend to prom…just put down the camera.