Slut-Shaming and Free Speech: Can a Lawsuit End the Decades-Old "Senior List" In Ladue?
Martha "Missy" Combs recalls finding out this way: While cramming for a math quiz near the end of her junior year at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, she got a tap on the shoulder. It was a friend informing her that Combs made the "senior list."
HSMemes.com A meme from the Ladue Horton Watkins H.S. page, posted around the time of the "list."
Combs knew exactly what this meant. The year before while at cheerleading practice, she'd seen a "list" go around about an older female classmate.
"They did the ABCs on her. A-B-C-D-E-F-G, all saying bad things about her," recalls Combs. "I was thinking she was dating a senior boy at the time, that's probably why they did that to her at the time. Little did I know."
Combs debated just going home, but ultimately decided to stay and make her way to the "commons" where the list was being passed out.
"You see floods of paper all around, people passing it from person to person," she recalls.
To this day, Combs keeps a copy of the list in the form of a cell phone photo, five years since she first read it. She has it memorized. She won't allow Daily RFT to reprint it, but reads it aloud. The 2007 Senior List calls out five girls, named by initials only, and slams them in rhyme. Two verses mock girls for being too fat, one girl gets it for not getting a prom date, a couple are said to be too ugly, two girls are referred to as being sluts, and one is denounced for being Jewish.
"I was definitely not somebody who flew under the radar, but I was never mean to anyone," says Combs of her high school reputation.
According to anecdotal evidence, the "Senior List" varies from year to year, but is traditionally written by the boys about the senior girls. Sometimes it's passed out on the senior's last day of school. The point seems to be to take some of the more popular girls down a peg or two.
For Combs, the list had lasting effects. She says she only stopped thinking about it two years ago.
"I kind of felt like everybody hated me for a long time," she says. "I wish I would've known better."
Combs is speaking out now after a Ladue mom made national headlines denouncing the school district for allowing the list to become an unofficial tradition for what some estimate could be as long as 30 years.
Ruth Ahlemeier has been going back and forth with the school for months, ever since her own daughter called her in hysterics on May 11 of this year after finding her name on the 2012 Senior List.
"There are never any consequences. That's why this continues," says Ahlemeier. "This is bullying, plain and simple."