Douchebag Decree: Johns Hopkins University News-Letter



Once, twice, three times a douchebag for Johns Hopkins University's student newspaper The News-Letter, which hit the student body with a double-whammy of sexist, rape-apologetic articles in the last two weeks. This in addition to last year's defense of Tucker Max (no stranger to the D-bag Decree) after Max's student-funded visit to JHU, and we've got ourselves a veritable Triumvirate of Douche.

First up, the September 16th issue of the News-Letter offered a gem of a rape-apologist piece called "Banging Under the Influence: The Ups and Downs." Because there are apparently some "ups" to having non-consensual sex with an intoxicated partner. And JHU wants us to know about them. Namely, "...girls become more submissive when intoxicated while men conversely become more emboldened. So score one for the men."

Yeah. Score. Big win for humankind. Let's teach that in college.

The author to the "Banging" piece claims in his last sentence that "this in no way reflects how I actually feel." But here's the thing: It does. It was written for publication in the News and Feature section, right next to "Aramark workers to Hold Union Elections." And when the JHU Feminist Alliance spoke out against it, the article was not removed. That's an awful lot of defense for a make-believe opinion. How about NOT WRITING articles about sexual stereotypes that obviously exist in real life, and feed the college-age party-going psyche, at all? Even to be funny? Even if you promise you don't actually feel that way? Because there are those who do feel that way (Word up, T. Max), and they're making a business out of it.

The second half of the News-Letter's double-header o' shame came in the same issue, and has since been removed from the site. The article, written by Greg Sgammato, was entitled "Local Bison Bear All at Phi Kappa Psi's Annual Lingerave," and opened thusly:

"Last Thursday, September 9th, Phi Kappa Psi hosted their annual Lingerave party, a celebration of scantily clad women and booming techno music. The event was by many accounts a success, but unfortunately featured a disproportionate amount of fat chicks.

Under normal circumstances, fat chicks at a Hopkins party are neither a novelty nor a major problem. The student body has become accustomed to seeing the occasional bison at Pike; as long as direct interaction isn't necessitated, most Blue Jays are content with simply letting the livestock graze."

Now, I started to bold out the most egregious of ideas here, and gave up. There is no choosing. Someone wrote this pile of shit, and somebody else published it. Oh no, wait. It WASN'T somebody else; it was the MANAGING EDITOR of the paper that wrote it! So no one in that one-person chain of command thought, even in the name of satire, that women/livestock jokes were over the line. The editorial board (including Managing Editor?) of the paper issued this apology-looking statement when the piece was pulled from the site.

The editorial argument is particularly noteworthy here:

"In our attempt to allow this article to make a difference and address a major student issue, we failed to fully realize that the article could itself inflict the sort of harm it was intended to chastise. Narrowly, we thought that the obscenely grandiose writing style would clearly convey satire. As a result, we did not fully consider the harm that the article might do."

So, we do have some acknowledgment that horrifying depictions of women's bodies are "a major student issue." (We also have some really bad, repetitive writing, but that's neither here nor there.) And we see that it's possible that this "grandiose writing style" can be misconstrued, because there are douchebags out there who would write about "buffalo," the article's euphemism of choice for fat women, unironically. Fine. Except hang on. At my last count, dear News-Letter, you were at TWO misogynistic articles in the September 16th issue, both of which you have been asked to account for, and you only seem to be sort-of-not-really-apologizing for one. No one is applying this logic to "Banging Under the Influence," which ALSO addresses a major student issue and might ALSO do a great deal of harm in its writing. And...oh...wait... you're not even letting people comment on that article anymore! Or read anyone else's comments! A pretty sucky way to "make a difference," I think.

To Lily Newman and Sarah Tan, the editors-in-chief of the JHU News-Letter: grow up. Date rape jokes and women=buffalo jokes are never funny, and to present one of those as "News and Feature," was irresponsible at best, and at worst downright dangerous.

by Katie Presley
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Bitch Media's Music Editor. As heard on BBC, CBC, and NPR's All Songs Considered and, very occasionally, Pop Culture Happy Hour. I've always wanted to be a talking head in a feminist documentary or commercial, so if someone out there can make that dream a reality, I'm here for it.

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6 Comments Have Been Posted

Retracted Articles Had Fat-Shaming and Slut-Shaming

The articles have subsequently been withdrawn with unconditional humble apologies in a more recent <a href=" rel="nofollow">John Hopkins News-Letter Editorial Board Editorial</a>.

The article about the "Lingerave" was reposted by Dannielle of the FMF's <a href=" rel="nofollow">Choices Campus Blog</a> so people could read it for themselves. Sara Luterman of the Feminist Alliance was credited with providing the original link and text.

It appears the other article still may be posted elsewhere as well. There is an article titled <a href=" rel="nofollow">"Banging under the influence" on the blog "For The Motherland"</a>.

The "Banging under the influence" uses the double standard of slut-shaming women saying "...girls also find drinking appealing since it gives them a convenient excuse to be promiscuous and not be considered slutty by society's biased standards (Girls, I've got your backs.)."

The article titled "Local Bison Bear All at Phi Kappa Psi's Annual Linegrave (Opinion Section)" is straight up fat-shaming, referring to "hippos", "rhinos" , and "a blimp".

I think people have a right to be douchebags and commenters have a right to express themselves about what douchebags they are. Don't you think they should have left the douchebag pieces and the comments up unless their server was getting overwhelmed by the reaction?


Yes. I wish the articles had never made it past the editorial meeting in the first place, but because they did, I think there should certainly still be a place on the <i>News-Letter</i> site for discussion. The damage, no matter how sorry the editors are, was done. So now let's talk about it and take steps to ensure it doesn't happen again! Yanking the pieces and making it impossible to see what we're building from is counter-productive.

I am glad to see both articles mentioned by name in the latest apology, though. That was one of my biggest problems with the first letter; it was revisionism 101. The most mature thing to do here, I think, is be as blatant as possible in referencing the articles, and be just as blatant in addressing the reactions JHU students and now a national audience are having as a result. Sure, he's a twee pop musician, but Ben Lee was right when he said &quot;Tell me the truth, and I'll tell you the truth.&quot;
<b>Katie Presley, New Media Intern</b>
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's our<a href="/comments-policy"> <i>Comments Policy</i></a>


also, thanks for all the links!
<b>Katie Presley, New Media Intern</b>
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's our<a href="/comments-policy"> <i>Comments Policy</i></a>

Surely I am not the only

Surely I am not the only former college-newspaper staffer who reads these things and does a total *headdesk* coupled with a few rounds of WTF. I worked on the staff of two college papers, at two big state universities, and "editorials" and "columns" like these would have never even made it past the pitching stage, let alone made it into publication.

I cannot fathom how far up their asses the editorial staff must have had their heads when they made these decisions.

Honorable mention?

The behavior of these collegiate "journalists" is undoubtedly disgusting, and there's nothing I can say to make that clearer than you and others already have.

I'd like to request a second decree or honorable mention, though, for Wesley Scroggins. He wrote <a href=" piece</a> for the Springfield, Missouri <i>News-Leader</i> calling for the ban of several books, including the Laurie Halse Anderson novel, <i>Speak</i>, which is about overcoming and speaking about trauma post-rape, on the basis of obscenity. As many of us who have read it can testify, this sends a terrible (and ironic) message to victims of sexual assault; it's probably the most harmful campaign against a book that I've ever seen.

Anderson talks about what we can do <a href="">he...

Sorry for the only tangential relevance of this comment; I in no way intend to redirect the conversation. I just thought this was pertinent to the topic of recent douchebaggery in the world of rape culture.

Their New Apology Sucks Too

Their new apology is buried on the last page of the paper, hidden in a giant wall of text. This has been all anyone on campus has been talking about all week, and they thought a giant inflatable pirate ship and podcasting technology were more important things to have on the front page.

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