A Different Perspective
Over the past few days, I have been continually thinking about the myriad issues and concerns that have come up regarding Drew Lerman '10's comic, "The Still North," in the Nov. 6 issue of The Dartmouth. While the publication of this comic may bring up issues regarding free speech, censorship and individual and collective responsibility, the issue I want to focus on is the disastrous effect this comic, and other forms of tacit and explicit condoning of sexual assault, have on our community. I find it imperative to talk about what attitudes, values and behaviors are reinforced as a result of these scenarios. While it is easy to say that the intention of the comic was not to reinforce sexual assault as an accepted behavior, the impact of the comic was, indeed, just that.
I start with the assumption that we live in a patriarchal society, which I presume should be a fairly evident and uncontroversial point. The fact that we live in a society that is male-dominated manifests itself in a variety of ways, one of which being that men often feel they are beyond reproach regarding their attitudes, behaviors or beliefs even when it regards those which may prove to be damaging to the general community. One such example is the attitude toward sexual assault. As a man who has spent time researching and learning about this topic, I would like to look at Lerman's comic in relation to how it has reinforced and normalized certain risky and dangerous attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of men.
The fact that Lerman's comic used sexual assault in a forum which is meant for humorous material reinforces the attitude that sexual assault is not a serious concern. Implicit in this choice is that the appearance of the comic has reinforced the belief that sexual assault is an act that can be made humorous, rather than seeing it as a heinous, violent and life-altering event. In fact, it downplays its significance to the point of making it the butt of a joke. Whether this was the intended outcome or not is debatable for sure, but this is what the impact has been for many in our community. As in most cases, and in my opinion, the impact far outweighs the intent. In addition, the comic is one of a plethora of examples in everyday life which normalizes the behavior of treating women as objects to "be had," and the damaging, dangerous, illegal and altogether reprehensible acts of sexual violence.
The prevailing attitude the comic has served to illustrate is troubling to say the least. Not only am I troubled as a man dedicated to promoting the end of sexual violence, but also as a concerned member of the Dartmouth community.