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LETTER

Sexual Harassment From a Party Poster?

Today at 9 p.m., there will be a party at Ashdown House, hosted by the Graduate Student Council, Ashdown, Tang, and The Warehouse. The posters advertising the party contain a man and woman, both of whom are shown scantily clad.

This past Wednesday morning, Aimee L. Smith G sent an e-mail to various GSC e-mail lists and the Ashdown Social Committee with a diatribe stating that the posters were a form of sexual harassment (towards women) and served to create a hostile working environment for women at MIT. Along with accusations of sexual harassment, she went on to claim that “images that depict women as sexual playthings in the workplace are NOT protected speech.” Although the overall tone of her e-mail was hostile, she asked that the hosts “consider this a respectful request to see that these posters are removed and that women are not exploited in the next version.” If this was not carried out, “people who feel harassed will simply have to take matters into their own hands.”

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care about an e-mail like this. However, on this occasion, I feel obligated to speak up as I am the official event host for Jungle Party 2 and my signature is on the liquor and entertainment licenses. I talked to many different people regarding whether the poster was offensive or a form of harassment. I polled students, professors, RLSLP staff, and staff at the Cambridge License Commission. The overwhelming majority thought that the poster was completely innocuous. Some thought the poster was in bad taste, but not really offensive. A few thought that the poster could be seen as offensive. Not a single person thought that the poster was a form of harassment.

I also went to the Boston ACLU office. When I told the staff there about the claim of sexual harassment, all of them -- the majority women -- found it ridiculous. Among the people I talked to was Sarah Wunsch, staff attorney with the ACLU since 1990. When asked whether the posters for Jungle Party 2 constituted a form of sexual harassment, she said “This is not enough. This doesn’t come close to creating a hostile environment. It’s not severe and pervasive, nor does it single out women. My criticism of what she [Aimee] is doing is it trivializes the real instances of sexual harassment.”

Therefore, I am respectfully refusing to honor Aimee’s request that these posters be removed. I regret that these posters make her feel unwelcome at this party. Aimee, if you’re not doing anything tonight, please do stop by.

Bhuwan Singh G


[LTE]Don’t Do That In the Pool![body]
Coming refreshed from my weekly swim to the women’s locker rooms and showers in the MIT Alumni Pool on Friday, Feb. 15, I was appalled to see an elderly woman cutting her toenails and scraping skin off her feet.
To my astonishment, when I reminded her (the rest of the women just looked at me and smiled with a sense of sympathy) that a swimming pool was a public facility and no place for intimate body care, the woman ignored me and continued with her routine.
I understand that it is difficult for MIT to play guard dog and prevent people from doing such disgusting things. After all, one would assume that a sixtyish-year-old woman would have more sense. At the same time I feel it is necessary to bring this issue to everyone’s attention because such behavior is simply unacceptable. Not only is it unaesthetic but it also presents a serious health hazard for other swimmers.[sig]
Magdalena Rieb
Center for International Studies