Sig Ep Scantily Clad in Controversy -cd

Alicia Bones

On Wednesday Apr. 16, sophomore Rob Gray ran frantically around campus removing posters bashing Sigma Phi Epsilon’s popular “P and H” party. The posters’ inflammatory messages, stating that the party encouraged racist stereotypes and battery of sex workers, caused waves of confusion and anger throughout the student body.
The posters, which bore the official Greek letters of the Sig Ep fraternity but were not created by the fraternity, were a breeding ground for rumor and misinformation around campus. “I. had to set people straight because they legitimately thought we put up these posters to advertise,” said SigEp Social Chair Rob Gray. The posters were almost completely removed by midday Wednesday.
The person who administer these posters, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he strove to awaken the campus to the real-life issues buried underneath the light-hearted camp of the party. The posterer said, “I wanted people to recognize how misguided and incredibly callous this party is.”
Mike Toycen, Sig Ep president, counters the argument with the claim that the party isn’t meant to be offensive. He said the party “is about fun, not about politics.”
However, the party has long been a source of controversy. According to a former Sig Ep President, the Downer Feminist Council took the Sig Eps to Judicial Board in 2002 over the party’s name and theme, “Pimps and Hos,” as it was and still is known is campus. Since then, the Sig Eps have registered and publicized the party as merely “P + H,” standing for “Peace and Harmony.”
Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell said there has been a long history of complaints from students, faculty and administration members. “There has been more than one conversation [between the administration and Sig Ep leadership] about the appropriateness of such a party,” said Dean Truesdell.
This history of opposition to the party’s theme made the posterer more unwilling to speak with the Sig Eps before taking the action he did.
“If Sig Ep had never been told that this party was wrong, I would have been much more sympathetic and willing to believe that Sig Ep just hadn’t thought about the issues this party raised,” said the posterer. “Sig Ep’s decision to continue having the party under a different name just proves the depth of Sig Ep’s commitment to ignorance.”
The Sig Eps think the posterer’s approach to dealing with his or her outrage was ineffective and immature. “I think this is a horrible way to begin — I don’t see why he couldn’t have gone that route in the first place,” said Rob Gray, in regards to how the posterer didn’t voice his concerns to the Sig Eps before taking this action.
In fact, the Sig Eps had not encountered opposition to the party prior to Tuesday’s postering. “We are angered that somebody would stoop so low and misrepresent the house in such an egregious way,” said Toycen.
This year, although the fraternity officially registered the party as Peace and Harmony, many of their advertisements still seemed to recall the previous Pimps and Hos theme. The posterer cites the Facebook invitation to the party which he said, “includes a picture of a man who’s clearly supposed to represent a pimp surrounded by four women wearing revealing outfits; both the man and one of the women are clutching cash.”
The Facebook tagline for the party, although not explicit in its citing of pimps or hos, said, “Grind in Harmony until your Peace falls off (BYOH).”
Associate Dean of Students Amy Uecke, who has been involved with the issue since it arose, said, “The name and theme do not seem to be congruent.” Truesdell agrees, saying that the fraternity and administration have had conversations “specifically talking about publicity” though they do not “change the nature of the event.” Because of the inconsistency between publicity and theme, Dean Truesdell said the Sig Eps “are missing the point.”
Both the posterer and the fraternity maintain that the party’s popularity is entirely dependent upon the student body, which showed up in mass numbers. Some partygoers and hosts of the party were dressed in costumes as pimps and hos, while others showed up in everyday attire.
The posterer said, “Regardless of the party’s official name, everyone on campus knows that Sig Ep intends this party to have pimps and hos theme.”
Toycen said, “The party encourages nothing. People are free to make the party what they want.” If nothing else, both the posterer and the Sig Eps seem to agree the party, or at least the pimps and hos theme, whether or not encouraged by the Sig Eps, wouldn’t still exist if not for its popularity on campus.
However, some do not think the party serves as a positive outlet for discussion. Emily Bowles-Smith, Research Associate and Lecturer in Gender Studies, said the posters epitomized “the idea that ‘Pimps and Hos’ refers to something playful, fun and campy, when in fact the terminology is connected to an industry in which women — and men — are battered, used, and exploited.”
The alternate poster campaign echoed Bowles-Smith’s sentiment. One poster depicted an abused woman with blood running down her chin with the tagline, “Dress your part.pimps hurt ho’s!!! Celebrate violence against sex workers with Sig Ep!”
Another poster had an image of a black man dressed in a printed plush robe with an oversized hat, jewelry and sunglasses with the tagline, “Blackface encouraged!!! Celebrate racist caricatures with Sig Ep!!!” The posterer defaced the original posters by writing, “Oppression is a party,” on them.
The posterer states, “Peoples’ costumes for the party — especially men’s costumes — are based on a racist image of a image that comes out of the blaxploitation films of the 1970s.” Beginning with the movie “Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song”, the blaxplotation movement stereotyped the lives of black people by portraying only seedy black men in “ghetto” societies.
All sides of the controversy seem to wish that, if nothing else, this postering will spark a dialogue about these recently stirred up issues. However, whether or not the posterer’s specific issues will be addressed, an underground campaign shows the need for a neutral forum where students can have organized, balanced discussions.