The Mayfete solution nobody is talking about

Mayfete originates from May Day, a seasonal Greco-Roman festival. Originally involving debauchery likened to Dionysus and Aphrodite, it evolved into a celebration of luck associated with spring. In nineteenth-century May Day festivities, for example, “cattle would be made to jump over fires to protect their milk from being stolen by fairies” (not to mention that people, too, would jump over fires for luck).

It is fair to say that we do not recreate ancient May Day traditions in our Mayfete celebration, but some have stayed the same. For example, Mayfete courts have historically been composed of female students, while some involve a male “herald.” Likewise, we’ve historically asked male “escorts” to accompany Mayfete princesses.

I raise these traditions because gender dynamics have garnered significant attention surrounding Mayfete. Last year, Homecoming court eligibility was extended to the entire student body, and as we saw this past Homecoming, male students participated excitedly in that new eligibility. But when attention shifted to Mayfete and the idea was proposed that the Mayfete court be opened, too, an attitude changed: many students have rescinded their openness to all-school eligibility. After talking to several students who feel this way, I’ve reached two conclusions.

First, the people who believe that Mayfete should stay female are not sexist. They share concern that by opening the election process to the entire school, certain students may “abuse the system” to jokingly elect students who do not care, and they are concerned that students who are elected may feel forced, unwillingly, onto the court.

Second–what I believe is seriously overlooked–is that this attitude affects two critical populations in our school: one, male students who genuinely care, and two, gender non-conforming students. What if you identify as a male student and would like to partake as a royal, but cannot? What if you identify as nonbinary but you neither feel comfortable as a “female” princess or “male” escort?

The former attitude–that we ought to keep Mayfete unique to female students–excludes these two groups simply out of fear that clownish students will take advantage of the election process. And so many students are quick to put their feet down, telling their senators to oppose the most recent bill that would open the election.

What if there were a solution?

In a 2017 LO Review feature of Mayfete, ASB adviser Chris Hill testified that Mayfete is “such a unique tradition that really tries to focus on all the great talent at our school.” I believe that the vast majority of students at LOHS would ideally like to see a Mayfete celebration that involves participation of all students, regardless of gender identity, as long as that participation is respectful. We can absolutely achieve this, and here is how: we need to pay attention to Hill’s nine words: focus on all the great talent at our school.

In essence, my idea is this: let’s create a nomination process for Mayfete. I’ve created a hypothetical of what this might look like:

Any LOHS senior is eligible for Mayfete court election.

In order to be considered for election, a student must be nominated by another.

Nomination forms may be found outside Hill’s room or in the main office. On each form are several questions relating to the nominated student’s deserved recognition:


What are this student’s interests and passions?

Describe a time when this student displayed virtue. (For example: respect, sportsmanship, empathy, patience, creativity.)

Nominations will be returned to Hill and ASB officers, who will review the forms to ensure their submission in good faith.

Nominated students will be informed of their nomination, and have the ability to remove themselves from the election process.

In a school-wide election, nominated students will be featured on a form. Their profile must include, but may not be limited to: their name and (anonymous) nominator’s description of school community contribution (above, question c).

The 10 highest-voted students from the senior class will be elected to the court and may choose their own escort.

Through this process (or a similar process), we can prevent students from ridiculously electing other students without accountability. But more importantly, we can ensure that the two currently-excluded groups of students–male and gender non-conforming students–may finally participate, as they deserve.

To assume that Mayfete cannot change is bogus. One hundred and fifty years ago, it involved cows jumping over fire to prevent fairies from robbing milk. There is no reason to continue to reserve females the privilege of election at the cost of other virtuous students. There is every reason to change our process thoughtfully to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in our school community.