Two years ago, I was an impressionable freshman, sitting on a creaking cedar bleacher amongst a sea of underclassmen. The lights dimmed, the music started, and someone started talking. My peers recited the mantra; it wavered and crescendoed until exactly half of the school was sneering exactly four words: “make me a sandwich.”
This was my introduction to “Battle of the Sexes.”
In 2012, Battle of the Sexes was a weeklong school-spirit event, culminating in the aforementioned assembly. Leadership students kicked off the rally with snide chants, before transitioning into various “games” and “jokes”. I distinctly remember thinly-veiled innuendos concerning Red Lobster and a game that involved ping-pong balls and Kleenex boxes. Clichés about housewifery and car (over)compensation were tossed around, the school’s staff and administration merely bystanders. As I walked out of the gymnasium, I remember feeling confused and a little guilty.
In retrospect, I’m aghast. I’m disgusted. I’m horrified that a high-achieving upper-middle class high school in the 21st century would stoop to these lows to try and foster school spirit. So, it came as a great relief when school administration replaced Battle of the Sexes in 2013 with a new school-spirit week: Battle of the Grades (which, of course, pitted freshmen against sophomores against juniors against seniors). Battle of the Grades never quite reached the fervent (nay fanatical) passion of Battle of the Sexes, but I was perfectly willing to trade blatant sexism for a mediocre assembly (and the promise of frozen yogurt for the victors). I figured that most of my classmates would feel the same way, which is why I was shocked to hear the opinions of my male classmates.
Plenty of students were unimpressed by Battle of the Grades’ “boring” nature, and I suppose I can’t fault them at that. Yet, a lot of boys seemed personally offended by the removal of BOTS- in mixed company, I heard countless teenagers just about pining for the misogyny that permeated the days of yore. What the heck? A common excuse was that Battle of the Sexes was two-sided, giving men and women equal opportunity to attack one another. I won’t split hairs and get into exactly why that’s incorrect- the pervasive presence of gender inequality has been explained ad naseum by authors far more qualified than myself- but heck, doesn’t the entire concept of “Battle of the Sexes” espouse an “us vs. them” philosophy? Doesn’t it polarize people into antiquated binary gender roles; doesn’t it dehumanize them; doesn’t it reduce one-of-a-kind individuals down to hetronormative stereotypes?
I can’t vouch for my classmates, but I maintain that my school made the right decision in ending our Battle of the Sexes week. At the end of the day, Battle of the Sexes didn’t help me bond with my grade or with my classmates (and certainly not with the other gender): it solely served as a painful reminder that crowd mentalities can make awful things look “okay”. Prospectors, don’t encourage that. Instead, just try to get over ‘cooties’ and move forward. I think we can handle that.