In 2012, my frosh experience was an opportunity to develop an understanding of my academic and social endeavours for the upcoming semester. Frosh was important to me because it allowed me to make friends and get a feel for an environment I was investing personal money into. It was my chance to gauge the climate I had committed to and have a safe and fun time.
Last week, I was appalled but not surprised to learn of SMU’s frosh fiasco, where a chant glorified raping underage girls. It was performed by 80 student leaders to 300 incoming students — apparently as an introduction to university.
With the women’s liberation movement, the ratio of men to women attending post-secondary institutions in North America has been balanced, but the powers in play remain heavily male-centric. This is evident through the recent events transpiring during Canadian frosh events, not only at SMU, but across the country.
Similar frosh cheers were performed this year at the University of British Columbia, courtesy of their frosh leaders:
“Y-O-U-N-G at UBC We like em young/ Y is for your sister/ O is for oh so tight/ U is for under age/ N is for no consent/ G is for go to jail.”
These chants reinforce stigmatization and makes victims feel as though they are the problem.
“Those who are in position to lead such chants are usually men [and] are usually in favoured positions in society, and so there’s a reason to want to bond with them and show you get the joke,” said Scott Anderson, a UBC philosophy professor.
With that in mind, “How can I be a female-identified person and still access this province and its education system without being subjected to unwanted sexual advances or commentary? How can I do this within a system where my words are not taken at face value?”
This is a national issue. When I leave campus, there are many who do not adhere to university standards of respect and decency. Even with sparse laws, there is still the barrier of silence felt by everyone who has ever reduced to a body, instead of a person.
Speaking out against the shaming and sexualization of women at Dalhousie and King’s has landed me with the titles of “bitch,” “cunt” and perpetrator of misandry. It stuns me that to fight for equal rights means that many privileged people will be angry. To fight for your fellow classmate’s safety means that you are a target for unwarranted prejudice and harassment.
With a video published by the King’s Students’ Union (KSU) declaring that “consent is sexy,” it’s clear that these events have heralded a need by many universities to declare their autonomy from schools like SMU and UBC. While the efforts are fast and appropriate, it still conflates consent with sexuality.
Consent is important for reasons other than “self-respect” as stated in the video, as an individual can respect themselves and be disrespected by people who respect themselves but fail to respect others. While “we want all frosh to feel safe” is a great sentiment, it lacks reality. There are ways to discuss consent without sexualizing the issue at hand which is an inherently violent, not entirely sexual, issue.
“I think consent is important because our sex is way better!” sounds positive, but if you are truly looking to instigate change, a video is purely media content, not social reality.
As a frosh at King’s I was not privy to anything of this nature, but it still does not mean that there haven’t been situations where people forget I am here for education, not objectification.
As a feminist, a rape survivor and a former sex worker, I understand far too well that rape and sexual assault are very real and in the minds of far too many men. To them; I am not a human, but a pleasure to which they have every right to enjoy, regardless of my preferences or human rights.
It’s up to each individual to know that bodies are human and everyone has the right to say ‘No’—and be heard.
Last edited 10/09/13 at 12:09 p.m.