Selective criticism

22 April 2003
The following two letters were received in response to the AGI's letter (Vol22#07) regarding what they described as offensive content in Sax Appeal.

I, an atheist who found nothing offensive (nor particularly funny) in this year's Sax Appeal, am puzzled and disturbed by the hysterical attack on it by the African Gender Institute (Letters, March 31 - April 6). Sax Appeal shows Muslem women shooting with handguns. It also mocks the head of the largest Christian denomination and has a blasphemous portrayal of the most sacred event in the Christian religion, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The African Gender Institute criticises this mild joke against Islam and utterly ignores the far worse slur against Christianity. What message is the AGI trying to convey? That it is wrong to criticise Islam in any way but fine to criticise Christianity?

Andrew Kenny
Mechanical Engineering

In a recent letter to the Monday Paper objecting to the content of this year's Sax Appeal magazine, the African Gender Institute asks: "What do members of the public who have bought this magazine think of it?" Yes, what will other people think? Why not find out by asking them?

I'll set the ball rolling with my opinion: I was neither dismayed nor deeply disturbed by the "misogynist and racist material" in Sax Appeal. To be sure, some of the material was a bit offensive, but some of it was very funny. And since it is important for students to explore and test the norms of their society, I wouldn't want it any other way. No article was remotely as offensive as the aforementioned letter, which (surely deliberately) misconstrues the content of those Sax Appeal articles. Is this to elicit another rush of that most addictive drug, righteous indignation?

The shrill language of extremes employed by the AGI - words and phrases such as: "deeply disturbed", "incensed", "inexcusable", "criminal", "repugnant", "deeply offensive", "does immeasurable damage", "deep sense of insult", etc - suggests that the authors are hallucinating, their thinking muddled by long-term habitual abuse. Sax Appeal is, after all, a student magazine, and not a threat to global welfare. A commitment to the eradication of all forms of social injustice is undoubtedly laudable. The average human, however, is endowed with a modicum of rationality, and will not transmogrify into a wife-beating, racist, paedophilic homophobe when exposed to satire, or even when exposed to a serious article espousing these activities. Mankind does not need to be protected from attempts at humour, however weak or offensive. Surely the AGI has more important matters to attend to? (Or is this just another "typical white male" response? Cheap shot, I know.)

Dr Peter Ouwehand
Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics

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