Frosh Week, Canada-style – Rape Culture

It is usually bad form to reference ones own writings to support a particular cause or contention, but a recent experience with cyber-fandom prompts this modest account. Frosh Week insensibilities, campus ‘rape culture’ fear-mongering, and the wonders of instant digital communication all play their cheerful part.

My future's so bright, I otta wear shades

My future’s so bright, I oughta wear shades

Ten days ago, a video clip of some festive, apparently over-refreshed frosh at St. Mary’s University, Halifax went viral for all the wrong reasons. The (ahem) ‘senior SMU student Orientation Week leadership’ thought it could foster enduring freshman camaraderie, and help this incoming class overcome new school jitters through a special cheerleading session. No ‘Hail to the Victors’, ‘Roll Tide’, or even the snappy ‘Ten Thousand Men of Harvard’ type welcome for these scholars – no, ma’am. Instead, the SMU newbies were led in that old-time, singalong favourite, ‘YOUNG’, with a punchy base line and stirring lyrics, where: “Y is for your sister … U is for underage, N is for no consent…” Canada didn’t achieve its greatness on its mountains, lakes, and sunshine alone, people. We got talent – big time.

The predictable media flood crested a few days ago, when the SMU president took decisive action – he struck a committee. The Orientation Week seniors resigned. The Canadian editorial pages boiled, with national opinion divided between (1) the SMU chanting and putrid lyrics evidence an all-pervasive campus rape culture, (2) Frosh Weeks ought to be eliminated, and (3) the SMU crew are insensitive idiots, and frightening to think this inanity and ‘leadership’ co-existed in the same brain(s), but….

My brief commentary was published in yesterday’s Toronto Globe and Mail, where its editors assemble their weekly ‘Talking Point’, a quick take on an issue’s apparent barometric pressure. Earlier this week Globe columnist Margaret Wente had written that those linking the St. Mary’s follies and a supposed ‘rape culture’ gripping Canadian bastions of higher learning had overstated the case. I took Ms. Wente’s side:

I agree with Margaret Wente that a much-touted “rape culture” is no more pervasive in the halls of academe than any other place in contemporary Canadian society (Rape On Campus – Is It An Epidemic? – Sept. 12).

Hardly a reassuring observation if you are female, given the persistent gap observed between the number of sexual-offence occurrences reported by women, versus criminal convictions obtained, but those constituencies now fanning the moral-panic fires on the basis of puerile, brain-cramped but isolated frosh-week examples waste valuable bandwidth.

Bryan Davies, Whitby, Ont.

Ah, fame…a dozen emails, rapid-fire deliveries into my unsuspecting inbox by last evening. Brave souls, too, with their digital hand grenades delivered from an anonymising server. ‘Mandy’ was the most subtle of the adoring throng – I was surprised to learn that after all these years, I was now revealed, like an ugly moth spawned from its dingy philosophical cocoon, as a ‘crypto-misogynist’, ‘enabler’, and ‘typical male sexist / apologist’ amongst other gems. Thanks, Mandy… who needs therapy, when I have you?

The St. Mary’s ‘YouTube’ clip shows both male and female representatives of our next generation intelligentsia chanting their ditties and generally enjoying themselves. The leering faces of campus rape culture, or immature, addle-brained twerps eager to fit in at the ‘U’?  Hmmm….what would their mothers say?