May 15, 2009

Dumas column offensive and reflects badly on Maroon

I don’t think that Luke Dumas’ piece, “A Springtime Strip” (5/12/09), meets the criteria of the Viewpoints section, or of the Maroon.

I am glad that the Viewpoints section gives students the opportunity to publish smart, thoughtful commentary and editorial pieces about life at the University of Chicago. However, I don’t think that Luke Dumas’ piece, “A Springtime Strip” (5/12/09), meets these criteria. His petty, overtly misogynistic remarks are better suited for a gossip blog than a publication with journalistic integrity.

Referring to his fellow students as “skanks” and “tramps” perpetuates a trend of violence and derision towards women. The suggestion that one should “have sniffed most of them out” and “guessed who she really was” connotes a sort of sexual witch-hunt. The suggestion that women “shedding the excess fabric” are “showing that they’re…veritably doable” is essentially akin to the dangerous and deplorable accusation that a woman who is scantily clad is asking for sex. Moreover, Dumas’ comparison of a “sheer cami” to a transparent “old condom” is unnecessarily crass and wildly inappropriate.

Tim Murphy’s witty, articulate piece on the insularity of the Scav tradition (“Picking off Scavs,” 5/12/09) exemplifies an editorial’s function as a forum for offering productive suggestions for improving campus life for everyone. In my opinion, Dumas’ hateful, incendiary rant has no redeeming journalistic qualities, and merely reasserts tired—but apparently, still all-too-pervasive—tropes of pathologizing female sexuality. Dumas’ articles do not incite passionate discussion because they are controversial, but rather because they so clearly cross the line from free speech to hate speech.

When the Maroon allows Dumas’ hateful, hurtful articles to go to print, it reflects poorly on the entire publication. Many of the online commenters suggested that they hold the entire publication accountable for the content of the articles, and I fear that the Maroon will lose readership because of Dumas’ ignorance and insensitivity.

The writers and editors of the Maroon have the responsibility to publish articles that demonstrate maturity and respect, regardless of topic. The Maroon has a wide distribution and is read by parents, faculty, prospective students, and administrative staff, in addition to current students. The staff should be conscious of the image of the school projected through the writing that is published. While everyone has the right to express his or her beliefs, a respected campus newspaper is not the place for an appallingly offensive piece like Dumas’. In the future, please reserve “Viewpoints” space for intelligent commentary, not blatantly belligerent diatribes.

Jessica Hester

Class of 2010

Maroon Voices columnist