Campus Misogyny: Mom Would Be Proud
With sexual assaults on college campuses making the news regularly, there is a lot of talk about “rape culture” and what to do about it. While that topic is far deeper than one little page on a web site can address, there are things every one of us can do to reduce the harassment and misogyny that contributes to the surrounding environment.
In October 2017, ESPN’s College GameDay show visited Harrisonburg, Virginia for the second time in three years. It was an exciting event for the undefeated James Madison University Dukes football team and their 21,000+ classmates and fans. Rival Villanova’s Wildcats were coming to town, and the Dukes were ready to prove themselves on a nationwide stage – most Dukes, anyway. Some showed a disturbing side of the local college culture.
In the days leading up to GameDay, banners and signs began popping up around town – many with vulgar and misogynistic sayings on them.
The City of Harrisonburg police knocked on doors off campus and asked student residents to remove some signs after complaints from neighbors about violations to local sign ordinances, but not before photos spread via social media.
Some students took it upon themselves to post additional signs countering the misogynistic messages. Others took to Twitter to express their disappointment in the student community.
Tabitha Sawyer, JMU student and writer for The Tab, posted an article soon after titled, “’I want to rape you!’: JMU women share their experiences with sexism at College GameDay.” The article detailed not only student accounts of harassment, assault, and objectification, but hostile responses that Sawyer received in reaction to her investigation.
An anonymous student wrote, “People are just having fun. If you can’t take a joke, maybe this wasn’t the school for you.”
That’s exactly the attitude that perpetuates this new normal of overt sexualization. It contributes to a hostile environment – encouraging objectification of women, accepting prejudice against women, and leading to the normalization of sexual harassment and assault in society.
Any one sex joke doesn’t lead to a rash of sexual assaults. But these “jokes” add up, and a tolerance develops; they become the new normal. Objectifying women as objects of sexual desire is not normal. Sexual harassment is not normal. Sexual assault is not normal. Rape is not normal.
NINOK would say – Stop objectifying women. Stop the misogyny. Stop sexualizing a football game.
James Madison University responded to the signs by working with the City to remove them. University spokesperson Bill Wyatt wrote a Letter to the Editor in The Breeze, the university’s student newspaper, stating that “the university does not condone such [downright vulgar, derogatory, misogynistic and offensive] messages and these messages certainly do not represent the views and values of the overwhelming majority of JMU students, faculty, staff and administrators.”
Was that enough?