Frosh chants just graze the issue of rape culture
By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor
During the week of September 2, known as Frosh week for many Canadian schools, an incident at the University of British Columbia (UBC) occurred where Frosh leaders led students in a pro-rape chant. Since then, faculty and students have commented on how appalled they are with the situation, and how it’s never going to happen again; but while researching for this story, I discovered that an almost identical incident happened in Nova Scotia at Saint Mary’s University in the same week.
At Saint Mary’s, the chant occurred openly on a crowded football field. Saint Mary’s Students Association President Jared Perry has stepped down following multiple interviews. In a press conference on September 5, Perry said that he’d taken part in the chant before and that, while he regrets his participation in the chant, some students “are confused, some have said they don’t think the chant is wrong or that they didn’t think twice about saying it.”
At UBC, the chant occurred on a crowded bus—only the Frosh leaders were stern with students to not let anyone know the chant took place, as a disturbing article from the campus’ student newspaper the Ubyssey pointed out.
All students who partook in these chants—male students, female students, and especially the leaders—should be ashamed of themselves. I don’t feel like I’m some nagging finger-wagger saying that; I am absolutely shocked and disgusted something like this would take place anywhere, let alone multiple university campuses. Apparently both chants at both campuses had been going on for years; the case with UBC is more unsettling given that the leaders wanted to do the chant, but in secret.
I understand if the students involved felt peer-pressured to join in, and I also understand if students convinced themselves that because the chant might have been a joke, it justified the wording. I understand because up until two years ago, around the time I turned 20, I didn’t start to really hear what I was saying when I made sexual assault jokes—and I’ve made many. There eventually came a point where I would make a joke and instantly feel disappointed with myself; “Why did I just say that?” was always the first thought. The jokes were a bad habit I brought with me from high school, and the main reason I stopped I can attribute to maturity, but also fear.
“What if this happened to me?” was a thought that crossed my mind often as I got older. Although I would prefer to not go into detail, I have experienced sexual assault since then, and it’s something that I’ve had a lot of trouble coming to terms with. But if nothing else, I’m glad I began thinking about how assault or rape would affect me before anything of that caliber happened, and not after.
Going back a few years, justifying sexual assault jokes was a way for me to convince myself the issue wasn’t that prevalent, and I’m sure a number of those students, and maybe even the leaders, felt the same way. In the last year though, from discussing the topic of sexual assault and rape with various women in my life, I’ve been heartbroken to hear just how many, especially now, have been subjected to sexual violence. Verbal abuse from strangers, outright sexual abuse from family and friends, assault in the form of aggressive grabbing, and rape, sometimes repeated. What hurt most about learning all of this is that I’ve heard these stories from multiple women, not just one who “was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” or some other bullshit excuse.
The issue with these chants is not that every student who partook will go out and start raping young women. The issue is that we are currently living in a culture that’s willing to tell people rape happens, and that it’s wrong, but not what defines rape and just how traumatic the experience can be. A passerby of either sex will frequently tell you rape is “wrong,” but that’s about as specific as people get. Rape is any form of one person being subjected to unwanted or non-consensual sex by another person. Rape doesn’t always happen in some gritty alley where rat-like men grab women in the night, and people need to get that stereotype out of their heads.