Letter to the Editor: Inappropriate Behavior at the Pep Rally

(From The Campus Lantern – October 3, 2013)

Pep rallies are usually geared toward students who want to exhibit school spirit. Eastern Connecticut State University’s pep rally on Thursday, September 26th, however, was geared toward heterosexual men, and encouraged them to see their female peers as sex objects.

The first words out of the host’s mouth were cuss words. His first comments included, “Oh shit,” “This is one sexy crowd,” and “Who’s ready to see some sexy cheerleaders?”.

The DJ at the pep rally played a song at one point that had the line “I don’t smoke crack, motherf*cker, I sell it.” Considering Eastern is a strictly dry-campus, I thought this was an interesting song choice. (Even if the college wasn’t a dry campus, crack is an extremely harmful, addicting – not to mention illegal – drug, and I thought it was shocking to witness Eastern promoting the selling of it.)

The seemingly whole purpose of the pep rally was to support Eastern’s athletes, dancers, and cheerleaders, but that purpose was skewed by sexism. The first sports team to be introduced was the men’s basketball team. The seniors were mentioned, and then an almost twenty minute slam-dunk contest ensued. The crowd was revved up, the players were revved up, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Once the lengthy contest ended, the team left the basketball court and the women’s basketball team was introduced. The seniors were highlighted, and then the whole women’s team sat down. No never-ending slam-dunk contest, significantly less support from the crowd compared to the men’s team, and no revving up of the players.

At this point, I was confused as to why the male team had gotten a whole slam-dunk contest in their honor, and the female team had a measly thirty seconds to shine. The student next to me commented, “It’s because the women’s team sucks.” Maybe they “suck” because of the absence of support from their peers. The lack of time and attention that the women’s team received reflects the lack of respect that the school gave to them in comparison to the men’s team.

Next up the host introduced the crowd to the “cute and sexy dancers” – he objectified them instead of highlighting their talent. At the end of their performance, the host singled out one of the dancers and claimed that she looked like the pop-star Taylor Swift. He brought her to the middle of the gym, and in front of Eastern Connecticut State University staff and students, stated that he was “going to have sex with her.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. The host had just verbally sexually harassed this girl in front of the whole gymnasium. Instead of treating her like the human being that she is, he made her out to be a sex object that was only there for his pleasure. The student next to me (the same one who claimed that the women’s basketball team “sucks”) said, chuckling, “What if that girl’s boyfriend went up to him and punched him in the face?”

The girl’s boyfriend shouldn’t be the only one concerned in this situation. Students, teachers, faculty, and everyone else at Eastern should be concerned that this kind of behavior is deemed appropriate.

I stormed out of the pep rally at this point. I felt so uncomfortable and offended that I had to leave. I came to support my friends who were on the dance team and the cheerleading squad; instead of being supported at the pep rally, the cheerleaders and the dancers were disrespected and treated as sex objects by the host. I had to leave before the cheerleaders’ performance. I could not support my fellow classmates with my presence anymore because I was on the verge of tears over the sexism that went down at the pep rally.

Even though the host was not part of the Student Government Association (SGA), they were putting on the pep rally, so he reflected badly upon them. SGA is a student association, which means that they represent Eastern – so, the sexism and the inappropriateness of the pep rally reflected badly upon Eastern. (Not to mention that my tuition money went into the making of this offensive, sexist event.) What happened at the pep rally needs to be addressed by Eastern Connecticut State University, by the SGA, and by the host. Written apologies are the first steps that should be taken by the offenders. Also, there should be a code of conduct constructed for future hosts of events held at the school. Additionally, the host of the pep rally should apologize in front of the Eastern community – if he could make sexist comments in front of a gymnasium of Eastern students and staff, he should apologize in front of a gymnasium of Eastern students and staff, too.

I will not tolerate this kind of speech or behavior at Eastern Connecticut State University. Those who do accept “entertainment” like this – entertainment that is disrespectful toward the women on campus – need to realize the hateful and hurtful messages that are being sent out.

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