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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

Words Can Be Louder Than Actions FAM Reminds Community To Think Before We Speak

Author: Nahal Batmanghelidj & Elizabeth Brookbank

"Why are sophomore girls better than senior girls?" asked a WRMC DJ during an afternoon radio show on Jan. 26. I had no idea, but I was curious, so I decided to stay tuned and listen to what the hosts Andrew Zrike '02, John Joy '02 and some of their friends had to say. "Because they are not fat yet and you can still fit them into the trunk," commented one. "What I really prefer are 17-year-olds. Two drinks and they go limp," interrupted another. Now, I don't pretend to know what is going through your head as you read these comments, but given my lingering faith in humanity, I'd like to believe that you find them disturbing. I did. I pulled my car over and began to record all that they were saying on a piece of paper. "I'm going to be a dirty old man when I grow up. Hey little girl, want some candy," they continued.

But wait, you may be thinking, these were only jokes. Could I be overreacting? What's the harm in words? With the help of my friend, Elizabeth, I will tell you. Let's consider this: a person makes a direct comment to you about raping women. It would be impossible for you to prove a connection between their words and their past or future actions, but you would have substantial reason to believe that this statement informs their beliefs about this crime. Think about what impact that would have on you as a listener, especially if you were a woman. Now let us ask you what is the difference between this direct statement and the implication of such a statement.

To bring it back to the specific situation at hand, what other possible reason would one have for putting a woman in a trunk? Not enough seatbelts? What other possible reason would one have for making a 17-year-old girl "go limp"? What message were these DJs and their guests sending to their audience? An audience that potentially included women who have experienced being "put in trunks," or who have been given a few drinks so that they would just "go limp." Also take into consideration the young male listeners who may look up to the college students they hear on the radio. Now, compliments of these DJs and their show, we can add Middlebury College radio to the ever-growing list of sources that normalize such crimes as rape to the youth of our culture.

So what is so inherently wrong with implying rape? We have covered that. Not only are these "jokes" not funny, they are punishable by law. So to those of you who feel we are going overboard, know this: we are not doing nearly as much as is our legal right. In all fairness, the DJs of this show did publicly apologize for their actions; it was on page 10 of last week's Campus in the lower left-hand corner, in case you missed it. But we feel that this matter deserves more serious attention, which is why we decided to offer a follow-up to their vaguely worded apology. As a last concession to them, it is duly noted that they terminated and apologized for their offensive commentary as soon as a student called in and expressed her concern. That they said these things in the first place, that it even had to be brought to their attention that making such statements was wrong, are the real tragedies.

Now to the more important issue at hand. We know that such conversations happen all the time, we are not naïve. But since not all of them are broadcast over the radio for potentially thousands of people to hear, we would like to take this opportunity to implore those of you who, in the future, are actively or passively involved in such discourse to step back and think about the larger implications of what you say. By normalizing such actions you perpetuate a cycle of violence in our society that could someday pose a direct threat to the women you love. Even though you may not be an actual perpetrator of such crimes, those who are don't care if their victims happen to be your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives or daughters. Actions and words are inextricably linked. That said, in the future think before you speak. Sounds simple enough, right? But as we have witnessed, it is easier said than done.