Of 541 respondents to a sportsblogmhk.com poll on Sept. 19, 93 percent said that K-State should keep EMAW. Fourteen people said that the school should use EPAW instead. “Operation Save EMAW” has more than 1,500 fans on facebook. Any mention of EPAW in class is greeted with a chorus of disapproving moans.
Yet, in the face of overwhelming popular opposition, K-State administrators have apparently slated the 50-year-old tradition for a quiet, gradual death.
The Kansas State Marching Band’s EMAW formation was suddenly cut before our game against Kent State. Members of the marching band were offered little explanation. Officially, cutting EMAW was the decision of Director Frank Tracz. Yet, in a Sept. 15 email to members of the band, Tracz wrote “EMAW: This is a situation that I am not happy about and I am dealing with it. Please do not start a crusade of your own.”
It doesn’t sound like Tracz was persuaded to pull the formation by the reasoned arguments of EMAW’s opponents. It sounds like he was browbeaten by someone with more authority. Whoever actually made the call remains hidden behind bureaucracy. If support for EPAW is so overwhelming, why are shadowy backroom politics needed to implement it?
In a Sept. 20 letter to the editor, Jeff Morris, vice president for communications and marketing, said that “EMAW remains a registered trademark of K-State and does not need to be ‘saved.'” Yet whoever twisted Tracz’s arm was so determined to kill EMAW that they ignored the clear majority of the student body. Are we really expected to believe that they’ll be content with cutting the formation?
The crackdown on EMAW is part of a larger phenomenon in the Manhattan community. “University for Man” became “University for Mankind” which then became “UFM” – an acronym with no meaning. K-State’s sexual harassment policy expressly prohibits “staring” and “looking a person up and down.” I’ve seen multiple K-State administrators give talks in which they exclusively used “she” as a default pronoun – a choice that is ironically no more inclusive than the alternative.
Other college towns have it even worse. When the student newspaper at Dartmouth College ran a comic about alcohol and sex in 2006, offended students gathered copies of the paper and publicly burned them, according to a Nov. 18, 2010, Spiked column by Brendan O’Neill. Earlier this year, researchers at Florida State University proclaimed that “Winnie the Pooh” and several other children’s books were “sexist” and epitomized the “symbolic annihilation of women,” according to a May 4, 2011, Telegraph article.
I won’t insult the word “feminist” by using it to describe anyone referenced here. Feminists fought against people who actually took bad actions – namely, actions that withheld fundamental rights from women. Conversely, the enforcers of gender-neutrality fight against people who say bad things and think bad thoughts. They fight to make sure you don’t read the wrong books or march in the wrong formations. They aren’t resisting a patriarchal establishment. They are the establishment.
Those who have legitimate concerns about the status of women in our society should treat the removal of EMAW the way social conservatives treat Westboro Baptist Church. Phelps portrays social conservatives as hatemongers better than any social liberal could hope to. Similarly, those imposing EPAW on the college are doing a better job of portraying feminists as persnickety authoritarians, concerned entirely with controlling language, than any enemy of feminism ever could.
Everyone has a right to participate in the marketplace of ideas – even people who believe it shouldn’t exist. Last year I had a begrudging respect for the passion of EPAW crusaders. In the last few weeks, however, EPAW has become an eerie example of a few people with the right connections forcing their will on everyone else.
The marketplace is being closed. EMAW is being extinguished not because its opponents convinced us that it was bad, but because those in power have decreed that it’s time for the tradition to die.
You aren’t powerless to resist. Get involved or just show your support by joining the movement on Facebook. Stand up for K-State. Save EMAW.
Ian Huyett is a junior in political science and anthropology. Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.