Campus / News / April 30, 2009

Questions raised about party posters

In the week prior to their Double-Oh-Seven party, Sigma Nu’s flyers, adaptations of movie posters featuring Bond girls were a common sight around campus. However, on the Friday the event was to occur, the posters disappeared.

“I was approached by an acquaintance on Thursday,” said senior Matt Hundley, the president of Sigma Nu, “who gave me a heads up people might have problems with the posters.” Unnamed parties had raised worries that the advertisements, with their prominent display of Bond girls, could be construed as sexist.

These worries came to a head the next day, when Sigma Nu received a phone call from Dean of Students Xavier Romano, requesting that the fraternity remove their posters from George Davis Hall.

“[Romano] said a professor from George Davis Hall had asked them to be taken down in that building,” Hundley said. “At first we thought it was that they were sexist, but after speaking with our advisor, it turned out the professor in question had modeled themselves as a proponent of the Greek System. [The faculty member] had asked themselves how they could support the Greek System if people questioned posters like that.”

After receiving the phone call, Sigma Nu members took down the posters not only in George Davis Hall, but any others still up around campus. According to Hundley, there was a general sense of confusion within the fraternity at being asked to remove the fliers.

“It wasn’t our intention to be sexist,” Hundley said. “We were going for the pop art aesthetic of the ‘60s movie poster. It was about the outrageous art.”

Junior Lyall Wallerstedt, the social chair of Sigma Nu, felt that the posters had been misunderstood.

“They weren’t meant to encourage women to act like Bond girls or men to act like Bond,” he said. “It was to encourage dressing classy. We didn’t have a photo shoot where we got a bunch of women to dress up in bikinis. The themes of our parties aren’t the main focus; they’re just to call it something.”

Prior to being distributed, the posters had been looked over by Assistant Director of Campus Life Jimmy Stewart and approved by Campus Life. Hundley indicated that, in the past, Sigma Nu had been contacted immediately if a proposed poster had been deemed to have anything wrong with it, even if it was just missing a small piece of information. Hundley stated that, on this occasion, they were not contacted by Campus Life.

James Bond has been used as the theme of the yearly party planned by the Sigma Nu pledge candidates since 2002-2003, according to Wallerstedt. Prior to this year, no complaints have been received.

“It took us by surprise,” Wallerstedt said. “We’ve never been accused of anything like this before. Last term we had Party With a Heart On, [the poster of] which was a painting of nymphs attacking a satyr. No one said anything then; that wasn’t considered sexist.”

The surprise at the request to remove the posters seemed to be a common one on campus.

“I didn’t find them in the least bit offensive,” said freshman Ellen Jackson. “They were just trying to play up the whole James Bond theme. It wasn’t aimed at women at all.” The sentiment was shared by other fraternities. Senior Derek Hayes, president of Sigma Chi, was surprised that any complaints of sexism were received, saying he could not recall protests against any sexist themes of any fraternity party.

“The general feeling is that Sigma Nu didn’t have the intention of being sexist,” Hayes said. “There’s no inherent sexism — it’s part of James Bond’s character. Anything public can be made into an offensive thing. People might sometimes make too big a deal out of it instead of just talking to the people.”

Hundley said that Sigma Nu had received no complaints, whether from students, faculty members, or the administration prior to being asked to take the posters down. When they did remove them, however, they discovered the words, “Sigma Nu wants you to get on your knees” next to one of the fliers.

“If people feel something encourages sexist attitudes,” Wallerstedt said, “I’d be more than willing to sit down and talk about it, but they just wrote their opinions on the posters.”

Hundley also expressed the sentiment that Sigma Nu members would discuss and try to resolve any problems people might have with the fraternity’s posters.

Both Hundley and Wallerstedt indicated that they felt the concerns did not reflect the character of Sigma Nu.

“We’re not like that,” said Wallerstedt. “Most women I’ve talked to say they feel safer at Sigma Nu than at any other fraternity.”

Katy Sutcliffe

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