Editorial: Sonoma High’s ‘Mr. Dragon’ feels the heat
The Sonoma Valley High School “Mr. Dragon” contest has been the subject of recent criticism after several students decried the event for a lack of gender inclusivity.
The issue first came to the attention of the Index-Tribune in a student article we published by SVHS senior Ava Rognlien on Feb. 4. In it, Rognlien wrote that the student body was grappling over the “Mr.” part of “Mr. Dragon” – and whether the name of the event left female and non-binary students uncomfortable in participating.
Index-Tribune reporter Anne Ward Ernst followed up with a March 4 article featuring other students voicing similar qualms with the contest.
The “Mr. Dragon” contest, held March 7 in Goltan Hall, is something of a burlesque, in which a handful of male student contestants take part in a mock beauty pageant – it’s intended to be funny and outrageous. The boys wear women’s bathing suit tops and cheerleader skirts; they eat large quantities of pie or syrup in short amounts of time.
It’s typical high school humor. And, for the most part, it’s pretty harmless.
But more than a few students are pointing out that the school-sanctioned event – it’s staged by students, but takes place on campus and the prizes are prom tickets – discourages participation by non-binary and female students. Aside from the fact that its derision is aimed largely at traditions associated with female beauty contests – there are male versions after all – they say the very fact that it’s called the “Mr. Dragon” contest lends the impression that it’s a boys-only show.
As senior class president Sebastian Lopez put it in a recent I-T article: “Although people were trying to say that the event was not meant to be exclusive it still was that way just because of the name. I wasn’t even against the event, I was only against the name.”
The contest is technically open to all and, in fact, a female student on rare occasion has been a contestant, though contestants at last week’s event were all male. But, unless one holds that only boys enjoy goofing around on stage, the fact that girls and transgender students aren’t taking part makes it clear that something about the contest is disenfranchising to anyone not a boy.
The Sonoma Valley High School student population, to its credit, took the matter to heart prior to the March 7 contest when a congregation of student leaders discussed the issue and gave consideration to a name change of the event that wouldn’t define the contest so much by gender.
According to a letter to the Index-Tribune from Audrey Castillo and Madison Schiffman, both members of the Mr. Dragon Committee which stages the contest, a vote on changing the contest name was held last month by members of the “student forum,” a collection of more than 50 representatives from campus advisory classes. They said forum members voted convincingly to keep the name as it is.
“This vote accurately represents a decision made by the students, for the students,” said Castillo and Schiffman.
Gavin Lehane, Student Voice for the Associated Student Body, described the results of the survey as narrow and that a follow-up class vote on the name resulted in a tie.
Ultimately, however, the majority of students voted to keep the name.