The sign that hung from a house in the Student Ghetto during frosh week which read “Dads: Winter isn’t the only thing coming” was undoubtedly misogynistic and therefore inappropriate. The fact that a group of people thought it would be acceptable to display the sign proves we have a long way to go as a university when it comes to gender and sex.
Saying that the sign was “just a joke” is short-sighted, and pointing out that the sign didn’t specify the gender of the subject is disingenuous.
Context is critical here; there is a long history of misogynistic Frosh Week signs at Queen’s, many of them targeting “daughters”. Regardless, the fact that the sign was addressed to “dads” is patriarchal. At worst, it implies that fathers own their daughters.
Some critiques of the sign have been extreme. Unlike previous signs, this one did not advocate rape. The one individual who lives at the house in question who commented publicly about the issue should be taken at his word when he says this was not the intention. Nevertheless, he and the others who condoned the sign are responsible for its predictable negative effects.
In this case, it’s important to consider the power dynamics of Frosh Week. First-years and their parents are coming to a new city on what can be a stressful day. Many frosh are friendless and feel completely vulnerable. In such a context, the sign could be interpreted as fairly predatory. Nobody’s initial impression of Queen’s or its surrounding areas should be a sexist catchphrase imposed on them in giant block letters.
Queen’s administration and student leaders should be given credit for disapproving of this type of blatantly misogynistic message for officially sanctioned Frosh Week events. The chants that were yelled at the University of British Columbia and St. Mary’s University last week shows there’s a greater institutional acceptance of this behaviour at these schools than we’ve seen at Queen’s.
Nevertheless, what is widely condoned in the Student Ghetto reflects back onto Queen’s culture as a whole. The campus environment is harmed by this type of stunt as it encourages sexist social relations and could even help those who commit sexual assault justify their actions. Frosh Week and Queen’s in general would be more fun without misogyny.
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