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Who is being objectified?

Reading the now-notorious letter in last Tuesday's Tech made me realize what I hate about the hypersensitivity on this campus.

Now, what I call hypersensitivity most people call "PC." I refuse to do that because PC stands for "Politically Correct," and I think people who espouse this garbage are about as correct as people who spot Elvis in laundromats.

But what bothers me isn't the hypersensitive acts in themselves. Quite frankly, if enough females decide they want to be called "womyn" or "wimmin," it's fine by me. I don't even give a rat's elbow if they want to be known as "The Vaginally Empowered" or "Persons without Penises." I just wish they would make up their damn mind.

This is the problem.

The truly hypersensitive exist only to debate these stupid little points. The worst thing you can do to one of these people is accept their side gladly. It goes something like this.

"We want to be called wimmin. W-I-M-M-I-N," says the hypersensitive field general.

"OK," I reply amiably.

"We want to do this so that we free ourselves from the yoke of the oppressive paternal society."

"Fine," I respond.

"W-O-M-E-N has M-E-N in it, and this implies that wimmin are part of men."

"I'm not sure if you've been listening, but I've been agreeing with everything you've said," I point out.

"With the new spelling, wimmin can be truly free."

"Please stop."

"We can be empowered as an equal class of persons."

"You don't have to convince me. Really. Please shut up now."

When you finally get a hypersensitive person out of automatic debate mode, they can be quite reasonable.

So what I hate about the hypersensitive is the way they distract you from real issues. There is now cross-debate in The Tech regarding the 8.03 lecture where a belly dancer was brought in to demonstrate oscillatory motion, as well as the picture of said event which ran on the front page of The Tech a week ago.

First, I'd like to thank the debaters for scaring professors enough that they won't try anything interesting again for at least another two years. Just this morning I was thinking, "Boy, I wish lectures would get drier around here."

Second, I'd like to ask a general question of The Tech's readership: Do you think that the issue of objectification of women would be better served by debating a picture of a belly dancer or by submissions exploring the issues of date rape, equal rights for women and male attitudes? As co-opinion editor of this rag, I can guarantee you that a good, serious piece on those topics would get at least one vote toward being printed. You know why you don't see them in The Tech?

We don't get any.

The hypersensitive only appear when they see a specific target they can take cheap, guilt-laden shots at. But when they see such a target, they appear out of nowhere like problem sets before Thanksgiving weekend. In the case of the belly dancer, Professor Bekefi and The Tech were just such targets.

No, we don't receive hundreds of pieces each week about constant oppression and horrible suffering (which people must feel if they flame out so violently at belly dancer photos.) We only receive responses to publicity-laden acts, such as Professor Bekefi's demonstration.

Now, while it may be a tad, er, unorthodox to have a belly dancer in a physics lecture, I should point out that this is not a stripper we're talking about here, nor did I notice a bunny tail on her rear. She was a dancer, for crying out loud. It is a talent, not an innate ability.

The problem is that on the cover of The Tech, the belly dancer didn't move. She just sat there, like an object. She didn't demonstrate her talents; she just stood perfectly still, with a hunchbacked Professor Bekefi holding an equation in front of her belly. No matter where you saw it, or how many copies you looked at, there she was, seemingly being objectified.

Are the hypersensitive just as careful no matter who is being "objectified?" Interesting point.

Last Wednesday I attended a monologue called How to Give a Woman an Orgasm. I was only there because I misread the poster and thought it was going to be about making gifts with Japanese paper folding.

Anyway, many of the points made were good ones. Students were advised to use a condom or abstain from sex (although frankly, abstinence was the subject of too much unnecessary ridicule). And the points made about how women should protect themselves from rape, and how men's attitudes are frequently misguided, were important messages for MIT students to hear.

However, the show took too many unnecessary potshots at fraternities. Jokes like "Not all rapes happen at fraternities. Sometimes the guys leave the house," or suggestions that females who are going to be raped should be raped at frat houses because "at least the guys have some experience." These attempts at humor were not only unnecessary, they are genuinely offensive.

No, I don't live in a fraternity, so I'm not "protecting the brothers" or anything like that. But I know a lot of guys who live in fraternities, and many of them are nice guys who don't deserve that kind of treatment. Conversely, some of the guys I know who live in dormitories do deserve that treatment.

But in this monologue, "dorm guys" were not treated with the same flip attitude. That's too bad.

In the discussion which followed the show, the writer and actor defended themselves from these charges on the grounds that they both lived in fraternities. Sorry, guys, this is the Clarence Thomas era, where belonging to a group doesn't mean you can't be accused of discriminating against that group.

I watched the show from the balcony of Lobdell. I was standing with a group of men, all wearing the same Greek letters on their shirts. They were reasonably quiet, although they understandably booed the lines I mentioned above. It was their right to boo, since a sizeable chunk of the audience was clapping wildly.

When the discussion followed, one of the moderators tried to spark debate by looking up at the balcony and taunting "How about those Greek letters? I see you up there."

I was standing with those "Greek letters" at the time, so I have a taste of what it feels like to have a packed Lobdell Court look up at you as an example of a "Greek letter." It sucks.

Who is being objectified here? In my book, it is objectification to refer to a group of people by what they have on their chest. If it were a group of females on the balcony, could the moderator have gotten away with saying "How about those breasts up there?" My hypersensitivity meter says "no."

The show will be repeated next week to accommodate all those who were turned away last Wednesday. Maybe the offensive parts will be removed. Probably not.

I guess I still have a lot to learn about what we can get away with on this campus.


Tech opinion editor Bill Jackson '93 purposely loaded this column with facts that other campus newspapers will claim are "errors," just to give those papers something to do.