An example of the devaluation of women in our society. Photo by Callen Harty.

An example of the devaluation of women in our society. Photo by Callen Harty.

Recently boys at Sun Prairie, Wisconsin’s high school were found to have created a bracket that resembles the ubiquitous March Madness brackets created for the NCAA college basketball tournament. The difference was that the bracket was designed for boys in the high school to rate girls in the high school.

The school principal came out with a milquetoast response to the bracket, indicating in a letter to parents that they’ve asked students to destroy the brackets and that the school would not tolerate such behavior. Apparently a similar thing happened last year and some students were suspended, but so far this year no one has been reprimanded in any way.

Some of the girls in the high school had a much better response, calling out the brackets for the inherent disrespect and sexism that they displayed. Imagine being one of the girls left off the bracket and what that might do to your self-confidence. High schoolers are often already unsure of themselves and uncomfortable with their bodies or how they might be perceived by others. The creation of the brackets was both thoughtless and cruel.

I absolutely agree that this kind of thing is disrespectful to female members of the student body, but one has to wonder why the boys who did this did not consider that and check themselves.

It’s because there is a greater underlying issue going on here, and that is the way our society treats women in general. Think about it. These kids are encouraged to elect prom and homecoming queens, the result of which is usually the winner of a popularity contest and often based on who is considered one of the prettier girls in the class (based on culturally accepted definitions of beauty). We live in a world in which we still have Miss America and Miss Universe contests in which women are judged primarily on their beauty and bodies. Don’t tell me that the social issues questions they answer really factor very much into the decision on winners. We even have beauty contests for toddlers that are celebrated on reality television shows.

All over media women are elevated for beauty over intelligence, thin bodies over emotional integrity. Models are as important (or morseo) than women with doctoral degrees. Female anchors have to be pretty rather than erudite, whereas male anchors do not have to be handsome. Women are devalued in so many more ways. They get paid less than men on average for the same positions. They are viewed as sexual objects rather than as whole human beings. The list could go on for pages upon pages and still not be complete.

I’m not saying that these things justify these boys’ behavior, but there is a deeper underlying problem here that needs to be fixed. Until we get to that, until we treat women as equals and respect all people for their inner beauty and strength rather than exterior beauty we will still have boys filling out brackets that rate girls on unrealistic expectations of beauty. We will still have a society that devalues women in so many ways that the message clearly gets through to the next generation to come along. That is even more unacceptable than what these high school boys did.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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