This was the exact question I was wondering as I sat in the Lehigh student section, reading this Lehigh University fan’s t-shirt. The picture details a Lehigh Eagle with his pants around his ankles, engaging in forced copulation with Lafayette University’s school mascot the leopard. Unfortunately, it was not the only one that I saw.
I couldn’t stand it. I spoke with the game’s security, the university police and eventually Lafayette’s security coordinator standing in the bleachers to see if there was some sort of protocol to ask the students to remove their t-shirts.
I was told that the most anyone could do was keep a look out for student’s with the shirt and then ask them to remove the shirt, but only if they had something underneath it. No one asked me if I could locate the students with the t-shirts. I went back to my seat frustrated, feeling that sexual violence and discrimination was not taken seriously.
On my way back to the bleachers, I ran into another student wearing the shirt. I asked him where he got the shirt. He said that a bunch of students got the shirt last year by a student run organization that had an affiliation to Lehigh’s football team.
So I asked him directly, “Do you realize what your shirt implies? Do you realize that it supports rape?”
His response, “It’s just a t-shirt. It doesn’t mean anything. You have an eagle painted on your face, does that make you a warrior? Do you want to go kill somebody? And who’s to say it’s a female?”
Maybe in jest, maybe in competition, maybe in “it’s just a t-shirt” style attitude is this type of vulgarity and sexual threat a social norm to simply be shouted in efforts to round student camaraderie. But why? What society do we live in where t-shirts that depict an eagle forcing copulation into a leopard bring students together?
As I woman I was offended. It is estimated that 1 in four women will be raped during their college years. But as an undergraduate student, I was even more offended because I thought that sexual discrimination is something that neither university would tolerate.