Some students at Drake, where I’m an adjunct visiting assistant professor, decided to throw a “Pigtails and Pedophiles” themed party. It wasn’t a university-sanctioned event, so this isn’t a failure of institutional control. Instead, it’s just another example of how surrounded we are by sexism and rape culture. This one goes a little farther by dropping in a bit of light-hearted mocking of victims of child molestation–a group which includes me, though I didn’t have pigtails at the time–which makes it a bit more loathsome, I suppose, but honestly, we’re in the deep end of this pool already. What’s a few more inches at this point?
The clueless fratboys at Total Frat Move have no idea what the fuss is all about. In fact, they’re offended by the fact that some students (and some faculty members, like me) were offended by it.
Obviously I don’t get offended by these sorts of parties. It’s pretty annoying to me when people try to impose their beliefs on another group of people if the latter aren’t overtly or directly hurting anyone. Yes, it could be argued that this theme is “hurtful,” however it could be argued that pretty much anything is hurtful, because that’s a such a vague and subjective accusation. Those offended could also just ignore it, isn’t that what our parents told us to do when someone is annoying us? Your time and effort is best spent elsewhere, unnecessarily sensitive students of every college ever.
Oh, where to begin? How about the “not overtly or directly hurting anyone” bit? If you were a victim of sexual abuse as a child–and over 9% of children are sexually assaulted in this country, so there’s a good chance these jerks know someone who was abused, though they probably don’t know they know someone who’s been abused, because why would you confide something like that to them?–then you might find someone making a party out of a negative part of your life pretty crappy. This isn’t a case of “vague and subjective accusation.” This is a pretty clear case of “you’re mocking people who’ve been abused.” Why not have a “let’s kick a homeless person” party next week?
But it’s the other defense that really throws me.
If these students who complain about offensive fraternity parties took all their collective efforts to make a fuss about these sorts of things and instead used it to volunteer or raise money for good causes, they might almost come, like, halfway to the amount of charity work Greeks do. But yeah, the whiners are the people making their communities and the world a better place, sure.
Even if their numbers are accurate–and I have serious doubts that they are, even though I was a member of a fraternity as an undergrad and remain an alumni in good standing–they’re basically arguing that their charity work gives them carte blanche to be callous, unfeeling jerks to everyone around them. What kind of reasoning is that? Is there a standardized ratio of charity fundraising to acceptable douchebaggery? Are there multipliers depending on who you raise money for? Like there’s a one-to-one ratio of dollars to douchebag points for raising money for the library but three-to-one for cancer research?
So the guys who were throwing the party decided to change the theme to “High School Stereotypes,” which included the following description: ““Sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, wasteoids, righteous dudes, toolbags, jocks, stoners etc.” The Drake student who wrote the Op-Ed that got the attention of “Bacon,” a writer and content manager for Total Frat Move, pointed out that the use of “sluts” was just a transfer from one version of rape culture to another. Bacon objects, of course, so I’ll spell it out for him. Of the stereotypes on that list, only one group is identified by their sexual behavior, and it’s also the only one which is mostly aimed at young women. Bacon knows this–he was waxing rhapsodic earlier in this piece about 19 year old girls dressed in pigtails and Hello Kitty outfits. That women could conceivably belong to one or more of the other stereotypical groups doesn’t change the fact that “sluts” is aimed directly at them, and it’s meant not just as an insult, but as a way of saying to women “you are only sexual objects to us and nothing you do will change that.” That’s rape culture in action.