A few weeks ago, the Columbia Kingsmen, an all-male acapella group, posted provocative flyers around campus to publicize their concert. One flyer pictured a member of the group with the caption, “Rape Me.”
Last night, LUCHA, a Columbia social activist organization, sent Bwog their public statement in response to the advertisement. Soon after, Lauren Herold, the coordinator of the Anti-Violence Coalition, informed us that multiple groups in the Anti-Violence Coalition (The Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center, Take Back the Night, V-Day/The Vagina Monologues, Everyone Allied Against Homophobia, GendeRevolution, IRsexC, Lucha, Q, Nightline, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and the Panhellenic Council) have also “been addressing the issue over the last few weeks.” Lauren reports that the Coalition recently held a meeting with the Kingsmen, in which they “acknowledged the issues with their flyers and pledged to respond appropriately.” Still, not everyone was offended.
Before posting Lucha’s statement last night, we asked the Kingsmen for a response. You can read both after the jump.
This is a statement to address the problematic advertisements the Kingsmen a cappella group recently displayed on campus. Our point of focus is the flyer depicting an effeminate man with the words, “Rape me,” in quotations. Although this particular advertisement is the focus of our statement, it is among many the Kingsmen has produced that are both offensive and problematic. Firstly, it is important to note the composition of the group and its focus. The Kingsmen, as an a cappella group, are recognized as an entertainment group and have remained in that sphere up to this point. As such, the Kingsmen have no apparent purpose for furthering healthy discussions about social issues, such as sexual violence, affecting our community. These posters capitalize on the provocative nature of the subject matter without consideration of the detrimental effects on those who could be, and certainly were, negatively affected by the intended message. The Kingsmen and their posters fail to acknowledge or address the gravity of rape and sexual violence as an epidemic, not only in our campus community, but throughout the world. To continue, the fact that Kingsmen is comprised entirely of men emphasizes the inconsideration of the message given the reality of the disproportionate amount of women to men who are affected by sexual violence. Additionally, besides making a caricature out of gay men, the subject’s “desire” to be raped trivializes the link between sexuality and homophobic hate crimes. Furthermore, by subscribing to the patriarchal gender roles in which femininity is synonymous with submission and passivity, the flyer offensively stereotypes both women and gay men on campus. It is toxic messages like these that propagate the isolation and polarization of minority groups. In light of the recent suicides due to the violent stigmatization of homosexuality throughout our communities, this flyer is especially insensitive, unacceptable, and heinous. As passionate defenders of social justice, we, LUCHA, feel obligated to formally address this dangerous lack of social awareness. These actions are not contained in a vacuum; their effect is felt beyond the Columbia campus community. Disregard, not only for sexual violence and homophobia, but also for other local and broader acts of violence, perpetuates oppression, war, and hate.
The Kingsmen’s response:
To the Columbia community,
Kingsmen would like to apologize for creating the flyer in question and posting it around our campus. The flyer is unduly offensive and inappropriate to be posted in the community. Leaving aside the various undertones one might read from it, at the very least the statement “Rape me” is incendiary and hurtful to many members of our community. Worse, it is incendiary for no good reason. Kingsmen may often use off-color statements in an attempt to lampoon social norms or comment on current events, both on campus and in the media – the flyer in question does neither. Instead, it wrongfully makes light of rape and makes us an offensive group, rather than an entertaining group.
So, how did we come to create and post this on campus buildings and dorm bulletin boards? An utter lack of judgment and an embarrassingly complete sense of tunnel vision. To clarify, the young man pictured on the flyer is one of our own members. Many minutes were spent on Facebook in search of the goofiest picture we could find of one of our members; this was it. The combination of the image with the statement was never intended as anything more than a laugh at the expense of that Kingsman. Unfortunately for all, we did not put any more thought into it than that.
Soon after the appearance of the flyers, we were contacted by the Anti-Violence Coalition (AVC), which LUCHA is a part of. Their members were extremely concerned by the content of this flyer and challenged us by voicing various opinions from members of the community. This email, received nearly three weeks ago, started an ongoing discussion that we have carried out through multiple meetings with the SGA, the AVC, and amongst our own group. Through these discussions, we have come to realize that many students have indeed been affected negatively by some of our less tasteful posters, several of which have carried sexual abuse undertones that we had never before considered. We are trying to open our eyes and become more sensitive to all those perspectives we did not see before, with the intention of improving our contribution to the community as entertainers.
At first, we were a little puzzled why LUCHA decided to publish this admonishment so long after the fact, especially given the positive and constructive discussions we have engaged in with both members of the administration and the overarching AVC over these past three weeks. However, we are aware that this comes within a context of heightened awareness of sexual issues due to events of the past month – an epidemic of suicides related to sexual identity and abuse, and the fairly monstrous public display of a “No means yes” mentality by a Yale fraternity. To be ignorant of context is a sad thing indeed, and given recent events it is understandable that LUCHA would desire to clear up this issue in a forum available to the whole community.
Kingsmen constantly strive to increase our understanding of our community in order to entertain most effectively. As such, we must face the consequences of our actions that unintentionally hurt our peers. We stand accountable for what we have willingly posted in public. Know that we are ashamed to have made such a lapse in judgment to put such a callous message next to our name, and we are sorry to have caused any pain to members of our community.