Controversial ‘joke’ in The Newt

LAST WEEK NEW COLLEGE’S satirical student newspaper published the comment, “No I’ve never punched a woman during sex. But never say never,”.

National tabloids Daily Mail and The Mirror have called the comments “offensive” and “outrageous”.

The college newspaper, The Newt, often quotes students’ comments that have been overheard throughout the week in the top margin of the page. It was here that the ‘joke’ was published. Other sections of the newspaper include a social media page, satirical cartoons and ‘dispatches’ from people spending a year abroad. The newspaper has existed in its current format since 2008.

Katy Sheridan, Welfare Representative for New College JCR, hoped that the comments would not affect people’s perceptions of “the strongly supportive community” of New College.

She commented, “At New College, we have a very active and appropriately trained welfare team who take extremely seriously the importance of supporting survivors of sexual violence. The welfare team have undertaken first responder and peer support training.”

She made the College’s condemnation of sexual violence clear, telling Cherwell, “New College JCR in no way endorses the trivialisation of sexual violence; such an attitude grossly misrepresents the strongly sup- portive community we have at New College.”

Last year, students were given the choice to opt-out of having their comments published in The Newt and the newspaper is obligated to ask the people who it intends to quote if they are happy to be featured. The person who made the ‘joke’ was given this choice.

Former Newt editor James Mannion com- mented, “I think the tone [of the newspaper] can vary but only from being satire-centred to being a more gossip-orientated, humorous college newsletter. The tone has to be on the side of people involved.”

He explained that he thought that the ‘joke’ had made it to national print because on opening the newspaper, “what leaps out is casual violence against women,” which was caused by “a misjudgement of tone”.

Mannion believed the quotation was “throw away dark humour”, and had been taken from a casual conversation someone overheard regarding S&M.

He added, “However, as a stand-alone quote it appears to negate that, and that is why I think it was an inappropriate choice of quote, because it fails to provide enough of a background to maintain the inherent harmlessness of the statement. I see why people have been offended; but I also think it has been blown out of proportion by a misinterpretation of the tone of the comment.”

Chris Green, Director of anti-violence against women charity, the White Ribbon Campaign, told the Mirror, “The inappropriate page header of the ‘news’ paper which is delivered to every pigeonhole in New College reinforces sexist and controlling disrespectful attitudes which stu- dents are already excessively exposed to. Only a foolhardy publisher would put such an offensive quote into a newspaper.”