Humans not coffee cups

Letter to the Editor-Tirzah Price

You know what’s stupid?


Every woman faces it. Society is really great at telling women of all classes, ages, sexual orientations, and races that they are less than men. Women get paid 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Women’s reproductive rights are curbed and controlled by men in power. One in ten women ages 16-24 are sexually assaulted. Of those sexual assaults, 70% go unreported. Sexism, it can be argued, is one of the biggest contributors to the degradation of the human race.

When a column ran in the Torch earlier this week claiming that the “the average-income, American, teen through mid-twenties white girl” who likes texting and coffee is “the single biggest contributor to the degradation to the human race,” I was understandably pissed off. First, who peed in Ben Rettinhouse’s coffee cup? Second, why aren’t men who like coffee equally responsible for this supposed degradation? Finally, why are white girls singled out and how is their coffee consumption so damaging to society? I typically find opinion columns interesting, but I wasn’t prepared to see such flagrant discrimination printed in a student newspaper, reinforcing that overt sexism is somehow socially acceptable. Before my morning coffee, no less.

If you think that using an opinions column as a platform for expressing misogynistic vitriol against something as ridiculous as coffee is a valid excuse for acting like a complete asshole, then let me clue you in—it’s not.

People who are so pompous as to blame the degradation of the entire human race on white girls aren’t “the scum of the earth.” I’ll save that description for people who are awful—rapists, murderers, and child molesters. You know, the truly awful people. But those people who employ this sort of sexism to make a point against coffee are intolerable and certainly do more to hurt society than expensive lattes. When I see someone blaming women for something that is not their fault, from rape to the collapse of Western society, my respect for that person vanishes. Ben Rettinhouse, you should be ashamed of yourself. Trust me, I’m not exaggerating here—you really should feel a significant amount of guilt and shame for your column “Cup of Destruction.”

Discrimination is serious, with life-altering implications. Sexist, racist commentaries like Rettinhouse’s don’t just insult the “white girls” who like coffee—they hurt us all. Columns like Rettinhouse’s (although I hesitate to even call that string of fifteen paragraphs a column) echo the sentiments that women hear every day in the media and in academia: you are less, you are stupid, you do not matter. “Cup of Destruction” isn’t just a poorly written, confusing rant by a narrow-minded man, but a shameful reflection of a lack of empathy for people who are different. Whether that difference is defined by gender, race, sexuality, or beverage preference matters not.

Discrimination and hatred are degrading our society. Not coffee. Not women. The solution? I’m afraid it’s not as easy as giving up your iced mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream.

College is a time for new experiences. It’s a time for education and ideas and meeting new people. It’s a time to challenge yourself to look beyond your inner feelings, thoughts, and prejudices and see other people as human—flawed and varied and fascinating and full of worth. Human. Human beings, not coffee cups. If you refuse to change, you are part of the problem.

Men and women equally share the responsibility of calling out hate and discrimination when we see it. Not to belittle each other, but so that we can work together to change the messages we send out into the world. Let’s talk about sexism. Let’s talk about racism. Let’s talk about our differences with the goal to minimize the distance between us, to develop empathy for each other. Preferably, let’s have these conversations over coffee, but if you don’t like coffee, I’ll drink tea as well.