The Mr. SPASH Mess

Seen Above: Mr. SPASH foosball/soccer game
Photo credits: Keana Butterfield

Seen Above: Mr. SPASH foosball/soccer game Photo credits: Keana Butterfield

Keana R. Butterfield, Hour 1

The bright lights, the crowd of high schoolers excited by your every move, you’re at Mr. SPASH, a staple of the homecoming celebrations at Stevens Point Area Senior High. A competition between boys for a “homecoming king” type of position. Recently there has been a slight change to the way SPASH does things. The gender-specific policies for the Homecoming queen and Mr. SPASH titles have been lifted. This should have happened a long time ago and to some, it’s a welcomed change, but to others it’s blasphemy.

Hate Speech

In the 2022 school year, a SPASH student, MK Domres took SPASH to court over not being allowed to run or even sign up for Mr. SPASH. When it came up that the strict, male-only, policy was being changed, people started to see the “consequences” almost immediately. The rule opened the doors for people who were previously unable to run for Mr. SPASH, but this didn’t mean that Mr. SPASH would have even one non-cis person on the roster. People who were not born male, or people assigned female at birth, who signed up or even thought about signing up for the Mr. SPASH event became huge red targets for some groups of people who believed things were fine as they were. One way other students went about “bullying” certain minority groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community, was to sign up for homecoming queen and court, not to show that equality is necessary or that all genders should be equal, but to make fun of or mock those running for Mr. SPASH who were not assignment male at birth. Most are running intending to combat the change with something “more controversial”. With the change, there has been an increase of chain social media posts stating “it is MR. SPASH not MRS.” and “What in the liberal”, telling the school about the desegregation of the sexes in the form of Mr. SPASH and how it is a “bad thing”. With that thought in my head, I spoke to Mason Christie, a student at SPASH, about what he had to say on the topic; “I think that if you’re just a (cis) girl you shouldn’t cause that ruins the point of them having two separate events. [Trans] People who transitioned already should be able to run for it too.” Another student, Bailey Feist had a lot to say, stating; “I hate when cishet men wear dresses, not because they can’t, but because they can and they receive more praise than anyone else and it is literally just making fun of people who wear them unironically.”  As said by Bailey, some students are genuinely upset, and as a non-cis student it can be tough to feel accepted in a community full of people stating things like; “They’re not real men.” or “only actual guys should run for a guys’ competition.” It is being used as a way to justify hatred and homophobia. Even ex-SPASH students who didn’t know a whole lot about the past Mr. SPASH rules had things to say, Colton Klesmith, a 2021 graduate stated; “That’s really weird. I don’t know why they wouldn’t just let everybody do it and not exclude anyone, wouldn’t that be the best-case scenario?”

Don’t Give Up

Seen Above: Homecoming Court Photo credit: Keana Butterfield

The thought of having everyone equally run for homecoming queen/king and Mr/Ms. SPASH is a beautiful thought when you see it through rose-colored glasses. One student stated; “Mr. SPASH has always been a male tradition, and people are going to be more inclined to vote for a man because of that. Non-men that want to sign up for Mr. SPASH most likely won’t because it is so scary putting yourself out there like that.” No one should be afraid of doing fun school activities. The thought that you could be assaulted purely for running for a position to support your school is a terrifying thing for a young adult to feel and it just proves that this school and its gender stereotypes can harm people for the rest of their lives. All of the problems revolving around Mr. SPASH and the homecoming queen just push the little bits of sexism and segregation by sex into the minds of gullible young adults, who in turn use their newfound “power” over those who are different to feel better about themselves.  I asked some individuals why they ran for homecoming queen/court or Mr. SPASH respectively, and some who wanted to but didn’t. My brother, who is a trans man, said; “I would have loved to run for homecoming “queen”, but knowing that people still see me as a cis girl makes it uncomfy.” and “I don’t think I could run for president or anything, because I know from this school that any time a “girl” tries to try for a place or job that’s normally “masculine” she gets laughed at.” Some people are seriously giving up on what they want to do, purely because they are worried about what others think and that they will be a minority, and even with the accommodations and push for all genders to sign up, SPASH’s 2022 Mr. SPASH was all men. Some people genuinely believe that things never should have changed, stating; “It (Mr. SPASH and Homecoming court) is just going to flip positions. Mr. SPASH will end up being all girls and homecoming court will be all guys.” Now, not only is this borderline making the issue worse, sexist and transphobic, it is blatantly untrue. I spoke to some people, who were assigned male at birth, like Kayden Glodoski who ran for homecoming court to find out their opinions, he told me, “I don’t want to be homecoming queen even. I just wanna show that I can and should be able to if I wanted.”

Bull Ridin’ Cowboys

Seen above: Mr. SPASH’s Black team cowboy Photo credit: Keana Butterfield

Some other schools are dealing with similar things, as in the article “Homecoming queen – still a sexist tradition” by Vivian Ealy, she stated; “It [homecoming queen/court] serves as a competition between the senior girls at the high school. Let us change and move forward.” Ealy believed that, just as students at SPASH think about Mr. SPASH, the homecoming is a sexist, specific gender-dominated competition that pushes specific gender roles onto the youth who would run for that position. Many people who attended the Mr. SPASH competition itself would state; “Why do they keep sexualizing the girls on the court?” asking things like “why are their skirts so short?” or “Why are they shaking their hips like that?” This could be seen on the male end of the competition too, as there was a “bull riding” competition at SPASH’s 2022 Mr. SPASH event when the boys were made to stay on a mechanical bull as long as they could with one hand up. Now, this is an innocent act and honestly typical for competitions, among adults. These are teenage boys, most 17, surrounded by the squeals of other adolescent girls. While walking around to get pictures of the activities, I overheard a group of sophomore girls, talking about the boy’s physical appearances and “riding skills” The boys in the competition were immediately sexualized by other students when all they wanted to do was participate in a “game night” event to support their school. “Mr. SPASH makes me so uncomfortable it’d honestly be better if it just got canceled altogether.” Said SPASH student Cassie Stremkowski.

The reason this is an issue is almost too common in schools. The sexualization and sexism of young boys and girls purely wanting to be a part of school events. Girls were unable to join purely because of their sex, and young boys are sexualized by the crowds coming to watch them perform, not inherently sexual, events to win Mr. SPASH. If nothing changes, and SPASH can not see the problem, then they are the issue. Teaching young people that their bodies are the best way to become the “popular” person in a certain environment is incredibly toxic for a person so young to hear. SPASH needs to rethink the gendered stereotypes it is pushing onto young people and deal with the over-sexualization of minors because it is almost as if the students at SPASH understand the implications of sexism on the youth of America and now they are the generation that has to live with the consequences of this ingrained hatred. The only thing we can do to change the future is to change the present.