Monday, April 29, 2013

The UConn New Husky Logo Meme

Content Note:  Strong Rape Imagery At The End of This Post

There's a  good reason to ignore Rush Limbaugh and his misogynistic mutterings, and I mostly succeed in doing so.  But this particular story, about the new Husky Dog logo for the Huskies, the University of Connecticut sports teams, is worth covering, because it shows nicely how anti-feminist memes are sired and reared.

The backstory, as journalists say:  A University of Connecticut senior, Carolyn Luby, wrote an open letter to the university president, Susan Herbst, about the sports teams and the mascot.   The letter lists problems with the university athletes, including arrests of individual athletes and problems with the academic achievement of the men's basketball team.  It then states:

Instead of giving these problematic aspects of male athletic peer culture at UConn a second look or a giving the real face of athletics a true makeover, it appears that the focus of your administration is prioritizing the remodeling of the fictional face of the Husky Logo. Instead of communicating a zero tolerance atmosphere for this kind of behavior, increasing or vocalizing support to violence against women prevention efforts on campus in the face of such events, or increasing support to student run programs that seek to work with athletes on issues of violence as well as academic issues, it would appear that your administration is more interested in fostering consumerism and corporatization than education and community. Another example of this shift in priorities can be seen in the current administrations selection of the new logo — a selection made with no involvement from or consultation with the normal, everyday, non-Olympian student body:
Contrary to speculation, the Husky will not appear to be mean, snarling, or capable of frightening small children! Instead he will be rendered as the sleek, beautiful animal a real Husky truly is.
Well President Herbst, the new Husky logo may not be capable of frightening small children, but the face of real life UConn athletics is certainly capable of frightening college women.
It is looking right through you and saying, ‘Do not mess with me.’ This is a streamlined, fighting dog, and I cannot wait for it to be on our uniforms and court.~Geno Auriemma stated about the new logo change.
I  wouldn't have written that letter (at least in that way), but then I'm no longer a college senior and I know how the Internet works in cases like this.

And how does the Internet work in these cases?  It picks the new Husky logo out of the rest of the story and then states that these crazy feminists (or at least one, and soon many more) are now accusing cartoon characters of causing rape!

The Barstool Sports site (known for soft-porn pictures of women) posts the letter and this evaluation:
I don’t know about you but after looking at that new Husky logo literally all I can think about is sexually assaulting somebody.  Just RAPE on repeat in the back of my brain.  It’s just so strong…and powerful…I was never a scumbag piece of shit before but the hypnotizing eyes of that cartoon wolf dog is really swaying me big time. 
Don't read the comments to that story, unless you wish to learn about Internet misogyny.  But if you do wish to do that, you might find it interesting that I've seen worse comments on that site in the past.

So where are we?  The debate has now been refined as about the new Husky dog logo, not about the rest of Luby's letter.  And then our Rush joins in:

RUSH: There is a new logo for the Huskies.  University of Connecticut sports teams.  The new logo promotes rape, says one student.
"The new logo for the University of Connecticut’s sports teams is a terrifying husky dog that calls to mind images of sexual assault, says one student."  This is on the Daily Caller website.  "The new logo was unveiled last week, receiving mixed-to-negative reviews from UConn fans who preferred the older, cuter husky dog.  But one student went much further, criticizing the new, meaner logo for being a pro-rape symbol. In an open letter to UC President Susan Herbst, self-described feminist student Carolyn Luby wrote that the redesigned team logo will intimidate women and empower rape culture."
One student, University of Connecticut, upset with the new husky logo.  "UConn basketball coach Geno Auriemma said the logo 'is looking right through you and saying, "Do not mess with me." This is a streamlined, fighting dog, and I cannot wait for it to be on our uniforms and court.'  In response, Luby wrote, 'What terrifies me about the admiration of such traits is that I know what it feels like to have a real-life Husky look straight through you and to feel powerless, and to wonder if even the administration cannot "mess with them." And I know I am not alone.'"
Folks, we're talking about a cartoon character.  We're talking about a drawing.  We're talking about a logo, an icon, that will appear on basketball uniforms, maybe on the football helmet.  The self-described feminist student Carolyn Luby said there were two sexual assaults at UConn involving athletes in the past year.  The logo and the teams it represents are menacing to women. "The face of real-life UConn athletics is certainly capable of frightening college women."
Limbaugh believes that this is the start of something bigger.  Probably a feminist attempt to kill college football and to take political correctness to laughable extremes?  Something of that sort, because he then spends quite a bit time showing us that frightening rape logo.  Here's the picture from his site:

If you're watching, I want to show you this cartoon of the new mascot, the redesigned logo of the husky at UConn that promotes rape, and you see what you think.

 See how it all works?  That's just a cuddly face of a Husky, but we can't have it, because one student thinks it promotes rape:

CALLER:  Do we know for sure that this is a male Husky?
RUSH:  We don't.  But the female student does. That is the point.  One female student saw the new logo.  It's a drawing.  It is a cartoon figure, "Oh, my God, I feel like I'm gonna be raped."  And it made the news.  If it weren't in the Daily Caller, I wouldn't be talking about it.  The whole country knows about it now.  This is way beyond The Daily Caller, so now it's out there.  The new UConn icon, the new UConn logo, promotes rape.  What do you think they're gonna do at UConn?  They'll change it.  You know damn well they will.
But if you read Luby's letter carefully,  her point is that focusing on a new logo for the sports teams is misplaced when there are serious problems, both criminal and academic, that should have been attended to first.  And what she finds frightening is "the face of real-life UConn athletics."  The other references in her piece appear to be direct quotes from other people.

Soraya Chemaly writes about wolf images, available on the Internet, which aren't that removed from the new Husky logo.  I have no idea if Carolyn Luby had seen any of those images or how commonly viewed they are, but after reading Soraya's piece I spent a little time looking for such pro-rape images (probably intended as "jokes"), and these do look a fair bit like the new UConn logo (shown first for comparison):

I stress (in a very booming voice) that I AM NOT making an argument about the new Husky logo being in any way related to those courage-wolf pictures, and I'm QUITE SURE that its creators had no idea such images exist.  I also have NO IDEA how many people are aware of the insanity-wolf pictures or the courage-wolf pictures or if Carolyn Luby had ever seen them, for instance.

The point I'm trying to make is rather different:  When people's life experiences vary, the meaning of various images can also vary.  A swastika, for example, had a completely different meaning before the Nazis adopted it, and it still has a different meaning in some cultures.  A cartoon-character logo for a sports team COULD mean different things for different groups of people.  To insist that it should be interpreted the way Rush Limbaugh's peer group interprets it is no more logical than to insist that it should have other interpretations.

But that is not what the original open letter was about, really.