Sexist humor: #TotalFratMove: Brand promotes offensive attitudes toward women

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Photo by Photo by Lindsay Rucker.

A student checks out Total Frat Move’s book, which describes the escapades of a fictional college freshman. The book also includes pictures of wild frat parties and scantily-clad girls.

“Total frat move.”

I hear people use this phrase to refer to everything from buying expensive polo shirts to embarking on weekend drinking extravaganzas. Until recently, I didn’t really understand what it meant. A quick Google search directed me to the Total Frat Move website, a blog of college and frat humor, music and news.

All that seemed innocuous enough at first. But after a few minutes of browsing, I started to feel pretty uncomfortable. First there was the column featured on the front page, which criticized January sorority rush because it keeps girls too covered up. The article included comments like this one: “When I watch sorority rush I want to be amused and entertained and yeah, I’ll admit it, a little aroused. Does that offend you? What? You don’t get hungry at the grocery store?”

Another column was called “2013 wife mock draft,” which gave the pros and cons of a number of sorority girls as potential wife material. Being a “career-first woman, not a team player when it comes to childbearing” was considered a con; “drinking and f***ing like a champion” was  a pro. While the profiles were clearly fictionalized, those standards made me squirm.

The crowning moment came when I stumbled across the article, “The Best Rush Boobs of 2012,” in which topless women submitted pictures of themselves with their sorority letters painted on their chests. The pictures were ranked and discussed by a Total Frat Move writer and by readers, no graphic details or vicious insults spared.

Thoroughly disgusted, I demanded of my guy friends how people could possibly endorse such a brand. Why does half our school’s male population seem to be reading Total Frat Move’s book, which, from the few pages I could force myself to get through, seemed as degrading as the web site or worse? Mostly I got uncomfortable giggles. “It’s satire,” I was told. “Everything on there is a joke. You can’t take it seriously.”

Oh yes, I can.

It’s time we called things by their names: content like the kind I observed on Total Frat Move is objectification of women, plain and simple. Total Frat Move portrays it as “cool,” “manly,” and yes, “funny,” to talk about women as if they’re commodities you can buy at a store. I am sick of trying to see the humor in rhetoric that dehumanizes my entire gender.

Here’s the thing about sexist humor: it doesn’t stop with jokes and pictures on sites like Total Frat Move. It enters into discourse and then into action: a focus on “getting” girls rather than having conversations with them, on ogling women’s bodies rather than evaluating their characters. And so we end up with Twitter accounts like @BVNBoobs (and @KUBoobs and @MizzouBoobs, for that matter). We end up with tweets like the kind we saw on the North Report last month, publicly referring to girls as sluts and whores. We end up with signs on the doors of frat parties: “bring girls or you don’t get in.”

Of course, Total Frat Move is a symptom and not a root cause. Sexist humor has a long history in this country. The website is just another, and perhaps a more widely accepted, instance of an old trend. But that doesn’t mean we have to go along with it. I think we should reject Total Frat Move as a cultural icon and seek out better forms of entertainment. After all, the website’s own masthead reads: “We are tomorrow’s leaders.” For once, they’re right. Our generation has a choice. We can either perpetuate the old tradition of sexist degradation, or we can make it uncool, once and for all, to dehumanize and objectify women. I hope we don’t laugh this one off.