'Hot or Not' competition raises concerns at Mount Si High School


by Heather Graf / KING 5 News


Posted on May 8, 2014 at 11:35 PM

Updated Thursday, May 8 at 11:35 PM

It's not the first time it's happened, but it's the first time someone is actively fighting back against an online competition that judges high school girls based on their appearance.

Students at Mount Si High School call the contest 'May Madness'.  In it, male students vote on which  of their female classmates is prettiest.

"There are girls who have not consented to being in this tournament, and whoever is 'hottest' or most aesthetically pleasing to these boys wins the match-up and moves on," said Mount Si junior Elle Wilson.

She feels the contest objectifies women in the worst possible way.  That's why she stared a Gender Equality Club in advance of this year's May Madness.

"A ton of people came to me like hey, I know you started this, can we do something about May Madness, it's hurtful, I've been hurt by this and want to do something to stop it," she said.

She founded the group in March, in hopes of being able to stop May Madness from taking place this year.

In April, the boys behind a competition launched a website, encouraging male students to take part.  When school leaders were notified of the website, it was shut down and quickly moved to Facebook.

The school principal found that site as well, and sent 53 emails to the students who had 'liked' the page, as well as their parents.  Soon, the Facebook site disappeared as well.

Now, May Madness is operating through an anonymous, private Twitter account.

A spokesperson for the school district said Mount Si High School administrators are aware of the problem and are encouraging mentors like teachers and coaches to discourage male students from participating.

They say it's tough to track since so much of it takes place on social media.

The school district spokesperson also says the competition has been taking place for several years, at high schools throughout Western Washington.

"I think it's a form of harassment," said Wilson.  "I just hope people understand the severity of the situation."

Already, she's handed out more than 50 t-shirts that read 'Be Above the Madness.'  Wilson says she's gotten a great response from many of her classmates, with the exception of the boys who run the competition.

"They honestly don't think what they're doing is wrong," she said.  "They think it's silly, they think we're overreacting.  They think what they're doing it harmless."

KING 5 reached out to several of the boys who have been tweeting about May Madness.  None of them wanted to go on camera.

One male student told KING 5 he feels the whole thing is blown out of proportion.  He says the boys are being targeted as awful human beings, but the girls have a similar competition ranking the "hotness" of the boys. 

School administrators said they've heard of the girls holding May Madness in the past, but had not found any evidence that was happening so far this year.