The author of the “Straight Week” fliers found hung around campus Tuesday has the unique distinction of encompassing the needs of every character from the Wizard of Oz; they need a heart, a brain, some courage and to go home.
In case you missed it, here’s the lowdown.
Tuesday a number of rainbow-adorned fliers were hung around campus calling for May 1-8 to be celebrated as “Straight Pride” week. Kind of weird since that’s essentially celebrated by our culture year round, but otherwise the idea is mostly benign. Until you read the rest.
“Join us in celebrating straight pride week at YSU by not annoying the shit out of everyone about your sexual orientation. It’s easy to join too! Just come to YSU, then go about your day without telling everyone how ‘different’ you are.”
“Brought to you by the students who are sick of hearing about your LGBT pride. Nobody cares about what you think you are, or what you want to have sex with. We have nothing against your sexual orientation. We just don’t give a f–k.”
Well thank God they don’t have anything against the LGBT+ individuals’ sexual orientations, otherwise that message might have seemed bigoted!
Pro tip for next time, anonymous flier person: you can’t say you have a problem with people expressing their sexual orientation, then go and say you don’t have a problem with people expressing their sexual orientation. See the problem there? It’s sort of like starting a sentence with “I have no problem with black people, but …”
Obviously the poster’s problems with the LGBT+ community goes beyond minor annoyance. This person took the time — before finals week no less — to print out and distribute these things. Who has time for that? Someone with an axe to grind.
Before we continue, we just want to make something clear; yes, we get it. We’re giving flier person a larger platform to spread their message by talking about it in the paper. While the problem of promoting a negative message is always an issue with media coverage, The Jambar editorial board was approached by YSUnity, Youngstown State University’s LGBT+ student organization, to comment on the issue. Since we have the blessing of those targeted by the message, we feel justified in using this platform to tackle the issue despite giving the opinion a greater voice.
Now, let’s get into this thing.
First, we should be fair here before putting a fatwa on the flier person and summoning the hashtag inquisitors to come and exact social media retribution; the flier isn’t promoting violence nor is it exceedingly inflammatory. It’s just very dickish.
That being said, just because the flier isn’t calling for us to hunt LGBT+ students for sport doesn’t mean it isn’t awful.
Our LGBT+ community on campus isn’t exactly marching around Kilcawley in feather boas and assless chaps like it’s Pride Week in the Castro. Outside of YSUnity’s events — which are almost always held after the majority of classes have finished and always in spaces they’ve reserved — it would be a challenge to “spot” a member of that community unless you got to know them and they chose to talk to you about their sexual orientation. You know, like any other human being.
So, since YSU’s LGBT+ community doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, where is this gripe coming from?
Most likely it’s a response to YSUnity’s observance of the Day of Silence where participants wore duct-tape over their mouths as a way to protest bullying. Not just bullying of LGBT+ people — though that was a focus — but bullying against anyone. The whole point of the event was to illustrate that bullying is used by majorities to silence the voices of those in minority communities, whether that be race, sexual/gender orientation, religious beliefs, et cetera.
That was Friday. Tuesday, the poster went up essentially telling the LGBT+ community to keep quiet and, basically, act straight.
Really, if nothing else, it’s great advertising for why observing the Day of Silence is a good idea.
The second particularly offensive aspect of the flier was the phrase “nobody cares about … what you want to have sex with.”
This may come as a shock to you, flier person, but — and let’s just say spoilers here for other bigots who haven’t posted idiotic fliers yet — LGBT+ people like having sex with humans!
For those taking notes, that’s a “who” not a “what.”
Let’s be honest though, the chosen language wasn’t a grammatical error. By saying “what” instead of “who,” the poster’s subtext was suggesting that LGBT+ people are sexual deviants who have sex with things, not sex with other human beings that feel love and desire sexual intimacy and romantic companionship.
We can pick apart the flier all day, but we won’t have to because the campus administration acted quickly to rectify the problem. Unfortunately, this action may have violated the First Amendment.
A short time after the fliers went up, Student Government Association president-elect Ashley Orr was made aware of the situation and contacted Jack Fahey, vice president of student affairs, about the issue. Fahey sent people out to pull the fliers down.
With the English Festival about to begin, it was an essential guarantee that the college would pull down the fliers before the high school kids show up to flood The Hub.
People may cry “freedom of speech, freedom of speech!” and trust us, no one on this campus, save a particularly pugnacious journalism professor, cares more about freedom of speech than us at The Jambar. As such, as much as we hate to say it, there may have been a violation of the First Amendment when YSU chose to remove the fliers.
We say “may” because as far as we could tell, there is no university policy explicitly banning the posting of offensive views on bulletin boards. However, in article three of the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct, it states “…harassment, stalking, bullying and/or coercion” constitutes a violation of student conduct.
People on one side of the argument would say the flier is perfectly described by those attributes, while others would disagree. Ultimately, it would be the opinion of the court that matters.
If people want to hold an opinion that is critical of LGBT+ individuals, our country protects their right to hold and express that belief so long as they aren’t inciting violence. That’s good. The only way to protect speech is to make sure no one gets to limit it, even if it’s offensive.
But if you’re going to express your opinion, don’t be a coward. Come out and say your piece.
While some college campuses have become hotbeds of emotionally fragile, echo chamber denizens incapable of dealing with opinions contrary to their own, that is not Youngstown. We are of hardier stock. So don’t hide behind your fliers. You’ll definitely be unpopular, and you’ll piss a lot of people off, but at least you won’t be a coward.
Campuses should be places where all ideas can be considered and debated. The bad ideas, after scrutiny, will be discarded. That’s how the marketplace of ideas works. You bring what you’re selling, see if anyone is willing to buy, and if they aren’t, then perhaps you should face the fact that you’re selling something rotten and change your product.
The ideas expressed in the flier are absolutely a rotten product. That’s why the poster hid behind a veil of anonymity; they know their product is garbage and they don’t want to face the feedback.
If you’re going to bring rotten ideas to the market, at least get a spine and own your trash.
The editorial board that writes editorials consists of the editor-in-chief, the managing editor, the copy editor, and the news editor. These opinion pieces are written separately from news articles. They draw on the opinions of the entire writing staff and do not reflect the opinions of any individual staff member. The Jambar’s business manager and non-writing staff do not contribute to editorials, and the adviser does not have final approval.