In the past three weeks, I’ve thought and talked about the mainstreaming of rape culture more than I can describe. After viewing Miss Representation, the Barstool Blackout party’s timing could not have been more spot-on. Already fired up about the horrific ways in which women are portrayed in our media, my first encounter with Barstool Sports only fuelled my outrage. The website makes a regular habit of degrading and objectifying women, while shunning all responsibility for its commentary on the grounds of ill-placed humor.
Any joke that comes at the expense of the safety and dignity of a woman somehow doesn’t inspire me to embrace fits of laughter.
The Barstool Blackout tour is a country-wide series of raves provided to the colleges that amass the most votes. These parties encourage students to get blackout drunk and attend wearing as little clothing as possible. The founder, David Portnoy, who calls himself El Presidente, posted the following in reaction to the backlash against the tour, “Just to make friends with the feminists I’d like to reiterate that we don’t condone rape of any kind at our Blackout Parties in mid-January. However if [a] chick passes out, that’s a grey area though.’’
Portnoy was addressing the Knockout Barstool movement that is emerging on college campuses to challenge Barstool Sports and bring attention to the misogyny of the site itself and the parties it hosts. Members of the Knockout Barstool group were personally attacked on the Barstool website with largely homophobic and ignorant commentary.
A group of 200 students rallied on the night of the Blackout and marched from campus to the House of Blues, where the event was held. I have never felt more empowered than walking through the streets of Boston, chanting “Get up, get down, the feminists are in this town!” with a crowd of passionate advocates. The protest succeeded in bringing greater awareness around issues of rape culture, and similar protests are in the works at other colleges on the tour’s route.
So what’s the takeaway? If we continue to ignore rape and how our culture perpetuates rape, we are implicit in its pervasiveness. Start conversations. Talk about how our culture silences victims, questions their honesty, and why. Most importantly, if you are uncomfortable talking about rape, talk about why you’re uncomfortable and become an ally. If you’re outraged, get engaged.