Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

27 February, 2007

All they needed was a scarlet letter

Inside Higher Ed reports on a humiliating permutation of the flash mob at UNC Chapel Hill:
Ryan Burke, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, invites his girlfriend from North Carolina State University to meet him at the Pit, a central meeting point on his campus, for a Valentine’s Day surprise. She arrives and finds hundreds of students (some estimates top 1,000) whom he had invited via Facebook. Her boyfriend starts by introducing an a cappella group — not to sing some romantic melody, but the Dixie Chicks’ defiant hit “I’m Not Ready to Make Nice.”

When the song is done, Burke tells his girlfriend that she has been unfaithful and that he’s dumping her. They exchange harsh words — several of them four-letter epithets — while the audience watches, laughs and jeers. At one point, the crowd starts chanting “slut, slut, slut” at the woman. She fights back (verbally), telling her by-then-ex that if he needs an audience to break up with her, he must have the problem.

YouTube video of the event is here.

The article tries to suss out whether this event was real or staged, and several people interviewed for the article are rightly disturbed that so many who observed the event seem to be revelling in the public humiliation of a woman. I found this little statement towards the end of the piece to be interesting:
She also said that there were positive factors to consider. “I’m a journalism and public relations major,” Legacki said. “I was impressed by the word of mouth that catalyzed this and how it’s grown completely. To me it’s more amazing how it got to where it is than the fact that Ryan publicly humiliated Mindy,” she said. “Any time you can get a group of college students that big in one place is impressive,” Legacki said, adding that she did agree that it would be good “to figure out how to use that for better causes.”

Her caveat at the end of the quote notwithstanding, I'm struck by the speaker's lack of empathy. The need to publically humiliate a woman, and the mob enjoying the spectacle is the story (although, let's be honest, misogyny - public or otherwise - is widely tolerated in our society and is seldom "news"). At the risk of invoking Godwin, the comment seems to me to be different only by a matter of degrees from admiring how efficiently the Nazis handled that whole Holocaust deal. But I'm sure I'm an over-sensitive jerk who's too old to get the "joke."

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