Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Belated, But Necessary Post

College newspapers: a forum for students to venture into new endeavors and let their creativity shine, while feeling like Hollywood A list celebs among their peers (unlike FMF bloggers who obviously ARE stars...)

For Fairfield University's "The Mirror" and co-writer of the "He said/She said" column Chris Surette, it's also a means to create "satirical pieces" with demeaning undertones towards women.

His October column entitled "The Walk of Shame," where he elaborates on the fame brought on by one-night-stands, is the one gaining the most attention, due to, well, you'll see. Let me share a couple of the "gems"...

So after flirting with a young swan at a party, you invite her back to your place and she accepts. The road to pleasure town begins and as Johnny Drama would say, VICTORY! Congrats boys, not only did you get laid, but you have a great story for the rest of your life.
Not only is it a story for you and your boys, but others will soon realize what happened when they see your victim walking back to the dorms in her dress from last night, with a disgraceful look on her face as if she was robbed of her dignity. But girls, even though many may consider you a slut after witnessing your glorious Walk of Shame, just realize that you have given this lucky guy a story he can share with others at the Grape for the rest of the year. We ought to thank you for that. And hopefully you got something out of this to … actually, we don’t really care.

And it's not over. He also adds:
Trust me, you don’t want that hood rat giving you a venereal disease... So don’t be a fool and wrap your tool. Now if you follow these tips, the next time you do work, you’ll have a tale to tell your buds for years. Remember to be ruthless and have no shame. We are relying on each other for an entertaining story that is both hilarious and humiliating. Just remember one thing; her walk of shame is an induction into your hall of fame.

While I agree with his promotion of safe sex, using words like "hood rat," "victim" and "robbed of her dignity" makes my skin crawl. Lucky for my faith in humanity, I was not alone. Comments have flooded in from all over:

In an apology letter, Surette explains:
In the past week, I have overheard many people feeling that my article was promoting rape and violence against women... I understand that a few of the words I used could have been easily used to create this idea.
Also, I would like to make clear that even though my language has been derogatory against women, I truly do not feel this way about them. For those of you who do not know, last semester I was the only guy in a feminism literature class called “The Women Question.” I do respect the ideas of feminism and women’s rights, even though it may not be perceived in my writing.

My goal is to write about the ideas that your typical 18-22 year old college male thinks and speaks with putting a humorous twist on it. These articles are not meant to be taken literally. In saying this, I do understand that I crossed the line this past week and apologize for this.

So, moral of the story is that as long as you've studied the subject; horrible, degrading and triggering jokes are totally acceptable in a public forum without any responsibility for your actions because it "wasn't meant to be taken seriously"(While the last sentence is heavily frosted in sarcasm, I am now kicking myself for not taking Anthropology of Locker Room Rituals 101!)

But, I'm gonna take all the pressure off of this one lone writer by looking at the bigger picture, as the problem isn't just this particular article, but the fact that Surette's experiences had lead him to believe these words were "typical" of the 18-22 age bracket (although note: I know many guys who don't talk like this.)

By letting this language go unnoticed, we allow this attitude to leak into our culture, thoughts and actions; leading some criminals to not see or water down actions that should be considered the violent acts that they are. For more information, check out UMASS Boston's Professor Lisak's campus survey and interviews talking to perpetrators and revealing the extent that rape culture is normalized on campuses (warning: interviews are graphic and may be triggering to survivors.)

For more information on men working with their peers to fight back, look into the wonderful work of groups like Men Can Stop Rape or Men Stopping Rape, Inc. A big thanks to all male activists!

photo credit: noodlepie on flickr.com

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