Sep 052013

Omri Haiven, member of Solidarity Halifax’ student caucus, responds to the recent news about the promotion of rape in SMU frosh chant.

Originally posted at the Halifax Media Coop on September 5, 2013.

What’s most shocking about this story is not that the chant was an oversight but that it was purposefully oppressive and disrespectful. This isn’t casual rape culture, it’s meant as an attack.

Few things are more chilling than when those who are oppressors, in recognizing their own power and violence, continue the oppression, not in hesitation but with glee.

The “sensitivity training” that these leaders will undergo will not be adequate, we can be sure of that. No amount of ‘training’ can change the culture that produced this and we must look instead to the organizations and institutions that incubated this crap for our answers.

The continued use of the word ‘inappropriate’ to describe the chant tells us a lot. Essentially it means that violence against women is ok, as long as you don’t make it public. “It’s ok to disrespect women but please don’t go bragging about it”. The real message is that this display of sexism might have been appropriate had it been done, as is usually the case, with a little more subtlety.

According to this logic, the problem with the chant is not that it profoundly degrades women; the problem is that they got caught doing it. Women experience sexism on an every day basis but this incident is so appalling because it clearly exposes the underlying misogyny of our culture.

Given that this chant was practiced over multiple years, we can assume that most, if not all frosh leaders have participated in it or at least stood by while it happened. This yearly tradition may account for why so many women students seem to be participating in a chant that directly objectifies them; it’s part of the culture of a school they’d like to fit into.

We can also assume that because the chant’s been done over multiple years, both the student association and the frosh coordinators had time to think long and hard about the chants meaning. Would it be that much of a stretch to conclude that there is a general culture at Saint Mary’s that condones this type of behaviour?

This is not to say that other university’s students are any better. They are perhaps, more conscious of what can be said in public or in polite company — what is appropriate — but the underlying problem remains the same: women are being objectified at our universities, through chants on occasion but by men every day.

The solution to this problem is not to discipline the mouthpieces of this bigotry (although that has its place), it is to speak out against the daily and systematic violence that we see happening to the women in our lives, on campus or otherwise.

From women earning $.70 cents for every dollar men make to the sex-worker support organization Stepping Stone having it’s funding cut, we have failed as a society if we allow for this inequity to continue. This is not just a case of a few bad apples, nor is it a case that is exclusive to my generation; this involves all of us, especially men.

Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.


Prior to news of the SMU chant, the Dalhousie Student Union produced the following video. The video features Solidarity Halifax member Aaron Beale. A progressive student union makes a difference!




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