It’s kind of strange to watch the controversy unfold over the GUGS T-shirt. (If you missed it, it says “GUGS: Grade A, Size D.”) It seems to be that the more seriously the protesters take it, the less seriously the backlash takes it, and as the backlash gets more fed up, the protesters get even more frustrated.

I was a little offended by the T-shirt myself, but I wasn’t really mad at GUGS about it at first because it didn’t seem like they understood the way it would be received when they came up with their idea. After all, the group has made a positive impact on student life over the years. But when I was in THE HOYA office last night I heard a GUGS member say that so many people want the shirts now that the group may sell them at a later date. I guess sexism is really in demand on campus right now.

What I am most concerned about, though, is the fact that they, and many other people, don’t seem to realize why it would appear offensive. People in general just don’t seem to know what constitutes crossing the line when they make jokes about women. That’s the real problem.

It’s so frustrating that people can make jokes about women that they could never (and should never) make about other historically marginalized groups. I hate it when people make jokes about going to the kitchen and making sandwiches or disparage women’s bodies, and that includes a joke about big breasts. Women do feel insecure about what men think of their looks, and we don’t want our self-worth to be based on how much pleasure a guy gets from checking out our bodies. It’s not silly to us. It may take a lot longer for us to make the message get through in pop culture, but we can do something about it at Georgetown.

I can understand why people don’t get it, though. We don’t tell people when we are insulted often enough, we don’t do a good job of talking about it to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and few men are willing to back us up (but I should say thank you to the ones who do).

I know that this is going to make some people complain that our society puts too much emphasis on being politically correct. We are sensitive people here at Georgetown, but for good reason. More often than not, the people who don’t understand what can be considered offensive are straight, white men – a group that largely hasn’t had to deal with a lot of oppression, historically. I guess if you are not often the target of crude jokes, you don’t realize the effect that they can have on other people. Sometimes, I guess, the only way to know what’s not okay is to make the mistake of saying it and learning from that.

Even if you think that you should be able to say whatever you want, however, you have to recognize that there is a difference between what’s appropriate between your friends and in public, and a T-shirt can definitely be considered something in the public sphere.

But I think what disappoints me the most are the women who don’t see anything wrong with degrading women. It seems like a lot of women today feel that part of being liberated means that you don’t have to “act like a feminist” – just look at how many women won’t even use that word. Even women don’t always take women’s issues seriously enough.

Worse, many think that it’s even more free-thinking if you play the contrarian and argue against women’s issues (see Coulter, Ann).

For me, that’s really depressing. I know that I’ve said in this space before that the third wave was about moderating feminism – you can wear make-up and high heels; you can be a stay-at-home mom. But we still have to stand up for ourselves!

So, I’m drawing the line. If you wouldn’t talk about another group of people in a certain way, don’t talk about women like that, either. If you wouldn’t let somebody talk about your mother or your sister or your girlfriend in a disrespectful way, then just don’t do it. That old rule of “do unto others” is golden for a reason, you know.

Emily Liner is a senior in the College and a contributing editor of THE HOYA. She can be reached at SKIRTING THE ISSUES appears every other Friday.

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