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MEM pulls a fast one in the Infinite corridor

Column by Adam Braff

MIT has an ample supply of political pundits, but few manage to rise above their own self-indulgent seriousness to a higher level of expression: humor. That, in part, accounts for the buzzing that echoed along the Infinite Corridor three weeks ago when Men Exploited by Masturbation struck for the second time.

Those of us who were here last year will recall MEM's first maneuver. It took place last spring, when reproductive rights were in everybody's thoughts. Anybody with a viable mind could hear Roe v. Wade gasping its last. Local pro-life enthusiasts were gloating over their impending first-down, and the sidelines celebration included a visit to MIT from Women Exploited by Abortion, a national organization with the unstated agenda of promoting the pro-life position.

WEBA's surreptitious intentions -- and the WEBA women's refusal to admit their agenda -- angered Dan Edidin and Stephen Fromm, graduate students in mathematics. They designed a poster, a parody of WEBA's, and taped it up in various locations around the Institute. Many copies were torn down.

To lend some permanence to their artwork, Edidin and Fromm decided they needed a locking display case. Over the summer, they enlisted the help of eight friends, and petitioned in the fall for recognition as an official student activity.

The sole fruit of MEM's labor this year has been a four by twelve-foot display between 7-102 and 7-104. Against a baby blue background, nine spermatozoa swam in place, held there by nine color-coordinated push-pins. Amidst the paper sea was displayed copious pro- and anti-choice literature, with occasional sarcastic ejaculations from the Men Exploited. More effective than the heavy-handed editorializing, however, was a plaintive little clipping from the New York Times. The article, "Missouri Fetus Unlawfully Jailed," told of a particular unfortunate fetus which was imprisoned along with its mother; lawyers wanted the innocent fetus freed.

This says something about lawyers, I think.

Not all of the comedy was engineered at MIT. Matt Groening and Monty Python were photocopied and quoted, to give us a taste of professional humor-as-politics. And Joseph Schindler, director of the Pro-Life Action League, joined the merriment with this gem of a quote: "I think contraception is disgusting -- people using each other for pleasure."

But enough about aesthetic judgements. How is one to evaluate MEM's tongue-in-cheek argument that a fetus is human even before it's a fetus? If we posit the existence of the homunculus -- a teensy person contained in every spermatozoon -- then every act of masturbation is indeed a holocaust.

OK. So we understand the MEM philosophy. Now for the business end. Ian Grojnowski G, one of MEM's finest, told me the preternatural reason for his organization's existence.

"We are a political group," he said, "whose method is to use humor to draw attention to our cause."

To me, this is as noble a purpose as you'll find, almost irrespective of the particular politics espoused. It should be noted, incidentally, that MEM is in no way affiliated with the Association for Women Students. These are, I believe, the only two groups on campus which are active in defending reproductive rights, and some students mistakenly believed that the first MEM posters were an AWS production.

The gloves are off. The Men Exploited have inflamed the abortion-related thought centers of the MIT student, and have done so by attacking his favorite hobby. The objects of MEM's satire have one acceptable response: that is, as we all learned in second grade, to make fun right back. To assault gentle humor with logical arguments is an egregious violation of every rule I learned as a child.

Now this is my kind of fight. I can barely wait to see whether MIT Pro-Life can do MEM one better. Let the games begin.

who

Adam Braff, a junior in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, is a columnist for The Tech.

USE ONLY ONE SANDWICH QUOTE unless you really need more --mg.

[gfsandwich,1,1.5,0]

If we posit the existence of the homunculus -- a teensy person contained in every spermatozoon -- then every act of masturbation is indeed a holocaust.

[gfsandwich,1,1.5,0]

The gloves are off. The Men Exploited have inflamed the abortion-related thought centers of the MIT student, and have done so by attacking his favorite hobby.

[gfsandwich,1,1.5,0]

The objects of MEM's satire have one acceptable response: that is, as we all learned in second grade, to make fun right back.