Letters to the Editor – April 7, 2010

A close look at the Engineering Society’s Red Loin Publication

Sex, fun, entertainment or offensive information – just what is in the Engineering Society’s Red Lion/Loin publications? Some have suggested that these are for entertainment only and those offended should simply not read the publications. Others have stated that these publications are offensive. The debate should not center on these differing views. Rather, consideration needs to be placed on the University of Manitoba campus where these publications were produced and disseminated. The campus is a place of work and learning where many public events and gatherings are held. As a community, we need to consider whether the Red Lion/Loin publications are respectful of or detract from this environment.

The controversy surrounding the Red Lion/Loin publications is not new to the discipline of Engineering. Following the 1989 Montreal massacre, in which 14 women were killed inside an engineering school at l’École Polytechnique, the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers issued its groundbreaking report “More than Just Numbers.” The report documented the barriers that young women face when entering the engineering profession. It is not unreasonable that publications, such as the Red Lion/Loin, contribute to this. Examples of some of the problematic content that can be found within the publications:

• “Anything other than a slap in the face means you still have a chance for that evening. Let’s face it boys, you want it, you want it baddd. So try harder” (Red Lion, October 2008).
• An article that sorts out women on the basis of being hot, obese, too old or young and then calculates the number of hot women per square mile in Winnipeg that a male engineer can have sex with (Red Loin, February 2009).
• The regular use and display of women’s bodies in pornographic poses, typically in bikinis and lingerie. Such images of women can be found within the February 2010 “just entertainment” version of the Red Loin that has received the most attention.
• In an article of the “45 worst pick up lines we’ve ever used” included were: “You don’t sweat much for a fat chick”; “The chick that usually sucks my dick has a shirt just like yours”; “Excuse me, have I fucked you yet?” (Red Loin, February 1996).
• Images from vintage issues of the Red Loin/Lion of a woman with a noose around her neck under a caption that reads “new hobbies,” another which depicts a pregnant women under a caption, “passing on engineering genes,” and images of men who are non-white being made fun of for the entertainment of “male engineers.”

We have presented these examples to encourage informed dialogue and debate about the Red Lion/Loin publications. Are these just “harmless fun” as suggested? Whose version of “fun” is being promoted in these publications? Pictures in recent issues of the Red Lion/Loin primarily present young, white women and men; perhaps it is just what this select group considers entertainment? As a university community, what forms of denigration and violence are we being asked to ignore if we are offended?

Most of the publications contain explicit sexual content. In regularly approving such content, editors of the Red Lion/Loin demonstrate a lack of sensitivity to cultural groups who do not believe that such open discussions about sex are appropriate. Images of women in sexualized poses have long been considered unacceptable in other workplaces. It is puzzling not only that these images are displayed, but that the right to show them is strongly defended. The University of Manitoba campus is the workplace for many faculty, staff, post-doctoral fellows and research assistants/associates.

We know that there is some social consciousness within the Engineering Society because of Engineers Without Borders and the funds raised for Habitat for Humanity. This makes the existence of the Red Lion/Loin more puzzling as the publication is devoid of any social awareness. We call upon the members of the Engineering Society, particularly those involved with these initiatives, to consider how this publication creates a very different view of your faculty and profession. To the editor, writers and readers of the Red Lion/Loin publications, we ask what the presentation of the material described above and other content about average vagina, penis, and nipple sizes accomplishes and what messages this sends about the Engineering Society and the profession. To others in the academic community, we ask each of you to reflect on whether the Red Lion/Loin publications violate the notion of a respectful work and learning environment.

  • Faculty Council of Social Work