Commentary  Don’t make excuses for rape culture

The great Frosh debate.

To all those beleaguered rape apologists and intransigent party-goers, to all those who have not come to terms with the implications of feminism and other gender theory, and to everyone else who has criticized the article “Ro-dee-NO” (Commentary, September 6, Page 6), this article is for you.

Rape culture and frosh are things. They exist, they coexist.

Rape culture: the collection of cultural institutions which enforce ideas that naturalize or legitimize rape. This means the crass and arrogant attitude that a woman is only something to fuck. The idea that you should try to coerce, through alcohol, peer pressure, or otherwise, a woman into fucking at just about any cost, including your own self respect, human dignity, et cetera.

Frosh: a period of about a week at the beginning of school when new students are put in a high-pressure environment that emphasizes intoxication and sexual activity.

People want to meet new friends when they first come to university. Legit. But not everyone is sexually active or likes to drink a lot when straight out of high school.

Those Frosh names scrawled on the back of your tee-shirt are probably the most vulgar you are ever going to be in public in your life: Ejacualiting Ethan, Jizzing James, Anal Amy. Not to mention the chants. Three cheers for fucking, McGill, McGill, McGill!

Can you imagine why this might be uncomfortable for an Engineering student who sees this as a chance to meet people?

As a former Engineering student, I know that it is important to have a strong group of friends to work on assignments with. But maybe the Engineering faculty has fewer non-male students because it is actually less accessible for them. That is, because it’s more systematically and structurally misogynist. Can you imagine working with a group of people who made you feel extremely uncomfortable in ways that everyone else normalizes? Can you see how this might be applicable to women and Frosh? Engineering is a different environment than the Faculty of Arts, where Women’s Studies, which actually addresses the brutal legacy of misogyny, is seen as more than just “victim studies.”

Do you know why women are historically underrepresented in Engineering? It’s not because women aren’t interested in mathematics or science, it is because they used to be expressly forbidden to study those subjects. Currently, there are fewer than twenty per cent of women in engineering across Canada.

Maybe Engineering students need to be more open to critiques that relate to misogyny on campus, because the legacy of these beliefs are still kicking around.

The arguments people are using to defend Engineering Frosh aren’t very substantive. The gist of the rebukes I have seen so far kind of go: “Arts students are uptight and problematize everything; besides, critical theory is mostly bullshit, even if it has applications, it is used to the point of meaninglessness.”

Sure, sometimes critical theory isn’t very convincing, especially if you haven’t had the chance to study it more intensely. But mostly my question is: what kind of institutions are you trying to defend? Great, socialize…but it’s not like Frosh isn’t just another excuse to get really drunk and wander around annoying people in Milton-Parc. I’m not attacking you for drinking, I’m attacking you on political and historical grounds, as well as for the unquestioned over-consumption that takes place at Frosh; who can be loudest, who can get the drunkest, who can get laid the quickest, who can be the most belligerent, which lemming will jump of the cliff first?

As well, one popular reply to “Ro-dee-NO” on The Daily website says “Lighten up, McGill Daily. Will you not be happy until games of dress-up and sexual innuendos are absent from campus? Let the people have some fun. Why do you have to be so negative all the time? You read too much into things.”

This is a notoriously bad argument. What the fuck does fun have anything to do with it? Fun can be selfish and egregious, and hurt people.

Take an article published in The Daily last year called “Drinks, Dresses, and Misogyny” (Commentary, February 2), in which the author describes her experiences with some good ol’ rugby boys’ fun:

“Not surprisingly, every chant is sexual, which is not inherently a bad thing. But the chants are not just sexual. ‘I wish that all the ladies / were like the statue of Venus / because then they wouldn’t have any arms… to shove away my penis.’”

Joking about raping women is not okay. It might be fun for you, but I can’t imagine it would be for the one in four North American women who will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, or the one in ten that will receive physical injuries from their assault. No, certainly not.

Nor is it okay to make excuses for people who get pressured into sexual activity that they don’t fully and joyfully reciprocate. I have heard a lot of male voices condemning this critical analysis of Engineering Frosh, but what the fuck is a male voice good for anyway? Have you even talked to the women who work and study around you about this issue? I want to hear the opinions and personal experiences of female Engineering students, not just another full-of-himself dude.

Full disclosure – Adrian Turcato is a white male. He studied Engineering at UBC for two years before he transferred to Arts. He can be reached at adrianturcato@gmail.com.

Click here to read another side of the debate.

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