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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Chosen Rosen: In defense of the B.L.C.U.

Published: March 23, 2012
Section: Opinions

On behalf of the group that cares more about a speaker’s physical assets than what she has to say, I would like to respond to the article that appeared in last week’s edition of The Hoot: “When Free Speech Turns Sexist.”

As Vice President of the Brandeis Libertarian-Conservative Union (B.L.C.U.), and the person who planned and administered the event in question, I feel compelled to respond to the contentions that the author of the article, and various female students around campus, made regarding the event.

Last Thursday, B.L.C.U. brought notable political commentator and journalist S.E. Cupp to campus to speak about conservatism in America.

To promote this event, we put fliers up around campus with the tagline—because every event needs a selling point—“Smart, Sexy, and Savvy.” It was crafty and clever and it flowed, so we went with it. We were not trying to draw attention to her looks and away from her qualifications; we just wanted to promote our event to the public. And, as any business major will tell you, effective marketing is crucial to the success of any event.

The author of the article, however, took issue with our advertising of the event. But the initial difficulty, at least from my standpoint, regarding the author’s dissatisfaction with B.L.C.U’s event was her source of information. The author of the article was not present at the event. Therefore, her entire basis of knowledge was from a few words on a flier and a thread of distasteful Facebook comments.

Nevertheless, the author of the article felt that our marketing of the event was so outrageously “sexist” that if “[Cupp herself] saw the fliers or the Facebook event page,

also she would be disgusted …” On the contrary, when we mentioned our tagline to S.E. over dinner, she commended our creativity and wondered aloud if she could use the slogan for a future event. When we told her that we were under attack for, as the author put it, “using [her] looks as a promotion tool,” she chuckled to herself at the ironic indignation that transpired as a result of our innocuous promotional technique.

The author of the article seemed to take particular issue with the description of the Facebook event: “Do you like beautiful women? Do you like food? Do you like politics?” Now, when the B.L.C.U. E-board learned that female students were offended by this, a few of us were scratching our heads as to why.

If this alone was all that we had written in promoting our event, then that would have been not only improper, but also un-intelligent, and I would firmly agree with any and all criticism. But that was not all that we had written. We devoted a full paragraph of the brief event description to highlighting all of Cupp’s achievements. Never once did we undersell any of those impressive accomplishments; if anything, we spent a great deal of time drawing attention to her credentials, and a mere five words underlining her appearance.

By opening the event with those rhetorical questions, we were also mirroring the prevalent tactic in the advertising industry of asking wide-ranging questions that pertain to everyone in order to appeal to viewers or consumers, like the commercials that begin with: “Has this ever happened to you?” In the comments, female students declared that our ordering of these introductory questions demonstrated that we “valued her image over her accomplishments.” Simply put, that is making something out of nothing.

And this leads me to the critical flaw in the author’s article: It makes no mention of the event itself. All of these marketing tactics would be in vain without reference to their impact on the event.

When I introduced Cupp, I unveiled the laundry list of her achievements and how honored we were to have her with us, not once making any mention of her physical appearance.

When she spoke for half an hour on what conservatism meant to college students today, she did not bring this up either. Why not? Because that is simply not what B.L.C.U. had brought her to Brandeis to speak about, nor is it what Cupp drove all the way from Manhattan to lecture college students about. She came here to encourage students to explore their political ideologies and to investigate what it means to be a conservative.

Cupp fielded questions for about an hour, addressing issues ranging from Rick Santorum’s odds in the primary election, to Rush Limbaugh’s recent controversial statements, to how the media treat persons of Islamic descent. The author of the article wrote: “I would have loved to have been on campus last night to go to the event and ask her what she thought and if her physical attractiveness was something for which she wanted to be known …”

Well, the author can rest assured; a member of the audience did, in fact, ask that question. This student informed Cupp of the “in-fighting” that was occurring on the Facebook thread, and asked her what her opinions were on the notion that B.L.C.U. was exploiting her looks to encourage students to attend the event. Cupp took a deep breath, and mentioned that the topic was understandably awkward for her. She answered with the following response paraphrased by me: “This is not the first time that my appearance has been the subject of criticism. And so I have learned not to care what people think. I am proud of the way I look. Why should I have to ugly myself up and dress like a man to be taken seriously?”

The crowd overwhelmingly supported her response, reacting with the most enthusiastic applause of the night.

There was something fundamentally logical in Cupp’s response. Women can and should take pride in how they look; S.E. Cupp is no exception. And if the author of that article had been at the event, she would have realized this.

The bottom line is that S.E. Cupp is a strong, self-assured woman who is well on her way to becoming a household name in the field of political journalism. And, as she said, why does she have to diminish her image to be taken seriously? If she can do everything that she does and still sustain her attractiveness, all the power to her.

To all women, success and beauty are not mutually exclusive. Whether we promoted S.E.’s appearance as well as her successes, or whether we merely listed her accomplishments alone, at the end of the day, people still attended the event and walked away with a greater understanding of conservatism on college campuses.