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Editorial: Students show moral inconsistency

On Friday and Saturday, roughly 5,000 Brown students will pay money to crowd the Main Green to applaud and cheer along Waka Flocka Flame and Pusha T. We will give them tens of thousands of dollars, both out of the University’s operating budget and directly from our pockets in ticket purchases. Why?

Rape culture bears a relation to the lyrics that Waka Flocka Flame and Pusha T will sing. Rape culture is one of the most pervasive and entrenched causes of sexual violence. Aspects of our society — including music, television and film — blend violence and sex in a way that either explicitly or implicitly encourages sexual aggression.

While some dispute the rape culture narrative, this is a campus that overwhelmingly accepts the existence of rape culture in our society. Last fall, the Janus Forum invited Wendy McElroy, a fringe women’s rights activist, to speak on a shared stage with Jessica Valenti, a more mainstream voice on these issues. Criticism of McElroy’s views on rape culture was so loud that President Christina Paxson P’19 felt obligated to weigh in through a campus-wide email, writing explicitly, “I disagree.”

Why does Paxson not feel the need to clarify that her administration does not endorse Waka Flocka when the musician says, “All I wanna do is sit back and watch you move and I’ll proceed to throw this cash”? Or Pusha T when he says, “Don’t let your side bitches settle in. Might have to head-butt your Evelyn” — a reference to Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, who pled guilty for head-butting his wife, Evelyn.

The reason is that for some inexplicable reason, no one is protesting. Instead, we are patronizing these performers.

The Brown community has been proudly vocal and unequivocal in its condemnation of sexual violence. In addition to those who publicly criticized McElroy, 3,436 Brown community members signed a petition organized by Imagine Rape Zero — a movement that aims to reform the University’s response to sexual assault on campus — over the last year. An estimated 400 students gathered on the Quiet Green last month to protest the University’s handling of two date-rape drug and sexual assault cases, and around 40 students participated in the second annual March Against Sexual Assault last week. Across these efforts, a large and representative segment of the student body has come together to advocate more effective policies to combat sexual assault.

If we are going to stand up to the forces in our society that perpetuate sexual violence, we cannot be selective. We cannot protest the people we do not want to listen to and willfully ignore those with artistic talent.

Indeed, young people in this country are learning far more from musicians and actors than from academics and social scientists. If we want to prevent another generation of backward and damaging values, we need to be strict in our commitment to minimizing those who perpetuate sexual violence.

This is not to argue that these or similar artists should be censored or prohibited. They are absolutely legally entitled to say whatever they please, regardless of how disgusting. But we do not need to invest in them or offer them a stage.

If this sounds like a buzz-kill at a time when we all want to distract ourselves and enjoy a weekend before finals, it should. But pushing against the forces of society for meaningful change takes more than periodically signing a petition.

On one side of University Hall, we protested together for justice for sexual assault survivors. On the other, we will come together in even greater numbers to patronize rape culture. No one is obligated to protest Waka Flocka and Pusha T. But in our collective conscience, are we comfortable with this juxtaposition?

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Mathias Heller ’15 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to


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