Rory’s debutante ball is presented as a counterpart to the school dance she attended with Dean in the previous season. Nine months have gone by, and Rory’s world has widened. Last year, she took hesitant steps towards taking part in Chilton’s social life, this time she is given an entree into Hartford society. In both cases, it was Emily who persuaded her to make an effort and attend – Lorelai may have seen Emily as a stifling influence, but she’s only too keen for Rory to broaden her horizons.
As a key part of making her debut, Rory walks down the stairs with Christopher while Dean waits at the bottom. Christopher kisses his daughter’s hand as Rory curtsies, then leaves her to Dean, who walks her down the aisle. This is a ceremony which some debutante balls still follow, particularly in the American South. It’s overtly nuptial, with the father symbolically “giving away” his daughter to her escort before they walk down the aisle together. (There’s even a white wedding cake!). After all his moaning, Dean looks absolutely overjoyed to be presented with a bridal Rory in a white dress being handed to him.
Lorelai thought debutante balls were creepy and sexist, because they involve displaying yourself to men with the hope they’ll marry you, even though that isn’t what actually happens, and hasn’t happened for about seventy years. Yet here Rory is, getting symbolically married while her father gives her away like she’s his property, and Lorelai’s just happy Christopher is involved, and she doesn’t even bother to mock it, let alone point out how deeply patriarchal it is.