Last week, we wrote about the school-board and police investigations into an explicit student-circulated list of the 25 most attractive girls at Mt. Lebanon High School. The list features photos of the "winners", and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that "each girl is assigned a letter grade for her breasts, buttocks and face, followed by a brief description of each girl in crude and vulgar terms." Readers were divided over whether or not the list was objectionable, and further debated whether the matter was really the school board's business. Some Mt. Lebanon locals, no doubt weary of all the hullabaloo, have been quoted saying the incident was a case of boys being boys, or kids being kids.
Today, a Broadsheet reader and Mt. Lebanon High alumnus sent us the original document, and while the Post-Gazette's description was technically accurate (and probably as evocative as it could be within the paper's editorial guidelines), it had the effect of downplaying the list's vulgarity. (Heads-up: The next couple of paragraphs quote from the list itself, including graphic and offensive descriptions.) The list actually awards each girl a "titty grade" and an "ass grade" along with her face grade, and gives an approximately 100-word "Reason on Top 25" explanation for each. A representative description notes that "Despite her egocentric views," one top scorer's "beauty and her big round ass makes this quality easily forgettable...We all know we want to lather up that ass with some ketchup and dip our hot dog into it." Another girl is praised for doing "a great job in using the brain cells she has to cordially select her outfits to illustrate her many positive aspects of her body. All the boys in the senior class are just counting the days when her and [name deleted] break up so they can move in for the kill on her luscious, fresh, and splendid vagina."
Other girls are described as being "a strong 'freshman 15' candidate," "the perfect height to suck a dick" and, in the case of a Latina on the list, using "a perfume to keep the taco smell off of her." The list also includes an entry for the girl voted least attractive, who's described as a "cottage cheese filled disgusting thing" with a "maggot filled pussy."
Even if this is a case of boys being boys -- an assumption that doesn't account for gay teenagers and those whose ideas about sexuality and power don't tend toward this type of assessment -- that doesn't make it acceptable. Sure, some girls may find the attention flattering, but that doesn't mean that all or most girls will; wanting boys to find you attractive isn't the same as wanting them to describe the perceived freshness of your "birth canal." This kind of singling out can turn school into a toxic environment.
Certainly worse things go on in the world, and worse things go on in high school. But when people say that girls should toughen up and learn to live with objectifying, degrading stuff like this, I have to wonder what they have against girls. If people are comfortable chalking incidents like these up to "boys will be boys," why is it harder to accept that "girls will be girls" -- as in, some rascally girls may object to bad treatment, whaddaya gonna do? Why should only boys' proclivities define the social climate?
It's worth noting that Mt. Lebanon is known as a conservative community -- one reader reminded us that its most famous resident is none other than Sen. Rick Santorum -- where frank discussion of teen (or female) sexuality may be regarded as as much of a problem as vulgar public humiliation. (Rather confirming this suspicion, Linda Krahe, an attorney for one of the girls on the list, told the Post-Gazette that "This has put a black eye on all that we thought was precious and good and private and sacred about women." Oy.) If the town's investigation and attendant media hubbub are really the pretext for a teen-sex crackdown, then public officials are missing the point; the issue here isn't sex. Girls shouldn't have to deal with degradation in their school environments, and it's absolutely appropriate to ask for accountability, whether in the form of parental discipline, reprimands for kids distributing this stuff at school or, if the police think it's warranted, police involvement. Holla back, Mt. Lebanon.