School pageant should be gender neutral, more inclusive

Posted on March 14, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun

When I was a freshman at Sonoma Valley High School, I told my sister, who was a senior at the time, that I was going to compete in the annual Mr. Dragon competition my senior year. I’m sure she thought I was joking, but when the registration forms were posted at the activities window three years later, I grabbed a packet. I read every word, and nowhere did it say that being a man was necessary to sign up. In February 2018, I became the first woman to compete in the Mr. Dragon competition.

What convinced me to compete was that it was only for boys. Despite no official rule that only men were allowed, year after year the cast was only guys. This makes sense, because it was in the name. “Mr. Dragon” doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for interpretation. The competition is intended for only male students.

There have been movements to change the name to something gender neutral and more inclusive, to encourage women and gender nonconforming students to compete, but it has failed to pass through the leadership class. But why does a name-change matter? The competition is less than 10 years old. There is no historic argument. It is not named after someone. So why are people so tenaciously opposed to the change? If there is no logical argument, then there is probably a different reason people want a male-centered name.

There is nothing to lose for those who oppose the name change, but a lot to gain in the name of gender equality. For women or gender nonconforming students, it is more than just the name of a pageant. It is a product of centuries of intentional oppression, which still echoes in our memories. Historically there have not been many opportunities for women or gender nonconforming people to be celebrated in the same spotlight as men. The Olympics wasn’t open to women until 1928, 77% of Oscar winners have been male, and America still has yet to elect a woman president. Women may have won the right to vote, we are still not treated equally in America. Changing the name of the pageant would not only reflect the progress society has made in the past few decades, but it would show students that gender does not influence a person’s character or talent.

Why should you trust me? I’m just getting my degree in Justice Community and Leadership with a double minor in Women and Gender Studies and Ethnic Studies. This is what I am passionate about, what I’m studying, and what I intend to dedicate my life to. I hope Sonoma Valley High practices what it preaches, and continues to support and encourage every member of the community.

And, personally, I think The Dragon Royale is way better than “Mr. Dragon”!

Lauren Smith, class of 2018, is a freshman at St. Mary’s College in Moraga.

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