Viral emails need attention
On March 8, several friends and I learned about what’s now known as the “Kappa Sigma email.”
We were appalled and frustrated by the administration’s decision to await Kappa Sigma’s own internal investigation before taking action.
Moreover, we were frustrated by what we see as a culture of misogyny, not just at USC, but nationwide.
The following morning, when I mentioned the email in my class, a female student asked if she was “wrong” for finding the email funny.
What could I possibly say? My fellow graduate students have similar stories emblematic of a culture that internalizes many of the ideas expressed in the email, and in response, the eight of us drafted a letter voicing our concerns, which is available online.
The university administration has thus far responded with its own open letter. I sincerely hope this dialogue continues, but the scope of my concern, and indeed the issue at hand, is much broader.
The email is central, but we must not become mired in details. We can argue whether enough is being done to identify the email’s author and those who distributed it, or if finding them is even possible.
But if they are found, what then? Have they committed a crime? Violated a code of conduct? Are they protected by the First Amendment? These are important questions but they can potentially distract us from the real problem: a culture of objectification and violence toward women. Focusing on scapegoats allows larger issues to remain ignored.
This is not an indictment of fraternity members, or USC specifically, but a reality of our contemporary culture.
When an individual claiming to represent a fraternity distributes this kind of email, it’s an outrage and possibly a punishable offense.
When Tucker Max advocates these same ideas, it’s accepted as entertainment. But we must not pass blame around until it fades altogether, or throw our hands up in despair.
We need to understand the cultural forces producing misogyny and violence in order to change them.
I hope the author is found, but if online comment threads are an indication, any number of young men could have composed the same email.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that this email has stirred up controversy, and I hope the administration seizes this opportunity for dialogue and education.
If this has taught us nothing else, it’s what we do and say here resonates beyond our campus; and we should use the national attention to turn the tide against misogyny and sexual violence at USC and in the culture at large.
Ph.D. student, English