Abusive literature from MEM hides behind pseudo-shield of satire
(Editors Note: The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Associate Dean for Student Affairs James R. Tewhey.)
Opposition to the reactionary group Women Exploited by Abortion is the stated purpose of the MIT student group known as Men Exploited by Masturbation, as taken from the Strategies for Mass Resistance National Conference publication, Dec. 2-3, 1989. This conference was sponsored by Refuse and Resist, the national group responsible for the December vandalism of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
We, as MIT Pro-Life, are writing you this letter in protest to the continued recognition of MEM, a group whose stated purpose is to specifically oppose another campus group. Their persistent harassment of MIT Pro-Life is certainly unacceptable within the regulations of recognized MIT student groups.
This group has taken several pieces of the literature distributed by our group, distorted it, and placed it on display in the Infinite Corridor. When MEM first posted this distorted literature last fall, several members of MIT Pro-Life approached me asking if we were responsible!
Understandably, these individuals did not want to be involved in an organization which would create such an obscene exhibit. MEM's actions are not only an embarrassment to the members of MIT Pro-Life, but to the entire MIT community as well. Both Physical Plant and the Campus Activities Office were flooded with complaints and phone calls when the MEM display first went up last fall.
Allow us to address the issue of what harassment really is, and the atrocious double standards which permit this offensive group's continued recognition. Last fall, an anonymous group calling themselves HAMIT publicly displayed an offensive and defamatory drop poster in Lobby 10 which ridiculed homosexuals. There was public outcry over this action, and the entire MIT community agreed that this constituted harassment. If this group had requested official recognition as an MIT student group with the purpose of ridiculing and opposing homosexuals, would they receive such recognition?
The purpose of MEM and the nature of their expression behind the Infinite Corridor panel is identical to that of the anti-homosexual group, except that this time the attack is directed at those who hold a pro-life stance rather than at homosexuals! There is absolutely no difference except that one group is anonymous and the other is granted all the privileges of an MIT student organization.
In a column protesting the anti-homosexual display ["Attacks threaten sense of community," Nov. 3, 1989], Rebecca D. Kaplan '92 pointed out that if HAMIT were to form an official student group, they would then be "constrained by the same regulations under which all groups who do not hide behind anonymity must work, [such as] regulations about what can be said on posters, and accountability." Is this in fact the case? Our observations indicate that MEM is not held accountable for the content of the material placed on display in Lobby 10.
As additional confirmation of the true purpose of MEM, we cite an article in the Oct. 1989 issue of The Thistle written by a member of MEM. The writer states that the group "uses satire to expose both the logical fallacies and misogynistic world view of Pro-Life." The use of the word "satire" could seemingly be a legal loophole for any group which wants to be abusive.
Let us restate exactly what MIT defines as harassment, as quoted from the MIT guidelines:
"Harassment of any kind is unacceptable at MIT and is in conflict with the policies and interests of the Institute. . . . Harassment is defined as verbal or physical conduct that has the intent or effect of unreasonably interfering with any individual's or group's educational and/or work performance at MIT or creating an intimidating, offensive, or hostile educational and work environment. Harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, national origin, or sexual orientation includes harassment of an individual in terms of a stereotyped group characteristic or because of that person's identification with a particular group."
Simply by reading the panel display in the Infinite Corridor, one can clearly see how MEM's exhibition serves as harassment under this definition. This group consistently stereotypes members of the pro-life movement as prejudiced, religious, right-wing hypocrites. In their own Refuse and Resist literature they call us "Reaganites, racists," and "would-be Rambos." They liken us to Nazis and televangelists.
Although our group is non-partisan, a large portion of our membership is Catholic. Many of these Catholics espouse the pro-life ethic as a matter of religious belief. One of MEM`s captions reads as follows, "We at MEM eagerly await the day when the Catholic Church will intercede on behalf of all those poor little homunculi," a statement which would undoubtedly offend any Catholic.
What more blatant proof of harassment is necessary? Confronted with insults like this, some of our more volatile members might be provoked to take matters into their own hands. Although MIT Pro-Life would strongly oppose retaliation through any means other than official channels, we cannot be responsible for the actions of individual members acting on their own behalf.
Our paramount concern, however, is not only for our 150 members, but also for the group Women Exploited By Abortion. This group's only purpose is to act as a resource to women who have been physically or emotionally scared by abortion. WEBA came to the MIT campus and gave their time to speak to an overflow audience of both pro-life and pro-abortion supporters about their own personal traumas with abortion.
As stated, MEM was formed to oppose this organization, and they have repeatedly lashed out at these women through the "satire" exhibited in their insulting posters, many of which were posted around campus on the day of WEBA's visit to MIT. It is unfortunate that these women, already victimized by abortion, were forced to face this disgusting display of hostility, but it is also unfortunate that MIT women who may have had unpleasant abortions are forced to endure the insults of MEM on a regular basis.
Free speech is one concern, but defamation of character is another. Personal attacks on the women of WEBA occur every time MEM's "satire" appears. The very name "Men Exploited by Masturbation" is a direct parody of Women Exploited by Abortion. WEBA serves a very useful purpose, and we cannot stand by silently while their reputation is slandered. In the event that MIT does not take action against MEM, we will certainly encourage WEBA to take legal action against both MIT and the members of MEM on the grounds of libel.
Although our group has no objection to students expressing viewpoints which conflict with our own, we do object to harassment, personal attacks, and obscenity. Their display contains no factual discussion or any material which could be useful in understanding the abortion issue.
MIT Pro-Life would like MEM to cease to be recognized as an official student group. We recommend that the individuals of MEM be formally charged with harassment, and that the Institute administer the appropriate disciplinary actions. We request that this action be taken expediently, before any further damage is incurred.