Three weeks ago, Oz sent an email to a select group of freshmen girls. Two weeks ago, a group of girls put up flyers all over campus that condemned the email as perpetuating rape culture. One week ago, I decided to pull an article titled “Fraternities Across Penn's Campus Begin to Recognize Women as Humans” from Lowbrow.
The logical assumption is, of course, that I pulled the article because I found it offensive. Right? Wrong. I pulled the article for two reasons. First, because I could see exactly how others may have interpreted it as offensive, or insensitive or simply in poor taste. And while I may have disagreed, I could already see the angry emails flooding my inbox at 9 a.m. the following morning. Second, I pulled the article because, just as plainly as I could see those emails, I could also see the people who would be sending them shutting down, writing me and my magazine off as insensitive, unenlightened, sexist or simply as perpetuating the worst parts of Penn.
I pulled the article because I figured that no one who found it offensive would even bother to ask why I ran it in the first place. And that is the inherent problem in all of the dialogue surrounding Oz and the flyers.
When these controversies occur at Penn (and really, in most places), we see the same sequence of events occur: someone does something that offends someone else (Oz email), that someone else takes a public stand (flyers), the public stand gets backed by student groups, covered in the DP, Street, maybe picked up by the local and national news (Ashton Kutcher), we see an influx of op–eds and Facebook statuses from the protesters and their sympathizers, but those who caused the offense stay silent or issue a formal apology—nothing more. After a few weeks we all forget about it and move on. Nothing changes, and within a year something similar happens again.
It is easy to forget and unpleasant to remember that we all live in our own little echo chambers. We (consciously or not) surround ourselves with like–minded people who have shared experiences or similar interests to our own. So if you found the Oz email to be offensive, odds are that a lot of your close friends did, too. And while they may provide a comforting outlet for your frustration towards the male–dominated party culture at Penn, they may also have alienated you from anyone who saw things differently.
None of this is to say that Oz was right in sending that email, or that the email was not offensive. It is, however, to point out that the part of the conversation that is always missing from coverage of controversies like these is why don’t our protest efforts work? Why does rape culture persist, despite the fact that we are screaming so loudly that it must be eradicated?
I didn’t run the article because I didn’t think anyone would respect my reasons behind running it. I wanted to run the article because I thought that it provided a much–needed fresh and satirical take on the entire situation. I was willing to listen to those who disagreed, but I did not have enough faith in the Penn community to listen to me in return.
Here’s to hoping that this, along with many other characteristics of this school brought to light over the past weeks, can change soon.