“Enter if you believe MEN are the superior gender.”
That was the message on a banner hanging over a hallway Monday at Snow Canyon High School in St. George, announcing an annual celebration called Men’s Week.
In 2017, students were greeted by signs that read, “All men are created equal” and “What’s a woman’s point of view? The kitchen window.”
After multiple years of objections from students and parents, the high school has agreed to end its annual Battle of the Sexes activities and cancel this year’s Women’s Week, set for February.
“Obviously this is something that should never take place, and we’ve had a discussion with the administration to make that clear,” said Washington County School District spokesman Steve Dunham. “In today’s climate, it’s just not acceptable. We need to be looking at ways we can be bringing people together, not trying to show the superiority of one group over another.”
But some parents say the school for years has ignored complaints that the Battle of the Sexes promoted sexist tropes and hostility between students.
“I’m really surprised and disappointed,” said Kim Nordquist, whose daughter posted photos of sexist banners on social media when she was a sophomore in March 2017 — and faced backlash from other students when the signs were removed and some activities canceled.
“I know that some kids put [the signs] up without getting approval,” Nordquist said. “But I would think with what’s happened in the past, they’d talk about it before this week even started: ‘Hey, these are the guidelines.’”
On Monday, Men’s Week festivities kicked off with a “Mr. Warrior” assembly, during which a coach admonished students not to take the celebration too seriously, apparently pushing back against the earlier complaints, Dunham said.
Nordquist’s daughter “noticed everyone turning and looking at her,” Nordquist said. “She came home really angry.”
“I’ve heard that a coach mentioned, ‘Don’t get offended at this, it’s all in good fun,’” Dunham confirmed.
“This doesn’t seem fun,” said Rik Andes, whose daughter recently transferred to Snow Canyon and was flabbergasted by the signs she saw on Monday. “My daughter was not having fun when she came home from school speechless. It might be with a light-hearted intent, but somewhere along the way somebody failed to take a temperature of what’s going on.”
In an email to parents Tuesday, principal Warren Brooks wrote that the banners in the images circulating on social media were “not authorized and put up after school hours.”
“Upon discovery, the administration immediately took down the banners the next day,” Brooks wrote. “The statements written on these posters were inappropriate, thoughtless and were not sanctioned by administration and the student body planning committee. The activities scheduled for this week have been reviewed and revised to be all inclusive.”
Among the week’s planned events were an arm- and leg-wrestling contest, a Smash Brothers video game activity, and early dismissal and free pizza for the boys on Friday, Dunham said. Friday’s event was extended to all students, and the wrestling contest was canceled, Dunham said.
“We suggested they don’t do that one because it seemed to promote gender stereotypes,” Dunham said.
“That view of masculinity is a very limited view of what it means to be a man,” he said, stressing that the activities not only reinforced tropes that hurt girls and women, but also leaves out boys and men who aren’t interested in being macho.
“I could see there was possibly something in the past that was innocent, that was well intentioned,” Andes said. “It’s just done in this environment of ‘Men are better than women, hear us roar, look at our muscles as we beat each other up.’ It creates an environment that’s more harmful for women and men who don’t fit this … narrow view.”
Dunham said he “can’t speak to” the reason the school continued the tradition despite previous objections. Nordquist said that although some students blamed her daughter for the controversy in 2017 because of the photos she posted, she learned that multiple parents had complained to the school.
“[The district] made it clear this shouldn’t be happening anymore,” Dunham said.