Published: Sunday, February 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
The Internet's been good to me lately. Hulu has a healthy supply of new 30 Rock episodes, and BC Memes has harnessed the collective wit of Boston College to the amusement of the whole student body. For all the novel entertainment available at my fingertips, I find myself indulging in a guilty pleasure: perusing the contributions of an online forum. They have it all—passion, anger, and petulance.
The Facebook page for Take Back the Night from BC Blackout has provided me with ample content to peruse. Ever since this newspaper published Maeve Kennedy Gormly's, A&S '12, Letter to the Editor on Feb. 2, this little corner of the web has been abuzz with debate over the simultaneous occurrence of Barstool Blackout's stop at House of Blues and the C.A.R.E. Week event.
Online forums rarely foster the most productive discussions. It's partly why I enjoy reading them. While the petition page is well-intentioned and contains several thoughtful comments, it has become regrettably populated by trolls. Members of the Women's Resource Center (WRC) have urged users to keep comments respectful and mature. Nevertheless, profanity, page-long posts, and a fair amount of violent rhetoric (from both sides) have inundated a wall that now has as many vacuous or incendiary contributions as insightful or even-handed ones.
A more sophisticated campus-wide dialogue on sexual violence is fortunately occurring in other contexts, among roommates and friends in dorm rooms and dining halls. The Facebook page, however, is a unique access point to the discussion because anyone can contribute. As a result, the students closely associated with WRC wind up responding directly to the most zealous ticketholders for Barstool Blackout.
These interactions provide a window through which to view, in greater clarity, the general social dynamic of BC. The controversy has been very polarizing, especially since the primary framework has coupled attendance at Barstool Blackout with the normalization of rape culture. On the Facebook page and in other places too, we can see individuals tend toward one side or the other—toward unbridled enthusiasm for Barstool or unconditional support for the WRC.
Students often make sweeping generalizations about the student body without ever reconciling the contradictions inherent therein. We are fit and composed enough to both run the Boston Marathon in massive numbers and drunkenly support the runners in massive numbers. We are a "J. Crew catalogue with a hangover," like Miami University, and a "New Ivy," like Tufts. We are selfless students who willingly dedicate their time to service and vain students who spend hours at the Plex sculpting our bodies.
With 9,000 undergraduates, BC is a medium-sized school for which labels are both apt and problematic. They are helpful in defining just who we are and unhelpful when they belie the genuine complexities of student life.
At the very least, it is safe to say that in spite of the tightly-knit network of students, there are some paths that never cross and groups that do not mesh. There are whole cliques that will never interact with each other. This is decidedly the case on Mar. 28.
The Barstool Blackout controversy has divided the student body to make glaringly apparent the tension between being men and women for others and enjoying a carefree night out. It's not exactly a culture war, since supporters of Barstool assert that the blog does not condone rape, and supporters of the WRC say that they do not seek to cancel the Blackout event.
A conversation has been started, though, and the objective is to arrive at an understanding . There will likely be no widespread agreement given how heated and contentious the discourse has been. Hell, the whole thing caused Father Clarke to swear out of disgust in the middle of his homily last Sunday. For now, the student body must grapple with this collective identity crisis because while the social character of BC is nuanced, there is a choice to be made, and not just on one random Wednesday this spring, but every day of the year.
A prolonged dialogue on rape culture is so important because we should contemplate precisely how it is deeply embedded in our everyday lives. The choice between Barstool Blackout and Take Back the Night only partially defines BC, as does our conduct in the Mods on weekends, as does the way we spend spring break, as does our taste in music, movies, advertising and television.
Then, when we begin to judge how proud or disappointed we are of BC students, let us look not at particular incendiary remarks on Facebook, but at our overall behavior. Let us be civil and sophisticated. Above all, let us endeavor to take back the night for as long as we cherish what this college espouses, and become a student body worthy of the moniker "men and women for others."