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Following a list that sparked school-wide discontent for its ratings on the appearances of 94 female students on Oct. 18, many gathered to make posters spreading positive messages and empowering women.

Fatima Kammona

Fatima Kammona

Posters were made in response to the list that had been spread around days earlier by students.

Fatima Kammona, Iowa City West High School

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94 personalities. 94 smiles. 94 women who have family and friends. 94 women who have feelings. 94 women who were objectified. 94 women who were graded. 94 names.

On the morning of Oct. 20, students and faculty at Iowa City West High School gathered in room 132 to respond to a list that had graded women’s appearances, most of them juniors. The group made posters and hung them up around the school.“[We wanted to] promote the message of positive and female empowerment that is so necessary in light of recent events,” said Madeleine Roberts-Ganim ’19.

The list began to circulate a few days earlier. “I heard about it Wednesday afternoon,” Megan Johnson, a social studies teacher and organizer of the meeting Friday morning, said. “One of my students had actually come in to get some help with AP Psychology and I could tell that they were upset about something … When I first heard about it, I was shocked but not surprised, unfortunately.”

The reaction was almost identical of that of student and creator of #EveryonesAnA Lucy Polyak ’19. “I remember being disappointed but not surprised,” Polyak said. “I wasn’t on the list but I did create the hashtag. People are just so upset right now. I’m upset, my friends are upset, people I hardly know are upset and I feel for them. I was like, ‘You know what? There has to be a way to bring joy to people again because even in the darkest of times, there’s always light to be found.”

One name on that list belonged to Lauren Upchurch ’19, “When I first found out about the list, I was disgusted,” Upchurch said. “I looked at that list and people I’ve known for years … were graded based on their looks … For many years I struggled with insecurities about looks, about weight. And it got to the point of me crying to my parents and they just told me, ‘What about those people is so important to you when they say this stuff? Like why does their opinion get to hurt you?’”

“We came together as a group of mostly young women at West and female faculty at West to talk about what happened and [to] also create a bunch of empowering and encouraging flyers, signs [and] poster, ” said social studies teacher Megan Johnson.

“I’m more than just a letter,” said Upchurch. “Personally me being graded a ‘C’ doesn’t affect me but the fact that I have friends who still feel these awful insecurities every single day of their lives see it on paper, it [can] just crush somebody.”

Upon entering the room, the outrage of what happened could be felt. However, a feeling of pride also permeated the space. “I really think we have to focus on … crushing this misogynistic and sexist behavior,” Roberts-Ganim said. “The boys who created this list were trying to exert some level of control and authority over women [because] they don’t feel like they have that in real life. I think we have to take the power back and it’s so amazing to be in a room full of wonderful, powerful women who are all supporting each other and getting through it together.” Roberts-Ganim said.

Though the room was filled mostly by female students and faculty, Samer Suleman ’18 participated in making posters. “I knew that this was a time when people need us to bind together to show our positivity [and] support for people who are wronged,” Suleman said. “If anything, I like to be the example … that there is good in the world. There are people who aren’t out to just selfishly harm others, and if it means me just getting up a little earlier and going to a room to make posters to spread positive around the world, then that’s something I would like to do.”

Though it’s been almost two weeks now some believe that this incident shouldn’t be forgotten,” said Suleman.

“There is not somebody on that list that isn’t beautiful inside and out,” said Lucy Polyak ’19 in response to the list.

With all the negativity that surrounded the list, there’s still hope for a positive outcome. “I think one of the most important things that we can learn is that what a few high school boys do or say doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things,” Johnson said. “ We’re . . . so much stronger and more powerful when we all come together… I feel like [these signs] will be a reminder to people that what happened was the work of just a few people here and it’s not what most people feel. We can take the power out of [the list].”

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