Brook Pruitt, associate professor of communication, stood on stage at the Life Raft Debate in defense of why, he, as a mass comm professor, deserved to be on the hypothetical life raft. He chose to perform a comedy routine, in hopes to make students feel ‘entertained’ and win them over.
The nature of comedy is that no one has final say over what is truly funny, but people have a right to say when shock value has crossed into genuine discomfort. I firmly believe this is one of those instances.
“In 1993 when I started school, or college, I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor. To be more specific, a gynecologist,” stated Pruitt. “The obvious reason for a 21-year-old male -”
He then mimes what could only be taken as a doctor opening up female genitalia, licking his finger and shoving it into the air between his fingers – “money.”
This joke made me twist uncomfortably in my seat. My jaw dropped, I couldn’t believe that such a vulgar and graphic joke could really be acted out at an event so deeply tied to the University.
He, as a male, will never be able to understand how personal and scary it is to have to go to a gynecologist. He can’t understand how intrusive it truly is to lay there on the table, exposed, all for the betterment of your own health.
There is already so much misinformation, fear and stigma around women’s health, specifically tied to gynecology.
Women’s health is so important, and to see it chalked up to a way for a man to see female genitalia was truly disheartening. Furthermore, jokes like this promote fear into the minds of women that maybe they should question the intentions of their doctors.
It promotes fear, and it also promotes the objectification of women. It sends the message that they serve to do nothing more than exist as a punchline. As a male, he turned a serious women’s health issue into an opportunity to objectify a uniquely female experience.
“It hit me the most because I am a woman. That visual that he made. Him as a professional and a mentor made me feel uncomfortable and unsafe. I was never expecting to feel like that. I shouldn’t have to feel like that,” stated Alex Warren, a junior.
As a campus that reflects so much diversity, it was hard to see such an obviously distasteful joke wash over a room of my peers. It should never be considered appropriate for any male professor to reference female genitalia as a joke.
While a video does exist of Pruitt doing almost exactly this same routine over the summer in Atlanta, the Life Raft Debate truly wasn’t the time or place the air out such edgy jokes that had nothing to do with the debate itself other than him trying to prove he could entertain.
Repetition equals habit. This speaks to the fact that Pruitt has now performed this joke in multiple places, meaning that he stands behind it.
Furthermore, he also boiled mass communication down to just entertainment, which it isn’t. Every single class I have taken has been about serving the public by supplying real and current news/information. A comedy routine that delves into such polarizing vulgarity isn’t appropriate. Mass comm has never and will never be on a level for something like this to be acceptable.
Pruitt both failed to defend his position and made people feel uncomfortable.
What should be the response? Who needs to speak next? Maybe the University should make a statement that they do not endorse any of the messages that Pruitt shared. Should he apologize? Absolutely, because it isn’t fair that students should go to a “traditional” and sanctioned event to be made to feel uncomfortable.
“Knowing the University also thinks that wasn’t okay would make me feel better,” shared Warren.