This spring a group of men participated in a San Francisco running event wearing “Duke Lacrosse” T-shirts and chanting, “No means yes.” It was their idea of a joke as you can see from the pictures below. I found this so upsetting when I first learned of it a few weeks ago that I couldn’t focus on it long enough to jot down a few thoughts about it until now. Even then I wasn’t sure whether to post it or not since there is a balance between recognizing the short-sighted actions of hateful people for the purposes of public awareness and doing their dirty work by publicizing them.
But the truth is “duke lacrosse” is now part of public culture and we will undoubtedly see many more references to it in the coming months, and especially during the trial which is scheduled for the spring. Halloween is coming and I’m sure there will be plenty who will follow the model set by this group of men in San Francisco. While it is more difficult to be taken seriously when oppression is framed as a “joke”, and I make no claims to know how to be effective at doing that, it is also clear that these “jokes” go a long way in changing and loosening the boundaries of what is acceptable to say in our society. They make hateful, and oppressive language seem like no big deal, because “who hasn’t told an off-color joke among friends?”. But they are also absolutely part of the way a climate of fear, terror, and violence (threatened or enacted) keeps women of color and other oppressed peoples stereotyped and more vulnerable to acts of physical violence. They allow and sustain an environment where the structures of white, male, and heterosexual supremacy can operate unchallenged (because “after all it’s just a joke”).
Pictures from feministing.com
Duke Lacrosse costumes at San Francisco running event
Originally published by SF Weekly 2006-05-31
©2005 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.
By Karen Zuercher
Bay to Breakers is always crazy, and what do you expect from a huge crowd of people getting drunk, taking off their clothes (or most of them, in any case), and pretending to jog across the city? It’s less like a race than a party (for the vast majority of participants, anyway), and for many years that’s been just fine. Still, this last event, which took place May 21, got a little extra nasty. While our compatriots at the Bay Guardian are fretting about “the death of fun,” we’re more concerned that fun in San Francisco has been sent down the frat-house toilet.
Seems several women who participated in this year’s nudie stroll were profoundly turned off by roving groups of dudes groping wantonly, making beyond-the-pale comments, and wearing offensive costumes (my least favorite: blue Duke Lacrosse T-shirts with the crossed sticks replaced by that busty mudflap silhouette). Other costumes went well past what I’d expect in a city that considers itself “tolerant.” (The last time I saw blackface, for example, was at a similar event — a costumed ski marathon — in Switzerland, which isn’t exactly known for its diversity.)
It’s true that you can’t go to Bay to Breakers expecting enlightenment, but it looks like the event has tipped over the edge from the expected obnoxious to the deeply troubling. One woman I spoke to was asked by some random smashed guy if he could grab her tit (only not that politely); when she declined (also not so politely), he screamed at her. Another gal experienced the kind of fondling that wouldn’t be welcome at a drunken Little Sister party. Are these dicks — and the chicks who played along — really so desperate that they have to ruin what used to be a good time with sophomoric antics? Word to these losers: Go start your own race, and grope each other with abandon. Maybe you can call it “rush.”
Letter to the Editor From the San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday May 24
Editor — Last Sunday, I joined fellow San Franciscans at the Bay to Breakers race. What should have been a fun day for all proved to be an uncomfortable, even scary, event for women to attend. My female companions and myself were groped and fondled by male participants. At one point, a male asked if he could touch me and when I responded “No,” he grew angry and hostile, as if my mere attendance at the event required my surrender of the right to consent.
Perhaps the most troubling example of disrespect I witnessed was a group of men wearing “Duke Lacrosse” T-shirts and chanting, “No means yes.”
To the men who attended Sunday’s race: Never, ever touch a woman without her consent. It doesn’t matter how she’s dressed, and it doesn’t matter how drunk she is. It is never OK. Rape is never funny. Your ignorance of gender, class and race issues is not funny.
You made the day less enjoyable for thousands and were a reminder of the cruel realities that all women, everywhere, face every day. For our sake and yours, educate yourself about these issues and become a better person.