Dangerous Language


THE HARVARD COMMUNITY has acted with justifiable anger and swiftness to the crude sexism exhibited in a newsletter put out to members of the Pi Eta Speakers Club. The letter--which referred to women as "grateful heffers" [sic] and "slobbering bovines," among other degrading terms--aroused a heated protest outside the club Saturday night by nearly 100 men and women students.

The protesters ought to be congratulated for their peaceful, yet effective, efforts in forcing attention on the matter. The call by some, though, that the College shut down the club is understandable, but misguided. The right to think and say whatever you want--no matter how despicable--is protected by the Constitution and cannot be abridged by administrative fiat.

Nevertheless, Harvard officials should now take action on the matter. An official statement of disapproval over the newsletter from Dean of the College John B. Fox '59 or Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III would not only be welcome but is necessary to make clear Harvard's opposition to the sexism manifested in the newsletter.

For their part, club members must be condemned for the newsletter. Harvard and society have made strong strides in making women feel as true equals; that cause suffers and the sincerity of progress is doubted when males implicitly endorse sexism and stereotyping through vehicles like the newsletter.

Moreover, this threat is by no means limited to the publication of the Pi Eta Club. The sexist views expressed in the newsletter are an extreme representation of attitudes too often tolerated on campus. Such attitudes are not only offensive, but also dangerous because they create a climate that encourages violence toward women. Sexual harassment and rape are the extreme outgrowths of language that presents women as objects, or employs violent imagery.