Don't Rationalize Away Sensitivity
Pull the Ad
I HAVE A FRIEND who is going to pose for Playboy. I do not know whether she will earn $500 to take her clothes off or whether Playboy just values her at $100 with her clothes on. She is attractive--tall, blondish hair and, yes, buxom. And I have argued with her about why she should not go to David Chan, and she will still go; and she is still my friend. But I did not feel obliged to give her Chan's number. Nor would I feel obliged to give a racist the time and place of the Ku Klux Klan's next meeting, or an anti-Semite the time and place of a Nazi party rally.
I would never vote to stop Playboy from printing this issue; I would never suggest that the government pass an ordinance banning pornography. Print 15,000 extra issues, drop them at every undergraduate's doorstep, and I will think you are petty and tacky. But I will never vote against your right to print your magazine and to take your pictures because I hope one day our society will be able to look at Playboy and Playgirl as sensual expressions of sexuality not objectification and degradation.
I am not willing to say that Playboy is the same, or even close to the KKK or the Nazis. Indeed, I hope that on this campus there are some genuinely sensual, sexy women who are ashamed of showing their bodies to anyone who wants to look.
But let's be honest, Playboy panders to the lacivious interests of adolescent boys who want to look at the bunny strip, show lots of breast and bend over a chair. Look, you can masturbate in front of the anonymous Miss March and now you can in front of a junior from Harvard. "Miss Harvard could you turn to the left a little more, I can't get enough of a shot of your breasts."
Yet when The Crimson voted not to run the Playboy ad, did it stifle free speech; did it stifle free, informed discussion of the issues raised by the Women of the Ivy League Issue? It appears not, as the debate on this page and the article on the news page of The Crimson today indicates. More, the Playboy ad does not in any way promote informed discussion of the issue.
However, it is fallacious to argue that to promote understanding of evil one must print it--with wild abandon. Unadulterated depiction of petty hypocrisies and disregard for people in exchange for images is not the purpose of a newspaper in all its efforts, feeble and not so feeble, to unearth evil. And in arguing that we should print evil to expose evil we buy into a false dichotomy about the way we view The Crimson and its goals--either we spew mindless, evil propaganda or we ignore evil altogether and try to play to only the pure, clean interests of our community. One would turn us into a printer for the Moral Majority, the other into a printer for Satan. But we are a newspaper--or at least we try to be--and we try to fully report an issue by revealing all of its sides.
Indeed, if depiction of evil were the best way to point out that we should avoid evil, then The Crimson should fold and attempt to turn itself into the Salient or a party newspaper for the KKK, Playboy, the Nazis and every other evil in our society that we can think of. We should assault our readers with evil; we should distribute vile propaganda free to the doorstep of every undergraduate; we should use Square Deal tactics in pushing our viciousness on every passerby in the Square.
ON THE OTHER HAND, if we wanted to do a news story on the KKK, or the Nazis or Playboy, treat the issue objectively, explain why people were upset and why people thought Playboy was not sexist, then all the more power to the press--and for this we hope The Crimson will strive. Just as we would have followed Martin Luther King Jr. into racist Chicago suburbs, we will follow a women's rights activist into David Chan's Holiday Inn room and we will follow a woman who wants $500 into his room and try to report her view as well as the activist's. This is the way to acheive change--reporting the facts fairly and accurately, objectively and thoroughly, not broadcasting propaganda mindlessly.
There is nothing wrong with sex, sexuality, sensuality or erotica. But there is something wrong with asking a group of people to freely enter into an contract to advertise what they think is a degrading product. We do not fool ourselves that we are keeping anyone from going to see Chan; we are simply fighting where we can, making statements where we can about a very serious issue.
LET EVIL FLOURISH in our society where we give it the soil to grow. But once the evil is gone will we have to reinvent it to remind ourselves what we should not do? Should we reprint racist remarks to warn what we might revert to? And when racism was a more apparent problem than it is today, should we not have protested against it? Perhaps we are silly and being laughed at, accused of being prudes but think of the standards you apply when you laugh and try to wonder whether you can rationalize away sensitivity.
There is no great evil in Playboy, no Satan lurking in its messages. Nor is there an attempt to purify and protect society in The Crimson's decision not to run the ad. Simply, we could not tacitly support something which was so abhorrent to the majority of Crimson editors. We would not dare to insult Blacks by running an ad suggesting that they come to work in the diamond mines in South Africa, and we will not insult the women and men on The Crimson who regarded it that seriously.