It is common in politics and in cultural debates generally to have a winning issue, only to sabotage your own argument by taking your argument too far and actually alienate people who would otherwise agree with you.
Before I continue, the “statistic” that one in five college women are sexually assaulted is extremely flawed. See here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.
A Middle Way House representative wrote a letter to the editor earlier this month claiming that a Twitter post by Kilroy’s Recess, a nightclub for adults over 18 that does not serve alcohol, “blatantly promotes rape culture.” The tweet allegedly paints Recess as “a virtual playground of young girls for sexual predators” and is “a completely unacceptable endorsement of rape culture.”
OK, people, let’s chill out for a second. What did the tweet actually say? “We got rid of the wet t-shirt contests, but kept the underage girls.”
The underage girls joke is misogynistic and should be condemned on that basis, but it does not promote rape. Furthermore, context is important. In this case “underage girls” refers to adult women between 18 and 20. They are “underage” in that they cannot legally drink alcohol, but they are adults. Recess is an 18 and over nightclub.
So, to review: Did the tweet represent misogyny? Yes. Rape culture? No.
Kilroy’s got justifiably shamed for that tweet, and for a sign joking about patrons drinking until they black out. As prevalent as binge drinking is on college campuses, that was extremely irresponsible. Had the criticisms been confined to misogyny and irresponsibility, it would have been fine. When Kilroy’s critics went far beyond reasonable criticism, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.