By now, you’ve probably heard about the Saint Mary’s University and University of British Columbia frosh week rape chant debacle. And, if you’re a decent human being, you’re probably also appalled by it.
In short, frosh orientation leaders at the two universities (that is, the two universities it has surfaced at so far) have come under fire for a cheer that goes, “Y is for your sister, O is for oh-so-tight, U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for grab that ass.” It’s inappropriate, inexcusable, and frankly, inhuman. But that we already know.
What has come under less fire is how the media, the universities, and the students involved have handled the whole situation. That’s where my beef is.
To start, this article is one of only a few newspaper pieces you’ll find that actually puts into print all the verses of the chant. Most condense it, and only include excerpts – strange to me, considering it’s a whopping 26 words long. They usually eliminate the “oh so tight” part, perhaps to avoid offending readers (and yet is that not the whole point that this is really offensive?), which becomes convenient when they then water-down their adjectives to the stuff of mere “sexist chant” instead of acknowledging the vaginal violence that phrase indicates: rape.
Indeed, the National Post ran the shockingly forgiving headline “Saint Mary’s University student president apologizes for ‘sexist’ frosh chant that critics say ‘reinforces rape culture’”. So we’re relying on critics to confirm that that disgusting string of words is, in fact, offensive? And what is with those scare-quotes? Is the National Post so insecure in its values that it has to only tentatively identify that the chant ‘reinforces rape culture’? Grow up, NP, and tell it like it is.
The Globe and Mail, too, published, “Frosh video cheering on non-consensual sex is ‘sexist and offensive,’ Saint Mary’s University says.” Let me make something clear right now: sexism is stuff like believing women are worse drivers than men by the mere fact of their gender. Sexism is by no means harmless, but it’s not on the violent level of this rape promotion. This frosh chant goes way beyond sexism, and to reduce it to that is to belittle the severity of the situation.
Enough with the “non-consensual sex” language, too. Rape is rape. Let’s not dilute the violence of that word by smothering it with “non-consensual” euphemisms. Doing so decreases the urgent sense of violence and pain that the term “rape” appropriately connotes, and disrespects the countless victims of this horrible crime whose experiences are downgraded by such rhetoric.
Enough, too, with all this talk of sensitivity training. The people who chanted the rape cheer were fully aware that it was wildly inappropriate – it’s common sense. No amount of university-administered sensitivity training or bringing in bullying professionals (the actual response at SMU) will awaken them to something they already know, or solve the deep-seated indifferent misogyny that perpetuated the chant’s continuing presence at so many years’ frosh events.
What does need to happen is to hold students more accountable for their actions – upper-year coordinators and first years alike. It shouldn’t have taken days for the Saint Mary’s student’s union president – who led the cheer, among others – to step down. He should have been fired – immediately. The schools shouldn’t be promising to “investigate the incidents”; the frosh leaders involved should be suspended, and maybe even expelled.
Consequences need to apply to the youngest people involved, too. First year students are, on average, 18 years old. They are legal adults who can vote, can drive, and have achieved secondary school grades high enough for admission into a university-level institution. So I don’t care about group mentalities, or how impressionable these young adults are. They are autonomous, intelligent individuals who have no excuse for singing along, for not blowing the whistle sooner on this chant, and who then grow up to become frosh leaders who propagate this whole cycle.
I’ve never heard anything like that cheer at McMaster, and I hope I never will. But I won’t be surprised to hear about more students criticizing and publicizing similarly violent and vulgar experiences at other universities after this coast-to-coast reveal. For in a country where our media sugarcoats, our administration band-aids, and our students deny responsibility, where’s the pressure for this culture to change?
View the full video that kickstarted this whole discussion, here:
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