Just months after the infamous cheating scandal, Corona del Mar High School once again made national news with the execution of a prom draft. On May 6, news sources furiously released information about an alleged NFL-style prom draft at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, California. Through social media use and hearsay, the news of this controversy spread to the University High School (UHS) student population. There are two drastically different versions of the story.
The first alleged version has female students submitting applications via Google Forms to answer questions about their physical appearances (bra cup size, hip size, height, weight) and sexual experience. Male juniors and seniors each randomly select a number, and boys choose their girls in number order. The LA Times and the Daily Pilot state that the group of male students wore special coats, held the draft in an undisclosed location and that one student paid $140 to trade his number of pick in the draft. Although the female students have the option to turn down their dates, there are still many controversial aspects of this arrangement. The male participants are accused of overtly objectifying their female counterparts, while the female participants are accused of putting themselves in such compromising positions.
The draft treated these girls as commodities. The prom draft would not have been as bad if the boys had chosen random numbers that corresponded to a list of girls, without the ability to switch pick numbers. Unfortunately, the actual draft allowed boys change picks with financial transactions. Such trading gives the perception that the female draftees merely trading pawns to make money and to pursue more desirable girls.
Even though the male students must take responsibility for the draft’s objectifying parallels to stock trading, the female students who applied to the prom draft are not entirely victims. Female students involved say they do not think the prom draft is a “big deal.” However, it seems as though this type of passivity seems to perpetuate the message that sexism is acceptable. In other words, the lack of initiative to condemn the practice is like the unseen consent to it.
While more stories about the prom draft were being published, the CDMHS principal, Kathy Scott, emailed parents, stating that “it is not OK for any student to be objectified or judged in any way,” and that such behavior “is not behavior that is consistent with our school’s outstanding reputation.” The school administration has sent multiple emails asking for support, reminding parents that the recent negative attention to the school is “based on the actions of a small percentage of students.” According to the OC Register, the district plans to introduce “curriculum-based ‘character training’ for students.” However, no disciplinary acts have been taken yet. Scott has displayed interest in protecting Corona del Mar’s reputation, declaring that “prom will be draftless next year.” However, no student has been held accountable for the prom draft. Considering that the prom draft is a tradition dating back to the 1970s, according to Corona Del Mar Today, it’s a marvel as to why Principal Kathy Scott does not have sufficient information about the prom draft to enforce ethical principles upon those involved.
It’s notable that Twitter accounts dispense an incredible amount of information about the alleged draft. The Orange County Register cites a tweet posted from a CDMHS senior’s Twitter account stating, “Many drafters on the prowl tomorrow for #freeagents so dress nice ladies.” The now private and inactive Twitter account “cdmprom_insider” was highly active in April 2013 and in early May of this year. The widespread traffic of these Twitter accounts proves that what had taken place was pre-meditated objectification of female appearances, refuting other versions of the story which state that the draft was a casual event between a small group of friends who needed a simple way to decide dates. With the implementation of the prom draft and the use of discourteous Twitter accounts, a patriarchal culture may be prevalent throughout CDM. ◊
Responses from within the CDM community have surfaced stating the following: firstly, the prom draft is no different from normal askings since it was a group of around only 15 male students, who chose their dates through verbal discussion. Things became serious when rumors of a student paying money for a higher pick circulated. Secondly, the boys were supposedly trying to “avoid the in-fighting and controversy that often follows the selection of dates, while simultaneously promoting sportsmanship and camaraderie,” according to Corona del Mar Today. The girls were asked normally and there was no application–the girls had no active participation in this. Lastly, this draft is a supposed tradition, tracing back to possibly the 1970s, according to Corona del Mar Today.
This process does change things. Since the group of male students is smaller than originally reported, the prom draft is much less representative of the CDM population than previously thought. Blaming all of CDM for a prom draft held by a small percentage of the school is unfair to the students who have nothing to do with allegedly misogynistic and objectifying actions that further taint the school’s reputation. Furthermore, if the female students did not submit any kind of application and were all part of the same clique, it seems that the girls are cleared of fault since they did not voluntarily submit themselves to the draft.
However, this does not excuse the draft entirely–one CDM student said that the unspoken criteria for picking a girl is still how far a girl will go sexually. If money was exchanged, the draft still resembles a form of prostitution except that the girl may or may not have consented to being chosen in this way. The same CDM student said that one of her friends had been chosen by a boy with fourth pick and teased by friends who said, “he had fourth pick and chose you?” By putting a number on a girl’s value and essentially creating a rank of girls, the draft has a negative effect on the self-esteems of the girls who must be picked.
Also, CDM’s justification of the draft seems superficial and flawed. Unfortunately for CDM, promoting “camaraderie” and eliminating “in-fighting” and “controversy” within school boundaries has backfired into an out-of-proportion scandal discussed across the nation. It seems as though CDM is attempting to lessen the stigma of the draft by turning it into something positive. Even if the draft is much less drastic than previously believed, it is difficult to understand its roots of sportsmanship without making the entire rationale seem like a petty excuse to save face. This excuse by itself perpetuates sexism. Girls are not a sport, so this draft cannot in any way promote sportsmanship.
While this version of the draft is certainly less inflammatory to CDM’s reputation, the fact that people still defend the draft is a problem. According to Coastal OC Lifestyle’s comment on Corona del Mar Today’s article, “It’s not right, but hasn’t that been going on for centuries between men and women in the dating world?” Just because something is a tradition, does not mean it is right. Just because the overt evaluation of appearances is done in the dating world does not make this acceptable in the high-school prom world. ◊
In addition to all of this, rumors have spread that the prom draft only gained attention when a student’s mother who was involved in the media alerted the press of this “tradition”. The mother allegedly reported the tradition to her media organization to get revenge on CDM for her daughter’s expulsion during the cheating scandal. Her daughter may also be known as the girl who tweeted a picture of a UHS student at a basketball game, with a racist remark as the caption. However, these are all just rumors that have spread through hearsay and social media like Twitter.
Social media has a huge role in the spread of rumors and the escalation and dramatization of them. Even though we have gathered opinions based on these two versions of the story, there is no way to verify the truth. Any source that we have access to, as a high school publication outside of the city of CdM, could be biased. Much of our information is based on hearsay and thus cannot be entirely trusted as a valid truth. CdM student responses that we have read or heard of may only be an attempt to save their reputation. News organizations have possibly published inaccurate information in order to gain attention. Our “direct secondary sources” are CdM girls whom Uni students have met through track and swim meets, and most of the information we have collected are screenshots of Twitter.
Despite the questionability of our sources, the prom draft still demonstrates the relevance of issues of gender inequity and media portrayal of both sexes in our culture. The commodification of the human body is present in nearly all aspects of our culture. For example, the long held tradition of carrying in the prom and homecoming queen in on a litter was stopped only recently by Mrs. Jeanne Jelnick (English Dept). The objectification of females has become so ingrained in minds that even the supposed victims of objectification have become desensitized to it.
The ambiguity between what is hearsay and what is truth, if anything, makes discussions about and implications of the prom draft even more important. Stories like this one, in which no one outside of the participants of the prom draft truly knows what happened, should remind readers of the bias that is present in all articles. As journalists, it is our job to collect accurate information and report it to a specific population. The extents of our abilities are limited, however, with so many varying secondary sources with seemingly believable stories. It is difficult to share the truth of and interpret the morality of a hypothetical situation. But as readers, we should aim to think critically and understand that there are multiple sides to any story, instead of contributing to and being swayed by the sensationalist tendencies of the media. Regardless of what one believes about the CdMHS prom draft, it is a fact that social media, online new publications, and the rapid spread through word of mouth is the most powerful form of influence in a community. We may never be able to tame social media’s expansion. But we are able to alter our comprehension of situations with ambiguous situations.
By ANDREW HONG, ELYSIA OUYANG, CHRISTINE SMET, ARNI DAROY, NIUSHA MALEKI, ANJANI IMAN