getting offended in college

I used to get really offended, back in college. It was totally uncool. I know, because everyone told me how uncool it was. It was embarrassing. I couldn’t control it, and it made me feel weak.

There was this guy, let’s call him Tim, who used to tease me incessantly. Later, I slept with him, so I guess it paid off. Back then, freshman year, he used to tease me every day at lunch, in the dining hall. He’d say, “Bake me a pie, woman!” and grin at me. I had made the mistake of identifying myself immediately as a feminist, and he wouldn’t leave that alone. He had all these feminist jokes.

But most of all, he would bring this newspaper to lunch, and he’d read aloud from it sometimes. The newspaper was the creation of some guys on campus. I don’t know who. It was a publication by guys for guys, but it was everywhere on campus. In the student center in a stack, lying on the buses. I would look away when I saw it. I’d push it onto the next seat over, on the bus. Even the covers offended me. I couldn’t believe it had been published. I couldn’t believe it was allowed.

There were always pictures of naked girls. Drunk naked girls. Naked girls on the toilet. Once I saw a picture over the shoulder of a guy who was reading it. A little person– is that the term? A height-stunted woman, and a guy, with his pants down, at her face level. A triumphant headline. The right height for any girl. Something like that.

 

The paper had an angry tone. It was supposed to be funny, but it sounded harsh. It sounded like the guys who wrote it didn’t like women. Like women had done something to them and they were trying to get revenge. And it upset me a lot. Who were these guys—these guys who were my age—who were writing this paper? Who were collecting these pictures.

“This isn’t right,” I said, to Tim, and to the other kids at our table. “Someone needs to report this to the dean.”

Freedom of speech, he argued, smirking. We argued and argued. I was practically in tears, of course. It had been reported, anyway, he told me. But nothing had changed. And anyway, I should just laugh it off. It was funny. Those guys were joking around.

Months later, I heard people in my synagogue talking about the paper. Someone had reported an anti-semitic joke in it. Something about pushing a Jew into an oven. Haha.

And I was offended. I was doubly offended, because everyone was upset about the Jewish joke, but no one seemed to notice where the joke had appeared. In a newspaper full of pictures of drunk, naked girls, with ratings above their heads. How drunk would you have to be to— honestly, I don’t want to write it out. What about that? I thought. Did anyone notice that part?

I wrote a piece about the newspaper and turned it in as an assignment. My professor thought I was making stuff up. It couldn’t be that bad!

I didn’t think college was supposed to be like this.

(source)

I didn’t think it was supposed to have newspapers like the one that Tim brought to lunch. I had a lot of thoughts about what should be and shouldn’t be. And none of it, as it turned out, was really up to me. I could only choose how to react at lunch.

A couple days ago, I read an article in the New York Times about Yale, and some of the ongoing complaints about what the Times calls “the outburst of raunchy male behavior.”

Frat boys standing in front of the women’s center with a sign that says “We Love Yale Sluts,” and frat boys chanting “no means yes!” and guys rating incoming freshman girls by a similar measure to the one in that newspaper at my own college.

And I started to get offended. And then I thought that whatever, it’s just boys being boys. I thought I should be tougher. I thought that’s just the world. Guys try to prove themselves to each other like that. My brothers talk like that sometimes, and they’re obviously joking, and a lot of this is just joking. And why am I always so damn sensitive.

I have learned some stuff since college. By the end of college, I already knew how uncool it is to be offended. You are supposed to laugh it off. You’re supposed to roll your eyes and move on. You’re supposed to be one of the guys. You’re not supposed to stand out in a bad way. You’re supposed to agree or look away.

I know.

And usually, it’s not so bad anyway. Tim had a crush on me—he was just trying to get my attention. I figured that out later on. And then I invited him over, and he was all blushing and nervous. And I’ll never forget this—there was this extremely hot girl who was hanging out with the group, and I had made some comment after she left, like, “Wow, she is so gorgeous,” and he said, looking down, “I like the way you look better.”

I’ll never forget that, because I felt like I could never, ever look as good as that stunning blond girl with the flashing white teeth. Because there is this ranking system in my head often, and I know exactly where I fall. But Tim broke it for a second.

Which is why I slept with him, I think. And also because he was actually nice, underneath, which felt like a victory. He said some awful things, but then he was actually nice! Maybe the world was OK! Maybe those guys who wrote the newspaper were somehow actually nice.

Reading the Yale article, I fight my instincts. I will not be offended.

And then, reading farther in the article, there’s more, of course. There are the cases of sexual assault that have been swept neatly under the rug. The way that colleges always like to sweep such things. And I remember the guy in the dorms who sometimes harassed me in the hall, and described what he’d like to do to me. I remember how sometimes just walking to the dining hall meant walking by a group of guys who would say something—something that sounded cruel. I remember staying in when I had to pee one night because of the guys in the hall who were pounding on the doors, yelling, and who left comments on the door next to mine, where a black girl lived—something horrible and racist and sexist all at once.

I remember the guy who punched a hole in the wall every time he got drunk, so that there were holes everywhere. And how he never got expelled. How none of them ever got expelled. How I knew they would be there all four years, because the university would never take action against them.

And when someone threatened to stab me to death and I reported them to security and the psych center and the dean, I still saw that person regularly around campus, after.

I remember reading statistics about rape on campus somewhere, and then somewhere else. Those numbers were so high. And I remember being in a class where the professor asked who thought a girl wearing tight, revealing clothes was “asking for it” and almost everyone raised a hand. As though they were too oblivious to even pretend not to be a part of a statistic about what people really think about things.

And I don’t think it’s great to go through life getting offended by everything you encounter. I think sometimes you really need to just laugh it off.

But sometimes you’re getting offended for a good reason. And if enough people get offended, maybe we’ll stop universities from protecting the wrong people and leaving the people they’ve wronged vulnerable. Maybe we’ll stop pretending that everyone is safe in college. And that college is always an environment where intellectualism reigns supreme.

(source)

The guys who wrote the newspaper weren’t necessarily the same guys who yelled things at me in the hall or pinned the enormous sign on the bridge to the women’s school campus that read “Get Back In The Kitchen” or who punched holes in the wall or who told people they’d had sex with me when they hadn’t.

I knew that, of course. And maybe they were just joking around.

But I was offended because it was wrong. And because being wrong made it part of something larger. Something that made college a little bit dangerous for me. A little bit dangerous for a lot of people. Sometimes a lot dangerous, for some.

And when I think about that, I’m still offended.

*  *  *

Do you get offended easily? What does it take to offend you?

Unroast: Today I love my lips.

62 Comments »

Kate on June 18th 2012 in fear, feminism, life

62 Responses to “getting offended in college”

  1. Megan responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    I used to get really offended really easily in college, too. I just moved back to my more southern, conservative hometown after a year in a more liberal, open-minded city. I hear a lot of things that offend me. I try not to be that uncool person who loses it over every ignorant comment, but sometimes it’s really bad and I just can’t help it. I think that’s okay. Thanks for writing this.

  2. kerry responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Ugh, I hate how all of the negative action is placed on the listener in this situation. It’s always about how you are “getting offended,” not how someone is “being offensive.” People (particularly powerful ones, i.e. white college educated males) are so unbelievably good at providing that spin.

    I would never, ever, EVER have let that magazine go un-protested if it were at my college campus. I would have been camping out somewhere, waving my offended flag high. That is disgusting.

  3. Abbey responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Thanks so much for writing this — it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who thinks our universities are completely screwed up right now. And not only in the sexual assault and harassment vein, but just the concept as a whole.

    Yeah, getting really offended is uncool because you’re not “supposed to.” But I’m wary of any “supposed to”s or “should”s with the collegiate system these days, because it seems to me college has become a time when you’re “supposed to” be perpetually drunk, slacking, immature idiots, not to mention the harassment and general tendency to view women as meat rather than people.
    It’s totally disappointing to be a college student who actually went to school to learn and think these days.

    Rant aside:
    I’m naturally defensive, so I get offended very easily. It’s a work in progress!

    (Also, sorry for the gratuitous use of quotation marks.)

  4. Pam responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Reminds me of this:
    http://therealkatie.net/blog/2012/mar/21/lighten-up/

    I don’t think I’m easily offended, I think the world is handily fucked up. Your post is identifying mostly incidents and instances related to rape culture, the concept that the prevalent attitude, norms, and acceptable behaviors contribute to a culture of violence and assault on women.

    I’m not just offended by a lot of things that happen, I’m just mad as hell and saying something about it. And I’ll put the punk face on front street without thinking twice. And the fact that it’s also acceptable to try to embarrass people for speaking their minds about sexism? That’s also shitty. Just like it would be if people tried to embarrass others for fighting against the rest of the -isms. But somehow, go make me a sandwich is ‘clever’. Bull.

  5. Loren responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    I am absolutely that angry girl, at least I used to be. I yelled about a lot of things during high school/college. Since then I’ve gotten a little less sensitive about what makes me angry. But I also think most everyone calms down a little once they hit their mid-twenties.
    I still occasionally yell at people for making sexist/racist comments. Especially if they are my friends, and I know the problem isn’t their bigotry, it’s that they aren’t thinking about what they are really saying.
    I think the world needs a couple pushy people to tell the good guys they are stepping out of line. I don’t yell at men for being chauvinists for holding the door open for me anymore, but I do still call people out for using the term ‘reverse-racist’ or slut shaming women. So I’m going to keep yelling sometimes.

  6. Raia responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Ugh! That newspaper makes me sick and mad. Yes, I get offended easilly, and I know, it’s not “cool” but someone has to say something. I try to be funny and clever about things I say now. As an engineer, I spend most days around older, educated, white men. Mostly nerdy ones, and in a professional environment, but those rules about not getting offended still apply. They make jokes about “women” in general (too much shopping, should stay home and cook, etc) and make sexist comments and jokes. And I try to stand up for myself and others, in a non-offensive, funny and clever way, but I get tired some days. And most days I just laugh it off, like they want me to.

    What does it say about men that we excuse bad behavior as “just being a guy”? Shouldn’t we expect men to be good humans, kind to others? I am married to a wonderful guy and I think in his shoes, I would be ashamed to be the same gender as those guys writting, saying and doing things to degrade and objectify woman. How does your husband feel about this stuff?

    I saw a photo essay recently about child labor around the world and it included pictures of child prostitues and it’s been really bothering me ever since. My heart breaks for those little girls. And somehow this all seems related. Men thinking it’s Ok to treat woman as less than. And we should all be offended by that.

  7. Melanie responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    I am not easily offended, but when I am I stand up to the bully. I know people act this way because they do not like themselves so I generally say something like, “It must be sad to like yourself so little that you have to act out that way. I hope you grow to like yourself enough to treat others with respect.”

    I used to outsnark or outwit them, but now I feel no need to do that. I just let them know that what they are doing is sad and no one is fooled, then I move on.

  8. jc responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    I remember so many things from this university while reading this article – that particular newspaper, the general frat-boy attitude prevalent in certain campuses, obnoxious comments when walking around on weekend nights, and seeing that sign one Sunday morning on the campus where I lived. I had a generally positive experience in college, but maybe it was because I lived in the women’s dorms and off campus and made an effort to stay invisible.

    When I get downtime, I start writing stuff for a guest post, mostly about the anxiety I felt/feel in the tech world, but I always get stuck trying to explain what caused my anxiety around other programmers. Whenever I would have to take a computer science class in the other campuses, I knew I was going to be one of the few girls in the class, maybe the only one. I walk into a room full of guys I don’t know, knowing that they were judging me solely on my appearance, just like those newspapers, like the guys who yell horrible things to women on campus, like the college guy who once friended me only to harass me on my facebook wall.

  9. Annie responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    I get offended very easily by things like what you are describing in this article. I don’t think anyone has a right to treat another human being that way. Reading this whole post, I kept getting more and more angry, and then I was mad that you felt like you shouldn’t be so easily offended. I feel fortunate to be able to say that I never experienced anything nearly this bad in college. Of course I overheard plenty of rude comments, and I know that a lot of the guys I went to school with were a lot like this, but at least most of them had the decency to apologize and look ashamed when I would turn around and glare at them or tell them they were disgusting. (I also have trouble keeping my mouth shut when I’m offended).

    I think most people only find something funny if it has some basis in truth. That is why I don’t think you can just brush things like this off by saying it was a joke. Anyone who truly respects women would not see them as objects, would want them to be completely comfortable in any setting, and would not find any of that funny.

  10. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    everything that offended you in college would have offended me…i can laugh off a lot of things, but not over the top cruel, sexist remarks…boys will be boys? pffft…boys will always be boys, but men are better than that.

  11. jess responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    I relate completely to you. While I mostly hung out with conservative Christians in college, I branched out (definitely good for me) in grad school and was faced with similar issues of being offended “too often.” I learned to laugh some off, but I fully agree that jokes about violence toward women in any sense should not be tolerated. Even when they come from nice boys– you never know who is listening and may take that as a sign that it’s ok.

  12. Mandy responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    I have never been one of the “cool” people, either growing up or now. So I don’t generally care that I’m being “uncool” by being offended by this sort of crap. IMHO, the offended people should graduate to being angry, and should say so. Maybe if more people spoke up, the racists and the misogynists would feel the peer pressure to keep their nastiness to themselves. And those in authority might feel obligated to do something about it.
    I mean, if rape culture is considered “cool,” then I don’t WANT to be “cool!”

  13. margosita responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    I hate the way people say “It’s just a joke!” when they want to accuse you of overreacting or being offended easily or don’t want to take responsibility for the horrible things they say. Oh, it was a joke? So you get a free pass? Because it’s not like humor is a way we process and understand the world around us or connect to other human beings, or anything. Humor doesn’t actually mean anything! UGH. I hate it.

    I read the article about Yale, too. And I was offended. Angry. I always am. I was going to say I was more offended when I was younger, but that’s not true. I was just more likely to express my anger and offense. I am more ruthless, now, in who I include in my life and who gets my attention. In college people got the benefit of the doubt, and I would have argued with Tim, like you did, and kept sitting with him, etc. Now? One “make me a sandwich” joke and I’d be done (for better or for worse).

  14. Kristina responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    WOH, I never went to a 4-year university and used to feel “sad” and “left behind” because the other kids at my high school went. If this is what is going on I have to say I am relieved I never went at all. I went to a comm. college and did my partying at the beach instead of some crampy dorm room….haha, suckers!! also took all my classes at night so my classes were filled with “older” people, so i never had to deal with younger students who emotionally never left high school.

  15. Aurora responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    I basically don’t get offended about much outside of a couple of topics. Then again, I’m pretty cynical and don’t see myself as likely to make a dent in the political/socio-whatever world, so I resign myself to knowing that if a guy were to attack me, I have decent odds of taking his face off with my martial arts training, and maybe the people who know more than me and study this for a living or do law enforcement or whatnot will help make this less of an issue. It’s kind of dismal, but eh. I’m not going to change the base nature of humanity to be a bunch of assholes when they’re young and sometimes even when they’re not.

  16. Sheryl responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    I think I get more offended by these things now, actually. My university didn’t really have frats and sororities (they’re not as big in Canada) but definitely had a “party school” reputation. Those things, if they occurred, weren’t as visible. Or maybe I just closed my eyes to them – I’m not sure.

    Now? I get way more worked up about it. And quite frankly, I find the idea that we’re not supposed to be offended to be the most offensive. We’re supposed to sit there and be ok when people say sexist, or racist, or bigoted or homophobic things? When they are perpetrated as part of “normal” life? That those “jokes” are supposed to be ok.

    I’m offended by a society that puts the onus on the victim(s) to “get over it” rather than telling the people who act in fucked up ways and say fucked up things to re-examine their thought process and be more sensitive to how their humour or self expression affects other people.

  17. Courtney responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    never used to get easily offended, but it’s definitely increased as I’ve gotten older. I think my empathy just keeps increasing as my world view expands (and as I’ve lived more of life, and can relate to more situations). I’m just becoming more sensitive.

    I do remember two separate situations in college when I overheard someone saying something offensive, but kept my mouth shut. It still bothers me. (Note: if you ever hear someone saying “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic, but…” the second half of that sentence is bound to be something very racist/sexist/homophobic. This drives me crazy.)

    Some of it is situational, of course. It’s the difference between being careful what you say so as not to offend anyone versus not caring who hears you. Being conscious of other people is key. For example, I know if I started swearing in front of my grandma she would be offended, but around my friends it’s fine.

  18. Kate responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    @Aurora
    Sometimes I really wish I was more like this!

  19. Valerie responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    I don’t agree that the paper should have been banned because of freedom of speech. However, a lot of schools, from private to public and back again, have rules and regulations regarding harassment and the safety (physical or emotional) of the students and faculty that go to or work at the school. Put simply, the majority of schools believe that the people who attend or work at said school have the right to feel safe. Constant misogynistic diatribe does not make any female feel safe whether she is openly offended or offended in private, on her own time. The school should have done something about that to maintain a good rapport with their female students and faculty and to make them feel safe in their environment.

    The way you “chose” to react and the way the males, including Tim, chose to react is anti-female; the age old male reaction to the “hysterical female” and how male members of society “keep the women in line” by peer pressuring them into thinking that their behavior is “irrational” and that they’re just “overreacting”. You and any and every other female that felt offended and unsafe due to their chauvanist attitudes, comments, and behaviors were not in the wrong and you had every right to feel the way that you did.

    It doesn’t matter how Tim acted in private. Even if he rescued kittens and bought food for the homeless every day. His outward, social persona was completely disrespectful and immature. This “boys will be boys” mentality needs to stop…even if it’s just one offended female at a time telling someone off.

    Here’s an article about ‘Mansplaining’: http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/08/29/chronicles-of-mansplaining-professor-feminism-and-the-deleted-comments-of-doom/

    Why ‘Yes, but’ is the Wrong Answer to Misogyny: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/01/04/why-yes-but-is-the-wrong-response-to-misogyny/

    Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is:
    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

    Sexist Bingo:
    http://www.reddit.com/r/ShitRedditSays/comments/n3ycn/lets_play_rgaming_redditor_bingo/

    I have to say that I’m offended by your post…I’m offended on your behalf.

  20. Also Kate responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    People being hurt, shamed, and belittled is ALWAYS offensive. The fact that it is considered shameful and “uncool” to get offended in situations where it is totally appropriate? That’s also offensive!

    I generally tell people I’m difficult to offend – I don’t mind (and am fluent in) coarse language and most dirty jokes; I don’t shy away from painful truths or dark secrets. I can handle criticism pretty well. But treating people like shit – even just in jest – is offensive and no amount of laughing it off or telling me I’m too sensitive will change that.

    What I’m trying to say here is: you were never out of line for being offended. And I wish people got offended more often. We are deluding ourselves as a society if we think callousness to other people’s suffering is “cool” or valuable.

  21. Monica responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Thank you for writing such a brave article! No one wants to be the “uncool” one, or the person who gets upset about something controversial. We all want to seem unflappable.
    But sometimes it IS the right thing to stand up and say “Excuse me but your ignorance is getting in the way of my having a good time.”

    Bravo to you, I’m tuning in to more of what you’ve got to say!

    Monica

  22. Alii responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    I’ve started to think that (like Kerry above) that it’s not on the listeners side of things. The more I explore the idea, it seems like it has become a warping of how we used to treat social interactions. Someone being rude could be called out on it, and someone who was offended could evaluate whether or not the other person was being rude. I think that our social dynamics have changed, laying the onus of responding to rudeness onto the people who are offended. Being rude, offensive, and an asshat gives people a position of power because we no longer call people out on it. It just throws us off and we can’t respond.

    However.

    In my very vocal, yet humble opinion, ‘being offended’ at something is a defense mechanism. It’s a big flashing light saying, “I are NOT comfortable with this. This is outside my comfort zone.” If I’m offended by someone, oh, I don’t know, telling me that vanilla ice cream is the worst flavor because it’s so bland, that’s me being offended by something stupid because I feel the need to defend my beloved vanilla ice cream. If I’m offended because some asshole is trying to remind me of my ‘place’ in society by giving me a ranked number on a scale of one to totally hot, then damn straight I’m going to feel defensive and out of my comfort zone.

    I think being offended by something is a sign to check yourself. I really don’t need to defend vanilla ice cream (really). I don’t need be offended by parents teaching their children the correct names for their genitals. I don’t need to feel offended that some people enjoy erotic fiction. Those are not things that are actually needing me to defend myself from because, really, I’m not legitimately under attack. Perhaps my beliefs are, or my tastes, but not my physical or mental health.

    But if, in checking my assumptions, I find that I have a legit reason to feel defensive? Then fuck ‘cool’. And if someone is being rude and then has the gall to mock me for feeling defensive? Well, fuck them, too.

    I guess I’m just trying to say that I’ve come to believe that offensive’s opposite isn’t offended, it’s defensive. I think it says something really important that feeling defensive isn’t ‘cool’, regardless of whether or not it’s warranted.

  23. Brittany responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    Yes, I used to get offended in college and still do. That’s why I joined the Women’s Action Group, and later moved into our Women’s Resource Center, which organized events like Take Back the Night. That’s why, when there was a succession of hushed rapes on campus (there was every year, but that year was especially terrible), we hung signs on all of the trees that said Beware of Rapists. It was very controversial; people were taking down the signs and getting angry, but they were TALKING ABOUT IT. We just wanted to express the fear, and speak to the idea that somehow it is not the aggressors who suffer, but the potential victims, the women who have to fear walking alone at night. Who are told that they should not do this or that and that it’s their fault if they end up a victim. Another time we too, two sheets and painted a giant penis that said “not a weapon” and a vagina that said “not a target” and unfolded them in the student center. But outside the safety of my feminist activist group, I was afraid to speak up, and I wish that I hadn’t been. Too much goes unsaid when we are afraid that getting offended is “uncool”. Too much doesn’t get done. I think it’s important to get angry about things like this. It will be a lot harder to say that only crazy feminists get angry when more and more women are willing to show their anger and create some change.

  24. Maja H responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    I have so much trouble believing that we are even discussing how it is a problem that we get offended by such things. Are you kidding me? Why on earth should it be a problem to take offense? We SHOULD get offended! Racist, sexist, cruel jokes are a great big red flag telling us to not give this person the time of day, to walk away. That uneasy feeling that the wall-puncher gives you? Listen to it, because one day he could be punching more than just walls. Are we really going to get less offended because we are afraid of feeding the “angry feminist” stereotype? Well shit. Let’s be careful as not to act in a way that some misogynistic douchebag will disapprove of. Most of us can thank the work of “angry feminists” for being where we are today, and there’s still a whole lot more work to be done. I’m going to keep getting offended until there’s nothing left to be offended about.

  25. Kate responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    @Maja H
    Well said!

  26. impossiblealice responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    I think we should be offended by this stuff. And perhaps if more of us spoke up about how wrong it is, it wouldn’t be accepted as right. None of my friends, male or female, would think any of that stuff was OK. Apart from the odd “joke”, most of it can be classified as a hate crime and is against the law (certainly in the UK, anyway).
    I think when we don’t challenge this stuff, everyone who hears it but isn’t making those comments themselves also thinks it’s OK, or that it’s bad to challenge it and be offended.
    The men who do this kind of thing (and it’s definitely not all men) are the ones who are threatened by women, who don’t want equality. And worse, I read a whole article about how “jokes” about rape and sexual assault are always overheard by someone who is a rapist or who does assault women. And they hear these jokes and take it as a sign of acceptance, that what they’re doing is ok, that it’s normal. So even if the men are “only” making jokes, what they do is make it appear acceptable behaviour.
    And the rape statistics/conviction rates/attitudes are bad enough as it is. It makes me VERY angry. If I wasn’t offended, there would be something wrong with me.

  27. Kate responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    @impossiblealice
    I know this is off-topic, but I love your online name. And god, that’s a scary idea, in the article you mentioned. And it also makes sense.

  28. Erin B responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Your post reminded me of something that’s been going around on facebook
    “I need feminism because the world tells us ‘Don’t get raped’ rather than ‘Don’t rape.”

    We need to continue to be ‘offended’ and continue to speak up for ourselves, no one else will.

  29. Mallory responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    I’ll never forget the time I was at college orientation, or something, and we were at the campus police playing 4 corners, but question style. One corner was yes, one was no, and one i don’t know. The officer asked the group of us, if a girl shows up to a party wearing a tiny mini skirt, a lace bra that you know she’s wearing because its hanging out of her shirt, heels THIS big & she’s drinking ALOT, does that mean she is “asking for it”? Every one moved between yes and I don’t know, except for me and two boys. I was SHOCKED. I explained this one, and was shaking with disgust at how many females wouldn’t make eye contact with me when I said you can not ask to be raped, otherwise you are willing.

    I don’t offend easily, I think. I try to go with the flow and laugh at things because we live in such a PC world. I love sexist jokes, like “why can’t a woman drive a car? because there’s no road between the kitchen and the bedroom!” because I know that it’s just a joke, and that a lot of females drive amazingly. I love that one in particular because I know I’m a better driver then most of the guys who would seriously tell a joke like that. But, I really have to try to not be offended by racist comments, oddly.

  30. L responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    When I was fourteen one of my brother’s friends offered to rape me. He literally used those words. After a beat he started laughing, saying it was a joke. At the time I was too shocked to respond, too horrified to even be offended. But if that happened to me now I would be furious.
    I get offended easily. Maybe it’s because I’m young, maybe it’s because I’m naive, or conservative, or just “too sensitive”. But I’ll tell you what- I shouldn’t have to be sorry for being any of those things, and quite frankly, I’m not that naive. It kills me when people make jokes about abusing drugs because I’ve seen some one I love almost die because of drug addiction, in fact, he could still die right now. That doesn’t mean I go around yelling at people when they make those jokes, but I do get offended.
    Maybe it’s just a matter of perspective and life experience. And yeah, I don’t have the most of that, but I will get offended, and I won’t be sorry.

  31. morgaine responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    “It’s always about how you are ‘getting offended,’ not how someone is ‘being offensive.’”

    That’s because “offensive” is a highly subjective term, and the only real definition of offensive behavior is in our reactions to it. Some people are offended by gay couples kissing; that doesn’t make their behavior inherently offensive.

    I wouldn’t want such a newspaper banned, and I’d be disappointed if it were. Not because it’s not heinously disgusting, but because exposure to heinously disgusting content is part and parcel of free speech. If we set a precedent of censoring *anything*, I start to worry for my own freedom. It’s a slippery slope. I’d rather be free than secure.

    This doesn’t, however, mean we have to tolerate it. The magazine publishers are free to distribute atrocious content, and, by the same token, we are free to protest vehemently. We just have to recognize that their freedom to offend comes from the same place as our freedom to protest.

  32. Kate responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    @morgaine
    I know this is a totally taboo thought, but I can’t help thinking, over and over, that free speech is overrated. We really all know what hate speech is. We can all recognize it. I wish we could all get rid of it.

  33. morgaine responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    @Kate – I would just rather keep the channels open. If free speech stops applying to everyone, I think the power to censor would be terribly abused.

    We can get rid of it on individual levels. Like I said above, our freedom to protest is equal to their freedom to offend. We’re allowed to rally against anything we want, and that can be very powerful.

  34. morgaine responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    Also, the fact that someone is offended by something doesn’t make it worthy of censorship. I mentioned this above: take the example of gay couples kissing. That is incredibly offensive to some people. Imagine if they had the power to censor it on that basis alone. Offense is subjective, and shouldn’t set legal precedents. If we want freedom, we must risk exposure to what others choose to do with their freedom.

  35. Jewels responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    The whole rape culture really bothers me. This crap is why I participated in our local Slutwalk and am glad that it is being held again this year. I am also dismayed by how universities sweep serious incidents under the rug. I can think of about a million examples where sexual assaults occur and due to a million reasons the perpetrators are excused and continue their education at these institutions. Or in one case that happened about a year ago, the woman was shot and killed by the man that had crossed so many boundaries after their consensual relationship ended and she tried to protect herself. The university involved didn’t comment on what exactly they knew of the situation, but one thing is certain, the local authorities were never involved. At least, not until she was dead and he subsequently killed himself.
    Sorry for the little rant, but this post definitely hit a nerve tonight.

  36. Libby Walkup responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    This broke my heart and made me terribly sad and made me think how it’s not just college boys. How my 30 yr old recent ex flirts raunchily with 20 yr olds and sexualizes his female friends on twitter. He reblogs tittie pics on tumblr. He claims he respects his gal friends. He claims he sees women as equals. He claims to recognize that he has male privilege. He says he knows what he does is wrong. He’s meant to be an adult and he’s part of why this world is a scary, disgusting place for me. why dating is something I’m not sure I even want to do, ever, again.

    I get offended and it kills me that we have to laugh everything off. It’s just another form of oppression, “oh, I’m just joking. It’s funny.” it’s a way of exerting power that we just “don’t have a sense of humor.” Well let me tell you, I have a ridiculously awesome sense of humor, I laugh easily and loud, just not at things that are cruel and scary. So forgive me for recognizing when people say or do awful things. And for believing that they should know when they say or do awful things.

    Thank you for posting this. Don’t stop being offended.

  37. Dinah responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 12:16 am #

    Getting offended isn’t enough.
    Writing about getting offended isn’t enough. We need to get productive. We need to press these universities where it hurts, metaphorically speaking. Mail open letters to universities to local newspapers. Interview male and female students. Get professional opinions. Introduce this to the Dean and impress upon him/her/them the absolute priority of promoting and creating a safe environment. Yes, this means curbing the shit that is published. It’s harrassment. Propagation of such images and ideals is harassment of students and peers by a misguided faction of youths that will continue to propagate this idea because they don’t get the severity.
    These jokes aren’t funny and I notice people making it an internal issue — “I am offended” — instead of the externally invasive issue it is — “You are being offensive to many people.”

  38. T.K. responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 12:49 am #

    @Kate – have you ever read The Female Chauvinist Pig- Women and the Rise of Rauch Culture”? She is brilliant and this is one of my favorites. She writes about how the problem is that our generation ISN’T offended enough. How we have been tricked into thinking it is “empowering” to just laught it off or even worse embrace it and internalize it. How at this point it is the women who are promoting and enabling misoginy after we’ve been programmed to take on the “man’s mindset, and i’m talking about the lowest common demonitar of men because we want to be the cool, one of the guys, chill kind of girls not those angry shrill no-fun feminist types. God forbid! You can borrow my copy if you would like. I used to also feel baldy about how sensitive I was and how offended I got because it alienated me from so many people and made social situations tense. After reading that book I was no longer sorry that I am me because I realized that I am right and I SHOULD be offended and it’s not coming from some place of insecurity or over sensitivity or whatever. It’s coming from a place of intelligence and awareness; from being attuned to the world and to people, and from being able to connect things and to understand the cause and effect of things and having the social conscience to not ignore certain things. I now consider it lucky that I can see what I see and feel what i feel, that I am not one of the woman objectifying myself and giving guys a pass on terrible rude, mean, and disgusting behavior. So yea, the book is great.

  39. Jess responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 1:24 am #

    I’m not sure but isn’t it illegal to publish images (particularly of a nude variety) without the written consent of them photographed? Inebriation immediately disqualifies anyone from signing or agreeing to anything so I’m pretty sure that was violating a few media laws. Or do you have a different set of laws in your country?
    As far as the whole male objectifying thing goes? Do it back to them. Group of female friends and I would make a point of discussing guys in graphic detail around them, turn them into slabs of meat. Particularly ones who tended to get into the kinda talk you referenced. Particularly if we know someone who has or have ourselves slept with for that extra detail. I’ve had a few guys tell me it made them feel really uncomfortable hearing themselves and their friends talked about this way. A few of them actually got the point. It’s not the best way? But since guys don’t seem to respond to ‘but I don’t like it’? It’s the age of equality. If they get to talk about how she’s gagging for it and make her out to be some sort of little sex toy? I can do that to them. Verbal sexual castration. They don’t much like it when the tables get turned.

  40. Kate responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 1:27 am #

    @Jess
    It feels like it should be illegal…
    And this made me remember: I made up this whole plan in my head of how to respond to guys reading the newspaper on the bus. I would whip out this notebook full of graphic images of erect penises and start talking on my cellphone with a friend about them, in totally objectifying language. I never did it. I would’ve been way too embarrassed. But I thought about it.

  41. Heavy responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 4:49 am #

    A couple years ago I had a huge fight with a friend’s husband. Over the course of said fight he made thinly veiled racist remarks, made fun of my family name, made patently untrue statements and called my intelligence into question. At first I got mad, and then I got all “I” statements about it and then I got mad again. After sending me a long and winding road e-mail about how petty I was to be upset he closed with saying that the worst thing a person could do is to be offended. It’s okay for him to be racist, sexist and insensitive but I’m the douche for being offended. It’s always a cop out when people blame someone for being offended.

    I’m pretty easily annoyed and I do have to work on how I present my annoyance to others so that I don’t make myself so easy to ignore (people who are pissed off all the time are a lot easier to dismiss). But it doesn’t mean that I don’t have good reason to be annoyed. You had good reason to be offended then and still probably do nine times out of ten.

  42. Amanda responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 5:57 am #

    What about society’s supposed morals and values? Can’t we just be offended because that type of behavior is wrong and by ignoring it, we pass it on to the next generation? I grew up in a college town and now I live in the country in Tennessee. That type of behavior is everywhere and on every level of society. We don’t seem to be living up to our duties as mothers and fathers, nor as strong-minded, moral people in a country which was supposed to be founded on such principles. Nevermind the different religious or non-religious backgrounds; some things are universal. As a mother of a son (and a daughter), I am trying my best to pass on a balanced idea of the relationship between men and women and the importance of living as an example to all those around you.

  43. Patricia responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 9:20 am #

    I hate how we have allowed ‘free speech’ to take the place of common decency. You can bet when this was being brought about, shaming women by publishing photos of them drunk and naked as not on the list! Free speech is being able to stand up and say I am offended by your misogynist newspaper. It should be the ability to stand up and speak your mind, whether or not other people agree. Maybe free speech should include the ‘responsibility’ to speak up against something like that newspaper which everyone, including the young men who published it, knew was wrong.

  44. San D responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 9:49 am #

    What should we expect from young men after they have been weaned on cultural influences from music videos and lyrics, to popular shows like South Park, and The Jersey Shore, to Book of Mormon (which incidently uses offensive language). Yes these examples may seem benign, but they are cumulative to where the next step is to outdo the last. I know that each and every one of those young men will grow up to have daughters, and then their perspective will radically change, that is, if they are lucky enough to get and stay married!

  45. Kiannah responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    I don’t call that being too sensitive, or being too easily offended- I call that being justifiably outraged; I call that having a natural reactions to certain nasty things that society has, unfortunately, conditioned many to be desensitized to.

    And then there’s the whole matter of the ‘it’s just a joke’ thing. The problem with those ‘jokes’ is, when they target a group of people who have faced/face oppression in society, they are more than just jokes; they’re an insidious way for hatred to be expressed in a ‘socially acceptable’ form. They’re actually listed in the first level of the Pyramid of Hate…which makes sense, seeing what lies behind them (such as the sky high rape statistics).

    There are matters of opinion (and even though, to me, some of them have a good bit to do with fairness for one’s fellow humans, I can respect others’ differing opinions). But then there are those of basic human decency (or lack thereof). I abhor how dismissively people will gloat about not being ‘politically correct.’ But in a democratic country, ‘politically’ implies choice, matter of opinion. I wish we could change the term to ‘empathetically correct’ or something.

    So here, here, to getting offended! I would have gotten offended too. And while I somehow can’t see the teeny, friendly liberal arts school that I’ll be attending in the fall having such rampant, sexist issues, ooh boy do I have some outraged words in store in case I do encounter any.

  46. Kate responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    @Kiannah
    God, you are SO much more prepared than I was! You sound like you will be able to handle anything, but I hope you just have a great experience instead!

  47. Alpana Trivedi responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    First of all, thanks so much for writing about this topic. I’m one of those sensitive people who gets “upset over little stuff” as well. Unfortunately, the raunch culture is de-sensitizing us to many real problems like rape and objectification of women. The ideas are prevalent in song lyrics, novels, and just conversations in general. And everyone always says “It’s just a song/joke/story.” And at my age I might be able to understand and discern between reality and fantasy. But what about the kids and pre-teens who grow up around those music videos, TV shows, and novels? That raunchy language seems normal to them and it de-sensitizes them to the effects. They’re also the same people who’ll blame the person for being offended rather than learning to express their opinions responsibly and intelligently. And when called on their hateful speech, they’ll invoke the “free speech” argument. I don’t believe that free speech was meant to degrade other or cause them to feel unsafe within their environment.

  48. impossiblealice responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    Kate – thanks! It comes from the “Six impossible things” quote from Alice Through the Looking Glass! :)

  49. T.K. responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    Can I just say, there have been so many awesome comments on this post i really wish there was a “like” feature for comments. You (fellow readers) guys rock!

  50. Andrew responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    That was a really offensive newspaper. It was meant to be funny, I suppose, and it was on many occasions, but it was also specifically written to be “that publication you couldn’t censor.” It was an exercise in free speech. I had a couple of acquaintances who wrote for it, and (I suppose this is obvious) they didn’t epitomize misogyny and/or xenophobia. In that way, it was a satirical paper. This is not to excuse its offensiveness though. When you write offensive satire, you’ll inevitably touch upon some subjects about which certain groups aren’t willing to joke, usually for good and deeply personal reasons.

    Your freshman dorm sounds so angry. I don’t remember any of my dorms being angry.

    I wouldn’t tie systemic cover-up of crime to observance of the First Amendment, either. Those are two entirely separate issues. That paper’s existence isn’t due to some widespread morally bankrupt university culture that goes all the way to the top and includes frat pledges being commanded to chant date rape slogans, it’s due to the fact that the school’s hands are tied.

  51. Rapunzel responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    I’m always offended by things like that, and many more. And because of that I’m called prude or lame or a party pooper or any one of the other billion names you can be called when you don’t find something funny that everyone else does.

    What happened to humanity to make it so that the people that are mean, cruel, disgusting, and wrong are the ones that are protected and even encouraged? I just don’t understand why being (or WANTING to be) reasonable and respectful is such a bad thing anymore in so many situations. Why is it that nowadays the people who DON’T partake in these things are the ones who are outcast? It’s so messed up!

  52. Heather responded on 20 Jun 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    So, why don’t people report these incidents to the police? Not being offended is why this continues. Be offended and speak up. Don’t sleep with these jerks. I don’t care if he is a “nice” guy underneath. If some people are using these kinds of publications and rating systems as a “funny” excuse to further sexual assault and racism then we are all at fault for accepting this trash as a joke. Shame on anyone who does otherwise. It’s not acceptable. It’s actually illegal to harass people and assault them. Press charges.

  53. Heather responded on 20 Jun 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    Also, quit going to these schools. How about voting with your dollars? Don’t give them women to “rate”. Quit dating these men. Ban them. Ban them and their publications. The women have power too.

  54. Rachel responded on 21 Jun 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    It’s so hard. I try not to be the offended girl, I know I’m not perfect when it comes to -isms, but campus is not a safe place. I go to school in a very liberal place, but I felt safer as a woman in high school–people say and do things that are not funny, and it’s hard to break that pervasive culture because so many women just go along with it.

  55. Amy responded on 22 Jun 2012 at 11:52 am #

    This is such a great post Kate! I’m constantly getting offended, but I just cannot let it go when someone makes a sexist/racist ‘joke’. Making something into a joke goes a way to normalising it and making it seem okay, it’s as much a part of the problem as anything else, however ‘humorous’ someone may thing it may be. I know that makes me a bit uncool, and very easy to wind up but I would always rather be that girl than the girl who says nothing and lets it go on, however well meaning the joker is. I would hope that others would do the same for me should I say something that is offensive, even if I did it inadvertently.

    I hate the way that sexual assault, and the way that women are made to feel unsafe *constantly* in their every day lives, is treated as this no big deal thing. That people are excused for this behaviour because ‘boys will be boys’. No one has to be that way, and I think getting offended and calling them on it (whilst it may not be seen as cool, although I think it’s pretty darned cool!) is part way to a proper solution.

  56. WellDamn24 responded on 22 Jun 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    I was very offended in college, possibly because it was the first time in my life that I was allowed to be offended and express it.

    As a traditional Nigerian daughter I was trained at an early age to be a “good gal” as I jumped through the hoops set by my family, my community, and society. Without being told I instinctively knew to wait until college to do all the wild things my friends did in high school.

    Of course the great thing about college other than becoming more independent is that you meet people from differing backgrounds and are forced to question your beliefs.

    It was very interesting experience for me to go from defending myself to fighting those who offended my sensibilities. I remember writing editorials in my student newspaper and posting organizational posters for social and political campus events.

    Ultimately what it all came down to was that being offended and silent negates your personhood. But being offended and then being strong and honest enough to voice it gives you a power that being a “good gal” or ladylike never will.

  57. Aware. responded on 23 Jun 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    I practiically get offended by “the small things”. But I believe that everyone has a level of tolerance. No one should have to tolerate stress.

  58. Um, I Think That’s Offensive | The Girl in the Mirror responded on 23 Jun 2012 at 3:11 pm #

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  59. Rose of Charon responded on 24 Jun 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Like others, I can’t believe we’re having a discussion about whether or not to be offended. Andrew, if that was a publication that you couldn’t censor, I’m appalled. I’d think it was a clear case of hate speech. And did they have permission from the drunken girls to publish their pictures?

    The Onion is funny. This paper is not.

    Only one person mentions the dorm. Is anyone else troubled that young people have to endure the kinds of abuse Kate cites? Does anyone else call it abuse to have people pounding on your door at night, harassing you in the halls, putting holes in the walls? Staying in your room when you have to pee reminds of the female soldiers who die of dehydration rather than risk sexual assault by going to the latrine at night.
    http://digitaljournal.com/article/145378

  60. Christine responded on 26 Jun 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    I think what makes me most sad about a post like this is the knowledge that it really doesn’t have to be like this. I attend a university where I have never been made to feel any of this. In the spring of ’11 there was an incident in which a group of men on campus decided to make newspaper kind of like the one you described. It featured rape jokes and various other terrible things, which I never read because it was quickly eradicated. The university’s response was swift. The chief diversity officer responded with a campus wide email and an investigation to let everyone know that this behavior was not acceptable. Women’s groups on campus responded by covering a wall in our Student Union building with personal statements, facts and general awareness about rape and rape culture, and how publications like that foster a rape culture. When a student club on campus distributed anti-gay bigoted material, the university pulled their club status until at least 80% of the club completed diversity training, and the campus community supported that decision. As a result of the administration’s polices and desire to create a safe environment for everyone, my friend’s and I feel safe when we are on campus and in the classroom. If we have sexual assaults, they never even come close to double digits, and everyone is notified about them when security responds. So yes, be offended, be very offended because it doesn’t have to be like that. If the university is dedicated to creating an environment which is safe for the entire campus community and actually has polices in place to ensure everyone’s safety, college can be fun and SAFE for everyone.

  61. Eat the Damn Cake » the things grownups say automatically to kids they run into in the hall responded on 20 Sep 2012 at 1:05 pm #

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  62. jubi responded on 12 Oct 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    I’m currently in 4th year of college; in a campus in wich supposedly had a rise in sexual harassment cases and rapes (I just think they just went public). The campus started since last year a campaign for a “safer campus” providing free personal defense classes to women and putting up posters on “How to avoid getting attacked” by wearing clothes that were not too tight or revealing, wearing flat shoes so you could run, etc….All of this offends me. It treats us women like we are the culprits of being harassed instead of aiming to the real causes for these cases. But the saddest part of this is that, yes I do get offended and voice my thoughts about this whenever I can, but other than that i do nothing, because I feel these not much I could actually achieve if the campus itself has and portrays the idea that it is women’s fault.

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