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This one falls under the “Just because you think it’s funny doesn’t make it a good idea” file. We’ve been pulling a few stories out of this file lately.
Five years ago, the Phi Sigma Kappa brothers at American University decided it would be hilarious to print rush t-shirts that said “Please don’t feed the sorority girls” on the front and “Campus Beautification” on the back. The AU Interfraternity Council told them to get rid of them because, “as a general standard, if mothers would not be comfortable reading it, it should not be on a rush T-shirt.”
As it turns out — and not at all unexpectedly — the fraternity members, or at least some of them, kept the t-shirts. After all, and as long as no one within a visually discernible distance is offended by the phrase, it is sort of humorous. The problem is that the group of females who wouldn’t take offense to this could probably all fit inside a 30-student classroom at American University (that’s NOT a fat joke, by the way).
It is undoubtedly in poor taste. One particular student named Kendra Lee, a recovering anorexic (more specifically she dealt with a condition called EDNOS), recently came across a pack of Phi Sigma Kappa members at the university gym all wearing the shirts, some five years after they were supposed to trash them. Naturally, she was offended — offended enough to post an op-ed piece for The Eagle, in which she expressed her displeasure with the students not following the request of IFC, but more importantly about how inappropriate she felt the shirts were. Here is a snippet:
But now I don’t feel safe or wanted in the fitness center. I chose to go to AU because of its culture of public service and activism; a large student organization advocating the most lethal mental illness to girls for the sake of “campus beautification” is objectifying, misogynistic, even violent. It’s not as if it was just one random guy in a gross shirt; someone in his fraternity came up with the shirt, and enough “bros” wanted it that the frat ordered it and stamped its letters on it and its members wear it to the gym. It’s indicative of an unsafe culture, where sorority sisters are worth little more than the cute donkeys and elephants dotting the campus. We’re just here for aesthetics, but only as long as we’re starving.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask that students try not to trigger their classmates’ eating disorders, especially at the fitness center. A dress code at the gym that includes a ban on offensive and potentially triggering items would be a great step. Other universities, including Harvard, Queens College, St. John’s College and Kalamazoo College, have designated a few hours each week where the gym is women-only, and that would be even better.
But for now, I only ask that my classmates be sensitive to the ways they present themselves, and how they make others feel. They may be driving more women away from the gym, which seems to be the opposite of their tasteless, insulting point.
IFC responded to the piece yesterday, issuing an apology to Lee for the offensive shirts. They also claim that because the students didn’t obey their wishes five years after they were asked not to wear them, they are considered rogue Greek representatives and not reflective of the standards of their organization. They have also promised to look “into the situation to address it internally.”
Image via Custom Ink