With controversy kicking up over C&E’s annual Rappers and Slappers event, Aoife Valentine asks if “slappers” is more than just a word
It is difficult to assess the value in a Rappers and Slappers event without being keenly aware that the only response you’ll receive on the matter is that you should get a sense of humor. Forgive those of us who don’t find misogyny funny, but this event, and events like Stockbrokers and Secretaries or Suits and Sluts, are getting extremely old.
Apart from lightening up, those who complained about the Commerce and Economics (C&E) Society’s event were told that they should stop being offended by mere words. After all, they said, slapper is just a word and the only way it could be offensive is if those complaining continued to apply an offensive definition to it. It’s for this reason that we continue to sling simple words like “nigger” and “faggot” around with wild abandon.
Except we don’t, because those are offensive terms designed to demean and degrade certain groups of people. The fact a long argument took place over whether or not it is acceptable to bandy “slapper” around is an indication of how far lad culture has spread on campus.
By using “slappers” in the event title, it not only attempts to normalise an offensive term, but it associates women very closely with sex, and the accompanying poster made sure to hammer that home. In a society where women can’t go out at night without their bodies being seen as public property, do we really need a whole event that portrays them as little more than prostitutes?
When ‘Blurred Lines’ isn’t just a sexist anthem but a commonly held viewpoint among many young men with regards to sexual consent, must we label women as slappers before they even get in the door? Sexual harassment, sexual assault and indeed rape are far too often excused by placing the blame on the woman for dressing or acting a certain way, usually described using derogatory terms such as sluts, whores and, UCD’s favourite, slappers.
Women are told to stay safe by avoiding dressing provocatively, because the poor menfolk can’t help themselves when they see a short skirt. Their lack of self-control and indeed, respect are the constantly seen as the woman’s fault.
This is rape culture. It is not going away any time soon, and events such as Rappers and Slappers only serve to perpetuate it. The issue here is not how women choose to dress, but creating a pressure to dress in a very specific way and the assumptions made by others based on that. C&E could never have called the event ‘Get your tits out for the lads’, but they may as well have.
It might just be one event in the academic calendar and the society may have only meant it as a bit of fun, but the issue is far bigger than that. Associating offensive terms with fun makes it seem like sexism is acceptable, or in fact, sexism isn’t an issue at all. It creates expectations for women and expectations of women, and at no point does the woman appear to be seen as more than just an object.
C&E’s main sponsors, KPMG, immediately disassociated themselves from the event and emphasised their commitment to equality in the workplace, but the society continued to deny the issue. The event ran on Thursday night as planned, as it would have required new posters had the event title been changed, and that cost would have, apparently, been through no fault of the society’s own.
A decade of Rappers and Slappers events was justification for another, it seems, and €120, the approximate cost of a new set of posters, was simply more than C&E felt respect for their female members was worth. In 2013, we shouldn’t still have to demand more.