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Ordinarily, I wouldn’t take the time to write a piece about Tucker Max. I don’t think he’s particularly funny, and he thrives on people protesting and criticizing him just as much as he enjoys his actual fans. However, his recent speaking engagement at the Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus stirred up a considerable amount of controversy, and raised complicated issues about the way the university interacts with its students.
For those unfamiliar with Tucker Max: he has a website, and has published several books, the most well-known being “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.” Recently he wrote and produced an ill-fated movie by the same name. Quotes are offensive, and promote rape and violence. Examples include “I’m going to get you so drunk you can’t consent,” “Your gender (women) is hardwired for whoredom,” and “Get away from me or I’m going to carve a fuckhole in your torso.” Some people find it funny – some find it offensive.
About a week before Tucker Max gave his speech on the Hopkins campus, publicity started circulating for the event. A facebook group formed, e-mailed announcements from the student council included information about the event, and news started moving through the student body by word of mouth. As the publicity increased, so did the opposition – Tucker Max is a notorious misogynist, and a number of students and faculty members opposed his presence on campus. A grassroots counter-campaign emerged, which sought to get the event cancelled on the grounds that Tucker Max’s presence on campus would violate the university’s anti-harassment policy, and that his body of work promotes the idea that women are sexual objects which men are entitled to.
The student body divided itself quickly, to stand in favor of or against Tucker Max’s appearance. One student who was in favor of the event referred to Max as “a hilarious douchebag” – the general consensus was that the students opposed to the event simply didn’t know how to take a joke. Rachel Navarre, the faculty organizer for the student group who decided to bring Tucker Max to campus, asserted that his stories were “similar to the style of many comedians” and opted not to cancel the event because she believed that complaints were “mainly from a group of about 10 students.” Since over 1,000 students had RSVPed to the event’s facebook group, a small opposition was hardly going to affect the event.
So the students and faculty members opposed to Tucker Max sought to prove that they were not a marginal group. After six hours on the Hopkins Breezeway (a central location on the campus) 355 letters were written and signed requesting that the event be cancelled – that’s one signature every minute. The letters were delivered to Ray Gillian, the Provost for Institutional Equity. In addition, numerous e-mails were sent to deans and administrators, phone calls were made, and meetings were set up with the HOP (the Hopkins Organization for Programming, who created the event) and the SGA (Student Government Association, who had the power to override the HOP and cancel the event). Students wrote statements, read speeches, and actively debated the issue. Those in favor of the event re-iterated that students had a choice to attend the event, and that Tucker Max was not to be taken seriously. Those against it found it hard to believe that statements saying women Max finds unattractive are “generally just so annoying that you have to actively restrain yourself from kicking her in the crotch and stomping on her throat until she drowns in her own blood. There is no insult too mean or crude for her, and basic human rights do not apply to her,” could ever be construed as anything but misogynistic violence, and objected to the fact that the fund that brought Tucker Max to campus came from tuition money.
Despite the campaign, the show continued. An alternative event was arranged at the One World Café, which was wildly successful – the restaurant was so packed full of people it was difficult to negotiate the crowd. The university latched onto both events as successes, and argued that it had inspired controversy that served as an educational experience.
Unfortunately, most of the administration has missed the point of the protest. By embracing the response to Tucker Max as a positive controversy, the university is congratulating itself for offending and threatening the women who are a part of it. The administration has eliminated any opportunity for real dissent from students and faculty by claiming that the entire situation was a learning experience. No one learned anything constructive; students who enjoy Tucker Max were unaffected, and those who stood opposed to him simply learned that our concerns are insignificant to the administration.
For those arguing that the things Tucker Max says are not taken to heart by Hopkins students, I offer this: protestors on campus were frequently met with misogynistic slurs, and occasional quotes from Tucker Max himself. They were referred to as “cunts,” “fat bitches,” “cum dumpsters” (which is a Tucker Max quote), and my personal favorite, “lesbian cunt nuggets.” This was not a constructive and educational debate – it was nothing more than an unfortunate event that made it clear that misogyny persists on the Hopkins campus.