So there’s been a bit of a scandal going on near home lately. Basically, what happened is this: 13 senior male dentistry students at Dalhousie University posted some pretty awful stuff on their private Facebook group, which was then accidentally left open by one of them and thus the comments discovered and released to the public. Some of the things they said? Well, for one thing they had a discussion about which of their female classmates they would like to “hate-f–k”. There were multiple comments throughout the conversation about the use of chloroform to render women unconscious, and they compared chloroform to nitrous-oxide, which you may recognize as the gas that dentists use to knock you out for surgery. The students also referred to the penis as “the tool used to wean and convert lesbians and virgins into useful, productive members of society,” and described the role of women as being “chefs, housekeepers, babysitters, etc.”
So right now there’s a bunch of debating going on as people fight over whether the students should be expelled (they are currently on probation from practicing at the in-school clinic), what kind of punishment is befitting, whether it’s all being blown out of proportion, and so on and so on.
As this article in McLean’s explains, some people – like Margaret Wente – believe that the crux of the problem is not the students and their private Facebook discussion, but that women need to “man up” and stop being such delicate little flowers who bitch and moan about every little comment or joke a guy makes.
Here’s the thing. I’m a tradeswoman, working in a traditionally male-dominated field, and when I’m out West at work I’m usually the one woman for every hundred men. I’ve been doing this kind of work for about 8 years, and I’m one of the first ones who will tell other women to buck up, stop being so prissy, and stop turning everything a guy says or does into an insult, because I’ve seen first-hand that women do this, and they do it a lot.
But the Dalhousie scandal is not one of those times.
When a guy makes a joke of a sexual nature, I don’t see any need to get all up in arms about it, because let’s be open and honest: we’re all thinking about sex about 50% of the time, whether we admit it or not. It’s human nature. I have a work-mate who constantly jokes about sex toys and teases me relentlessly, trying to get me to reveal what kind I own. It might be a little annoying to some people, but it’s not exactly something worth getting a restraining order over. He’s my buddy and he’s a torment, and he and I both know that he means nothing by his comments other than trying to get me to blush. He’s a joker. Again, human nature.
But you know what isn’t human nature? Using chloroform to knock women out and “hate-f–k” them. Whether it was a joke amongst buddies or not, being so cavalier about rape like that is disgusting, and I don’t think anyone is overreacting by getting upset about it. Margaret Wente, in her article, talked about how the 13 dentistry students were all “decent guys” and were just “boys being boys”, but is she inside any of their heads? No. They could be some of the greatest guys out there who would never hurt a fly, but anyone of them could easily be a sociopath, and ignoring comments about them basically stating out loud that they want to rape someone is tantamount to handing them a girl and saying, “Here, have fun.” If any random student with access to guns make comments about bringing weapons to school and shooting up the place, they’d probably be arrested within the hour, because we don’t take risks when someone threatens to kill people. But somehow we’re perfectly okay taking risks when someone shows signs of possibly being a rapist.
There are lot of things that I think people should stop whining about in today’s culture. But any kind of support of rape culture is not on my list, sorry.
So what should we do about it? Well, that’s a whole other argument. There are lots of people screaming for the students’ expulsion, and lots of people arguing the opposite (they did pay for all that schooling, after all). They can’t be taken to legal justice (so far as I know; correct me if I’m wrong) because they didn’t technically do anything or make any direct threats toward the victims of their misogynistic conversation. Personally, I’m not too concerned about how the actual punishment plays out because I think the students have already screwed themselves over enough. After all, if you were looking for a dentist, would you willingly go to the one who was publicly revealed to have compared nitrous-oxide to chloroform, whilst in the midst of a conversation about having his way with the female classmates that he believes should be sent back to the kitchen? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t let that guy within a hundred feet of my mouth, or within a thousand feet of my family.
What do you think? Are we overreacting about a bunch of “harmless jokes”, or should these 13 guys be nailed to the wall for their comments? If it was your decision would you expel them from the rest of their studies or let them complete the program and deal with the consequences of their actions once they’re out in the professional world? Here’s one: what would you do if one of these guys was YOUR son, and you found out that this is how he talks about women to his friends when they think they’re behind closed doors?