The Scarlet & Black

The Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter: Defending The Writer’s Digress

A letter in last week’s S&B offered a scathing critique of Writer’s Digress magazine, describing its “nearly every page” as “oppressive and deeply offensive”— an attack against women, AIDS victims, and the mentally handicapped. As producers of this magazine, we question the validity of this condemnation.

We agree with the authors in that “it is neither appropriate nor responsible to distribute blatantly misogynistic, classist, and ableist material.” But the content of Writer’s Digress falls into none of these categories, and in fact, occasionally pokes fun at those who hold such ignorant views.

Indeed when taken out of context, some of our material may appear offensive, most notably the words of the fictional “DJ Koob$.” But Writer’s Digress is a satirical publication. Amidst a large amount of innocent, stupid humor, a few of its pieces employ irony to make a point. Yes, the words of “Koob$” were ostensibly misogynistic, unlike the sentiment of author Gary Kahn. Kahn purposefully used this over the top language as a means to poke fun at male chauvinists, while also making light of his own often misrepresented image on campus.

We regret if it took a close reading to interpret the article, or any other piece in the magazine. We assumed that the magazine’s tagline—“Stories About Nothing, Advice You Shouldn’t Take”— adequately contextualized the message of our pieces. But for the tastes of some students, perhaps we missed the mark. Such is the risk of satire—whether found on the cover of the New Yorker, or within the confines of a goofy and fledgling campus magazine (Come on … one of our best pieces was a butt joke).

We can understand how Kahn’s piece may have been misinterpreted. But the authors of last week’s opinion continued their critique further labeling Writer’s Digress as both “ableist” and “classist.” While we consider our “ableist” title the result of another misinterpretation—the mere mention of the cognitively disabled does not inherently signify intolerance—we simply cannot pinpoint any article even brushing upon the concept of class, with the exception of a fake petition calling for the overthrow of the “capitalist bourgeoisie pigs” (Isn’t that why we all chose to enroll here in the first place?)

If our detractors wish to offer constructive criticism and to form a meaningful dialogue, we invite them once again to help us clear up this confusion. Otherwise, we deem that activist energy may be better spent addressing more relevant social problems both locally and nationally. Let’s face it—women still lack equal pay in the workplace and we still use the classist term “townie” to describe some 9,000 of our fellow Grinnellians.
If Writer’s Digress truly offended our outspoken critics, we appreciate their willingness to address us, albeit in indirect fashion. We hope that anyone with questions or concerns about the publication will choose to send letters to our editor, as repeatedly requested in the magazine. This is the best way for us to gauge campus opinion. If anyone wishes to sit down with us to talk about these issues or the freshness of Will Smith, please let us know.

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