Inclusion Issue: Homecoming Debate Part 2-Policy Change

Alyssa Olson

Mr. SPASH has always been a boys only competition based on tradition. By tradition Homecoming court is for girls and Mr. SPASH is for boys, it’s just as simple as that. Everyone can participate or watch the fun activities and events of homecoming week and no one gets left out, right? Well, recently this year some students felt that these traditions did not include them and they weren’t fair.

Who is included?

Who is included in Mr. SPASH and homecoming court events and why do other students feel uncomfortable? Male students are included in Mr. SPASH. These students are voted on by the students in the school to be elected to be a part of the Mr. SPASH competition. Female students are included and also get voted on to become the homecoming court. Mr. Vanderloop helps run the Mr. SPASH events where the boys compete for the Mr. SPASH title and the girls vote on the boys performances in order to decide a final winner.   

Who is excluded?

But this tradition overlooks an equally important group of students at SPASH. Homecoming does not have options for non-binary or transgender students to participate in Mr. SPASH or Homecoming court. “Within Feminist club many have come forward and expressed their disappointment with lack of representation for those who identify as non-binary or transgender groups,” says Rachel Jorganson a member of  Feminist Club . She tells me these students feel that way because we put a male gender label on Mr. SPASH and a female gender label on homecoming court we have left out the non-binary and transgender community. Another student, Holly who is a transgender club member of GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) had this to say about this issue: “The Mr. SPASH and homecoming court competitions are so deeply rooted in (frankly ludicrously outdated) gender roles that not just transgender students, but any students that don’t conform strictly to societal expectations of masculinity and femininity are completely alienated from what should be a celebration of our school and the people that are a part of it.

How do students feel?

“In discussions about Homecoming week, Many female students report feeling sexualized and objectified.  Others stated that they felt that the gender division between the events pushed them into gender stereotypes,” Kaitlyn Frost, the leader of GSA and a member of Fem club, explains. These students feel that the events of homecoming made them feel uncomfortable and judged. The homecoming court girls judges wore flapper girl dresses that were short and very flashy. Other dancers and the cheer team that participated in Mr. SPASH were also dressed in tight fitting or revealing clothing to match the theme of “Hollywood”. The way the girls were dressed at the Mr. SPASH event led many to feel embarrassed or even disgusted.   

Mr. SPASH team videos were removed from Mr. Vanderloop’s page after they were considered inappropriate and offensive by staff, students, and parents alike. Credit: Mr. Vannderloop’s YouTube page

Funny or Offensive?

Another example of some of the things that made students, parents and staff alike equally uncomfortable and offended were the homecoming team videos. A SPASH faculty member shared this : “The video depicted ableism; a situation involving an able bodied person acting like they are disabled, either for a film or other reasons. This is considered offensive to people who actually have disabilities and know what it is like to have a disability.” Some students and teachers picked up on these seemingly funny videos that had hidden offensive scenes in them. This staff member explains: “On the outside these videos look like harmless fun if you know the specific movie scene the students were trying to recreate. But if you actually dig deeper and put yourselves in others’ shoes watching them you may begin to notice how some people would feel highly offended by them.”

Time for policy change?

In an interview with Mr. Vanderloop, he said there was room for some policy changes in the future, “As a whole there is always room for change, More people are involved in homecoming, always looking to include more people.” Other students as well agree it is time for change with homecoming too. 80% of students that I surveyed in my journalism class agreed that homecoming should be changed so that anyone regardless of gender can participate. Many people of a variety of genders want homecoming activities to be degenderfied because they would like to participate in Mr. SPASH and homecoming court regardless of their gender. 

Counting teachers that asked 88% agreed that homecoming needs policy change.  “Many teachers have expressed their concern for the way SPASH homecoming is run and would like a chance to help out with homecoming activities. They would like to share some of their ideas and help take part in homecoming,” a SPASH faculty member explains. 

What can we do?

Our current homecoming situation makes many people of many genders feel uncomfortable, especially transgender and non-binary students. 

 “I think that the way the activities are separated based on gender really excludes anyone who falls in between or outside the gender binaries. It’s really gross to see the different things that they get to do and it’s different depending on their gender. It seemed like Mr. SPASH people got to go on stage and dance and sing whie homecoming courts, sat and watched. It’s a really needless separation. Why can’t anyone participate in either of these events? From what I can tell there is an extreme lack of anything of actual substance of anyone who is actually in charge of events like this and anyone who has real power to create change, says Silver, a GSA member. 

 SPASH should consider making events that are exclusive for people who don’t identify as male or female and include all genders in activities. The current situations with homecoming confining activities to only two separate genders can cause students to feel uncomfortable and left out. “I don’t like the gender separation in homecoming,” says Fabian, another member of GSA. Spash should work to help make everyone feel included regardless of their gender identity and make changes to homecoming so that content does not offend or hurt anyone regardless of their gender or disabilities.