There won’t be a Rendezvous King this year, after the Yukon’s only male candidate dropped out of the race due to an onslaught of bullying and harassment.
Cameron Penner, Mr. Bra Boutique in the 2020 Quest for the Crown, bowed out of the event over the weekend.
“They did not make this decision lightly but came to this conclusion after no longer feeling welcome or happy participating in the events due to a few members of our community,” Saskrita Shrestha, the executive director of Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society, said in a statement.
“These individuals have bullied and harassed our candidates because they hold the belief that men should not be running in the Quest for the Crown contest.”
Shrestha said the adverse reactions negate the hard work of the Rendezvous team to be inclusive to all Yukoners.
The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society has “zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” the press release stated. Despite having roots in tradition, Shrestha told the Star today the festival has spent several years developing a mandate of inclusivity.
“It’s been part of our mission for a while, but we’re definitely making more of an effort in recent years,” Shrestha said.
This is Shrestha’s fifth year working for the Rendezvous festival, and her first year as executive director.
Shrestha said the society outlined a new strategic plan last year, with inclusivity to be a major aspect of the festival’s future.
“I think there’s so many different cultures and beliefs in the Yukon now, to celebrate Rendezvous like we celebrated in 1960 wouldn’t do our community justice,” she said.
The society was disappointed, and surprised, by the community’s reaction to a man running in the Quest for the Crown, she said.
“When we first announced it, we heard a little bit of chatter, but we never thought it would amount to something like this,” Shrestha said.
“I don’t necessarily think there’s a large number of people who have these views, but just a small number is enough to deter someone from a really public volunteer position.”
This isn’t the first time a man has competed for the Rendezvous crown, Shrestha noted; the last time was in the 1990s.
That was before the era of social media, which renders candidates dramatically more accessible to naysayers.
A CBC article announcing that men were invited to compete for the crown last October attracted a barrage of Facebook comments from both sides of the issue.
“Well the Rendezvous is not like it used to be at all, we are losing all the traditional values with it,” one commenter wrote.
“Wow so this is garbage now too… guess I’ll stay home this year,” another commenter said.
An equal number of commenters posted in support of the gender-inclusive mandate, thanking the society for its progressive efforts.
Josie’s Old Crow Adventures, a Quest for the Crown sponsor, announced their disappointment in the situation over the weekend.
The company, which annually donates a trip to Old Crow as an award to the Crown winner, promised a second trip to Penner.
“We were so sad to hear that a candidate dropped out of the competition because they were a victim of discrimination,” the company said in a social media post.
“This year we would like to double our donation and offer a trip to this candidate who doesn’t have a chance to win as well as a trip to the winning candidate.
“Old Crow will welcome you with open arms.”