Female Students Respond to Male Classmates Ranking Them By Appearance

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Female Students Respond to Male Classmates Ranking Them By Appearance

Maggee Chang, Staff Writer

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Earlier this month, in an affluent high school in Maryland, a dozen girls demanded disciplinary action towards a group of boys in their class. A group of girls discovered a list of names along with corresponding numbers, ranking ‘average-looking’ girls by appearance. Rankings were on a ten-point scale, with decimals to the nearest hundredth. Eighteen names were listed, the girls in the school’s IB (International Baccalaureate Diploma Program.) Students felt betrayed, objectified, and violated by the classmates they considered friends.

Lee Schwartz, one of the seniors on the list, worried about students like her being evaluated by her male classmates and “editing their decimal points.” Yasmin Behbehani, another student on the list, was reluctant to even see the list because of her history with eating disorders and self-confidence– she eventually became one of the forefronts of the empowered students that have brought this to national attention. Nicky Schmidt, the first girl to have been told about the list by a friend, was the person who distributed the list to other girls. After twenty-four hours, more than a dozen girls saw the list.

Confronting the school administration, and even the boys responsible for such derogatory behavior, a dozen girls demanded disciplinary action be taken and a schoolwide intervention about the normalized misogyny in teen culture be conducted. Yasmin Behbehani said: “It was the last straw, for us girls, of this ‘boys will be boys’ culture. We’re the generation that is going to make a change.” On the same day of the confrontation, the girls submitted the viral list to the administrators after being told not to circulate the news any further. One male student was suspended for a day– the list was confirmed to have been made on-campus. The suspension would not appear on his school record. According to the school’s principal, Donna Redmond Jones, more disciplinary action was applied, but have been concealed due to privacy concerns.

Unsatisfied with the metaphorical slap on the wrist, Nicky Schmidt texted around fifteen other girls to report to the office again to report feeling “unsafe in this environment and we [female students] are tired of this toxicity.” Forty girls showed up to the offices in solidarity. Schmidt then read a statement on behalf of all concerned students to the assistant principal: “We want to know what the school is doing to ensure our safety and security. […] We should be able to learn in an environment without the constant presence of objectification and misogyny.”

Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School is a public high school located in Montgomery County, Maryland. Just south of the nation’s capital, the D.C. suburb is among the top twenty wealthiest places in the country. According to some girls in the school, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School has always had a record of not holding boys accountable– there have always been lists of rankings such as the one that has come to light. The girls united against the blatant misogyny in and out of their classrooms– they have targeted one of the most toxic facets of teen culture. On International Women’s Day, the school organized a meeting for the IB students. It lasted almost three hours, instead of the intended forty-five minutes. Girls told stories of the misogyny in their lives, from the misogynistic double standards to sexual harassment. The anonymous main perpetrator of the list, an 18-year-old classmate of the IB program, interviewed with the Washington Post– the list was made a year ago, only circulating recently. He accepted the responsibility for creating the list, calling it a “stupid decision.” In the interview, he acknowledged his actions and the reasons behind it: “I recognize that I’m in a position in this world generally where I have privilege. I’m a white guy at a very rich high school. It’s easy for me to lose sight of the consequences of my actions and kind of feel like I’m above something. […] This memory is not going to leave me anytime soon.”

The viral drama that attracted national attention has reformed the school– students, even the one who created the list, meet almost weekly now to discuss future action for the school to promote a healthier teen culture. According to the principal, a senior boy and girl will present a lecture next month to underclassmen in each classroom about toxic masculinity. Principal Jones is proud of the leaps and helping hands of compassion the school is creating to make their communities safer: “It takes bravery, it takes being vulnerable, it takes a sense of forgiveness.”

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