A fraternity at Cornell University was recently pressured by members of the campus community to change the name of its popular philanthropic event titled, “Which Sorority has the Best Water Jugs on Campus” — and this is after the name was changed from “Best Jugs on Campus” several years previously.
The formula of the event is simple: All 12 sororities decorate large plastic water jugs, and passersby put their donations in their favorite jug. The sorority with the most donations in its jugs wins the event. Money raised goes to benefit Pi Kappa Phi’s national philanthropy, Push America, which is dedicated to helping people with disabilities.
The controversy was sparked by certain administrators and campus organizations who were offended at the use of the word “jugs” in relation to sororities — clearly taking it to mean something other than simply a large plastic container.
Ashley Harrington, a student member of the Women’s Resource Center advisory board, expressed her problem with the event’s name in an interview with Cornell’s student newspaper, The Cornell Daily Sun.
“Jugs become what these brilliant, beautiful, talented women are relegated to,” Harrington said. “It becomes even worse when money is involved. The better the sorority’s jugs, the more money they get for their philanthropy. In this [way], women become a commodity masked in the name of philanthropy.”
But this is not some kind of attempt to objectify women and “mask” it as philanthropy. This is a philanthropy event that simply chose to use a light-hearted joke in its approach, and yes, it can be read as a reference to breasts.
If it is, then so what? It’s definitely not a “derogatory” way of demeaning a group that has, by the way, has been very enthusiastic in participating in this philanthropy.
The event was not held on Cornell’s campus last year, but was for the nine years before that. It was brought back to Cornell this year because of several sororities requested it.
Clearly, the sororities involved do not feel offended.
Kathleen McArdle, a member of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority at Cornell, for one, did not share Harrington’s outrage.
“It would be one thing if the event was advertised with photos of busty, half-naked women or something along those lines, but it clearly shows a picture of a water jug,” McArdle told the Cornell Daily Sun. “The event itself isn’t demeaning in my opinion, and I believe the slang term is just being used to draw attention to an otherwise charitable cause.”
Harassing a fraternity to change the name of a philanthropy event because of its name is a new low in political correctness.
We can’t refer to all water jugs as “plastic water containers” because some thin-skinned individual will be offended. Should any word with a possible double meaning be stricken from the English language?
The main issue here is that those offended overlooked the noble intentions of a charity event to express indignation about what is, at worst, an immature joke, and was more likely just an amusing double entendre meant to draw attention to a worthwhile cause.
—David Weissman is a journalism senior. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions