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Letter to the Editor

RE: “Smile, you’re at a protest”

As a city full of journalism students, you know fuck ups will sometimes happen. Some kids will drastically misquote, take things out of context, forget to ask permission. It’s no wonder so many groups working with marginalized communities in the HRM don’t talk to student journalists.

However, the editor-in-Chief of the Gazette should know better. Over the many years where Take-Back-the-Night has been running, organizers have worked hard to make it clear to the press that this was not a photo shoot for the media, that women didn’t want to be identified in photos because they continue to live in fear of their attackers finding them. This event wasn’t for the press, or even the public: it was created to support survivors of gender-based violence.

Slut Walk had a different mandate: to end the judgment and objectification of women. Its message was that, no matter what someone wore, they deserved to be treated with respect and asked for their consent. So “If you march down a main street in a bra” I get to snap your photo and not try to ask for consent, doesn’t cut it. It actually perpetuates the rape myths and victimizing culture that enraged individuals to create slut walks in the first place. Want to cover a protest? Awesome. Want to be part of the problem that created a need for a protest in the first place? Fuck off.

I’ve seen many photos taken at Slut Walks that I think are great. Photos of women with banners, with signs, with body paint; protesting, looking at the camera, empowered. This photo is problematic because it’s the message without the meaning. Yes, there were people dressed sexily at this march. Yes, they were in public. But why? Aren’t journalists supposed to care about the why? It was not, simply as Dylan puts it, because they “wanted to get noticed.” They were there because they wanted to end objectification, rape and non-consensual behaviour (including taking sexualized photos of someone without permission—or as the media likes to call it, illicitly publishing indecent material, aka porn).

I’m not opposed to sex, sexy photos or media coverage at a rally. I am opposed to non-consent, victim blaming and irresponsible journalism that prioritizes shock value over storytelling.

I urge the Gazette to take down the photo and for Dylan to apologize for the mistreatment of his public, the students, the ones that pay his salary.* I am not comfortable continuing my column until this issue has been resolved.

I believe in the freedom of the press, but I also believe in its responsibility. Listen to your public, ask questions, stay objective. But don’t objectify us; we get enough of that as it is.

– Hayley Gray,  Sex Columnist


*Editor’s note: As the Gazette clarified in the latest print issue, none of the student-funded levy goes towards the honorarium paid to our staff. The levy does not fully cover printing costs. Everything else comes from ad revenue.

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Dalhousie Gazette Staff

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