Letter from the editor
Apr. 06, 2012
The Maneater committed a grievous error in judgment regarding the content of the April Fool’s edition published Tuesday. I take responsibility for that error. This edition of The Maneater was incredibly offensive and potentially damaging to the social climate at MU, and I want to take this opportunity to express our sincere apologies.
Before I get to the bulk of my apology, I want to say that next year’s executive editors, Kelly Olejnik and Pat Iversen, have decided to cancel next year’s April Fool’s edition, and this has received the full support of the current editorial board. This isn’t the first time our April Fool’s content has been upsetting for the MU community, and we’ve decided that it’s not worth offending members of our community for an attempt at a few laughs. We hold our readers, advertisers and sources in high regard, and we don’t want this to overshadow the journalistic work we do throughout the year. By definition, this edition was supposed to step outside our usual role, but we took it way too far.
Although many parts of this edition were vulgar and offensive, I want to first take the time to explain the masthead. I truly did not know that “carpet eater” is a derogatory term used for a lesbian. Had I known, I would never have even considered using it. I chose the masthead because I thought the pairing of the play on words of “The Maneater” with the sexual innuendo of that term could be funny. I realized there was a sexual connotation in this term, but I did not realize it was derogatory toward the LGBTQ community. Not knowing is not an excuse, however, and I’m sure that if I had brought this to every member of the 24-person editorial board, and made sure that every single person had read it, someone would have known this was a slur. Unfortunately, I did not do this, and my ignorance has harmed other people. I could not be more sorry about this. I’d also like to note that the negative connotation that masthead carries does not reflect the opinion of the editorial board.
Other derogatory words toward women were also printed in this edition, such as “cunt,” “slut” and “whore.” This was a massive oversight on our part. I allowed these to be printed because my thinking was that, as they were used in a satirical way and mostly as plays on words, the context in which they were used did not speak to women and the treatment of women. My poorly thought out rationale, which I realize now was wrong and potentially dangerous, was that since they were not used in a way that glorifies the mistreatment or objectification of women, they were not offensive. I realize now that these words in and of themselves can contribute to further prejudice, no matter the context. In addition to offending people on a personal level, the April Fool’s issue could detract from the work campus organizations and individuals have done to create a more inclusive campus. These words communicate beliefs that neither The Maneater editorial board nor I believe. Language and context is a false dichotomy, and the language in this edition was not at all acceptable.
The biggest failure on our part is that this edition has spread negativity and hurt toward marginalized groups. A second major failure is that this edition is contradictory to The Maneater’s point of view toward diversity issues. In our editorial pages, we’ve advocated for updating the M-Book’s nondiscrimination policy to include gender expression (see “Editorial: M-Book update more than necessary”), updating the FBI’s definition of rape (see: “Editorial: Tell the FBI rape is rape”) and being active in preventing relationship violence (see: “Editorial: Don’t repeat Topeka, be proactive in preventing relationship violence”), to name a few. These are the sincere opinions of The Maneater, not what you read in Tuesday’s April Fool’s edition. It’s a shame that my twisted logic and oversight has undone so much of the progress this publication has made toward supporting the diversity at MU. I am extremely apologetic about this.
This was a huge learning experience for me, and I think for many of our editors. Even though I regret what happened, this is a learning paper. I learned I cannot assume what others might find to be offensive based solely on my own background, as my own personal background isn’t good enough, and ignorance is not an excuse when using offensive language. There are so many quality resources on campus that I, and the rest of the student body, can take advantage of when it comes to learning about diversity issues. Neglecting these resources is not just a personal failure; it’s a failure to my publication and my community.
This isn’t any less offensive just because it provided a learning experience to a group of people. However, this is an opportunity to better this publication and make sure no harmful incidents like this ever happen again. As per the suggestion of many of our readers, The Maneater is seeking training from the Language and Creating Safer Spaces program offered by the Women’s Center as well as Safe Space training offered LGBTQ Resource center. We are open to other suggestions in educating ourselves as well. We would also like to host an open forum to talk about the effects of derogatory terms on society, which was another suggestion from members of the MU community. We will set a date for that and announce it shortly.
I would also like to take this opportunity to apologize to any individuals, advertisers, groups and readers who were offended by the content in the April Fool’s edition. I could not be more sorry or regret this any more than I already do. The Maneater is open to any other suggestions regarding sensitivity or diversity training from community members like the ones mentioned above.
This isn’t just an apology. It’s a promise. Although I wish I hadn’t done this, I have to live with my poor decisions. However, that doesn’t mean something positive can’t come out of this. Our April Fool’s issue serves as a cautionary warning about the consequences of ignorance, but I hope the actions we will take in the near future will serve as an example of how to take steps forward to promote an inclusive campus for all.