As of about fifteen minutes ago, I was perusing Twitter when I saw that the Ubyssey, the student newspaper at UBC, posted up this tweet:
“N is for no consent!” Sauder first-years led in offensive chant. http://t.co/YYcIwtuPuW
— The Ubyssey (@Ubyssey) September 7, 2013
The headline pulled me in immediately. I read the article, and I think I sat on my bed for a second, not knowing what to think. I was shocked. Then I felt revolted. Then I thought to myself to start to re-evaluate the situation: a lot of these spokespeople, these student leaders, some of whom are volunteers, may have had their words taken out of context. Everyone, from the co-organizer to the president of the Commerce Undergraduate Society, all were reiterating the same thought – that can’t be correct. There’s no way such a prevalent mentality could be so absolute as to have every person interviewed express the same thoughts … right? So I sat there, a bit confused at what I was thinking. Then it hit me … I was angry.
Angry that regardless of what’s been going on for tens and tens of years, this cheer still happened, and it’s being covered up.
The cheer, lest we forget, goes something like so:
“An actual cheer at ubc,” a Sauder School of Business first-year wrote on Twitter. “Y-O-U-N-G at UBC we like em young Y is for yourrr sister O is for ohh so tight U is for under age N is for noo consent G is for goo to jail.”
The cheer, if you’ve read from the article, was only meant to be performed in private, and that perhaps is the worst part about the excuses these student leaders throw out, haplessly.
When we start keeping things that legitimize rape culture (and no, those words aren’t for shock value, because this is what it is, look it up if you disagree) private and not meant for the public eye, there is already a feeling of guilt. Ms. Chen, if you didn’t feel this chant was at all disgraceful or a misrepresentation of the Sauder spirit, why bother hiding it at all? “It’s not something we can control” – no, perhaps not, as there’s no way you alone could keep an eye out for each and every single Frosh leader teaching this cheer.
BUT, if you knew these events were happening behind closed doors (“We had problems a very long time ago with the cheers being public in a sort of way and the dean seeing… We let the groups know: if it happens in the group, it has to stay in the group”), couldn’t you have … I don’t know, maybe piped up that such cheers are wrong?
What the hell is going on?
I’m actually pissed, for lack of a better word, that something like this can be swept under the rug. I’m upset that student leaders, people who are hired and elected, knowing that these actions continue, remain silent about trying to stop it. It’s reinforcement of behaviour and an attitude towards rape and consent, for crying out loud; nothing else to say. There are bloody posters on the walls of the Student Union Building washrooms screaming out that consent is needed in any situation, and you’re going to stand there, talk to a journalist, and lament, “Well, we know it’s happening. We don’t know when it’s happening, so we can’t do anything about this cheer that may or may not be great, because, hey, it’s just a joke, right?” It’s called preventative measures, people – it’s called training.
How hard was it to stand up and go, “Hey, guys, any cheers about ‘consent’ and ‘underage’ and ‘oh so tight’ – maybe, don’t do them?” to your Frosh leaders?
And, uh, how does getting someone to participate in cheering about rape (“G is for goo to jail”) get them out of their personal bubble? Aren’t there less derogatory manners you could’ve went about this?
How do you know, and guarantee, someone in your group hasn’t been a member of rape or sexual assault?
Am I overreacting? Maybe some of the examples could be seen as extreme; but it’s not impossible, is it? I might be opening a can of worms here, but I am floored when people don’t understand what it means to reinforce “rape culture”. When you keep up an atmosphere about sexual assault that makes light of the matter where people, male or female, are hurt, that’s outright wrong. No if’s, and’s or but’s – I’m not being overly critical, overly politically correct here – it’s about having a little bit of sensitivity in issues when it matters.
But it’s not so much that the chant was said – now, at this point in time, it’s the bigger issue of people trying to keep it quiet. Yes, Frosh weekend is about letting loose, socializing, and maybe (read: definitely) a drink here and there … but, has it occurred to any of you, that you don’t have to resort to derogatory, degrading comments to have that happen? Shame on these “leaders” who can’t understand that as a leader, you represent your community and your team – and that sometimes means swallowing your pride and apologizing.
Slow clap, Sauder. Slow. Clap.
P.S. When you write a public letter for an actual event, why don’t you DESCRIBE THE INAPPROPRIATE EVENT IN QUESTION. (Hey, it’s the only one to come to light, right?) Then people know exactly what you’re non-apologizing for.