To the Women of Shaker Heights

They tried to reduce us to appearance, but we refused to be rated


David Vahey

The women of The Shakerite

Today, I am proud to go to Shaker. 

Yesterday, a Twitter user released a bracket that ranked 9th through 12th-grade Shaker women according to their attractiveness. This same offense happened in 2013, when a student published “Shaker’s Top Ten” on Twitter. The two scenarios are identical, except for one thing:

Our response to them.  

In 2013, Print Editor in Chief Shane McKeon wrote that “the opposition was embarrassingly quiet” to the “Shaker Top Ten.” This cannot be said of our response to the objectifying, degrading and misogynistic bracket we were given. You could not log on to social media yesterday, or today, without seeing paragraphs upon paragraphs of people showing their immense disgust with the brackets. Girls reached out to girls they had never spoken to before. I witnessed two seniors walk over to a pod of freshmen and offer them air hugs and signs of condolences during lunch. Boys offered empathetic remarks to girls in the hallways. I saw Mr. Juli not talking to, but listening to young women throughout the afternoon. 

Shaker students know there are more important things than being considered the most attractive person in your grade. Shaker students also know the sensitivity and insecurity that are bred in high school. No matter how strong a teenager you are, it is hard not to show emotion over something this twisted. Though we love to think we don’t care what people say about us, we do. There is no way around that. 

The bracket numbers next to each girl’s name were not just numbers. They were an embodiment of being told you will never be good enough. No matter what you do in life, there will always be someone ahead of you. 

Possibly the only thing to mitigate this overwhelming fear and anxiety was the community that we provided for one another, and Mr. Juli’s response. He sent an email to all students with the subject line “STOP” in which he implored everyone to stop sharing screenshots of the brackets. He wrote, “To suggest that one woman is better than another based on body image at all is unacceptable.” 

His words made young women across the school feel seen, heard and defended. In 2013, McKeon wrote that “the district needs to step up” in response to the Shaker Top Ten. Mr. Juli did just that. 

But we do not need a man to tell us we can do anything. The young women of Shaker Heights are resilient. We are educated, independent and determined. We are a generation who will achieve our goals no matter how many times we have to challenge sexism first. I encourage every girl to use yesterday’s events to fuel her desire to achieve more than she ever thought she could. From this day on, we reject any behavior that doesn’t uplift the women around us.  We scoff at caring about what others think of how we look. Whoever made these brackets underestimated our strength, and it is an amazing thing to be underestimated. Underestimation ignites a greater fire within us to succeed.

Today, we discover a fire that burns within all of us. This is not a fire that we will use to belittle this bully, but to empower ourselves and one another. It will serve as the building blocks to our success as we learn we are stronger together and strive to be the best versions of ourselves. 

In 2013, McKeon ended his column by asserting that “students need to be brave enough to challenge the status quo when necessary.” That is exactly what we have done today. Though hatred in the world has not declined in the eight years since the Shaker Top Ten, the students and staff of Shaker have grown braver. I am honored to learn from the staff that leads us. I am even more honored to learn from the students who make us. We know that we are more than numbers and bodies, and we know we don’t have to prove it to anyone. 

But we will, anyway.

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