Readers should speak out against offensive, disrespectful articles

I was hoping that RJ Green’s op-ed “Sexy thoughts you care about,” which ran Nov. 1, would have garnered more of an objection than it seems to have received. Unfortunately, many people I’ve spoken to about this article have either dismissed my objections to the article or dismissed me. In order to be heard, then, I must state this publicly: The Daily never should have published that article and should be held responsible for its impact.

Perhaps I should begin with a disclaimer, as RJ did: This isn’t personal. I’ve known RJ since I came to Iowa State, and while I disagree with the views portrayed in the article, the author has a right to his voice. This response is not about RJ, but it is about what he said and about being responsible for one’s actions.

With that said, let me come back to my first statement: The Daily should not have run RJ’s article. Think of it this way: If the Daily had published an article with similarly insulting statements about racial minorities, there would have been a huge and justified outcry. However, RJ and the editorial staff of the Daily seem to think that publishing derogatory, disrespectful and demeaning statements about women — and, to a lesser but equally harmful extent, men — on the basis of their sex/gender is absolutely kosher, especially for laughs. To put it bluntly, it is not.

As problematic as the attitudes in RJ’s article are, the tactic it employs is more so. Anyone who read more than five lines of the article could recognize that it was chock full of:

  • Assumptions on the reader’s sexuality: Where do gays and lesbians fall in the article’s worldview if the purpose of sex and even life itself, is procreation?
  • Objectification of women: Not only does the author reduce women’s collective sex organs to locks, he compares vaginas to property.
  • Predatory advice masquerading as caring behavior: To paraphrase RJ, you don’t have to actually respect women, just act like you do until you can get in their pants.
  • Baldly inconsistent and hypocritical statements about men and women’s sexual behavior — double standard, anyone?
  • Insultingly reductive views of both men and women: Men aren’t men unless they’re only interested in sex, women are vapid and flighty, and they both use sex as an instrument of control.

But for all these toxic messages, each of which contributes to a social climate in which women’s voices are ignored and their bodies put at risk of sexual assault and domestic violence, the problematic part of this piece is that it is supposed to be funny. Humor is a tactic often used by people who hold socially unacceptable attitudes in order to deflect blame: If a reader doesn’t find the assault funny, they’re accused of being humorless, hypersensitive, even insane.

In any case, the tactic has worked, and what could have been a valid examination about the inexcusable nature of the alleged joke becomes a critique of the objector’s “fragile” mental state. This tactic is quite simply diversion the article, and perhaps more importantly, the article’s defenders are unquestionably guilty of it.

If you take one thing away from here, take this: I am not buying it. This offensive article was clearly intended to amuse straight males. As a member of this demographic, I reject and condemn the article’s attempt to sell shock and crude humor at the expense of women. As a member of the intended audience, I call BS, and I would encourage any member of the ISU community who respects and values women to call BS with me, and hold the Daily responsible for what it publishes.