This past term featured the usual display of sexist, demeaning, and degrading flyers trying to advertise fraternity or dorm parties. The Institute is supposed to provide equal access to all and, according to its mission statement, allow for each community member to work wisely, effectively, and creatively for the betterment of humanity. Somehow it is hard to realize that equal access and that effective use of creative energy when you are being caricatured as a sexual plaything on the walls of the halls you need to traverse to get to work. Various administrators and Ombudspeople have been complained to over the years with no effect other than the classic non-committal administrator doublespeak: ďI understand how upsetting this must be for you. Yes, these flyers are very disturbing.Ē I suppose that is why some students chose to take matters into their own hands by removing such harassing flyers from their workspace. The latest such flyer-battle was with the esteemed Nu Delta brotherhood. The brothers were dismayed that anyone would dare to violate their rights to free speech. When asked to stop posting such flyers as they constitute harassment and, now that they have been told they are disturbing someone, by the MIT harassment policy they are obligated to stop. The nice brothers said they would consider the matter, but apparently their free-speech rights won out, and after all, they reasoned, a woman drew the picture of the female teacher falling out of her top and bottom, so it canít possibly be offensive. (I suppose by this logic, Clearance Thomas is a civil rights advocate or that Madelaine ďI think the price of killing 500,000 Iraqi children is worth itĒ Albright is a feminist.) Ah well, a principle is a principle, and even if the motives and awareness of the Nu Delta pack on the difference between free speech and harassing speech is rather limited, one canít totally fault the brothers for standing up for free speech.
The campaign to keep the campus welcoming to all women, even those with self-respect, kept apace with the Nu Delta flyering to the point where they began to appeal to the flyer removers. They argued that their party was just a few days away, so couldnít people endure the hardship just a few more days i.e. lie back and take it, Iíll be finished in no time, sweety? The flyer removers were unmoved. So, the clever brothers, feeling unfairly targeted and having only a few days more to drum up interest in their party made up a censored version of their flyer (see Figure 1.) Yes, that is right, they were FORCED into not putting up those sexist flyers. While this flyer was a bit of an improvement, those who would refuse and resist their harassment felt it was a bit retalitory. Nevertheless, they did not remove the flyers, but put up a flyer of their own. (See Figure 2.) For some reason, the principled little pack-animals seemed to forget themselves. Nu Delta brothers were seen tearing down the counter flyers. The argument for violating their strong code of ethics about insuring free speech was that ďmost people would easily agree that [the counter] Flyer was blatantly anti-male.Ē Hmmm. But isnít speech speech? Why was their blatantly anti-female flyer justifiable, but the one that derided their party and perhaps made them question their sense of entitlement to the place not? I guess they figure they got to the fire-hydrant first. I am still hoping for the day when cowards stop degrading the First Amendment by using it to abuse oppressed people. The First Amendment was intended to ensure recourse against the consolidation or mis-use of power. Of course, pack-animals, gang-rapists, and harassers arenít really known for their courage. Meanwhile, letís hear it for those who know the difference between protected speech and harassing flyers and arenít afraid to take matters into their own hands.
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