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Student petition prevents Porn and Chicken act from playing at MayFest

This article was originally published on May 4, 2015.

In a quick turn of events involving petitions back and forth, protests and anonymous threats, students prevented the electronic dance music group Porn and Chicken from performing at MayFest due to the controversial nature of the group’s art.

The Chicago-based group were slated as headliners at the dance party on Friday, May 2 curated by Programming Board, which would also showcase campus DJs Tony Gonzalez’16 and Nikola Parlic’17 and DJ Mike P in the Fieldhouse.

Porn and Chicken are a Chicago-based group of EDM DJs Dom Brown, Fei Tang, Orville Kline and Ammo. They are known for hosting Monday night dance parties in Chicago, and hardcore porn and fried chicken wings are part of the performance. Their shows, known as “bangers” include themes such as Supreme Leader, Fat Monday, Pokemon, Young Girl Party, Derezzed, Ebola, Playa Haters Ball and more.

On Wednesday night, Programming Board posted the YouTube video “Porn and Chicken Episode 20 ‘Anything Goes Halloween Banger,’” as an example of the group’s performance antics to their Facebook page, sparking a strong reaction from students. Many students spoke out, purportedly feeling unsafe with this kind of entertainment coming to campus.

The performance at Mayfest would not have been exactly the same as the group’s normal act, though the video post suggested they would be similar, as Programming Board prefaced the video with the caption, “A little taste of what you might be seeing.” The group requested to play hardcore or softcore porn, and Jen Walsh, Director of Student Engagement and Leadership, said Programming Board would not allow them to show any porn. The group also requested fire grinding, a form of entertainment in clubs in which women wear metal straps and grind against a metal plate to make sparks; this was also rejected. Porn and Chicken also requested “a lot of alcohol,” which Programming Board would never provide in any event.

On Thursday, Lola Davis’17 and Julie Weinberg’17 gathered feedback for a petition, which they titled “Porn and Chicken is NOT Safe.” The document’s objective was to cancel the performance, and asked for signatures on GoogleDocs from students, faculty and staff.

Davis and Weinberg made an announcement in the Q&A session hosted by President Scott Bierman at noon, and another announcement in Java Joint during lunch rush hour, to inform everyone of the petition.

The petition highlights five main ways the group is problematic. Below is a summary of the text, with some direct quotes.

  1. “Porn and Chicken uses women’s bodies for entertainment.”

  2. Hard liquor is being poured down the women’s throats. This associates alcohol with sex, which is a direct contradiction to Beloit’s alcohol philosophy and consent policy.

  3. “There are multiple race issues operating in Porn and Chicken’s party culture.” One of the group’s posters about a Cinco de Mayo dance party is “rooted in racial stereotypes and cultural appropriation.”

  4. “Photos and videos show majority white, thin and able bodied women. This suggests that this event is open to that identity and that identity will get recognition and approval. This event is exclusive to the identities of many students on campus.”

  5. The group’s themes, such as “Girls Gone Wild,” “Gotta Bang Them All” and “Young Girls Only,” “demonstrate that Porn and Chicken desires for their dances to be centered around having sex with as many women as possible and having access to as many naked women as possible. One of their videos also ends with chanting, ‘Girl, take your f*cking shirt off.’ In videos you can watch countless women get grabbed and groped. Will this behavior be not only acceptable but encouraged tomorrow night? While communicating that these events are for having access to as many women as possible, Porn and Chicken posts almost exclusively photos and videos of women making out. This tells us that women’s sexuality is for male entertainment.”

  6. Porn and Chicken was also involved in bringing the founder of a revenge porn website, Hunter Moore, to a show in January 2014. “He was cancelled from the show after people brought attention to the fact that he promotes rape culture and violence against women. Clearly Porn and Chicken does not make women’s safety a priority.”

By 2:30 p.m., an email was sent to Director of Residential John Winkelmann and Dean of Students Christina Klawitter with 169 signatures, including four members of staff, and two members of faculty. People continued to add their names throughout the day, and PBoard held a meeting at 3 p.m. to discuss the situation, though this was not open to all students.

The first official response from Programming Board came around 8:20 p.m. The group released a statement announcing that Porn and Chicken would be removed from the lineup, due to “an overwhelming amount of negative backlash and outrage.” Mayfest would continue with the two other DJs. According to their contract, the group had already been paid, and this payment could not be taken back. Because of a confidentiality clause, information about the payment to Porn and Chicken could not be officially confirmed by Walsh. Programming Board’s annual allocation is $78,000, which comes entirely from student activities fees.

Though Weinberg and Davis’s efforts were ultimately successful, Weinberg still felt disappointment about Programming Board’s response to the issue. “I hoped that PBoard would have expressed that they removed Porn and Chicken because they recognized and understood our problems with the group, not just because people were making noise. I feel that I don’t really know why that truly cancelled it.”

Programming Board is made up of 10 students broken up into subcommittees, with Walsh overseeing decisions and managing contracts. Three students were in charge of curating the Mayfest event. To decide the acts, students were sent a survey asking for requests for EDM acts, and, according to Hannah Drexler’17, a co-director of Programming Board, Porn and Chicken’s name repeatedly appeared on the survey and came up through word of mouth. They were booked in early April.

“We had a lot of other potential acts but after listening to their music and watching a clip of their live show decided that bringing them would be providing the campus with something that what they want and would be something unique and exciting,” Drexler said. Other members of Programming Board directly involved in curating Porn and Chicken declined to comment on the situation.

After the announcement of the headliner being cancelled, Mykenzie Larsen’17 created a petition on Change.org to bring Porn and Chicken back. By the end of the night, the petition had over 100 signatures; the original goal was 100, and later was changed to 200 signatures. Supporters later decided to aim for more signatures than the original petition. The petition stated “Don’t let anyone ruin our fun for Mayfest tomorrow night lets get PnC back here!” Larsen was unavailable for comment.

Linden Holt’16 had originally signed the first petition, but later removed his name and signed the second petition, feeling “ashamed” to sign the one put forth by Weinberg and Davis.

“I do indeed believe that the behavior of this band and how they promote themselves is a feminist issue,” he said. However, he had seen the group perform before, and didn’t feel the Mayfest performance would have been a problem at Beloit.

“It was unfair and reactionary of Julie [Weinberg], and her cohorts to publish their petition the day before the show, capitalizing on the anger and shock of the community without having a proper dialogue,” he said. “It’s also disingenuous to disguise an ideological issue as an issue of campus security.”

Thursday night, students continued to post on social media platforms like Facebook and Yik Yak, which allows for anonymous posts and comments.

One poster directly threatened the 200+ people who had signed the original petition: “I will just wait… just wait you’ll all get a nice surprise,” “And you 200 are still pussies,” “Y’all some wide set bitches” and “Check your mailboxes… I dare ya.”

Weinberg submitted an incident report, and closed the petition so that no one could view the names. By that time, the petition had 269 signatures.

After a night of heated discussion over social media platforms and elsewhere, tensions were high around campus on Friday. Many Mayfest posters had the Porn and Chicken logo ripped off, or had messages like “my butt is not a commodity” and “party culture is not equal to rape culture,” while some posters were removed completely. Someone chalked between the Theta sorority house and 837 College Street, “Believe it or not, Mayfest is still on!”

That morning, Winkelmann announced that the mail center closed the drop slot, and workers would be looking for any large bundles in anticipation of the threat.

At 12:22 p.m. Friday, a community alert was sent to all of Beloit College informing everyone that the Beloit Police were being consulted about the threat, which may warrant arrest.

Sometime during the day, Larsen contacted The Bop, a bar in downtown Beloit to arrange to have Porn and Chicken perform there instead of on campus. Roberta “Bert” Ciulla, owner of The Bop, commented hours before the performance, “I try to help the students out… I’ve never even heard of them.”

She added, “I didn’t want to get in the middle of some big controversy … I hope tonight’s performance is a nice, clean, entertaining function.” The Bop did not pay the performers.

Though Porn and Chicken did not end up playing on campus, the controversy reflects sensitive dynamics already at play for Beloit College.

Many students compared the immediacy of this reaction to the recent hate crimes earlier in the semester, which also made many students feel unsafe, but did not receive the same attention or administrative support.

“Julie and I have much more power and influence because of our race, and we were probably also more comfortable speaking up about PnC to faculty and administration for this reason. I don’t know if PnC would be cancelled if black students had written the petition,” Davis comments. “That thought should spark concern in everyone, and should remind campus to pay attention to the voices and needs of students of color, our shortcomings with this regard, our behavior and policies and more.”

Emily James’15, who signed the first petition, appreciated Devin McCray’15’s critique of the racial and gender dynamics at play, which were originally posted as Facebook comments on the Mayfest page.

“White feminists are more comfortable speaking out against misogyny because it is predicated on our innocence whereas speaking out against racism involves examining how I am complicit, and I think that’s why this garnered such a reaction,” James wrote.

She continued,  “Beloit really likes a big thing that everyone else is talking about … I wish we could rally around stuff like this all the time.”

She sees the divide over Porn and Chicken as part of a broader “culture war” at the college, “though it’s much bigger than that.”

“Sophomore year [two years ago], there was this whole fight of athletes vs. nonathletes, hipsters vs. jocks, basics vs. alts…People are sort of jumping [to sign either petition] based on how they culturally identify at this school,” she says.

“There’s already so much backlash—[there are students who say] ‘why do we have to talk about race and gender all the time? I’m also really tired of talking about race and gender, I want Porn and Chicken to come too!’ And there’s the whole investment in fun, but it’s not the only way to have fun.”

Hatheway Rawlinson’15, who also signed the first petition, added, “It’s problematic when your fun is at the expense of other people. The fact that we accepted this group to come here [means] we accepted this as a normal thing to be entertained by rape culture.”

She continues, “The situation brought already existing controversies to the surface, and it gives you an opportunity to define yourself very quickly. All of a sudden you can assert yourself in ways you couldn’t otherwise, and that’s affirming for people.”

McCray, who did not sign the original petition, considers the arguments about students feeling unsafe about the event perpetuating rape culture to be “true and valid.” However, she argues the discussion cannot stop there.

“I don’t believe PBoard is going to invite an act the doesn’t mirror the interest and behaviors of the students on our campus. … If you don’t like [Porn and Chicken] it’s time to reevaluate a whole lot,” she wrote. “[such as] our alcohol philosophy, hook up culture and the way Res Life operates on campus. There shouldn’t be anymore social life on campus given the things stated that should make students feel ‘unsafe’ because truthfully the difference between people on campus who have been assaulted or are perpetrators of an assault, as it stands right now, is luck.”

Weinberg wholeheartedly agrees. “Porn and Culture is an amplified version of what happens on this campus every weekend. My dislike for Porn and Chicken is because I want to work for a different culture on this campus,” she says. “We have a lot more work to do then just get an event cancelled.”

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