“If your girl goes to Western she’s not your girl anymore.”
Slogans like this adorned Broughdale Avenue last Saturday as thousands of students flocked there for the infamous Fake Homecoming street party.
But amid the drunken revelry and police surveillance, signs saying things like “our roommate is a virgin pls help” reveal a darker reality of party culture at Western.
One in four women will experience some form of sexual assault in their life-time and it is estimated that between 15 and 25 per cent of North American women will experience some form of sexual assault during their academic career. And Broughdale’s slogans are a stark reminder of how far we have to go.
Broughdale’s signs normalize sexism and rape culture at Western University.
And yes, people will say these signs are not serious and “just a joke," but intention doesn’t change the result. Sexist slogans hung up during a crowded street party perpetuate ideas that make campus a more dangerous place.
These signs promote sexism and sexual assault as cornerstones of party culture. And they’ve been an ongoing problem. Last year saw slogans equally as problematic like the “19 to have a drink, 18 to get your bean flicked,” which hung from Broughdale porches following a province-wide party trend.
Granted, these banners aren’t creating the problem — no one is deciding to become a rapist because a sign hung outside a frat house told them that “Queens girls spit, Western girls swallow.” But these signs are belittling and poking fun at a very serious problem, which makes them dangerous.
Now, I don’t think the people walking past these signs on Fake Homecoming actually care about sexist undertones of these slogans splattered on bedsheets. And it’s this carelessness that’s contributing to the problem — these sentiments are being normalized by partiers.
This problem isn’t unique to Fake Homecoming. Sexism and derogatory language exist throughout university party culture, not just at Western. It just so happens that Western’s Fake Homecoming, like it does with all things, brings this aspect of party culture to the extreme — thrusting it into the spotlight.
When it comes to Fake Homecoming I honestly couldn’t care less whether my peers choose to “party smart.” I can pop-in my earbuds to block out the roar of Purple Fest and avoid Broughdale for a day — and if some drunk idiot is peer pressured into jumping off a roof, it’s really not my problem.
But having a university culture where demeaning women is normalized is my problem. Frankly, as a woman, having these attitudes ingrained in party culture is terrifying — because it puts my experience in jeopardy.
So go ahead, have your Fake Homecoming banger, but you don’t have to be sexist to “party hard.”