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.