#NotANumber: three girls and the movement they started at Lynbrook to combat

May 24, 2016 — by Michelle Lee and Kyle Wang

A group of Lynbrook male students created a "rating" group on Facebook, and others fight back. 

Shes good enough…you're through… next step. And last step … top 5 girls at lynbrook … anyway u wanna rank,” the message read. 
This message came from the cultlike initiation ceremony among a group of boys at nearby Lynbrook High School, part of an ongoing trend that had begun to spread nationally. (The date when the message was sent is unclear.)
    Last year, some boys at the school started creating secret Facebook groups that Lynbrook girls on their attractiveness on a scale from 1 to 10.
To prove that they deserved to be part of a group, some boys were asked to send a picture of any girl who was rated at least a “7 out of 10” in terms of attractiveness to one of the group’s administrators. 
Yet in spite of the blatant objectification, sexism and bullying inherent in the page, few initially came forward about the issue. 
In the meantime, word about the page had begun to leak out to people like Lynbrook seniors Renee Cai, Esha Patel and Alekhya Surepeddi.
At first the three female students were scared to act. 
“I was so shocked because I had no idea that this stuff happened at Lynbrook,” Cai later told the Falcon. “It had been kept so quiet.” 
Surepeddi said she first learned about the groups when discussing sexism with a male friend, who revealed he was a member of the group. Later, she discovered more about the initiation processes and photographs that had been posted.
    “Scared of starting drama, my friend and I sat on the information,” Surepeddi said. “But this year we realized enough is enough.”
    Cai, Patel and Surepeddi made a Facebook group called “Women Against Ranking” on April 6 to help spread awareness about the issue. Though theirs was only one of many that had been formed in response to the boys’ groups, it was one of the first to gain widespread attention. 
Through posts about sexism and the objectification of women, the girls disseminated the message that these boys’ groups were “not acceptable,” and that this rating system was “fundamentally rooted in gender inequality, disrespect and hatred,” Patel said. 
    Patel said that this problem is not confined to Lynbrook: Across the country, such “rating” groups have already begun pervading Facebook.
    “This is why we encourage everyone to step up and speak out,” Patel said. 
    And many already have. To show their support for the anti-objectification movement, many Lynbrook students have changed their Facebook profile pictures to an image of five cutout silhouettes standing beneath the phrase, “We Are Not Objects,” written in bold, dark red lettering. Beneath these silhouettes is a half-circle containing phrases from the boys’ chats such as “She’s like a three” and “I’d tap that.”
    Accompanying many of these profile picture changes are captions, many of which lambaste the boys for ranking the girls of Lynbrook High. Some students like Lynbrook senior Alison Kou infused personal experiences into their impassioned arguments. 
“As someone who has struggled with self-worth and self-confidence, even without other people bringing me down, I can only imagine the pain and heartbreak of those who have been severely bullied and deeply hurt by others' insensitivity, ignorance and complete lack of respect,” Kou said on her Facebook post caption. 
Since the “Women Against Ranking” movement started, many of the boys have come forward to the school’s administration and apologized for their behavior. In addition, Patel said that she knows of no victims who have come forward to the administration with further complaints about bullying. 
Patel believes the movement has helped raise awareness of this growing problem, preventing others from getting hurt in the future. 
    “[These movements on social media] will hopefully deter more of these groups from being created in the future, as well as encourage members to not only leave the group, but also treat others with respect,” Patel said.
    All of Women Against Ranking’s posts shared a similar call to action as expressed in their group — the same conclusion that they appended to their profile picture captions:
“The women of Lynbrook High feel that this is an absolute disgrace and we want to make a change. Join us if you agree by sharing this post or creating one of your own with the hashtag #notanumber. And if you are a guy reading this and you feel as though what has been done is wrong, please remember that issues of gender inequality affect all of us whether you are male or female, and real change can only be made if we fight together.”
 
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