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3OH!3 email chain example of selective activism

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The band 3OH!3 graced our campus on Saturday, April 6, but not without first being met by a wave of criticism. For those who remember 2009 pop culture vividly, you’ll recall that raunchy and edgy satire was totally in. Politically correct (PC) culture was a mere sapling, and meaningful conversations concerning sexual assault and rape culture were just beginning to sprout.

That being said, when the news got around about 3OH!3 performing in the Pause, there was mixed reception. Students seemed to fall into three general categories concerning their reactions to 3OH!3: some were excited to watch a band from their middle-school days, others thought 3OH!3’s lyrics sent a horrifying message about the objectification of women and then there were those students who had no idea who 3OH!3 was and simply didn’t care. I found myself mostly in the last category, but upon reading the St. Olaf Extra email chain, started by an alarmed student disgusted that the Music Entertainment Committee (MEC) would welcome this band, I became deeply confused. As the email chain progressed, people flocked to support or refute the original email, and, rather than being  swept up in the discussion concerning 3OH!3, I realized something interesting about selective activism.

“What do we deem as oppressive and misogynistic, and what do we let slide?” – Alexia Nizhny ’22

Everyone had been so quick to call this band antithetical towards St. Olaf’s mission, but songs alluding to rape and abuse aren’t exclusive to 3OH!3 or other edgy bands of the late 2000s. St. Olaf students still bust down to “Thotiana” and other blatantly sexist songs at Pause dances with clear enthusiasm. Where is the protesting then?

This isn’t to say the original St. Olaf Extra email sender concerning 3OH!3 is in any more support of songs with sexist lyrics that come from the present day, but there haven’t been letters written to MEC asking them to modify dance playlists or monitor music to cater toward female empowerment.

Picking and choosing how far “too far” is in songs that play on campus doesn’t help overcome sexism at St. Olaf. We need to keep ourselves in check. What do we deem as oppressive and misogynistic, and what do we let slide? Do others feel the same way? Why or why not? Part of activism is conversation. As much as many students would like to dismiss the band’s arrival as a poor choice from an unempathetic student organization, at the very least the discussion surrounding 3OH!3 opened the doors to a more important conversation that needs to happen.


Alexia Nizhny ’22 (nizhny1@stolaf.edu) is from New York, N.Y. Her major is undecided.