Some students at Siena College, in a suburb north of Albany, protested about a billboard they found offense. I was unaware of the controversy until the local media guru posted the response from one of the local radio deejays, a guy named Chuck, with whom I was unfamiliar, on her Facebook feed:
I believe apathy is a dangerous thing and it’s particularly depressing when I see it so frequently exhibited by young people. For that reason, I actually admire the fact you are willing to take action against something you deem offensive and misguided.
With that said, here is my unsolicited advice. Devote your energies to a cause that might actually make a difference in someone’s life.
THAT response rubbed me the wrong way.
Among the Facebook discussion that ensued: “While it certainly wouldn’t be reason enough for me to protest, I’m certainly not going to condemn someone else for taking a stand on something! we need more social engagement in this country and young people have to start somewhere!”
That more or less was my position. Yet, as I reread Chuck’s blather, I got more and more irritated. Maybe it was because I was feeling unwell.
I wrote, “Chuck’s response is a classic diversion stance of ‘Aren’t there more pressing issues?’ Of course, there are, but this one engaged these people in this moment, something that they might change in the moment.”
Chuck had written further in his response:
“You really want to help women? There’s a strip club a couple miles up the road. Maybe some of those women could use your help. Their lives truly ARE dependent on men.”
I noted, “Telling them about a strip club that they might not have even known about, and suggesting they ignore what’s right before their eyes, is patronizing and insulting. Good for the protesters.”
Ultimately, I thought there was less sexism in the ad than in the snarky response by the deejay.
Chuck wrote, “Somehow you have whipped yourselves into a frenzy…a storm of wild indignation and self-righteousness…fooling yourself into believing you are doing something noble and important. I hate to break it to you but….you’re not.”
The subtext to me of his comments was clear: they were silly, overly sensitive “girls” who didn’t know about “real life” or “marketing.” Someone wrote of the DJ: “You are perpetuating the many stereotypes assigned to women over the years who get passionate about unpopular ideas” which sounds about right.
I was also fascinated by the media guru who posted the item, who admitted that she’s “someone who has never been a protester.” As someone who has protested a lot of things over the years, I’m interested to see how someone, albeit half my age, could not moved by some cause, some issue. It’s just foreign to me.