Op-Ed: Should Girls Be on Ballot for Mr. NDA?

Clare Ravizza

As part of the Mr. NDA edition of The Tritonian–a special print edition, one of two throughout the year–I decided to send out a student poll. The survey asked, “Should girls be included on the ballot for Mr. NDA?” About 300 NDA students responded, and the results were a bit disheartening.

Personally, I’ve always welcomed the idea of opening Mr. NDA up to female as well as male students. Mr. NDA is one of my favorite NDA traditions, and there have been many female NDA students I thought would have made great contestants. Because it’s such a great tradition, I think opening it up to an even wider pool of funny, talented NDA students will enhance the show.

This issue is a controversial one at NDA. Because Mr. NDA is so beloved, some worry that changing it would endanger it. I can understand that fear. Still, I was surprised to see the results: 79.6% of those surveyed answered that girls should not be added the ballot.

What I found most interesting were the reasons NDA students answered for why they think girls should not be included. There were, of course, many who simply answered something along the lines of, “It’s called Mr. NDA,” which to me seems like a bit of a non-issue. There were also, on the other hand, several non-original answers which I found to be quite damaging, as they perpetuate the very worst of stereotypes about girls.

First, of course, there was the response that girls aren’t funny, or at least not as funny as guys are. This is an old myth, and, in my opinion, anyone who says this really hasn’t spent enough time around girls.

Another frequent response was that girls had equal opportunities to be involved, and to include female contestants would somehow take away opportunities from the male contestants. While rampateering and dancing in the senior girls dance are fun experiences, they certainly aren’t the focal point of the competition. Emceeing, while a greatly important role and a huge responsibility, still isn’t the same as being voted into the competition.

Finally, there was the trope that girls can’t bond with one another, that they would act catty towards one another and take the “fun” out of the experience. This stereotype is, I find, very damaging to women and girls, as it implies that girls can’t have authentic friendships. Most female friendships aren’t the Mean Girls-esque pho-friendships of backstabbing competitiveness, and while that kind of thing can exist, it does a disservice to portray all women like Regina George.

Mr. NDA was created as a spoof on female pageants, and I understand wanting to stick to the competition’s roots. However, I think Mr. NDA has grown beyond that. It has become a unique platform for male students to showcase their talents and humor, and I believe that opportunity should be provided to female NDA students as well. And sometimes, sticking to a tradition that is exclusionary serves to ruin part of the fun for a large number of people.

The idea of women as an unfunny, catty group of people attempting to take opportunities away from men is prevalent, not just at NDA but across the country. Recognizing these stereotypes in ourselves, in our own communities, is the first step in achieving real parity.