Last Saturday night, SUNY Plattsburgh students marching for Take Back the Night were met with victim-blaming, slut-shaming catcalls while passing the AXP fraternity house. As one participant recounted, “I heard ‘sluts’ and ‘Shut up, sluts… There’s dozens of (sexual-abuse) survivors and their allies marching that heard the derogatory comments.”
While the campus is rightly outraged, and the university is investigating the frat, the story remained mostly under the radar. That is, until Total Frat Move–the site notorious for collecting pithy accounts of supposedly typical frat behavior at its most racist, classist, and sexist–decided the event was too hilarious not to report. Roger Dorn wrote:
The march, organized by an international effort called Take Back the Night, must have been a wild scene on Saturday night. The verbally-assaulting epithets [referred to elsewhere as "slut bombs"] were being fired from the lawn of the AXP house…
Poor form, guys. Poor, poor form.
I’m sure Dorn really thinks he’s a good guy. He superficially supports the protestors (who he assumes are all female because, you know, men are never raped), describing them as “one united group of strong women, many of whom have dealt with the very issues they are looking to thwart, walking proudly and purposefully.” But accosting anti-rape activists and survivors isn’t “poor form.” It isn’t uncouth, it isn’t ungentlemanly, it isn’t “offensive.” It’s cruel, and it promotes future violence by trivializing the experiences of survivors.
So, too, does the article itself. By presenting the disgusting harassment as a funny goof meant to amuse readers, the writer styles it as, essentially, a total frat move: Regular readers might wince, but only as they applaud. This past Saturday night, like every Saturday night. After all, the misogyny of Dorn’s article is of a kind with the “humor” the site trades in every day. As Franklin and Marshall student Michelle Carroll wrote:
The author’s response to the fraternity’s blatant disrespect of women is completely within the character of the website… TFM is responsible for creating a viral platform for misogyny and rape culture under the guise of “fraternity satire.” An online community for privileged white men in college fraternities, these men enjoy congratulating each other on their social superiority while belittling women and anyone who doesn’t own several golf courses. TFM is particularly popular for their collection of one liners submitted by fraternity men on their interactions with college women: “The instant pass out after ejaculation,” “The dilemma between sitting next to a hot girl or a smart girl during your final,” and “Willing your slam to a new member once you graduate” (Willing refers to the practice of passing down a sentimental fraternity object to a younger member, and a slam is short for a “slam piece,” who is a young woman that he is having sex with).
Carroll and her friend Elizabeth Murray tried to demand an apology from TFM via the site’s Facebook page. However, after dismissing the women’s concerns—insisting TFM is a “satirical website” and therefore free from any responsibility—the moderators deleted the critical comments. (You can see the original and censored conversations at the bottom of Carroll’s post.) Apparently TFM finds feminist debate far worthier of deletion than commenters’ semi-veiled rape threats against the protesters, including one response to the original post warning that “not shutting up seems like a pretty good precursor to a good ol’ fashioned 1950s tough love session.”
In response to the censored criticism, Dorn added a disclaimer to the article insisting that “TFM does not condone sexual abuse, or any issues related to it, in any way, ” as though no one who doesn’t mean to promote rape culture ever could. Unsatisfied, the two Franklin and Marshall student-activists have started a petition to demand TFM address its promotion of rape culture in this particular article and on the site at large. Sign here and share the link widely to ensure the website has to respond. Community mobilization? That’s a total feminist move.