This week, as incoming college freshmen excitedly drove to the
with their parents, ready to set up their dorm rooms for the very first time, they were welcomed with giant banners proclaiming, "Rowdy and fun, hope your baby girl is ready for a good time", "Freshman Daughter Drop Off" and "Go ahead and Drop Off Mom Too". School officials and some students at Old Dominion did their best to denounce the asshats who had put up the banners -- which is great, but a day late and a dollar short. Young people are habitually careless with their words and their actions. And it's a short walk from "careless" to "criminal" when you throw in alcohol, drugs, sex and teenagers. And we can't blame young people, when seasoned adults aren't faring much better. In our world, fame and fortune lies in obnoxious sound-bites (see, e.g. any clip featuring Nancy Grace), and front-running presidential candidates thump their chests and proudly declare that they "don't have
." Tastelessness is revered; sensitivity is ridiculed. While it may sound witty or badass to demand that people simply "toughen up" or "stop whining" in response to an offensive statement or joke, such demands are actually pretty damn harmful. Why?
Because blaming the victim is wrong.
If we want the next generation to be tough, we should teach them some of the hard truths this world has to offer, starting with
when you hurt someone, it's your fault, not the fault of the person you hurt.
I guarantee that the selfish, self-entitled, misogynistic bastards who hung those sheets out of their windows at Old Dominion were affected by adults around them proclaiming that they "didn't have time" to consider people's feelings. I am sure they heard their mentors demand that candy-assed liberals quit their whining and stop expecting the world to conform to their needs. Those of us for whom college move-in day is a more distant memory surely know the barely existent line between words and actions. As the Chinese proverb says,
The link is easy to see. A sign promising to objectify women leads to actions objectifying women. A culture of objectification leads to an unsafe environment for those women. Today's "Welcome to Campus" sign scandal is tomorrow's rape scandal. There are only two choices: Be accountable for what you say and do, or
fuck the consequences
and say and do whatever seems cool in the moment. That's it. There is no third option. There is no middle ground. Either you assume responsibility or you don't. What if we actually taught the next generation that it was their responsibility to create safe, comfortable environments? What if the conversation stopped being about what does and does not offend others and started being about what could be done proactively? Sure, there's lots of news coverage for the "Freshman Daughter Drop Off" signs -- but imagine what kind of coverage a fraternity would have gotten for putting up a sign that said (and
), "Girls, you are safe here."
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