Usually when I write these posts, I look at social issues in the news or choose to critically analyze media, but this week I’m changing things up a bit. When I was home for spring break, my brother’s high school got some local media coverage over a controversial March Madness bracket filled with the names of female students at the school. Naturally, I got pretty upset about hearing this, since this whole thing seems like no more than another way that young people, presumably men, have found to objectify women and create unnecessary competition among them. I obviously told my family this, as you couldn’t have a conversation without someone brining up this godforsaken bracket.
As I’ve come to expect, their reactions were extremely frustrating. They, as well as most other members of my hometown, seemed to think it was nothing more than kids being kids. This wasn’t really a big deal, so why was I getting upset about it? My brother asked me if people did this kind of thing when I was in high school and it occurred to me that, yeah, they probably did, but I never cared enough to get caught up in that kind of thing. However, I also wasn’t educated enough to be angry about it at the time either. Let me tell you, it was interesting coming into this situation with the new, much more feminist viewpoint I’ve developed in college. All of this was in addition to the rather obscene amount of media coverage this story received, and it was enough to inspire a blog post.
Now, as I’ve mentioned, this is something that’s happened before and therefore, it should be nothing noteworthy. However, some girls contacted a local news anchor about it, and she then took the story and ran with it. I really applaud these young women for realizing the underlying problems that this bracket reinforces. We should be attempting to stop things that objectify women and we should stop making women’s appearances a competition. They’re able to see something that I believe not enough young people seem to understand.
My problem was how the journalist handled the story once the girls had contacted her. It didn’t seem to me that the journalist gave the story attention because she wanted to start a useful public discourse about why we shouldn’t be making these brackets. I would have loved to see some kind of story that talked the incident in that way, but I do realize that’s way too much to ask. It seemed like the story was just published because it was a slow news day. Maybe there were actually good intentions behind running the piece, but I don’t think many people viewed it that way.
The amount of hype that surrounded something that we should be discouraging in high schools upset me as well. I don’t believe that giving media attention to the young people who created this bracket is going to hinder people from behaving similarly in the future. In fact, I think that it could actually cause people to continue to find ways to objectify women if they know it will get them attention. There was plenty of buzz and this bracket became a huge topic of conversation in the relatively small town. As I mentioned earlier, most people didn’t see a huge problem with what happened. The people who created the bracket were never identified and the principal simply came out and said, “We don’t condone that kind of behavior. We’ll do what we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.” It seems to me like this reaction is going to encourage more problematic behavior than it will fix. This was a point that my family could at least agree with me on.
Additionally, I hated seeing the way that my brother said people at school were talking about these girls who were simply trying to stand up for their values. Apparently people were looking at these girls as “feminazis” and calling them crazy. That’s so upsetting to me because it just goes to show that being a feminist is still considered such a toxic thing in our society. I think a part of me forgot about how many obstacles feminists still face when working towards equality for all, mainly because I surround myself with people who share my views.
Finally, during all my conversations on this topic, the biggest thing to overcome was how many people just didn’t understand what the big deal was. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior has become so normalized that no one saw it for what it was, a chance for men to objectify women while pitting women against each other. I know that may seem like a bit of an overreaction, particularly if this is something people have become used to at their schools, but I feel it’s important to make those connections so that we can stop things like these from happening in the future. However, until people can truly understand what’s wrong with these brackets, as well as other societal norms that could have a negative impact on young women, we certainly can’t make the proper steps towards changing our behaviors and making the world a more equal place for all genders.