Viewpoint: UWL students refuse to take responsibility over harmful sign


A screenshot of Instagram post displaying students with the “Free Cream Pies with Valid Freshman ID” banner off-campus at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.

Whitney Storvick, Staff Reporter

Rape culture is the normalization of sexual aggression and violence against women. When these concepts are normalized, it can be hard for some members of society to recognize acts, words or behaviors as perpetuating rape culture. Thus is the situation the UWL student body has found itself in, as a group of male students created a banner that read: “Free cream pies with valid freshman ID.”

Those who made the sign stand by their intentions of the sign being an attempt at humor and no apologies have been given, despite overwhelming criticism (and I mean 1700+ shares on Facebook overwhelming). Many  students who have seen the banner reportedly felt unsafe, targeted, and angry that such a sign was created by fellow students and posted outside of an apartment building near campus. Meanwhile, those who stood by the signs held up their drinks and often yelled down to those who walked past. With reactions like these, should the “it was a joke” excuse be tolerated?

The answer is absolutely not. I consider myself to have a pretty neat sense of humor and there’s no way I would ever find this disgusting stunt funny. Believe it or not, sexual harassment has never really made me laugh. Shocking, I know. Those who made the sign or were supportive of the sign also argued that the sign did not perpetuate rape culture at all. In addition, they had super credible arguments in the comments section on Facebook like “feminism is cancer.” Some of these arguments have since been deleted, for some odd reason.

After you come back from your laugh/cry fit from those previous statements, allow me to break it down for everyone. That sign does perpetuate rape culture. It literally invites first year students, more vulnerable to the campus environment and at the highest risk of sexual assault during their collegiate career, to come into a stranger’s apartment. I don’t understand how that wouldn’t register as predatory, especially with the sign’s sexual vernacular tied in. It’s essentially a white van with “free candy” written on it, but with a smaller budget.

Now, some of you may still be on the “they didn’t actually mean it” train. To that, I would say, it doesn’t matter if they did or if they didn’t. Rape culture works in a pyramid. At the peak, lies rape. The top of the pyramid is of course supported by what lies below, harmful language and behavior. Statements like the one these students made add to the problem whether they want them to or not. Their intent is irrelevant to their impact. Signs like these, whether they explicitly say “rape” or not, still contribute to rape culture. That’s why it’s considered a culture, because it works as a socialized collective.


The voice of the campus community is printed here by The Racquet.