September 13th, 2016 – Students at the University of Pennsylvania woke up to see hundreds of fliers posted around campus that boldly say “THIS IS WHAT RAPE CULTURE LOOKS LIKE.” On the bottom of the flier, the warning “WE ARE WATCHING” is written; both messages on top of a sexually suggestive email addressed to “Ladies.”
On August 31st, the email was sent to an undisclosed list of recipients with the subject “Wild Wednesday.” The content of the email was a poem encouraging freshmen ladies to, amongst other things, wear something tight and not be a tease. According to the student paper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, similar poem emails have been sent in past years from nearly identical email accounts.
The email accounts have been linked to an off-campus organization called Oz, which is not recognized by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Every year, freshmen females are invited to this fraternity party often by way of a “sexist email.”
This year, which has already seen a majorly controversial rape case through Brock Turner, the invite was passed onto a junior at UPenn, Amanda Silberling. She and a group of fellow students thought about sending feminist literature to the email account but then decided to follow mass protests of the past and make their opposition public.
They printed out 600 copies of the email and chose prime spots on campus to host the revised version. The LOVE statue outside Claudia Cohen Hall, the 38th Street Bridge and the area around Compass on Locust Walk were some of the more prominent choices.
“It’s the second week of classes, so a lot of the frats on campus try to throw as many parties as they can,” Silberling told PhillyVoice. “Sometimes their tactics for getting people to go to these parties can be really aggressive. In this case, a frat sent an email to incoming freshman girls. We don’t know how they got the list.”
Another UPenn student, senior Hannah who asked the school paper to only use her first name, said her friends wanted to “let the rest of campus know what they’ve done and shame them for it.” “We’re just trying to keep somebody safe, because no one did it for us. We recognized that it was targeting freshman girls at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives,” she added.
UPenn isn’t the only college campus getting heat from suggestive party invites. A fraternity at the University of Richmond has been suspended after the school labeled an email they sent as “grossly offensive.” Richmond’s Kappa Alpha chapter sent an email inviting students to a night “that makes fathers afraid to send their daughters away to school.”
Currently the University of Pennsylvania has sent out a statement condemning the invite and supporting the students who spoke out: “The text of the email was offensive and has no place at Penn. As the University has made clear in its policies and protocols, sexual harassment and sexual assault are unacceptable and will not be tolerated on campus. Challenging offensive speech, as these students did, is important and wholly consistent with the University’s ongoing efforts and the national conversation about preventing and responding to sexual misconduct.”
Do you think the type of language in the email crossed a line and feeds into what the students labeled as rape culture? Let us hear from you in the comment section below.