Sexist March Madness Bracket: More Than a “Stupid Mistake”

Sexist March Madness Bracket: More Than a “Stupid Mistake”

Dani Prohaska, Spotlight Editor and Social Media & Polls Editor

On Tuesday, March 23, an anonymous account on Instagram posted a bracket in the structure of March Madness, but instead of basketball teams, it was a list of freshmen girls. Hundreds of teenagers from both Ludlowe, Warde, and other school districts across the county were outraged and voiced this on their Instagram stories and posts, as well as commenting on the original post.`

The people involved in creating the bracket were not responsible for the multiple anonymous Instagram accounts, and both parties are being investigated by the school board. In the joint letter to students and parents from Mr. Hatzis and Mr. Cavanna, they state, “We strongly condemn this behavior which is damaging and disparaging to all young women in the freshmen classes of both schools, but also to all Fairfield students, and indeed, all women.”

Instead of spreading death threats and unnecessary hate, we should stand in solidarity with the students affected and amplify allyship. This incident has sparked a conversation on how and why women have been objectified in history and how normalized it has become, especially in our modern age of technology.

Misogyny and the objectification of women has become very normalized on social media, and in some cases, certain platforms have sexist origins. The popular social networking site Facebook actually stemmed from ranking women. During his time at Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg posted pictures of two women and had people vote on who was more attractive (The Washington Post). This was a so-called “prank website” called FaceMash, and provided the framework for Facebook. (Independent) Zuckerberg once posted things that perpetuated the negative cultural framework in which women are judged on their appearance, showing how common sexism is in our modern world.

After the loss of Sarah Everard, who was murdered while she was walking home alone at night earlier this month, the topic of misogyny and gender-based issues has been trending online especially since March is Women’s History Month. After the bracket started circulating, many people realized that we need to address the sexism present in our school communities and online. Social media platforms can hurt the self esteem of women and contribute to the culture in which women are judged based on their appearance. I decided to gather opinions from Ludlowe and Warde students on Instagram, the platform that started it all and on which most students are active, and many women had a lot to say.

One Ludlowe student says, “If you want my opinion, this is wrong. The boys who did this should get a severe punishment and apologize to every girl in this. They deserve to know they are in the wrong and that they won’t get anywhere in life treating women like this.”

A Ludlowe freshman states, “Today I saw reporters outside of Rite Aid in downtown Fairfield and I was baffled, they were doing a story on this entire thing and I just felt like it was a violation of privacy for the 64 girls on this bracket. It’s such a confusing situation and everything happened so fast it’s hard to even know what to think anymore. My heart goes out to everyone on the bracket, it’s terrible and disgusting what they did. I feel awful being in the freshman class at Ludlowe right now.”

Sreejita Patra, a Warde student, claims, “A lot of what’s happening is being boiled down to ‘these two boys who made the bracket are dumb and immature,’ and people are refusing to acknowledge that the culture we live in generally supports and encourages this type of behavior for boys towards girls. Stuff like this is what makes rape culture and violence against women so common because people think of it as an individual male problem or immaturity and not targeted harassment towards women defended and celebrated by many different types of people. So stopping this behavior means people need to critically think about how they treat and view women/girls (regardless of gender) and actually take action in protecting them.”

Ludlowe junior, Heide Atkins, mentions how widespread this issue is. She says, “I think it’s crucial to mention that this type of situation happens way too often in all grades, all across the country. It just so happens to be FLHS and FWHS making noise about it. It is so important that these instances don’t go ignored, all girls who are and have been objectified in this way deserve to be heard and to be fought for. It is intolerable for anyone, anywhere, to go through this, boys and girls alike.”

Ludlowe sophomore Keira McCollum states, “The biggest thing that stands out to me is that it is terrifying that someone would find degrading women and treating humans like objects entertaining. We need to do a better job fixing the problem where it starts (not having to tell girls to not look out for men, men need to fix it) even though it’s not realistically ‘all men,’ all men need to talk about this and fix this ongoing issue.”

Another Ludlowe student voiced her opinion on the creation of the bracket as well. “The idea that someone would think this is okay and for other people to repost is gross. Overall, it makes me feel ill.”

As a starting point for spreading awareness, the Youth for Equity Club at Ludlowe and Voices for Equity at Warde has encouraged students to wear pink to school on Thursday, March 25, to show support for women and to state that “women are not objects and should never be treated as such” (Youth for Equity post on Instagram).

This incident has shown how we need to keep this conversation going even after Women’s History Month is over, and how we need to decide how we are going to teach men and boys how to become allies to women. Some people might say this is just a “stupid mistake,” however, this is a pattern we can see in our society and it is rooted in the sexist beliefs of the past. Our community should be addressing this issue and taking action to condemn this pattern of objectification.