Canadian University Rape Chant Controversy

At the beginning of our 2013 school year a controversy was brewing in Canada from coast to coast. On the east coast, at Halifax’s St. Mary’s University, a sexist chant advocating and condoning rape and underage sex was caught on video. Down west at UBC an almost identical situation was developing. Just a few days after the St. Mary’s chant saw national media attention, UBC came under scrutiny for their sexist chants. Both incidents took place as part of the Universities frosh week celebrations. Both situations involved student leaders from the Universities.

The chant, used at both schools, has now become known publicly as the “YOUNG” chant. Student leaders encouraged and lead the chants.

“Y-O-U-N-G at UBC we like em young Y is for yourrr sister O is for ohh so tight U is for under age N is for noo consent G is for goo to jail.”

The national media flocked to the story and it was on every major news station for weeks. Two schools. 4500 Km apart. Same chant. This does make for great news.

Many people have shrugged it off calling it a bit of juvenile ignorance. Those kids just didn’t know what they were doing. These chants were not new. Days after the UBC chant it was revealed that the chant was part of the ‘oral history’ at UBC. It had been going on for years. The groups had been warned in the past to keep the chants in their isolated group settings. Obviously that didn’t happen. Using secrecy to cover up and condone sexual violence is concerning. This is a great way to perpetuate problems of sexual violence in communities. This attitude helps no one but the sexual abuser.

In Halifax, less than a month before these chants took place a young girl took her life after being bullied over sexual assault. She was assaulted and then relentlessly bullied and eventually took her own life.

The perpetuation of sexual assault and violence is a problem. It contributes to our rape culture. It contributes to victim blaming. These chants are not just simple chants. They mean something. These chants are a manifestation of rape culture. These incidents condone and normalize violence against women. Rape culture is a problem, perhaps even an epidemic in North American universities. On the average North American university 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted before the time they graduate. UBC has 28,853 female students while St. Mary’s is home to 3,524. Between the two universities approximately 8,090 women who will be victims of sexual assault during their time at school.
Since the events there have been apologies and investigations by both universities. “I really don’t believe that what happened represents the ethos of our student body,” says Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope. He is probably right. Not every student is an abuser waiting to attack. However, these chants do represent a serious problem that exists across all of Canada and North America.

How do you feel about these chants? Do they represent rape culture to you?

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