Taking a Stand Against Sexism

Pull the Ad

THE CRIMSON'S DECISION not to run Playboy's advertisement recruiting Harvard women for its October "Women of the Ivy League" issue was both the very most and the very least the newspaper could do to fight the institutionalized exploitation of women.

Those who claim the staff endeavored to "censor" Playboy, or to protect Harvard women from themselves, miss the point of the majority's intentions, just as they did seven years ago when The Crimson rejected the same ad.

The question is clearly not one of hiding information or of paternalism, but of refusing to support, either tacitly or overtly, a publication whose raison d'etre is the objectification of women and the exploitation of womankind. It is a question of integrity.

Playboy editors must not expect us--a group of undergraduates who are ourselves either morally repulsed by the pornography racket or in the very least respectful of such feelings of collective degradation in our peers--to aid and abet their objectionable cause.

They should also not expect us to keep silent, as they attempt to make sex objects out of our classmates by offering five times as much money to those who take their clothes off as to those who remain clothed. This is not sexuality; it is sexism.

THOSE WHO SAY The Crimson singlehandedly stifled Playboy's message have no argument. Playboy could have spent the same amount of money that running an ad in The Crimson would cost to make somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 photocopied posters, which would have effectively reached every undergraduate, professor and administrator on this campus, and then some. It could have run an advertisement on WHRB. It did run one in the Independent and in the Boston Herald.

The Crimson's rejection of the ad clearly did not compromise Playboy's rights to freedom of expression. The newspaper has not as an institution prevented Playboy photographer David Chan from coming to campus.

Nor has it implied that Harvard women cannot decide for themselves whether to pose before him; they can and will make a proper, reasoned decision in either case.

Nor has The Crimson censored Playboy; the newspaper is in fact on record as supporting pornography's First Amendment right to exist.

THE NEWSPAPER STAFF has used its editorial discretion to state that its toleration of pornography--by default, because the alternative would be worse--does not preclude protest. It has expressed the view held by many of its editors that while Playboy and other forms of institutionalized sexism may be "socially acceptable," they should not be so.

Social acceptability is a function of which group controls society and to what extent minority voices can influence the spectrum of opinion. Just as racist ads of 50 years ago were socially acceptable to a white-dominated society, so are sexist ads today threatening to females who, despite the women's liberation movement, still have a long way to go to gain equality.

Any woman who has walked down the street and been verbally harassed, and any woman who has feared rape while walking alone in her own neighborhood at night--I might add there is not one female who has not--knows that fighting the image of woman-as-object, woman-as-silenced-victim, woman-as-sex-organ remains among her most urgent tasks.

SEXISM IS MOST dangerous when it's subtle, when it is so deeply embedded in a culture that it becomes socially acceptable, as Playboy has. And so, you speak out, you yell, you rant and you rave when you recognize this subtle destruction. There is no other way to jar society out of its passive acceptance of the objectification of women, even though in this society it happens to be legal.

In not running the ad, The Crimson has taken that initiative. Seven years from now, when Playboy again decides to try its luck with a whole new batch of Ivy League women, we can only hope all Ivy League newspapers will decide not to extend their helping hands. It is both the most and the least they can do.