Western student paper called sexist, homophobic

Gazette’s editor in chief says people are reading too much into spoof issue

A spoof issue published last week by the Gazette, the student newspaper at the University of Western Ontario, has sparked accusations of sexism and homophobia.

One of the articles from the March 30 issue—the last day the paper published before April Fool’s Day—involved a police chief taking a “wild vagina” “into a dark alley to teach it a lesson.”

The paper’s centre spread featured a photo of two men holding hands and the caption, “It’s obvious they’re very much in love, but Fab’s body position tells me he’s the dominant one. I think Aron is probably his little boy toy. He’s the catcher.” Craig Ashbourne, a third-year sociology student, has planned with a few other students a day of action today at Western’s University Community Centre.

“They called it an April Fool’s issue; it was supposed to be satirical, but apparently they missed the part where you can make a joke without offending everybody,” Ashbourne said. “The unfortunate thing is the response that everybody complaining about this is getting is, ‘Oh, can’t you take a joke?’ ”

He expects 80 to 100 people to show up at the protest.

“There’s going to be ... one member of the group chained to the staircase there with all the derogatory words used in the article written on his chest and arms and done up with makeup as if he were attacked, and signs saying, ‘These words and comments were used as jokes in the latest issue of the Gazette; These same words are used to justify violence against women and queer individuals every day,’ ” he said.

Ashbourne said he expected an apology from the paper, but it hasn’t been forthcoming.

Gazette editor in chief Ian Van Den Hurk said he can see why some people would be offended by the paper, but they’re looking into it too deeply.

“There are certain things in there that push the limits or push the threshold or are seemingly scandalous,” he said. “We went after as many groups or as many people on campus as we could have.”

He said the centre spread isn’t homophobic, but is rather an inside joke between the Gazette and Western’s student government.

He said an article headlined “Western student loves taste of Rohypnol—she’s a real knockout!” is a commentary on trends at Western, and that suggestions the paper would encourage violence against women or any other group is ridiculous.

“Give our readership more credit,” he said. “Is it going to encourage them to hurt a woman? Of course not—why would we encourage that?”

Yesterday, the Gazette posted an editorial on its website titled, “Talkin’ satire and the spoof issue” and explaining the paper’s editorial decisions in publishing the spoof issue.

“Ninety per cent of satire will offend somebody,” the editorial reads.

“For the most part, jokes inherently involve making fun of something. Indeed, there’s a time and place for jokes. We believe The Gazette Spoof Issue is one of them.
“The only thing more absurd than the Spoof Issue itself is the notion it was some convoluted scheme to indoctrinate Western with our heterosexual, misogynist, homophobic, racist, zombie-hating ideology.”

Sarah Scanlon, a third-year women’s studies and psychology major, is involved with Western’s Women’s Issues Network (WIN) and the V-Day committee. She said her first reaction upon reading the Gazette’s spoof issue Friday was anger.

“It’s never funny to joke about rape; it’s never funny to bash trans people,” she said.

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