On Friday, November 2nd, Harriton TV reported during its weekly Ram Report segment that school administrators were planning to change the name of the annual Mr. Harriton charity event to reflect their agenda of gender inclusion.
From conversations I’ve had with friends in the weeks since, it seems that the majority of the student body disapproves of this decision. I, however, support the change. Here’s why.
A common argument I’ve heard in opposition to the rebranding is that Mr. Harriton is a satire of traditional beauty pageants, and that its satirical nature only works if the contestants are male. I understand their thinking, but isn’t it sexist to say that the show will only be comical if all the contestants are male?
I can see plenty of ways that people of other genders can make fun of traditional beauty pageants. In injecting Mr. Harriton with a fresh dose of creativity, it would make the contest more funny, not less.
Students often complain about Harriton’s lack of traditional school spirit. One consequence of that deficit is that Mr. Harriton is our only big, all-school event. The fact that half (or more) of the student population is excluded from participating is a big problem.
Those in opposition to changing the event’s name have pointed out that students of all gender identities are technically welcome to compete, according to the official rules. But one cannot deny that the event’s history, tradition and reputation discourage non-males from participating.
As I understand it, only one woman has tried out for Mr. Harriton in the past several years, and no non-males have ever been selected to compete.
Changing the name of the event to something gender-neutral is the best way to reverse that culture of exclusion. Even if the name were to remain Mr. Harriton and the school heavily emphasized that students of every gender identity are allowed to participate, the same degree of inclusivity will not be achieved.
Another option is to create a Ms. Harriton event to go along with Mr. Harriton. But that would involve an enormous and unnecessary workload, requiring the Student Council to organize two massive events per year rather than one. More importantly, it would imply that gender is a binary concept, which is just as antiquated as requiring all contestants to be men.
Many of my peers oppose the decision to change Mr. Harriton’s name. But this time, the popular sentiment is wrong. This is a necessary step in crafting a more inclusive culture at our school.