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WRC’s Petition “Take Back the Night from BC Blackout” Stirs Controversy

On Monday Feb. 6, the Women’s Resource Center hosted a petition signing in the quad to protest BC’s Barstool Blackout, a concert hosted by the popular blog Barstool Sports (“by the common man, for the common man”).  On the same day as the Blackout, the WRC had already planned its annual Take Back the Night event.  Take Back the Night is an integral part of C.A.R.E. week where survivors of (or those affected by) rape and sexual assault take the podium in O’Neill Plaza (and around the country) to share their story. 
 
Before I proceed, let’s get something clear, as there seems to be some confusion: this petition is not exclusively against Barstool, nor does it aim to cancel the event.  It is, and I quote directly from the petition itself, “a call to BC students and members of the greater community to be men and women for others by refusing to support violent rhetoric, even in the name of satire or not-so-funny humor, which contributes to a culture that blames victims and condones rape.”

The petition aims to raise awareness of this “violent rhetoric” that is disgustingly prevalent in our culture, as demonstrated by Barstool Sports.  There have been countless soothsayers attempting to trivialize the issue at hand, claiming that Barstool does not indeed condone rape, but rather, engages in satire and comedy, as do many other forms of media.
 
Let’s take a look at this poor definition of “satire.”
 
As first brought to light by a recent article in The Heights, Barstool’s own David Portnoy (‘El Presidente’) made the following statements on the blog:
 
"[E]ven though I never condone rape, if you're a size 6 and you're wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped right?  I mean skinny jeans don't look good on size 0 and 2 chicks, nevermind size 6s.  So it's almost like this guy had no choice but to teach her a lesson."
 

"Just to make friends with the feminists, I'd like to reiterate that we don't condone rape of any kind at our Blackout Parties in mid January.  However, if a chick passes out, that's a grey area though."
 
Barstool does a rather unconvincing job of proving that it does not, indeed, condone rape.  As if that were not enough, the generally misogynist atmosphere of the blog promotes degradation and objectification of women, that in turn fosters horrors such as victim blaming (the idea that somehow, a woman herself is at fault for acts of non-consensual sex forced upon her—those skinny jeans, right?).  While Barstool may not condone the physical act of rape, El Presidente contradicts himself directly by extreme usage of violent rhetoric and a clearly lackadaisical attitude concerning rape.  And that, HC BC readers, is the problem.  By allowing this kind of loose treatment of such a serious subject matter, we are adding to the issue.
 
Maeve Kennedy Gormly, the original writer of The Heights editorial, expounded on her thoughts with HC BC.  While the jokes may be “intended as satire,” they do not automatically prove as so.
 
“Intent does not necessarily mitigate repercussion,” shares Gormly.  “Making jokes about rape addresses it as though it is not a serious issue, when in reality, it is something that one in four women will have to face in their lifetime through either rape or attempted rape.”
 
If this is what our culture calls a joke, we have some serious reconsidering to do.
 
In fact, it is the backlash following this petition that concerns me most.  The petition is not an attempt to cancel BC Blackout.  It is clearly not an effort to end all parties—that’s a ridiculous interpretation.  Rather, as Gormly states, it is “not a petition that makes demands, but that asks for support — more like a pledge than a traditional petition.”  More specifically, it is a pledge to support rape victims by refusing to advocate mockery of the rape culture, and to engage a more active dialogue about these very real topics in our community.
 
One article in BC’s The Gavel accuses the Women’s Resource Center of “moral pretentiousness.”  By supporting an event whose facilitators openly toss around misogynist jokes about rape in the name of satire, then, by definition, attendees support their beliefs.  The fact that many students attending the event may not read or realize the nature of Barstool Sports gives the petition an even greater purpose: to spread awareness.  By no means does the WRC seek to “condemn students.”  Students are not being “demeaned for going to a party.”  If this statement were true, the petition would call for a burning of the Mods.  It is not just any party—it is an event sponsored by people whose openly misogynistic (among other bigoted terms) writings defame a subject that should instead be taken very seriously.
 
Rather, the WRC seeks to inform students of just what they are supporting, fostering thought about the treatment of these serious issues, and perhaps inspiring an effort to change in the future.
 
As Gormly brilliantly states, “Good satire has a message: Jonathan Swift made important political commentary on the Northern Irish conflict.  Stephen Colbert draws issues to light and engages broader audiences in political banter.  What does David Portnoy do?”
 
 With these points in mind, I encourage students to continue this important dialogue in an intellectual and respectful manner.  Supporters of this petition are attempting to raise awareness about rape and sexual assault, one without room for petty remarks and derogatory comments.  We are not “raging feminists.”  This is not a holier-than-thou campaign to disband social life at BC.  This is a statement by over 800 students. It is not nearly enough to take the “boys will be boys” stance on this matter.  If we don’t recognize the serious implications behind trivializing rape, we can look forward to a society where women are continually blamed for these malicious acts upon them, be it their skinny jeans or their use of makeup.
 
Oh, wait. 
 
Thoughts, concerns, or questions?  Please comment below or e-mail co-presidents Julianne Wojno and Meg Keefe at JulianneWojno@hercampus.com and MegKeefe@HerCampus.com

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