The University Students’ Council recently decided to alter its advertising policy for the upcoming academic year. Advertisements for strip clubs were a particular concern raised by Western’s Women’s Issues Network, and following a meeting between WIN and members of the USC’s Board of Directors, the USC decided to remove all ads for London strip clubs from The Gazette.
It should be noted that while The Gazette’s editorial and advertising offices are autonomous operations, such a move is of concern because at its heart is a unilateral move toward increased censorship. The USC seems to have good intentions by involving WIN in the restructuring of the ad policy, but this raises an important question: will other clubs and organizations be consulted as well?
Population-wise, women are a majority worldwide. When it comes to university student populations, there’s no doubt that women outnumber men. Thus, WIN would seem to speak for the campus majority; however, each voice is unique and as such, WIN still does not have the right to dictate morality to an entire campus.
A large part of the women’s liberation movement is opposition to existing structures, whereby decisions are made by one group for another without the latter’s input. Thus, WIN’s position regarding the censorship of ads is highly ironic — in this case, paternal influence has been replaced by maternal. However, WIN is simply following up on its mandate. The greater fault lies in the lap of the USC for assenting to WIN’s demands.
While WIN would have been better served to rail directly against businesses that commodify women’s bodies in the first place, as opposed to simply the ads that promote them, it’s likely that the organization knew dealing with strip clubs would be a dead end.
Instead, the group targeted the USC with the knowledge of its recent back-pedaling on issues such as the Westernizer back cover. In other words, WIN selected an opponent it knew it could defeat.
Many would argue that the heart of the university experience is critical thinking and the ability to reason and make choices. If ads are simply rejected for fear of potential offensiveness, readers will have that choice taken away from them.
At what point will censorship stop? While examples such as vegans protesting McDonald’s ads or nudists protesting clothing ads are admittedly outlandish, it would not be surprising to see other advertisements — including ads for local bars that feature scantily-clad girls — caught in the net of future policy revisions.
The USC should consult other groups before making any final decisions on the ad policy for its student newspaper because insistence on censorship could very well mean that in the end, we’ll all lose.