More Than a Ranking

In the face of discrimination, women across Shaker Heights unite and tell their stories in support

March 1, 2021

Last Friday during sixth period, Shaker Heights faced something that many of us only hear about on social media, TV or in newspaper articles. Last Friday, students and teachers recoiled when 64 high school girls were ranked on a bracket by the user @SHMarchBadness on Twitter. People we know as our friends, nieces, siblings and daughters were ranked based upon their physical attributes.

Shaker, what I am about to tell you is not an opinion; it is a fact. There is absolutely no situation, no matter the context, in which it is OK to judge someone because of how they look. We’ve been taught this by our schools from an early age. Teachers, parents and other trusted adults have stressed that looks aren’t important, that everyone is beautiful in their own way. Because of that, many of us felt safe here. Many of us thought that no one we knew would be capable of this. Surely they would understand someone’s beauty can’t be judged by appearance? We spent our young lives behind a glass wall, shielded from the truth, but today that wall was shattered by whomever made and published the bracket. Many of us were hurt by the person who hid behind an anonymous account, some of us because we were ranked, others because we weren’t, more still because we sympathize.

We will not choose to remain shielded like students before us. None of us will attempt to piece together the wall or disregard this attack. Instead, we choose to take action.

Shaker, I am proud to tell you that today, we dismantle the broken remains of our once safe walls. Today we refuse to remain silent. On Feb. 26, 2021, hundreds of young women used their voices for each other. Hundreds of young women refused to be known as “just a ranking.” I don’t want to write an article about what happened. I don’t want to write about how this has happened before; we already did that. Today, I want you to read the stories of some of those women. I want you to experience how @SHMarchBadness made them feel. We remember so many things in life, but so often we glaze over the messy parts, the things that make us sad. 

We won’t do that today. 

One person’s Tweet wounded hundreds of people, but most of all it unified us. Today, the words of my peers gave me something I didn’t think I would leave Shaker with: pride for my school. Too often, I’ve looked at the negative things we face in Shaker. Too often I don’t see the slow changes that are being made. Today, I saw a powerful change. I want to thank every girl who spoke up, every girl who refused to be numbered, every girl who loaned their mighty words to me. Now, I give you the women of Shaker Heights. 

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The following social media posts were published after the anonymous account user released brackets.

Girls are not objects, how dare you objectify us and talk about our bodies as if we’re sexual objects? WE ARE NOT! What you have done IS cyber-bullying and sexual harassment. I was not a victim of the list but I AM A GIRL and I HATE MISOGYNY. I want our voices to be heard”

— Sophomore Aris Smith

“I’m feeling very disappointed with those who were involved in creating the bracket, as well as those who engaged with, and in it. At the same time, I’m not surprised because things like this happen all the time, this just opened our eyes wider. It’s sickening how immature some people are, and how they think it’s acceptable to take actions like this. It’s just sad. I hope whoever created this learns their lesson and grows.” 

Sophomore Julia Loveman via text

“It’s so upsetting and degrading that people our age, at our school, that we see every day think something like this is ok. We are not a game, not a bracket, we have feelings just like everyone else, and creating this is like suggesting otherwise. Seeing my name on that list really made me question my self-worth and I know I wasn’t the only one.”

 A freshman who was identified by name in the brackets

“It upsets me that men have the audacity to treat women like objects solely based on their physical appearance. What’s even worse is that boys who go to our school either see nothing wrong with, or hypocritically post on social media, about what happened, as if they don’t treat women poorly themselves. Men can’t understand what we go through on the daily, like being scared to leave the house at night. All we ask is for respect and to be treated equally, but they won’t even give us that.” 

Sophomore Jemma Barrett via a direct message

When I first saw the brackets I thought it was nothing, but when I saw people posting it around social media, it caught my attention that it was something bigger and more important. I was very disappointed to think that someone is so disrespectful to women, to go and make a list ranking underage girls based on their looks and bodies. This degrades their self-worth and contributes to the idea that a woman’s value is solely based on the outside.”

— Freshman Catherine Monroe

“I honestly felt very disgusted and upset about today. I wasn’t surprised at all, because sadly things like this happen in today’s society which is extremely disappointing and very harmful for women. I for one, and others, feel very empowered to make a safer environment for women in our schools. It’s important to make everyone feel safe and not invalidated because of their appearance. Our appearance and our body image do not portray what women are like, it doesn’t say a single thing about our personalities. The young men and women defending those on the list gave me a spark of joy because they’ve used their social media to raise awareness that women should not be objectified in any way.” 

Sophomore Katie Escobedo via a Snapchat 

“Even though I didn’t make the list, I definitely hurt deep down. I asked myself ‘why wasn’t I good enough, why am I not pretty enough to be ranked?’ That feeling made me sick, I felt guilty for feeling that way and had to remind myself that I have a great support system here in my life.  I am glad we have this support system. I just wish we taught boys from the start that this is not ok, so we don’t end up confronting this toxicity when they have grown up and can cause more damage.” 

A freshman who asked to remain anonymous 

“Honestly, my feelings today are everywhere. I feel violated and uncomfortable with everything. I was dreading having to go to walk to every class, because I felt shame with the fact I was ranked and objectified. I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way. I also think this stripped many girls of things like confidence and their reasons to feel beautiful. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that anyone would ever think of doing anything like this, but it empowers me to do many things. I honestly think it was a bit of a reality check for everything . . .  I could not have been more pleased with the reaction we got, I think drawing attention to the situation is way better than sweeping it under the rug as many things are.”  

A freshman who was named in the bracket and will remain anonymous by Shakerite policy 

“We women are told to dress a certain way because boys “can’t control” themselves. I find it gross that these young boys, who are highly capable of knowing right from wrong, decided to make this. I bring this up because of the fact that they are sexualizing minors who are only 14-16. No girl should ever be put through that embarrassment and no girl should ever be shamed for their body!!!” 

Sophomore Annabel Dixon

“When I first saw it, I was disgusted and ashamed to be going to a school with people who have to swoop down to that sort of level. Not only did I feel that, I felt terrible about myself. I don’t want to be compared to my classmates and friends. It just makes you feel terrible and brings about a whole new level of insecurity. Today made me realize that because we live in a time like this, with very unrealistic standards, you need to stick by your friends and let them know how much they mean to you, and how much of an amazing person they are.”

A sophomore named in the bracket 

I felt terrible about myself.”

— A sophomore named by the bracket

“Today was like no other. It wasn’t a good feeling seeing my name plastered on that list like it’s just another word. My name has meaning, and a story behind it like every other girl included there. I think of all those girls, especially the freshman who just entered high school and had to deal with this, and keep them in mind. As a progressive school, a school that offers activities like SGORR, and the Scholars Program to enrich our students and all others, I expected more. I posted on my story to keep girl’s spirits up, and I had responses that brightened my day, but in the back of my head, all day, I thought about that list, what the rankings might be if voting had happened. I hope every girl remembers that we have each other’s backs at Shaker, we are all beautiful, and smart, and supporters of one another.”

A sophomore named in the bracket 

“I was confused when I first found out about the lists. The fact that someone would take the time to rank 64 girls based off of their looks is disgusting. I cannot believe that they thought people would follow along and vote on the girls they think are pretty. I feel like after this, some girls in school would try harder to look better in school now that we know guys are looking at, and judging us. However, I now feel like I won’t change the way I look and act, and will be who I am just because I know my worth, and some immature guys won’t change me. The response of the community was amazing, people of all grades came together and stood up against how awful this is, it really shows that the majority of Shaker is here for each other” 

A sophomore named in the bracket 

“Honestly, this is not surprising to me because it is an everyday occurrence that I hear boys in our school talking about features on mine or other girls bodies. To the extent to whoever made this “march badness” bracket is pathetic and utterly disgusting. This empowers me to be as much of an activist for women’s rights and equality as much as i can. I think the school, and Mr. Julie in particular handled this well. The Twitter account and website got taken down not very long after it was posted, because it is unacceptable to use the girls in our school as roles in the immature game that i’m sure they thought was going to be a fun new gossip going around the school yet fortunately backfired. i’m glad to know that if the school finds out who was behind this game of objectifying girls in our school as young as 14 years old, there will be severe consequences.” 

Junior Maddie Buddenbaum via Snapchat 

“Before the list came out, in the 10 minutes leading up to it when people were finding out about it, I didn’t really think it would affect me. I’m a confident person, I know my worth, and I know whoever’s making this is just some stranger behind a screen. As soon as the list was released, my stomach dropped and I felt so gross and degraded. Then I got to school and I was walking through the hallways and realized everyone I was passing had seen the list and my number, and I felt so exposed. As the day went on, I was talking with my friends, we were talking about the first time we remember boys having something to say about our bodies. For me, I have a distinct memory, I was in 7th grade, since then there have been too many times to count where boys have voiced an opinion on how I look and my body. All my friends could relate and that was a really scary thought for me.” 

A junior named in the bracket

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