As It Happens

Western University student signs that glorify rape culture are 'totally unacceptable,' says London mayor

The Mayor of London, Ont., is calling out sexually explicit signs made by Western University students for their fake, booze-fuelled homecoming party.

Signs were put up in homes away from campus as part of 'fake homecoming' party

Students who live along Broughdale Avenue in London, Ont. put up misogynist and sexist signs on their front porches during fake homecoming celebrations. (CBC News)


The street party was completely unsanctioned and to a lot people, including London, Ont., Mayor Ed Holder, it was completely unacceptable.

On the weekend, upwards of 25,000 party-goers descended onto London's Broughdale neighbourhood for Western University's annual fake homecoming street party.

Police were out in force. There were 14 arrests, and 31 people were hospitalized. 

But Holder is calling attention to something that wasn't tallied at the end of the weekend — misogynist, sexually explicit messages printed on large sheets that hung from some houses.

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke to Holder about the disturbing signs.

Here is part of their conversation.

Mayor Holder, how would you characterize the messages that were on these signs?

The messages that were on on the signs at the Broughdale event were messages of sexism, misogyny and rape culture.

They were on full display hanging out from several front patios on some houses in the Broughdale area.

Mayor Ed Holder said the signs were 'totally unacceptable' and that there needs to be zero tolerance for such sexually explicit and misogynist messages. (Andrew Lupton/CBC )

But what can you possibly do about it? This is not the first time that such things have been posted at this party.

And might I say, as well, that London is not unique to this kind of misogynistic rhetoric. It's in communities across the province and across the country — put out by immature and stupid people who either think this is funny, or clever, or what have you. It's none of that, and absolutely unacceptable in my city.

So we take the commitment very seriously. And, in fact, as part of that, here's the irony, it was not all that long ago that our own city council made a determination that as part of our upcoming four-year strategic plan that we would put in a very specific strategic plan focus of creating a safe London for women and girls.

I think they're dumb as hell — these people that would purport to be well-educated, maybe even sophisticated.- London, Ont., Mayor Ed Holder

We're the first council in Canada to do this, and we hope that will be an example for others to consider. But more importantly, we have to do this ourselves. 

Right. But I wonder what you can do. Because these signs, as odious as they are and as you say, they are misogynistic, they represent rape culture — but do they break any laws?

The answer is no. They did not break any laws. But you what you can do, Carol? You can call them out for what they are.

We can say you can't hide behind the shadows of bed sheets with stupid words on them. You call them out for what they are.

But these are educated young people, are they not? So they know better than to do this. How can you possibly stop them? What can you possibly do to shut down this kind of offensive messaging?

Well, firstly, that is not my definition of educated. I think they're dumb as hell — these people that would purport to be well-educated, maybe even sophisticated.

Just because they go to a great university that you and I have gone to in London, Ontario doesn't make them educated. In fact, I think they're boors.

Alright, agreed.

So one of the things that we're already doing is working with Western. Western has a very proactive approach in terms of dealing with this as well.

And, you know, until it gets to the point where people will not tolerate this kind of conduct, then that creates opportunities for it to proliferate.

I'm looking at this, Western is looking at this, the police are looking at this, our women's groups, and we're treating this seriously. But how much education does it take to know you don't do stupid? You don't do ignorant. And that's what this is.

Grow up. You didn't come to Western to be an idiot.- Holder

I mean one of the things that Western did in terms of our most recent non-homecoming event this past weekend is for the first time they put in a code of conduct with academic sanctions, if there were charges that were serious enough to be able to have those academic sanctions established on a student.

It's a process. It's not an overnight fix. But as soon as you and I say, and Canadians say, Londoners say, it just doesn't work. It's unacceptable. That's the start. So we want to bring this from out of the shadows and into discussion.

But let me give you some comfort, and perhaps even your listeners. This is a few boors who felt that somehow this would be somewhat interesting or clever. The response I've had from, I will say hundreds now at this point, since I tweeted this out, including a number of Western students, says this is not our Western. This is not our city. These people are not representative and we will not allow the tyranny of this little minority to reflect on London, nor on Western University, which is a great school.

Students who live along Broughdale Avenue in London, Ont. respond to signs that were posted on houses during fake homecoming celebrations. 2:39

The young men who made these signs and put them outside on these bedsheets outside of these houses — if you could speak to them directly, if you could say one thing to them, what would it be?

Grow up. Would your mother be proud of you for doing that? Would your sister be proud of you? Are you kidding me? 

You didn't come to Western to be an idiot. And that's what you're showing.

Written by Kate Cornick and John McGill. Interview produced by Kate Cornick. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.