OPINION: The harm in "harmless" campus culture

About a month ago, an email sent over the Delta Zeta chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity listserv at William and Mary University gave everyone a look into the mind of one disgusting and disrespectful human being.

The message spoke of the writer’s idea for a community outreach program called “Save the Sluts.” The email encourages the men of the fraternity to help the “lesser sex” on the campus by having sex with them.

“Sluts are everywhere…allow your eyes to wander from the feet up the long and slender legs of the lesser sex until finally you arrive at God’s greatest gift: the box,” he writes, explaining how to spot these supposedly desperate women.

While one can only hope the contents of this, unfortunately, well-composed email is a joke; it’s a nod to the objectification that runs rampant on college campuses.

It’s clear that some men still view women as objects. In college, they expect women to show up at parties barely dressed, drink too much and serve them (in every sense of the word) while saying absolutely nothing about it. It’s a culture and its especially prevalent Thursday-Saturday night.

Women aren’t simply the victims in these situations. In fact, some of us might subtly encourage this behavior. The Sigma Chi email was obtained by Total Sorority Move, a website that posts a female perspective on Greek Life news. One would think they would condemn the email, but rather, they find more fault in the fact that the brother called rain boots “ugly.”

“I just can’t stand for an email in which you use the term “box,” or claim rain boots are ugly,” the writer complains.

Quite frankly, I’m a bit more disgusted by TSM’s response than the email itself. It sends the message that women more concerned with what men think of their appearance than any potential perverted motivations. It’s a standard that leaves us as the constant subject of male objectification.

And while collegiate women continue to standby and be relatively silent on this issue, worse things are beginning to happen as a result.

Last month, a student at Dartmouth posted a message on a campus website, “Bored at Baker,” that detailed how to rape a female student, whom he referred to as the “Choates whore” based on where she lives on campus. The message encourages male readers to find the “Choates whore,” earn her friendship and trust, provide her with too much alcohol and then, ultimately, have unconsented sex with her.

Perhaps the most frightening statement in the entire post is when the anonymous writer assures readers that his advice is credible because he has already “been there.”

Increasing reports of sexual assault on college campuses, such as this one, have gone as far as the White House, prompting the Obama administration to create a special task force called the “White House Council on Women and Girls” that is dedicated to coming up with strategies to combating sexual violence.

A recent report from the task force said that 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted while in college and that the “dynamics” of college life, such as abuse of drugs and alcohol, are contributing the problem.

Thankfully, the alleged victim at Dartmouth wasn’t as passive as the esteemed writers at TSM. She responded to her attacker’s post on the same website, explaining how difficult her life at Dartmouth has become since she was attacked and how little the university did to help her.

Even if the person who wrote this post wasn’t the victim of the perverted male, what’s most important is that she took a stand against his behavior. The person illustrated how destructive objectification can be. It’s reactions such as these that will gain the most traction in this situation.

I can’t say I’m necessarily above my own criticism. I’ve fallen victim to objectification while I’ve been in college and done absolutely nothing about it, as do many other respectable women. But if women refuse to be more vocal about condemning objectification, it’s going to keep happening and become something much more serious. It has to be our collective response to messages like this that ends it completely.

The next time you see me struggling to make it to class at 9 a.m. in my $40 boots that are falling apart after enduring the Northern Virginia winter, know that my “box” doesn’t need saving; nor will it stand for the men and women that encourage this kind of behavior.

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