Misogynist banners normalize campus rape culture. There’s nothing funny about that.

» Posted by on Aug 31, 2017 in News & Postings | 0 comments

Misogynist banners normalize campus rape culture. There’s nothing funny about that.

The Bangor Daily News

August 31, 2017

Contributors:  Susan K. Gardner and Samantha Saucier, Special to the BDN

It’s time to stop trying to be funny and instead try to think about the kinds of messages we want to send to our students, children and communities. We can expect better. We should expect better. Not just for UMaine, but for Maine. Not just for our girls, but for our boys, too.

On Friday, the University of Maine welcomed its largest ever incoming class to campus. Along with the enthusiastic faculty, staff and students who greeted the new students and their families to campus, a number of male students decided to contribute their own welcome messages to the day.

These men, at least at three off-campus residences, spray-painted signs with phrases such as “Honk if she’s 18,” “Daughter Drop Off” and “Mother and Daughter Drop Off.” Almost immediately faculty, staff and students alike responded on social media expressing their dismay at these displays. Soon after, campus authorities spoke to these men and the signs were removed.

“What’s the big deal?” you say. “It’s just boys being boys, right?”

The problem with these kinds of signs is that they send messages about the value of women and — even more disturbing — about how women should expect to be treated by these men. How would you feel about sending your daughter to a place that welcomes its female students with messages like this? While these men obviously didn’t represent UMaine or its values as a campus community, they nevertheless thought it would be funny to send such messages.

Here’s what we think about that kind of humor:

When 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted while in college, such signs aren’t funny.

When the majority of campus sexual assaults occur in the first six weeks of the fall semester, such signs aren’t funny.

When 1 in 5 Mainers will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime, such signs aren’t funny.

When 10 percent of Maine high school girls report they have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse, such signs aren’t funny.

When Maine ranks ninth among U.S. states for the rate of women who are killed by men, such signs aren’t funny.

And it’s not just women and girls who are negatively affected: 1 in 5 men will experience a form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Four percent of Maine boys report having been physically forced to have sexual intercourse.

This “boys being boys” excuse, therefore, is pretty pathetic. This phrase is excuses poor behavior by men and boys, leading us to believe it’s part of what we should just learn to expect from them. This phrase also encapsulates what we think about their actions: that they should be excused from poor behavior, and that they’re not accountable for their actions.

Here’s the problem: When we use phrases like “boys will be boys,” we’re saying boys and men were born to rape women and other boys and men. We’re saying boys and men were born to kill girls, women and each other.

Of course, we know that’s not true. But we also know that the men and boys who rape and assault girls, women and other boys and men do so because they think “it’s OK” and “because she asked for it.” The last time we checked, no one who was raped ever asked to be raped. And we’re pretty sure no one who has ever been raped thought it was OK.

So, when this “boys will be boys” mentality is coupled with the kind of humor these college men were trying to convey with their signs, the message it sends promotes and normalizes rape culture.

Stop being funny. Start being smart.

Susan K. Gardner is the director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program and the Rising Tide Center at the University of Maine in Orono. Samantha Saucier is an undergraduate student and co-director of the Women’s Resource Center at UMaine.

 

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