An Open Letter to the Office of the Dean of Students at the University of Texas–Austin:
First of all, let me say that I think it is good that you are addressing the issue of culturally insensitive parties on campus. You are definitely right to point out that themes such as “fiesta” and “cowboys and Indians” are like, way problematic and must be stopped for the wellbeing of the student body.
For example: You suggested trying a “decade theme” such as “Disco Party.” Really? So the entire decade of the 1970s was nothing but a big disco party? Much like “fiesta” themes reduce all of Mexican culture to sombreros and tequila, this idea reduces an entire decade to roller skates and flashing lights. What about the Iran hostage crisis, huh? What about the Jonestown massacre? What about the energy crisis? How insensitive!
I’m also offended by your rule that there can be “NO skimpy lingerie” at a pajama-themed party. Newsflash, misogynists! Telling women they shouldn’t dress in a scandalous way or get so drunk they pass out in the street wearing it is victim blaming. Telling women how to keep themselves safe perpetuates a rape culture. We just need to tell rapists to not rape people and I think if we focus on that after a while those sexually deviant sociopaths will start listening and be nice guys and everything will be perfect.
The suggestion that may have disturbed me the most was “American Heroes (military and patriotic).” Um, our military are not heroes — they are bloodthirsty racist murderers and cowards who deserve shame, not celebration. Didn’t you hear that Michael Moore’s uncle was killed by a sniper in World War II? How could we do anything to honor military “heroes” knowing that Michael Moore’s uncle was killed by a sniper in World War II?
“Comic book heroes” is also an offensive theme. Don’t you realize the way females are sexualized in the comic-book industry? And the way they’re portrayed as powerless? The same goes for your moronic “Once Upon a Time (fairy tale theme)” idea. As I discussed in my recent Jezebel piece, fairy tales and superhero stories perpetuate rape culture. Think about it — these parties are going to have a bunch of men dressed up as superheroes and knights in shining armor, and women dressed up as damsels that need rescuing. This theme turns a “party” into a celebration of the patriarchal power structure! It makes women look like victims, which in turn empowers the men to commit acts of sexual violence. This party theme isn’t just offensive, it’s actually also totally unsafe and I am disgusted that you would put your female students’ safety in jeopardy by suggesting such an event.
I was also shocked at your “Outer Space/Aliens” suggestion. After all, don’t you know that the word “alien” is a trigger word for many people who consider it a reference to “illegal alien.” Can we please be a little more sensitive and use the term Martian instead?
Ughhhhhh! Like, there are so many more offensive things on that “acceptable themes” list that I should educate you about (“Company Christmas,” really? What about Separation of Church and College Theme Party?! “Rodeo,” really? So you like abusing animals? Or that “Casino Night” idea? Yeah, great one, because that’s sensitive to students who have been impacted by a gambling addiction!) but I really don’t know if I can take anymore because I’m getting too upset thinking about how ignorant school administrators are. Sometimes it just gets exhausting having to constantly explain how problematic things are to people who aren’t as culturally aware as I am.
Come on. This is 2015. We need to be vetting even the most seemingly innocuous things for the possibility that something about them might be offensive so we don’t ever hurt someone’s feelings. Only then will the world be a better and more fun place for everyone.
Concerned Student/Social and Environmental Justice Hero
— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online.