Carney embroiled in Facebook dispute

Presidential Candidate James Carney, has been criticised by current YUSU Part-time Officers following his controversial addition to the University of York Memes Facebook page

Presidential Candidate James Carney, one of seven students running for the position of YUSU President, has been criticised by current YUSU Part-time Officers following his controversial addition to the University of York Memes Facebook page.

Carney posted an image of a female with the caption: “I’m fighting for women everywhere… by trolling internet memes.” Below the image, Carney had added: “Wom.Com. Fighting the good fight.”

The caption referred to three different images that had been taken down from the site, upon requests from the Women’s Officers and other students. Gillian Love, Women’s Committee Press and Publicity Officer, has said the images that had been removed made jokes involving rape. A total of 112 comments were exchanged below the image on Facebook. Many of the contributors criticised Carney for the reference he had made.

Love commented on Facebook: “Trolling equals telling people rape isn’t a great basis for a joke? No, mate.”

Cat Wayland, YUSU Women’s Officer, added: “Don’t assume that anything WomCom does is petty or worthless just because it happens to lie outside of what you see as a worthwhile cause.”

Carney responded to the criticisms on Facebook, stating: “Feminism equals getting excited over internet memes? No, mate.” He added later: “My issue with WomCom, whilst I appreciate its existence and support, is that it claims to be representing women, hence the name, however what it truly represents is the opinions of a small fraction of the female population.”

Carney explained he had seen messages exchanged on the Women’s Committee Facebook page following the removal of the photos.
“I wanted to raise the point that these individuals were not partaking in any activism with a realistically positive outcome.”
He emphasised that: “The meme is not meant to be derogatory, I just used it to highlight the point that I don’t believe complaining about certain memes made in order to entertain, could be in any way considered activism on behalf of WomCom.”

But Carney did not think this would harm his election bid. “I would like to think the majority of people are mature enough to realise the reasons behind my actions.”

However Ophelia Groth, Secretary of the Women’s Committee, said: “James Carney is wrong for the fundamental reason that offensive memes and jokes are not harmless: They are a clear manifestation of negative societal attitudes toward certain groups. ‘Jokes’ about rape are a symptom of a victim-blaming culture that trivialises the experience of rape survivors and play[s] them off as ‘jokes’. Further, such ‘jokes’ are directly hurtful towards survivors of sexual abuse or non-cisgendered people.”


  1. I wanted to raise the point that these individuals were not partaking in any activism with a realistically positive outcome. They were involved in petty arguments which, after they had concluded, had reached no satisfactory conclusion, with no opinions of those involved changing. This is what trolling is in a basic sense.

    I am an advocate of free speech and, in this case, I felt political correctness had been taken way too far. The internet should not be policed in such a way that individuals become scared to share material through fear it may be interpreted as their personal outlook.

    Just to clarify, the meme is not meant to be derogatory, I just used it to highlight the point that I don’t believe complaining about certain memes made in order to entertain could be in any way considered activism on behalf of WomCom, which is supposed to be a committee that, quoting from their official Facebook group, ‘…is an open and inclusive group designed to allow every student at York to contribute to discussion surrounding gender equality and the women’s campaign.’ This is exactly what I was doing.

    If you read my comments on the meme, which has always been public for all to see, you will see that I am arguing a better way to approach the women’s campaign and fight for gender equality. I believe elected individuals should be held accountable for their actions in the name of their committee by those who elected them. This is what I was doing.

    The point I was arguing was not against WomCom, which some of those individuals involved tried to claim. I have no problem with WomCom, quite the opposite, what I do have a problem with is a small minority of members engaging in actions of self-gratification under the guise of activism. If you act on behalf of a company, group or committee, you must be acting in the interests of the majority that committee represents. Were these actions undertaken on the behalf of those WomCom claims to represent? I highly doubt that.

    I am an activist and I believe strongly in equality, so when I see it’s name being dragged through the metaphorical mud, I find it hard not to get involved.

    Whilst I attempted throughout to have a genuine debate, there were comments made by a third party which were completely unacceptable and I condemned these immediately.

    On the positive side, now that we’re all here, why not use this opportunity to check out my 60 second manifesto?

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  2. James, James, James.

    1) WomCom weren’t making comments, individuals, some from the committee and some not, were making comments. But your meme directly attacked the committee. Why?

    2) “I don’t believe complaining about certain memes made in order to entertain could be in any way considered activism on behalf of WomCom,”
    Commenting on FB is not considered part of WomCom’s activist work by us, either. The Women’s Officers felt it was appropriate to contact members of the uni and YUSU in light of some of the comments, but that was as far as WomCom ‘officially’ took it. But you attacked WomCom for ineffective ‘activism’ when this isn’t activism on our part. Why?

    3) You displayed an extremely arrogant and condescending attitude towards anyone who believed that perhaps explaining, in a public forum, why they believed it wasn’t OK to make jokes about rape. I know that I did it so that anyone watching and not commenting might be convinced. Just because you don’t want to do that doesn’t mean you can snidely dismiss it with a childish meme.

    4) Rape isn’t solely a women’s issue, and although it’s something WomCom discusses and sometimes campaigns about, construing all this as a small minority of women claiming they represent ALL women in denouncing those jokes is dishonest.

    5) “I am arguing a better way to approach the women’s campaign and fight for gender equality. I believe elected individuals should be held accountable for their actions in the name of their committee by those who elected them. This is what I was doing.”

    No, you weren’t, because this isn’t a ‘woman’s campaign’ – it’s some individuals arguing with other individuals. Once again with the arrogant posturing. Just apologise for all of this and don’t do it again.

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  3. I would like to take this opportunity to contest the above claims put forward by James – and reiterate my previous statement that the mere fact that James finds mine, Gillian Love or Ophelia Groph’s arguments against the trivialisation of rape ‘petty’ is no defensible reason not to continue the debate.

    I recommend that James count himself extremely lucky, as he clearly does not feel that the threat of rape is something he need fear or counter – I believe that if he did, on behalf of himself or any other individual – he would see that there is great worth in engaging in real debate over exactly why the trivialisation of rape is unacceptable.

    Furthermore, James proclaims himself an advocate of free speech. I am also an advocate of free speech; by extension I am therefore also an advocate of open debate. The right to freedom of speech, however, does not entail the right not to be argued with or the right not to be criticised. I appreciate that James created the meme in question to entertain, albeit at the expense of a group of people who are deeply committed to changing aspects of our society we feel there is reasonable justification for changing. Again, this is open to debate. However, what I refuse to tolerate in both a personal and official capacity, are ‘jokes’ that are made at the grave expense of York students’ physical and mental health and wellbeing, and it was on these grounds I believe it was reasonable to ask the original creators to remove some of the memes posted on the University of York Memes page. For the most part, this was done with complete cooperation and without complaint once the issues at hand were explained.

    Finally, to my knowledge, James has never attended a Women’s Committee meeting, in spite of our best attempts to advertise it as open and transparent. Should he have genuinely wanted to hold the elected officers to account, I am certain he could have found a far less confrontational way to have done so. Indeed, there are many fights he has picked both on the Facebook thread, and in his above comment, that display an immense ignorance in terms of what purposes Women’s Committee serves, and a wilful misconstruing of many responses directed at his arguments.

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  4. Just to clarify the memes weren’t making fun of rape, they were poking fun at ‘rape alley’. It makes it sound as if it was lots of rugby lads going ‘hurr hurr she deserved it’ when it was nothing at the sort. The meme page is generally dire though.

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  5. 22 Feb ’12 at 12:25 am

    Third Year Goodricker

    Good way to lose the election. I’d rather vote for someone who wants a moonbase than you.

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  6. Carney – educate yourself. Google ‘rape culture’.

    Also, remember that on feminist issues you should defer to women. This may be hard for you to hear, but you know far less than them about being female.

    You say you are an activist who believes strongly in equality, but you are clearly very ignorant of what that actually entails. From your comment I can see you’ve read next to no feminist material in your life. Being pro-equality is about more than just saying you are.

    Oh, and it shouldn’t matter, but I know that to you, deep down, it does: I’m a man. Not one of those crazy radical women you clearly have so little respect for.

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  7. Carney was merely stating what the majority of people, both male and female, think about WomCom. A President is the figurehead of the student body, representing what the students say and feel: he was doing just that.

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  8. Breaking News: YUSU jobsworths criticize reformist candidate on a non-issue!

    Nouse, this is not a story. I am sick of hearing mock-outrage from people who claim to represent me. Officers, please get off Facebook, stop wasting everyone’s time and engage with genuine issues on campus. Show me one person who was genuinely offended by James Carney’s (quite good) joke, which poked fun at those who use their petty positions to pick petty fights.

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  9. I don’t get it.

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  10. @Wibble, one of them was less harmful, but two of the ones which were very quickly taken down were more explicit. ‘Rape alley – party time!’ – I don’t think you can just say that’s ‘jjust a reference to rape alley.’ It’s a reference to rape.

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  11. Carney is 100% right to speak out about this. A LARGE number of the student population feel this way. I would appeal for everyone who feels tired of these individuals who constantly complain about minor issues to vote for James Carney as YUSU President right now

    I didn’t care about the elections before, but knowing that there is a candidate standing who will bring some common sense and an all round majority representation to the University means I will now.

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  12. @Gillian: Didn’t see that one only saw the one with the success kid meme

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  13. 23 Feb ’12 at 3:54 pm

    Oliver Blackburn

    This will win Carney more votes than it looses. Cat, Gillian and others who coplained/ are agrieved by his arguing were unlikely to vote for him anyway.
    Conversely, a lot of people who dislike WomCom trying to have lads mags removed and some of their members conduct in the Referrendum campaign (who might not have voted at all before) will probably now vote for Carney as a show of support.

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  14. Typical Woman’s officers making a fuss over nothing. Its a joke. Sometimes jokes are offensive. If you find it offensive, fine, move along. Don’t need to censor it for everyone else. Is this is the purpose of WomCom – i.e. to limit freedom of speech? I’d genuinely like one of the committee to explain what positive action they’ve taken over the last 12 months with regards to women’s issues.

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  15. what does this show? it shows Carney is a man who represents the views held by an awful lot of the population. those members of the population are usually those who don’t bother voting, so this should only serve to win him more votes, giving these people a reason to vote for a President who is not afraid to say what we’re thinking and most of all not back down after saying it.

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  16. He’s got my vote. Brilliant video, great policies, an average student and a genuine nice guy.

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  17. WomCom are crazy. There, I said it.
    But I won’t be voting for Carney because “rape alley – party time!” is just not funny. And his poetry is fairly terrible.
    By the by, I’m female.

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  18. I don’t understand why my comment had been deleted, but I wanted to point out that having met Carney multiple times he has often expressed despicable misogynist views which make this scandal look pretty tame. I don’t support WomCom and their crusade against everything but that doesn’t mean we should vote a genuine misogynist into power.

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  19. so many lads on this thread! bet you lads have top banter.

    if only there were some way these boys could understand that it’s an immense privilege to say “If you find it offensive, fine, move along.” The most offended they’ve ever been is probably someone saying their college is shit.

    I would also say that people are leaning too heavily on the concept of ‘offense’ here. It’s a word that is often used to belittle the feelings of others and imply that their grievances are petty. I think if you listen to the arguments of feminists and do some of your own research, the objection to rape jokes is grounded in far more than a simple ‘hey, that hurts my feelings!’. It’s about protecting victims, making women feel safe, making men aware, treating the issue with the seriousness it deserves, and combating rape culture. All of this is extensively discussed and is googleable if you’re interested.

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  20. I’ve no vested interest in this election or any of its candidates – none of whom I’ve met. But after reading his bumbling post above, I’d be mortified if Carney got elected.

    Why does he think he can tell the women’s committee how to go about their business? The man clearly knows nothing about women’s issues.

    I would like to see him try this with Afro-Caribbean soc, or LGBT. I commend the WomCom officers for their restraint in the face of this man’s condescension.

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  21. Guys, let’s not make incorrect statements:

    Carney never made a ‘rape’ meme, he made a meme snarking at the people who *objected to the rape memes. He wrongly criticised WomCom for doing this, even though WomCom were never involved. just individuals who also happen to be in WomCom.

    So comments here calling WomCom ‘crazy’ for ‘trying to ban everything’ are wrongly placed.

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  22. @ FH ” I’d genuinely like one of the committee to explain what positive action they’ve taken over the last 12 months with regards to women’s issues.”

    1) The campaign for better lighting and the survey that accompanied it was born from WomCom’s Reclaim the Night campaign which we’ve run for many years. As a result, campus lighting is being improved, and hopefully all students will feel safer as a result.

    2) The Living Library last year on contraception. People came to the Courtyard to learn about the contraception option available to them in a welcoming, non-judgmental environment.

    3) The Love Your Body campaign. Did what it said on the tin!

    4) Cosmo on Campus. When this free publication was handed out to female students, we used our…oh yes, freedom of speech and expression…to provide an alternative which we gave out at the same time. It was a message of love, acceptance and toleration in the face of (what we saw as) Cosmo’s promotion of the beauty myth, their intolerance of women with less than perfect bodies or ‘unfeminine’ aspirations.

    That’s only since I joined last year.

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  23. @gillian – i find it ironic you are, or have been at some point, satire editor at The Yorker…

    @anon – i’m really not misogynist. yes i make the odd sandwich joke in private with friends, in jest, and i ‘read’ lads mags, but if that’s what it takes for you to label a man a misogynist then it’s a label a large number will be slapped with. I could equally label you a number of things but I am not narrow minded enough to do so.

    Let’s all calm down and do more constructive things with our time.

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  24. I’m getting a little bit sick of being told that I am some sort of woman-hating, rape-facilitating, chauvinist “LAD” because if I laughed at a joke that somebody else doesn’t like.

    I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that some of the people who laugh at these jokes CAN tell the difference between the joke, and actual violence against women. The line is not blurred. There is no confusion.

    The WomCom facebook group has a post ridiculing a lad’s mag’s description of a feminist as an “unshaven, militant, protesting vegan”. Well conversely, I am not a one-dimensional, beer-chugging, fighting, sexually-frustrated boor. I am not incapable of intelligent interaction with women. And I am not destined to a life of meaningless, unhappy relationships because real women will never go near me. So stop trying to paint me that way.


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  25. @Gillian: I do recall there being a post in the WomCom Facebook group about the rape memes, calling for support against them…

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  26. Carney, make whatever damn joke you like in private, but the fact that you think it’s okay to admit it in public and that half you potential voting base (WOMEN) won’t mind, is a red flag for me.

    I don’t think you’re a bad guy. I don’t think you’re a misogynist. But you’ve displayed an awful attitude to women’s rights.

    If you take your potential role as president seriously than you need to show you’re a good man: that you defer to women on women’s issues, and that you’re willing to listen and learn when women are talking.

    And you need to not tell people to ‘calm down’ just because they care and you don’t.

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  27. James Carney I never met you but you got some balls, fight your corner!

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  28. Why are universities always full of women who are extremists?

    Lot of these women keep throwing the word ‘misogynist’ when in fact most of these women have double stands when it come down to sexism and harbour Misandrist views.

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  29. SS,

    hahaha, misandry. that’s funny. google chrome is drawing a little red line under that word cos even my web browser know that is some bullshit!

    Dude, feminists don’t hate men. Many of them date us and marry us. Some of them ARE men.

    They hate patriarchy and what it does to society (and I suggest you look here for your ‘double standards’).

    I’m sorry but today, you don’t get to be the victim :(

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  30. At EC,

    I don’t see feminists marching for father rights, the way men are treated in courts when marriages break down.

    I can go on giving you a big long list….

    Sexism against men are so bad that it is not even acknowledged.

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  31. James, at least answer my questions.

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  32. @ V, So that means that it counts as activism on WomCom’s part? No.

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  33. Sorry for triple posting, but @SS, this website is about men’s issues, written by feminists:

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  34. @SS,

    yeah, feminism says that both men and women are fucked over by patriarchy. Men are expected to cover up their emotions in order to appear masculine, or to pretend they are never vulnerable, and are often ridiculed if they do not behave in a masculine way, do a masculine job etc. This includes parenting issues, as fathers are often expected by society (and their own families) to be more detached than the mother. Feminism accounts for all this.

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  35. @EC

    No, I do not see mass feminist marching for fathers rights.
    If this was the other way around, these women would be burning their bras!

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  36. Is there anyone at this university who isn’t so highly strung?

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  37. @James Carney: ” i’m really not misogynist. yes i make the odd sandwich joke in private with friends, in jest, and i ‘read’ lads mags, but if that’s what it takes for you to label a man a misogynist then it’s a label a large number will be slapped with.”

    Well aren’t you just the charmer. I can’t say I know a lot of men who still read trashy, exploitative ‘lads mags’ after the age of 14.

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  38. @Gillian – May I answer your question with a question of my own? Can you please explain the following comment you wrote here on the WomCom group, I’ll quote it for you: ‘WE’RE FUCKING THEIR SHIT UP #militantactivistmode’

    I’ll ask my original question again, the main reason I posted the meme in the first place. Do you really think commenting on memes and having them banned is militant activism?


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  39. May I ask, if WomCom is so out of touch with ordinary students, then why did these ordinary students vote to save WomCom from being usurped by a “gender equality committee”?

    Jokes about rape are not funny, full stop. It’s incredibly insulting if you’re dismissed as a ‘militant feminist’ or ‘feminazi’ for standing up for what you believe in.

    If Carney wants to be president, he needs to learn to respect the roles of his part-time officers, and that includes the Women’s Officers.

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  40. ‘WE’RE FUCKING THEIR SHIT UP #militantactivistmode’

    Ironically, James Carney now fails to identify humour!

    If you think people using full caps and using hashtags ON FACEBOOK indicates they are making a serious statement, you should stop interacting with people via the internet. It will end in tears.

    You know, explain to everyone why taking the time to make a meme, upload it onto FB, engage in a comment war, and spending more time commenting here just to tell us we’re doing activism wrong is LESS of a waste of time than us explaining why we don’t find rape jokes funny.

    Educate us, James. You’re better at feminism than us.

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  41. I get CALLED a militant activist or a feminazi bitch whenever I open my mouth (or comment on FB) about anything vaguely gender related.

    Attempting to have a sense of humour about that and pre-empting calls to ‘calm down’ and ‘stop being a militant lesbian’ sometimes involves writing things like ‘WE’RE FUCKING THEIR SHIT UP #militantactivistmode’. To be heard with a wry smile and the obligatory inverted commas.

    Jeez, things quickly loose their humour when you have to explain them.

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  42. 27 Feb ’12 at 3:23 am

    Captain Obvious

    Carney clearly doesn’t want to be president. he’s most likely running for personal gain and to rebel against a system he hates. he doesn’t want a career in politics and probably doesn’t care about the state of the union. it’s widely known he signed a publishing deal late last year. he’s just trying to leave his mark on the university.

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  43. The bottom line is, the meme page provides great fun for a large number of people, fun which a small minority take offence to. If there is no clear inslting or threatening remark made then it is not the problem of those who design the memes if you take offence to it; nobody’s safety is in danger. The fun police need to piss off and do something worthwhile with their time instead of sitting behind a computer refreshing their newsfeed and waiting for something to report. This is exactly what members of WomCom were doing, and to back up this claim I quote one member from the group who wrote, ‘Ummm, can we report this one too?’ Calm down and let the people have their fun.

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  44. James Carney: irony fail! Hahaha. She’s taking the piss, mate. Probably out of you. The fact that you could ever believe that comment was serious speaks volumes about your attitude to women’s rights.

    Read what Mr P wrote, above. I don’t know who this guy is but it’s good to see more real men with REAL respect for women on this thread.

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  45. Jokes about rape are a problem because when people are repeatedly exposed to an idea or a specific way of thinking about things, it becomes accepted into their psyche and normalised. When this happens on a mass level (as on the internet or in the media) then these ideas become hemogenised into our society. Now, when we apply this to rape jokes we can see that if the idea of rape is continually dismissed or sent up as a “Joke” then people begin to believe that it’s normal to view a disgusting and horrific act of violence which can have devestating physical and mental backlash as something not to be taken seriously. This leads to a culture of victim blaming where women are seen as objects and sexual violence is more likely to be a threat.

    I don’t consider myself to be a radical feminist. I am not a member of WomCom – indeed I know very little about the society. And I don’t think it makes me a “Feminazi” to say that I’d rather not live in a society where I could be blamed for being raped – or indeed, where the fact of rape could be considered normal. And I genuinely believe that to trivialisation of the subject contributes to a society which thinks like this. Hence, when people start spouting rubbish about “Freedom of speech” and “If you don’t like it you don’t have to look at it” I can’t help but grit y teeth at how widely they’ve missed the point. It’s not just what people are saying – it’s the effect of what they’re saying that makes it my business.

    If I believed that all men (and women) who made these jokes realised the potential damage they were causing then I would probably think that these people were some of the most despicable human beings to walk this planet. As it is, however, I believe that many are fairly decent people who are unaware of how their “banter” feeds rape culture. However, upon realising it I think they should stop.

    Love men; Hate Mysogyny.

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  46. Carney, you are now being WILLFULLY ignorant. You’re not even trying to address anything that’s being said here – in fact, from your latest comment it seems like you’re doubling down and taking an even harder stance. LOOK at all this stuff we’ve written – all the stuff we’ve told you to google to understand why what happened was wrong. But you’re just putting your fingers in your ears and saying LALALALA GUYS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO DO WHAT WE WAAAANNTTTTT

    Read. Learn.

    If you disagree, tell us why. (Without using the phrase ‘harmless fun’ or ‘just a joke’.) But for god’s sake, take responsibility and engage with this.

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  47. What you did was a very small thing. I am a man too and I know it is possible to fuck up in small ways. It could have remained a small thing if you had only engaged properly in a unpatronising way (ever heard of mansplaining?), and shown you were willing to learn from people who know more than you. If that had happened, this thread would have been about three posts long.

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  48. Id just like to point out that this literally does not matter. please stop talking about people making indecent jokes because it is funny and nobody actually cares. use your lifes to do more decent things.

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  49. If no one cares then, ehh, why are you reading comments about it on a University student publication and then proceding to leave a comment yourself highlighting the fact that no one cares? O_o

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  50. “I quote one member from the group who wrote, ‘Ummm, can we report this one too?’ Calm down and let the people have their fun.”

    James, I hope that you are not suggesting (as a potential YUSU Sabb member) that if people receive rape threats from other students they should not report it?

    This is what was being discussed: whether a) the genuinely harmful/triggering memes should be reported to Facebook and b) whether the people who had received threats from other students should report it to the university (I didn’t in the end; I would support anyone who felt they needed to).

    Unfortunately the threats were deleted from the thread quite soon; I have screenshots of them if you need proof.

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  51. I saw the comments and thought they were completely unacceptable and disgraceful. I know the comments were reported, I myself had something to say about them…(edited)…If this is what was being referred to then I apologise.

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  52. 28 Feb ’12 at 3:53 am

    Curiosity Kills

    Anyone accusing Carney of sexism and using the memes to back this up I would point you in the direction of another Presidential candidate, Zarah Latif. She was part of the society that tried to bring a controversial scholar to speak whose views are regarded by many to be sexist. Why is one candidate then viewed as being sexist and the other the best choice for female voters?

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  53. I love you all. Just please vote for me, let us put these memes behind us.

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  54. The above comment was blatantly not written by me. But I’d like the moderator to allow it to stay. I do love you all. But there’s no way I’d be up at 10.40am posting…

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  55. ” Why is one candidate then viewed as being sexist and the other the best choice for female voters?”

    Who’s saying she’s the best choice for female voters?

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  56. @Gillian Your ‘WE’RE FUCKING THEIR SHIT UP #militantactivistmode’ comment taken out of context and seen by people who don’t know you were being ironic will come across offensively. I never saw James Carney’s meme and I don’t care for jokes about rape but from what I’ve heard it wasn’t a joke about rape, you’ve taken something out of context and allowed it to escalate something a lot people could probably do with some of the things you have said

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  57. @JA Offensive to who? People who make rape jokes?

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  58. @Curiosity Kills: Firstly, being a member of the Islamic Society doesn’t neccessarily mean that Latif condoned inviting al-Kawthari. Secondly, two wrongs don’t make a right – just because Latif could (possibly) be accused of sexism, it doesn’t mean that we can’t also criticise Carney. Thirdly, I’m not aware that anyone has heralded Latif as the feminist candidate, so I’m not sure what your point is.

    @Captain Obvious: Carney has a publishing deal? Well I’ll be damned.

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  59. 1 Mar ’12 at 5:43 pm

    James Carney

    Let’s all calm down. It’s one position in one union at one University in one city. Whoever wins isn’t going to change the world in their time in the position but will do as good a job as they are allowed to; that goes for all candidates. No need for bitching or hanging on to empty arguments, resulting in petty personal remarks. It won’t change the result. Let’s all just calm down.

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