Introducing Cleveland’s PTA auction: Live & Let Bid: An Evening of James Bond–but wait, women are for sale, too?
On Saturday, March 11, Cleveland’s annual auction will occur at the Melody Ballroom. The event is the school’s largest fundraiser, providing monetary support for staffing, academics, and the arts.
Originally, the silent auction tickets depicted half-naked women, but after parent and teacher complaints, they were quickly changed to a more school appropriate theme.
In recent years, the auction has accumulated $85,300 to $150,300 in total sales and the Foundation paddle raise. The PTA then distributes $10,000 twice a year for teacher grants and around $20,000 for the principal reserve–100 percent of which goes to teacher hours. Principal Tammy O’Neill explained, “It will fund computers for our science labs, equipment for our theater, and additional choice books for students.”
James Bond is the theme of this year’s auction. A press release to promote the auction read, “Some will dress in tuxedos, some in cocktail dresses. Some will be Bond girls and some will merely paint their finger gold and call themselves ‘Goldfinger.’”
Organizers revealed the “Goldfinger” badges on the Cleveland auction Facebook page in early February. During the live auction, 50 badges were to be sold. Each badge was a representation of a Bond girl. The Facebook post encouraged auction attendees to purchase a badge, detailing, “If your Bond girl is drawn, you get your choice of one of the Live Packages! Buyers will get their ‘girl’ upon check in.” With overtly sexual undertones, community members began to question the “Goldfinger” badges that depicted objectified women.
“I was immediately aghast and repulsed and disappointed at people’s lack of good judgement,” said history teacher Anne Dierker about her reaction to the Facebook post. Dierker shared the post, and soon Steve Nims, fellow history teacher, experienced a similar response. He explained, “It seemed odd that a school would be selling Bond girls; I’m not much of Bond guy, but I know that there is a lot of sexualization of women.”
The Cleveland auction attracts around 300 parents and alumni. Leadership students participate in the event, ensuring that it runs smoothly. “You have young women who are working at the auction. They’re serving cake and walking around. It sends a message to them that it’s all in good fun, when in actuality, misogyny is not in good fun,” said Dierker, who went on to explain, “James Bond is all about sex, which is limiting for young women, because it’s everywhere and it’s pervasive.”
Organizers, who have not returned calls for comment, have allotted hundreds of hours toward auction planning. Nims stated, “I was torn because I knew that this wasn’t ok, but I also knew that the organizers meant well. They are volunteers trying to raise money for the school. However, it wasn’t worth just saying, ‘Well, they mean well.’”
Nims then informed Principal O’Neill, saying, “We value the work that auction planners are doing, but we value our young women more by not objectifying them by buying a Bond girl.”
O’Neill then met with auction organizers soon after, requesting that they find a new theme for the “Goldfinger” badges. Nims joked, “If you want the Bond theme, I think there’s cars.” O’Neill reinforced the idea and explained, “It could be cars or gadgets. Something entirely innocuous and stable.”
O’Neill explained that the “Goldfinger” tickets are a learning experience, saying, “We could get bogged down in the negativity, especially right now in the national landscape, but I try my best to say, ‘Listen to these positive things.’”
This year’s auction is essential for staff and funding. O’Neill expanded, “The numbers coming out from the legislature of school funding are very scary right now. It’s being indicated that high schools might see the most serious cuts.”
For Cleveland’s future auctions, O’Neill hopes that a committee can be organized. By working as a committee, students, staff members, and parents can bounce ideas off one another. In this way, the Cleveland auction will not almost participate in perpetuating the sexualizion and objectification of women for monetary benefits, and carry on the tradition of school-appropriate auctions.