Letter from the Editor: ‘Next time is Now’

General Opinion Graphic

Marcus Trinidad, Editor-in-Chief

After receiving and reviewing an advertisement from Trojan, a company which produces contraceptive products, we had to reject it. It wasn’t the typical sexual innuendos commonly associated with those kinds types of ads that was reason for the rejection. What warranted a rejection of the ad was the phrasing of ‘Late-night tutoring sesh? Come prepared.’

The Barometer understands the right to engage in responsible sexual behavior and how contraception plays a critical role in consensual sexual encounters. But the use of the word ‘tutoring’ in the advert crossed a line. Tutoring is a word that carries a power dynamic, usually between a paid professional and a student. Suggesting that such a phrase could be placed in an ad is entirely tone deaf of the current climate involving consensual sex.

It was brought to our attention by Trojan that the phrase they used to market their product was comparable to ‘Netflix and chill’ back in the 80’s and 90’s. What Trojan overlooked in their national ad campaign is not only that the times are changing, but time is up for the past culture of normalizing sexual misconduct. 

T-Mobile Ad about 5G coverage and value

The denotative meaning of tutor, and approving that to run in an ad, would normalize an unacceptable abuse of teacher-student dynamics. As a media organization, approving such an ad would further normalize an abuse of power and further enable a culture of bait and switch for those with power. In the era of #MeToo, we have heard stories of survivors having their careers dictated by non-consensual encounters with their superiors. This is not absent in academia where graduate students closely depend on their relationship with their mentors and tutors, and such dynamics being abused.

Suggesting that tutoring, an activity with clearly drawn lines of power, is acceptable for a bait and switch sexual encounter would reinforce a culture where that abuse of power is acceptable. It is not acceptable.

The fact that a company would find such a marketing campaign acceptable underscores the disconnect of the current climate of the #MeToo movement. The movement goes beyond believing survivors, it’s also about understanding how the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment takes on many forms. 

The panel of students which flagged this ad for inappropriate content requested that the word tutoring be removed and replaced to read ‘Late night studying sesh? Come prepared.’ We believed the word studying would remove the power dynamic from the ad, which would make it more reasonable to publish. Unfortunately, they were unable to accommodate this request citing that it would need to go through too many layers of approval.

Additionally, they asked us if they should seek another publisher to run their ad, suggesting that it would be unfortunate for us not to have the advertising revenue as another school will get it. Such revenue is trivial when considering how this ad, if published, will still continue to normalize a culture of toxic abuses of power.

As a media organization, we are tasked to serve as gatekeepers of culture. Way too often the media as a whole fails and says that next time they will do better as we line our pockets with profit.

But at The Daily Barometer, we are here to say ‘next time’ is now.

Correction issued regarding Hari Kondabolu

In our previous edition of the paper, The Baro misidentified comedian Hari Kondabolu as American Indian instead of Indian American in the transcribed question and answer piece. Inaccurate information in any form is unacceptable. Although we never intend to publish false information, when it does occur it is important for us as an organization to reckon with how such a mistake made it to print and how it may impact others.

Our error made me reflect on how quickly people skirt off mistakes, or how it feels like issuing corrections tucked away in an index can’t fully do the mistake justice. Misidentifying a person’s race is something that should never happen, full stop. With many layers of editing and copyediting, a mistake like this is unacceptable. Not only is that intrinsically wrong, it communicates a disregard of that person’s identity and shows we didn’t take the time to get it right. 

Somewhat ironically, during Kondabolu’s set he touches on the social construct of race, whiteness and the personal and social identities attached to us. He mentions the absurdity of thinking of ourselves as a color or as a continent. Or how ethnic minorities in the United States receive a prefix in front of American such as Asian-American, African-American and so forth is used to justify their American-ness. Contrast that to white Americans who are identified just as American.

Kondabolu’s set made me reflect on how, as a Filipino-American, people continually assume or guess my ethnicity or my cultural background like it is some kind of game. It made me come to terms of how I define myself solely as Filipino instead of an American, a third-generation American at that, because people look at me and assume I’m not from here. It pains me that we put Kondabolu in a situation that I hold in contempt myself. He does not deserve that. No one does.

Considering that one of our reporters can walk up to someone and unapologetically ask about how someone’s race, while getting it wrong, and how it impacts their work perpetuates an idea that people of color continually have to bear a burden of an entire people, whether they choose to or not. Whether our mistake was born out of assumptions or flat out ignorance, the mistake reveals the greater introspections needed within our staff, and also society at large, on how the questions we ask, or the way we say it, can deny someone agency to define themselves.