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Activists participate in the Women's March Los Angeles 2018 on January 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
Activists participate in the Women's March Los Angeles 2018 on January 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)

‘The last straw’

High school girls confront the creator of list ranking their looks and change their school’s culture

By WITW Staff on March 27, 2019

After a list ranking girls’ attractiveness circulated among students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Maryland, dozens of senior girls stood up to publicly demand action from school officials and their fellow classmates — including the list’s creator.

High school senior Yasmin Behbehani told the Washington Post that the list ranked girls using a 10-point system that included decimal points to the hundredth place. While such lists have been commonplace for decades at the school, according to students, Behbehani said that she and her female classmates decided that this sort of critique was one that girls no longer needed to tolerate.

“It was the last straw, for us girls, of this ‘boys will be boys’ culture,” Behbehani said. “We’re the generation that is going to make a change.”

Nickey Schmidt, a girl who helped uncover the list after a male friend told her about it, said that a group of girls reported the list to a school administrator and were told not to tell other students about it. But after they discovered that the school had resolved the matter by privately disciplining one male student with a day of in-school detention, the girls decided it was time to take matters into their own hands.

Schmidt and about 40 other senior girls gathered to confront the assistant principal and eventually reached an agreement to hold a meeting together with male students, including the boys who created and distributed the list on International Women’s Day. The meeting, intended to last just 45 minutes, went on for two and a half hours as girls shared personal statements about their experiences with sexual abuse, harassment, and objectification inside and outside of school.

Speaking anonymously, the creator of the list said that he apologized to the group after hearing the girls’ speeches — many of which were directed specifically at him.

“It was quite intense, being so directly confronted in front of so many people for so long,” he said. “When you have a culture where it’s just normal to talk about that, I guess making a list about it doesn’t seem like such a terrible thing to do, because you’re just used to discussing it.”

“It’s just a different time and things really do need to change,” he added. “This memory is not going to leave me anytime soon.”

Since that meeting, a co-ed group of seniors — including the list’s creator — have been meeting regularly to discuss ways of improving the culture at the school. One such measure, planned for next month, will see male-female pairs of seniors visit younger students classes to talk to them about toxic masculinity.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.


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