The problems solved by debutantes | Curio
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Anne Helen Petersen

The problems solved by debutantes

31 mins | Aug 24, 2021
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On class, power and whiteness. In this instalment of Culture Study, Anne Helen Petersen interviews writer Kristen Richardson. Her new book, "The Season: A Social History of the Debutante" explores the history and evolution of the debutante ritual. Here they discuss how young, rich women have been used to strengthen or claim status within class and racial hierarchies throughout the ages. "'The debut today is low stakes for individual women. Your life is going to be fine if you don’t get married. You can achieve status in other ways if that’s what you want. But the ritual is still high stakes for society at large. Debutantes? Who cares, right? But the debut still helps people select which women are going to be the most powerful allies of men; the ones who are going to police other women’s manners and create the standards of exclusion that best serve men. At boarding school we used to call them “the girls who get to be pretty.'"

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