The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 45.0°F | Overcast

DKE Playboy Posters Defaced With ‘KKK’ Markings

By Keith J. Winstein

STAFF REPORTER

Posters advertising a Delta Kappa Epsilon party sponsored by Playboy Enterprises Inc. were defaced last week by AimÉe L. Smith G, who likened Playboy to the Ku Klux Klan and said the posters constituted sexual harassment.

The photocopied letter-sized posters prominently displayed Playboy’s rabbit logo adjacent to the text, “club @ DKE,” and included a description of the party as “Playboy sponsored.” Other than two copies of the rabbit logo, the only other image on the posters was a map showing DKE’s location.

The poster was designed by DKE Social Chair J. Brandon Hohm ’04, who said he “tried to make it as unoffensive as possible.” Hohm said he had the posters approved by Assistant Dean David N. Rogers in order to assure that they would be unoffensive.

Smith wrote “KKK” over “DKE” on several of the posters in order to make the point that Playboy, like the KKK, is “also a hate group,” she said. “It’s a violation of our civil rights to have those posters around.”

Smith, DKE claim harassment

Hohm and Smith accused each other of harassment in an e-mail exchange last Friday. “Claiming that we are members of the KKK and calling the Playboy organization racist is completely outrageous,” Hohm wrote.

“This poster is non-offensive and approved by MIT and the Playboy legal team,” he wrote, asking Smith to end the “harassment problem.”

Smith, in turn, replied asking Hohm to “Please stop harassing me and many other women at MIT by using the Playboy logo and Playboy as part of a flyer,” adding that “putting such signs in my workplace constitutes sexual harassment and violates my Civil Rights.”

Playboy “uses images and articles that promote violence against women,” Smith wrote, and “they actively work to perpetuate the intimidation and subjugation of women.”

Defacement leads to confrontation

Smith was observed last Friday outside Room 10-250 by several DKE members. “She was defacing the poster,” said Christopher R. O’Neil ’05. “I confronted her and so she said, ‘Let’s go to the dean.’”

Smith and O’Neil then met with Stephen D. Immerman, the director of enterprise services, whose office is immediately next to 10-250.

“I basically said, ‘I don’t like you putting racist things on the poster,’” O’Neil said. “We’re not racist. Playboy has nothing to do with racism. The dean agreed with me.”

Smith said she explained her belief that the posters were part of a context of “making MIT a hostile environment for women,” as she wrote in an e-mail to Hohm. Women “have legal civil rights to equal access to education,” she said, and posters like DKE’s send “a signal that women don’t have equal access to this institution.”

Although Immerman “said it’s against MIT poster policy rules to deface posters,” Smith said, “since no one’s protecting our civil rights, I feel that I have the right to perform an act of civil disobedience.”

Smith was careful to explain that they viewed the DKE poster as only a small part of what she calls the “context” of problems for women at MIT, including lesser compensation for female employees and a neglect for sexual harassment complaints.

“If those problems didn’t exist, there would be no implicit threat” in DKE’s poster, Smith said, and “you can’t blame the fraternity” for them. But “the fraternities’ insistence on perpetuating this climate of misogyny and hatred is intolerable,” she wrote in her e-mail to Hohn.

Immerman could not be reached for comment.

Smith’s group makes rival posters

Smith also posted her own flyer credited to Refuse & Resist, a group she said was “founded primarily to do prison awareness and pro-choice.”

In addition to several quotations from books and articles criticizing Playboy, the poster said only, “DKE Gyno-Nazis Go Home! Frat-boys who promote Playboy are cowards, afraid of live women, and pathetic.” It did not mention the KKK.

Smith’s rival postering was at least the third in a line of similar episodes in the past year, each in reply to an advertised fraternity or dormitory party.

Last April, Refuse & Resist parodied a Nu Delta “Get Nu’d” party advertisement with a reply poster, “Get Nu’dered,” said AimÉe Smith and Brice C. Smith G, another member of the group. “That was the first one” the group was involved with, said Brice Smith.

In late February 2002, a parody of a Zeta Beta Tau “Bling Bling” dance party advertisement appeared around campus. The original poster had included images of a partially nude male and female, while the parody instead depicted severed male genitalia.

Both AimÉe Smith and Brice Smith said they were unaware who was responsible for the posters. But a student who spoke to The Tech on condition of anonymity said another member of Refuse & Resist, AimÉe Smith’s husband Anton Van Der Ven, distributed the posters. “I saw him putting up parodies of the Bling Bling posters with images of a severed penis on them,” said the student.

“He’s my husband, but we don’t necessarily [know everything about each other],” AimÉe Smith said.

Flyers removed from Lobby 7

A Tech reporter observed a middle-aged female throw approximately 25 undefaced DKE flyers into a recycling bin near Lobby 7 last Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. She then entered the admissions office, but could not be immediately identified.

Kirsten Derrickson, a senior staff assistant in the office, said an admissions counselor had taken down some DKE posters that had covered Campus Preview Weekend announcements, but “it was not a coordinated effort on the part of Admissions.”

DKE members mixed on Playboy

AimÉe Smith’s complaints against the DKE’s posters use of the word “Playboy” and its logo seemed to surprise some DKE members.

“The women in Playboy do it willingly,” O’Neil said. “I can see where [Smith]’s coming from where she doesn’t like Playboy,” but “the thing I was outraged about was KKK because the house is obviously not racist.”

“It was a party,” Hohn said. “It was supposed to be fun.”