May Madness, ‘Hot Girl’ Contest Re-Surfaces at Mount Si High School; Student Group Pushes Back in Protest

[If you wish to get in touch with Ms. Wilson regarding support for her Gender Equality group, ordering a t-shirt or donating, please email info@livingsnoqualmie.com.  There was also a follow up story to this article published 5/9/14, with information about the group’s new website, new t-shirts and the local TV stories in which they were featured.  The story can be found HERE.]

 

Can one girl’s passion stop a yearly, anonymous tradition at Mount Si High School?  Only time will tell, but one t-shirt at a time, one student is striving to start a movement and create awareness.

May Madness seems to be a Mount Si High School tradition about five years running – whether you agree with it or not. It’s a ‘beauty’ contest set up in brackets like college basketball’s famed “March Madness.”

It matches girls in a one on one in a contest of looks. Contestants are picked by boys. Voted on by boys. The girls neither opt in nor opt out. They are essentially unconsenting participants – sometimes even matched against a good friend.

This year’s contest launched last week – first with a website and then later moving to a private, anonymous Twitter account. Currently @MayMtSi has over 100 followers who vote on the looks of Mount Si female students. The match up votes are tallied, with one girl moving on to the next round until a winner is crowned.

Last year, Issaquah High School’s May Madness ‘Hot Girl’ contest made national headlines while Mount Si made the local news with its contest version. And it’s back again this year.  Only this time, some students aren’t accepting it with the same old  “boys will be boys” adage. They’re speaking out. Subtly. Quietly. With the t-shirts on their backs.

New Group Pushes Back Against Contest

The difference between this year’s May Madness and the ones of the past is a newly formed, student led ‘Gender Equality’ group, which decided to speak out against May Madness; hoping with its more subtle stance t-shirts, other students would join against objectifying the female student body.

The ‘Gender Equality’ group launched in March. It was founded by Mount Si junior, Elle Wilson, who says even as a little girl she felt there was a flaw in society – a flaw that might lead a girl to feel like she can’t do or be something just because she’s female.

Wilson said for about two years she’d had the idea of forming the equality group, but the final push to launch it happened in history class recently.

Her class was watching a documentary on the Underground Railroad, which showed a photo of two sisters who had played a prominent role in the anti-slavery movement. Wilson said as the picture came across the screen there was crude snickering from classmates, with one boy making an offensive comment how ugly the women were.

Wilson said the fact that the contribution of these women who fought for the civil rights of others could be somehow “cheapened” by their appearance shocked and upset her. She added, “I mean if they could do all that they did and still not be taken seriously, then what chance do I have to influence the world?”

So a new student group was born. Wilson said they have 37 members so far, even with limited publicity, and boys make up about half of the membership.

Yesterday, May 6, 2014, the group organized a positive protest to the May Madness contest.  They made t-shirts and wore them to school. One side of the shirt has a graphic of a tournament bracket and the other side proclaims, “Be Above the Madness.”

Mount Si Gender Equality group member making t-shirt against May Madness

Mount Si Gender Equality group member making t-shirt against May Madness

 

They distributed about 50-60 t-shirts at Mount Si – actually running out because so many students asked to wear them. Wilson said the shirts also provoked questions, with many students asking how they can get involved.

When asked what message she hopes to send to the boys who started the contest, Wilson said she wants them to know while what they are doing is harmful, she doesn’t blame them.  She says she knows society has taught them that May Madness is somehow okay, citing similar contests broadcast around the country like KJR Sports Radio – The Bigger Dance.

Wilson may not place blame, but stands firm that the boys’ actions aren’t justified and says she’s tired of hearing the contest written off as “boys will be boys.”

The 17-year old added, “I know for a fact that sexual harassment of this nature leads to low self-worth,” explaining how she’s had friends deal with eating disorders and self harm issues – and that contests like this don’t make things easier for some girls.

Wilson herself was included in the May Madness contest for the past two years, saying one of the worst parts is when friends are placed in a bracket against a close friend.

Earlier this week Wilson said she was placed head to head against one of her closest friends.  She said no matter “how above it” girls are, it still adds baggage to friendships. The two friends both wore the protest t-shirts to school in solidarity.

Elle Wilson and her good friend wear t-shirts against May Madness after being pitted against each other in the contest that ranks girls on their looks.

Elle Wilson and her good friend wear t-shirts against May Madness after being pitted against each other in the contest that ranks girls on their looks.

 

Wilson says she knows there’s only so much the school administration can do to stop May Madness, but still feels more still needs to be done. She said, “School should be a place where all students feel safe; the harassment that is May Madness takes away any feeling of security.”  

According to Wilson, it also disrupts the learning environment. The contest is not sanctioned by the school, but voting does occur on social media during the school day. Students confirm two shocked science teachers spent class time Tuesday discussing the contest after upset students revealed May Madness to them.

For Wilson, it boils down to school being a place for students to develop ideas and grow intellectually, not to be taught they are defined by how attractive they are to the opposite sex. She says May Madness is not just an issue of respect and hurt feelings. She feels it goes beyond that, saying objectification is often times the first step toward justifying violence against someone.

Wilson say contests like these plant seeds with young kids – that boys are allowed to judge girls in this way and girls need to adhere to boys expectations to be valid. She sees May Madness reflecting “a deeply engrained flaw in society.”

So she started a club promoting equality between the sexes. The club made some t-shirts. Students wore them to school. More students asked questions and wanted to wear the shirts.

Will it stop May Madness? Elle Wilson isn’t sure, but her plight may help more students realize what’s wrong with May Madness at the core.

Sometimes big changes start with awareness and a small shift in mindset. Sometimes big changes begin with the passionate voice of a young woman.

Maybe that voice belongs to Elle Wilson.

 

Comments

  1. Janice Clark says

    Great Article! Go Elle!

  2. Sandy Kangas says

    Where can I get one of those t-shirts? What kind of support can I offer to this fabulous group of heroines?

  3. You will go very far, Elle! How can we help you?

  4. Milissa M. says

    You go Girls! The Mount Si High School ladies should set up a public bracket of all known male participants for biggest scumbag. People are so quick to participate in this kind of behavior ‘anonymously’ but the minute you put a name and face to the participants they throw their hands up and play the ‘it wasn’t me card’. I bet their parents would be awfully proud too once everyone in the community knows who they are. ‪#‎beabovethemadness‬

  5. Applause! Yes, where do I get my the shirt and where do I send my financial support. No girls should be objectified by boys but remember there are 14 and 15 year old girls at the high school with 18 year old Srs, – young men.

  6. Taylor L says

    I would like to correct something about this article. This “May Madness” is NOT a Mt. Si High School tradition. The schooI itself has nothing to do with it. I graduated from Mt. Si in 2005 and never, in my 4 years of attending, did anything like this take place. and it is scary to think how much things have changed in 10 years. After I read this I honestly felt disturbed. The fact that more is not being done to stop this astonishes me. It is inspiring to see Elle standing up for what is right. Kudos to her! I imagine it is not easy to speak your mind with the fear of backlash. I feel for every single girl that has to deal with this kind of behavior every single day. I can’t imagine the pressure and impact this has on their self worth.

  7. kbonikowsky says

    How courageous! Would love a follow-up with how we can support this effort!

  8. Kudos for standing up to this! Would love to know how I can help support this effort.

  9. Go Elle !! Don’t let anyone define you ! Thank you for standing up to this!!

  10. Great job ladies!
    One thing you might find useful is that if there are specific students who are causing you grief in this area, you might put them in their place a little when you have the chance. Just kind of think it over ahead of time with a few of your friends. Come up with some good zingers for them. Remember, boys have their own social pressures too. The “manly” reputation that the ones who partake in “contests” like this adhere to, depends a lot on how successfully they interact with the ladies. Use that to your advantage. Remember…they’re the ones asking *you* for dates. That puts a lot of power in your collective hands if you know how to use it right. Like say, just hypothetically speaking of course, if the people who were engaging in this contest suddenly couldn’t get dates for the prom? How terrible for them… 😉

  11. ChristenJ says

    Great to see brave girls doing awesome work! I’m so sick of parents using the excuse “boys will be boys.” That is LAZY parenting. Teach your sons to respect women.

  12. Anonymoose says

    I just want to say that I have met Elle before, and not one bit of this on her part surprises me. She’s both kind and strong, and I’m glad that people appreciate that in her.

  13. Kudos to Elli, but also a big pat on the back to her parents. Instilling great sense of values is taught. She will inspire many others to Stop the Madness.

  14. anonymous says

    As a 2012 graduate I’m SO happy to finally see a female stand up to all this. May madness has been around since I was a sophomore at least and every year girls are affected by it even when they say it didn’t matter to them. It’s awesome someone took a stand and I hope everyone now and in the future learns from elle!

  15. Go Ellie! Fabulous slogan!
    It is time to stop the ‘Rape Culture’ mentality of these pathetic young men.
    I hope all the teachers and school administration wear the tee shirts too in a stance against the stupidity.
    Is there a place where one could make a donation towards the cost of the tee shirts, so that even those who could not afford them may wear them? And is there a place where the tee shorts are sold in public so that I might buy one and wear it in support?

  16. Danna McCall says

    Anyone wanting to help this group continue making more t-shirts or get a t-shirt, please email me at info@livingsnoqualmie.com and I will get you in touch with Elle. I know they want to make more shirts, but funds are really tight. Thanks, Danna, owner Living Snoqualmie

  17. Barbara Scott says

    Seems the school/District should be able to do more to stop this form of cyber-bullying.

  18. Karen J Granger says

    Oh My Goodness! I can say that “hot girls” is not an MSHS tradition, and if that’s what it’s becoming, I will contribute my voice, money, whatev, to abolishing it! It is demeaning, hurtful, openly aggressive discrimination, and has no place in our high school — nor anywhere in our world. Kudos to Ms. Wilson, and Elle, and every girl who has the courage to stand up and be counted and not accept this behavior. Add my name and contact info — I will buy a shirt!!!

  19. Kudos, indeed! This was forwarded to me by my daughter, who is a HS teacher and of whom I am extremely proud. Like her, I applaud Ms. Wilson’s pushback on yet another example of male chauvinistic stupidity. Gender inequality, like economic inequality, racial inequality, and all the other inequalities pose major threats to our democratic society and the individual battles are hard to win. Its encouraging to me as an older, retired parent to see young people willing to take on that combat. One of the things all of us can do is to vote our consciences – vote against the bigots, the ideologues, the know-it-alls, the hardliners who can’t hear anyone else, and the self-important ignoramuses who only seek power and influence. If we elect better, smarter, and more open individuals at our various levels of government, we can influence better decisions and restore more balance. As emerging adults, young people like Ms. Wilson and her friends of both genders can tender that influence through the families they will soon be creating.

  20. What an amazing young woman. Thank you for sharing her story. Hopefully we, as a community, will get behind her, thus sending the message that “events” such as May Madness aren’t tolerated by any of us.

  21. pete and barbara says

    Keep up the fight Elle. We are proud of you and what you are doing. It is an honor to know you and your wonderful family who we’re sure are in your corner all the way.

  22. Danna McCall says

    UPDATE: The equality group has launched a Go Fund Me online fundraiser – http://www.gofundme.com/beabovethemadness. They hope to raise enough money to print some professionally screen t-shirts – which thanks to the donation of a local company (www.papersalt.com), is in the process of happening by early next week. You can also check out King 5 News and q13 News for an interview with Elle Wilson. KIRO News is also covering the gender equality group’s pushback against May Madness.

  23. Where can I get some t-shirts?

  24. Anonymous says

    I certainly hope I am not the the only boy who supports this movement
    Congrats Elle!

  25. John Smith says

    I would have a lot more respect for this movement if it didn’t glorify Wilson and others partaking in it. The girls don’t want the negative attention, yet still want attention, so they turn a bad situation around into one they can manipulate.

    Also, I feel so sorry for the poor sucker that decided to shell out his/her own pocket cash for those t-shirts. I bet half the people who took one haven’t even worn it yet.

    • Wow, John Smith. You are certainly part of the problem, aren’t you? The article doesn’t “glorify” anyone, it just acknowledges that this young woman is showing courage and creativity in the face of a significant social problem. Unlike you, commenting anonymously in a fashion that makes you look really rather foolish. Well done, you. :/

  26. Teresa McClane Jaswal says

    Right on, Elle! A colleague shared this with me. You and the other students who have challenged this tradition, are incredible, strong and phenomenal! Would love to connect with you and support efforts further through our Bellevue College Organization of Women Leaders, a student-led group of women and men who are working on gender equality and other issues.

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