Mr. Peninsula: The Ugly Truth Behind Pageants

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Aris Sanders

A new perspective on the Mr. Peninsula pageant.

Madeleine Johnson, Editor in Chief

Every year, in the Milton Boyd Auditorium, an audience of students, parents, and community leaders alike watch as a handful of senior boys are pitted against one another in hopes for a sparkly crown and scepter. The contest, named Mr. Peninsula, mimics traditional female pageants by highlighting formal wear, beachwear, and talent.

Emma Taylor, who considers Mr. Peninsula to be a “mask over a different type of oppression”, would like to see a change in Peninsula High School.

“I think that it’s a cute way to raise money for prom but I don’t necessarily think it’s progressive as it could be,” said Taylor.

The third annual show, which took place this month, is responsible for raising funds for the Senior Class. For weeks, the Big Night was hyped up; excited chatter could be heard throughout the halls. Of course, Mr. Peninsula is set up to be a “fun” and “student-orientated” tradition, but real-life pageants are far from harmless, hurting women more than helping.

“Its not itself harmful but the ideas behind it are what make it cringey,” Taylor said.

Beauty pageants award based on appearance; the more “ideal” a contestant is, the more likely she will win. This construed sense of validation only sexualizes women (especially in swimwear) as their looks upstage their actual achievements and talents.There is a reason why male beauty pageants are not a thing: Our society doesn’t orbit a man around his appearance as much as it does around for women.

“If women are sexualized, why do men get to make light of it?” Taylor asks.

“The system celebrates masculinity,” but it also defines femininity as a joke. ‘Running like a girl’, ‘screaming like a girl’, ‘throwing like a girl’, are all snide comments that are intended to insinuate laughter. In our culture, you don’t want to be called a “girl” or be associated with any of those phrases… it’s become an insult. Taylor, among many others, would like to see a change in that attitude; as a community, we can advance from Mr. Peninsula “entertainment” to something more enlightened.

Although PHS promotes character and talent-based recognition, Taylor would like to see more of that commendation. She hopes we can model our future productions more like the talent show, where students can display their passions in an inclusionary environment free from “weird” and “outdated” repressions.

“I would like to see a different type [of fundraiser], like a scholarship pageant,” Taylor said. She’s supportive of an awards show, in lieu of Mr. Peninsula, that is centered around the accomplishments of PHS scholars. The Outlook’s PHS Top Twenty, an annual recognition project, could also serve as a way to, as Taylor put it, “celebrate people for all the things they can do.” This way, we’re promoting positive messages without making fun of real societal problems.  

Instead of boys playing volleyball in short shorts and crop-tops, and girls asking boys to a school dance in the “attempt to re-empower women, who have been disempowered in the first place,” Peninsula should grow out of the system. Taylor understands how these types of things, like Mr. Peninsula, can be surface-level funny, but the underlying roots of repression turn her off.

“Just because you reverse a system that targets women, like beauty pageant, that doesn’t make it okay,” Taylor said. “Because you do it to men doesn’t mean it’s ever erased.”

Read more about this year’s Mr. Peninsula here and here.