Rape of Student Activist Spoofed at UWO paper

This makes me sick.  It’s probably old news, but it’s news that shouldn’t slip by anyone.  Our culture is teaching potential journalists to belittle a serious crime.  May the young woman and her friends be safe and strong and may the young men learn to show more respect to women.

Here are some press releases to get you up to speed on some of the

scary stuff that’s going down right now on the UWO campus — and the

Miss G__ Project is at the front lines of the battle (which, by the

way, we’re totally winning 😉 , as one of our most prominent members,

Jenna Owsianik, was directly targeted in this attack.You can take immediate action by writing letters to the Editor-in-Chief of the Gazette Ian Van Den Hurk at editor.gazette@uwo.ca, the UWO Students’ Council President Fab Dolan at usc.president@uwo.ca, theUWO President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Davenport, at pdavenpo@uwo.ca,and UWO Equity Services at equity@uwo.ca.

Thank you for your time and support, and we appreciate your help in

passing this information on to your contacts and networks!

In solidarity,

Laurel Mitchell

Miss G__ Project Co-Coordinator

PS More information and recent updates can be found at

http://soapboxspinster.blogspot.com.

Western Students Up in Arms After Campus Newspaper “Spoofs” the Rape of Student Activist

LONDON, ON – April 8, 2007 – Many students at the University of

Western Ontario are up in arms about an article published on March

30th by the daily campus newspaper, The Gazette, as part of its annual

Spoof Issue. The article depicts the London police chief (who is

explicitly named) dragging a prominent member of the UWO Women’s

Issues Network (WIN), depicted under the pseudonym “Jennifer Ostrich,”

into an alley to rape her to “teach [her] a lesson.”

The article, titled “Labia Majora Carnage,” was published

anonymously under the pseudonym, “Xavier.”

Students angry and offended by the article have been mobilizing

through letter writing campaigns to The Gazette Editor-in-Chief Ian

Van Den Hurk, the university, and the media, and through a protest

held on campus last Thursday.

Some students have also written to Police Chief Murray Faulkner to

ask him to make a public statement about his portrayal in the article

and his stance on violence against women. Faulkner couldn’t be reached

for comment.

Most students believe “Jennifer Ostrich” to be a caricature of

Jenna Owsianik, chair of the Western chapter of the feminist group The

Miss G__ Project and an active member of WIN. She has also been vocal

about criticizing The Gazette, and in the October issue of the

Grapevine (another campus publication at Western), Owsianik wrote

about what she sees as The Gazette’s tradition of “negative sexual

stereotypes and sexist attitudes” — and cataloged the offenses.

In addition to being angry and upset, Owsianik is disappointed that

this is the response to her criticisms and to the challenge she issued

to The Gazette and all student journalists in the Grapevine article

“to be more responsible.” Though she’s not terribly surprised – The

Gazette has been brushing off her criticisms and making fun of her and

other WIN members all year – the severity and violence of this article

still shocked and terrified her.

“I feel like I was raped by that article,” Owsianik said candidly.

The article also satirizes “Katie Conservative,” a pretty clear

allusion to WIN Internal Relations Manager and active UWO Conservative

Association member Kathryn Mitrow, who says that she is “appalled and

ashamed” by The Gazette’s actions.

In a letter to the editor published in the April 5 edition of The

Gazette, graduate student Corey Katz takes issue with the Spoof

Issue’s jokes about rape, violence against women and homosexuality.

“These jokes are used every day to justify violence against women and

queer people. How many jokes like these has someone read, heard,

laughed at or told before they’re able to overcome their conscience

enough to rape or assault someone?”

Recent UWO alumna and Miss G__ Project Co-Coordinator Sheetal Rawal

also thinks that the targeting of Owsianik in this article is a way to

silence activism about women’s issues on Western’s campus.

“For The Gazette to level a threat of rape at a student activist on

campus, one who has had the courage to speak out against the shocking

misogyny, homophobia, racism in the paper, as away to “teach [her] a

lesson,” is highly irresponsible of a campus newspaper and absolutely

unacceptable,” Rawal said. “This is hate speech.”

Rawal also said that she is “embarrassed” that, between this and

other events like the “Saugeen Stripper” issue last year, Western is

coming to known for its rape culture. “I refuse to allow for my degree

to read “Rapist University,”” she said.

Not all students are upset about it though, and even some of those who

are continue defend The Gazette’s right to publish articles like this

under freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech is a fundamental pillar of our society, even if

we don’t like it,” Western student Noah Desjardins wrote on the

discussion board of a Facebook group created around this issue. “Any

restrcitions placed on it lead to a slippery slope of censorship.”

Western student Fiona Martin thinks that freedom of speech should

have its limits though.

“The debate continues on whether jokes against feminism are funny.

Some people think they are, some don’t. What is not funny is the

verbal attack against specific people that The Gazette article made.

That is hate speech,” she wrote on the discussion board.

So far, The Gazette’s only official response to the backlash from

the Spoof Issue has been “get over yourself.” In an April 4 editorial

they defend the “satire” of the issue, writing that those offended

should “know a joke when they see one.”

However, several students have been demanding more extreme action,

including calling for Van Den Hurk’s resign and the withdrawal of

student funding (through the University Students’ Council) to The

Gazette.

Student Kate Barthes suggests that The Gazette’s funding be revoked

for one year, to match the USC’s actions against the Society for

Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) when it was accused of hate speech

last year.

Throughout all this, Owsianik has been told by several people to

‘take a joke.’

“That article was about me getting raped and liking it,” she said.

“When you live your life in my body and experience the violence that

my body has felt, then you can tell me if satirical intention merits a

diffused reaction,” she said.

Controversy is continuing to dog the University of Western Ontario’s

student run newspaper The Gazette

LONDON,ON. April 9,2007 – Each year the University of Western

Ontario’s student newspaper, The Gazette, publishes a spoof edition

which is released on April 1st. This years’ edition targeted women,

and in particular, groups who advocate women’s issues on campus.

The article in question, titled “Labia Majora Carnage”

depicts a supposedly satirical portrayal of the Take Back the Night

rally. The author, who refuses to be identified, laces this ‘humorous’

article with vulgar depictions of women and sexually suggestive

themes. In it, known UWO activists are alluded to in morphed

characterizations.

Current London Police Services Chief Murray Faulkiner

is named in the article. Chief Faulkiner is described “…greasing his

nightstick”. The author adds: “He [Chief Faulkiner] grabbed the

loudspeaker from Ostrich’s wild vagina and took it into a dark alley

to teach it a lesson.”

The Gazette Editor-in-Chief, Ian Van Den Hurk, responded

citing Freedom of Speech and re enforced that the article was intended

to be humorous and instead of apologizing he called the complaintifs

“convoluted” and told them to “get-over” themselves.

Outraged students have taken several steps to air their

frustration with the student-funded Gazette’s article that was neither

factual, newsworthy, nor relevant to the Gazette’s mandate.

“Ian Van Den Hurk must be reminded that the Gazette is

published and supported with student fees appropriated by the UWO

University Students’ Council,” said Kate Bartz, former President of

the Women’s Studies Student Council.

Kathryn Mitrow, who is a member of the Women’s Issues

Network at UWO stated:

“Such an attack and slanderous piece of writing has no place

appearing in a newspaper funded by and supported by students.”

Van Den Hurk’s personal web-blog featuring many sexualized

themes can be viewed at: http://hurk.blogspot.com/

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