Queen's offended by Sumo wrestling - Macleans.ca

Queen’s offended by Sumo wrestling

Student union says Sumo suits are ‘racist,’ cancels fundraiser


What does Shinerama fundraising, dirty bingo, and—the latest—Sumo wrestling have in common?

They’re all activities you’d find on campus during Frosh Week?

Wrong, stupid.

They’re all instruments of oppression, manifesting innocently behind a guise of “harmless fun,” wreaking havoc on the consciousnesses of privileged white students.

Thank [insert name of respective deity] that we have the Alma Mater Society, the student government at Queen’s University, to tell us what we should feel guilty about. Read their two-page apology, and you’ll learn why the “SUMO Showdown,” scheduled during their food bank fundraiser, “fails to capture the deeply imbedded histories of violent and subversive oppression that a group has faced.”

And those puffy Sumo suits? “Caused feelings of hurt,” writes AMS. They were not “being safe on-campus by planning this event.” Well, the pursuit of the jovial obviously blinded these students to their own privilege. “Regrettably,” they write, “those of us who were aware of the event did not critically consider the racist meaning behind it.”

Red-faced, I admit I didn’t see the racist meaning behind it. The bun, the Mawashi, the size of the wrestler–that’s what makes Sumo intriguing and distinctive. The AMS thinks wearing these cultural garments dehumanizes the culture; I think it simply identifies it. Mike Grobe, a spokesman for Queen’s Athletics, didn’t see the controversy either. He told the National Post, “It’s the first time we’ve heard of [the racist aspects].” Queen’s Athletics uses the suits regularly at half-time shows. “They’re pink… No one’s complained.”

I didn’t think our cultural climate was so volatile that any mirth is suddenly menacing. But I guess I was wrong.

The AMS apology further reads, “The event also devalues an ancient and respected Japanese sport.” Well, amen, friends. Someone should also tell Carl Douglas, singer of “Kung Fu Fighting,” to stop devaluing that ancient and respected sport. Poke fun at any cultural traditions–but leave the sports alone.

Making a fuss over Sumo suits–does it trivialize more serious issues of oppression and racism? I’d think about it further, but it’s much easier to just let my student leaders decide for me.


Queen’s offended by Sumo wrestling

  1. “As an organization and as individuals who allowed this to go on unchallenged, we are deeply sorry for having caused feelings of hurt and not being safe on-campus by planning this event.”

    As an English scholar, I am offended by the tortured syntax of that sentence. I believe Queen’s owes me an apology.

  2. As a person of Japanese ancestry I am deeply offended that an organization representing the students of Queen’s University would consider my identity with my Japanese cultural heritage so frail and insubstantial that something as moot as a kid in a sumo suit would cause me distress.

    Queen’s students, by their actions, are demonstrating their prejudice against the Japanese and persons of Japanese ancestry by indicating their racist belief that our sensibilities are too delicate to incorporate a sense of humour. What? Did they think we would commit sepuku over this offense? Or maybe send ninjas after them? Or not drive carefully?

    I demand that they apologize for their apology and issue a further apology for demeaning homosexual men by naming their institute “Queen’s” and for having a pub named after the son of a slave.

    Now, quit wasting time, children, and go study for exams.

  3. As a Queen’s student I want to make sure everyone is aware that the AMS does not represent the student body at large. This incident is just one of many examples of certain members of our student body being far too eager to label something racist or offensive. I’m not sure if it’s because they are paranoid of offending anyone, or if they are simply looking for any chance they can to show how sensitive they are and how great they are at apologizing. Honestly given what I see around campus on a daily basis I think it’s the latter. As one of the coaches quoted in the article said, we frequently use the suits at sporting events and I have never once heard anyone complain that we were “devaluing an ancient and respected Japanese sport.” If someone really did complain, odds are good that it was an overzealous Development Studies student with zero Japanese affiliation whatsoever.

  4. As a Queen’s student like Nik, and a Development Studies minor, I know that there are a certain number of entitled students who are not members of a visible minority who feel that the only way to “protect” their reputation is by striking out at anything that has a remote chance of offending someone. Of course, our student government has to react when an anonymous complaint is issued and they don’t know the severity of the incident. When Queen’s Hillel was concerned about the timing of Frosh week with Rosh Hashanah, they brought it up in person, not behind our social issues commission.

    Don’t think this reflects what the Queen’s student body or its elected representatives are actually like. At the same time, when legitimate racism does occur, don’t let what you see in the news represent the thousands of hard-working students and professors who only share a geographic location with the ones that make the headlines.

  5. Don’t blame me! I voted for PNF!

  6. “What does Shinerama fundraising, dirty bingo, and—the latest—Sumo wrestling have in common?”

    Thank you for NOT mentioning that only one of those events has ANYTHING to do with Queen’s. The actions of a very small number of Queen’s students have nothing to do with the orchestrated stupidity of the entire Carleton and U of T student governments.

    Queen’s has one of the best reputations with the Shinerama charity of any university in Canada. Our entire Arts&Science frosh week is dedicated to raising money solely for Shinerama. I am more ashamed in the subtext of that sentence than I am in my student government right now (and that’s a lot).

  7. What’s interesting is that over the past two years during actual incidents of racism at Queen’s (Queen’s University Muslim Student Society having their office broken into several times, a female professor pushed into the street and taunted for her race), the AMS has been there to do… well… nothing, really.

    But all [purgatory] breaks loose the second someone almost hops into a sumo suit.

    There are much bigger issues on campus. A freshman committed suicide not even two days before this apology was issued. But instead of tackling any issue of importance, the AMS goes for something like this. Sigh.

  8. You missed the best part of the letter:

    “Asking students to wear these suits and partake in the activity appropriates an aspect of Japanese culture. This is wrong because it turns racial identity into a costume; the process of putting- on and taking-off a racial identity is problematic because it dehumanizes those who share that identity and fails to capture the deeply imbedded histories of violent and subversive oppression that a group has faced.”

    Racial identity as a costume? Thanks, AMS. I guess that also means people who dress a certain way, to reflect either their ethnicity or a subculture are also turning these aspects into ‘costume’ and in fact dehumanizing their own existence.

    I blogged yesterday about how instead of pandering to people who are ‘offended’ the AMS should focus instead on fostering a culture of tolerance and discussion on campus. You can find it here: http://sobitteritssweet.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/ouch-the-ams-hurt-my-feelings/

  9. I completely agree with “DaGangBanga” – I voted PNF!

  10. Students, who are represented by the AMS, were insulted by an event planned and hosted directly by the AMS who is representing them. This is clearly not how things should work. If a group of people feel they are being directly insulted by a body that is supposed to represent them something should be done. THe event should never have been planned, and once people complained that they were insulted it was justifiably cancelled. The incident should have ended there and has been blown completely out of proportion. The AMS did not arbitrarily decide this was insulting they responded to concerns raised by members of the student body as they should have done. The national post chose to construe this as the AMS battling oppression. This was not the intent, and it should not have been construed as such, though the poorly worded apology unfortunately does just that. The intent was to cancel an event directly planned and hosted by a representative body that was insulting to those they are elected to represent.

  11. I am not a Queen’s student, nor am I Japanese, or Christian, but, along the same line of “logic”, shouldn’t donning a fat red suit at Christmas time be equally offensive to “politically correct thinkers”?

  12. Wow, I thought this was an April Fools joke when I first read it!


  13. Pingback: Are Sumo wrestlers funny? Hell yeah! « Annie's Vancouver Comedy Salon

  14. To comprehend how stupid and condescending to a person of Japanese ancestry this entire event sounds, imagine Queen’s were in Japan and instead of play Sumo, the game was board hockey. And the student’s association cancel the event and issue a letter like:

    “We are writing in regards to an event that was scheduled to take place on Tuesday March 30th that planned to have students play table hockey with little plastic guys spinning around that resemble Canadian Hockey players.

    Regrettably, those of us who were aware of the event did not critically consider the racist meaning behind it. Asking students to spin the little hockey player appropriates an aspect of Canadian culture. This is wrong because it turns a racial identity into a board game. The process of spinning little men of a racial identity is problematic because it dehumanizes those who share that identity and fails to capture the deeply embedded histories of violent and subversive oppression that Canadians have faced. The event also devalues an ancient and respected Canadian sport, which is rich in history and cultural tradition.”

    It makes Queen’s look really stupid and completely underscores how little they understand about the implications of race, culture, sport and the human condition.

  15. As an alumnus of Queen’s, this does not, at all, come as a suprise to me.

    The University has an obsession with making sure that “everyone’s A.O.K.”.

    Perhaps it began with the 80’s chaos of the “No Means Down On Your Knees Bitch” fiasco (http://www.queensu.ca/news/alumnireview/no-now-really-does-mean-no), and Queen’s just figured that, by being overly “PC”, they could preemptively avert any sort of scandal that would launch them into the depths of potential lawsuits and Human Rights violations.

    In a Race, Gender & Equality class taught by Queen’s Law prof. Sheila McIntyre, I ascertained that there will never be true equality and, as people keep trying to make sure that everyone is A.O.K. and remain unoffended, we further create issues of “difference” through the recognition of peoples’ ethnicities, religious beliefs and gender, etc.

    Maybe Queen’s should focus on letting their frosh have fun while (mostly) sober before they begin absorbing the bureacracy and bullshit that exists in the world once they graduate.

    As a side, while attending Queen’s in the late 90’s, my friend (of the homosexual persuasion), was harassed by a group of male students on a consistent basis. Eggs were thrown at his car, offensive comments were continually made, but when he took it to the powers that be, they dragged their asses for quite some time before anything was actually done. When it was, the punishment was soft (perhaps it’s not in the best interests of the University to piss off the families that have contributed to the institution year after year, with family member after family member in attendance).

    Things that make you go hmm…

    oh, and I agree with the Japanese-Canadian poster before me and their comparison to the plastic hockey figures.

  16. I have a good friend at Queens in a grad program who happens to be a Japanese national, his conclusion before he learned of this was the Japanese likely invited such suits.

    I have been to Japan and for the most part they have a sense of humour and they would think this is ridiculous stupid…. the situation they would fine the suits ridiculous hilarious. Trust me the love fart jokes….

  17. Boy, oh boy, oh boy! I was fortunate to attend 3 universities in BC and WA, USA, and have a teaching career, before all this P/C mewling and solicitousness took root.

    Lately, “everyone” seems to be bitching about something – often, not being “consulted” – whatever that means.

    When we indignantly rush to the defence of people from other ethnic backgrounds, we do two things: we insult those individuals as being incapable of defending themselves, should they desire to do so, and we show our own insecurities. People who behave such, really don’t have lives or beliefs of their own so they intrude into the lives of people who do. Champagne Socialism and Limousine Liberals – Gee, I’m all right, Jack/Jane, but you’re in need of political correction!

    Recently, both Queens and Ottawa university Student Associations have let down the targetted “helpless ones”, taxpayers, Canadian identity, academia, and free speech. If I had been there, I would have been very vocal about your craven pusillanimity, and cowardice. Your poltroonery has no place in an institution of “higher learning” so take your rubber duckies out of the pool, go home, go to bed, curl up into the foetal position and turn the electric blanket up to nine!

  18. “Asking students to wear these suits and partake in the activity appropriates an aspect of Japanese culture. This is wrong because it turns racial identity into a costume; the process of putting- on and taking-off a racial identity is problematic because it dehumanizes those who share that identity and fails to capture the deeply imbedded histories of violent and subversive oppression that a group has faced.”

    Wonder what the performance threshold for staying off of academic probation is at Queen’s. Seems you can get by just fine without mastering basic logic.

  19. Move over Martin Luther King the AMS at Queens University has just made greater inroads to racial equality and justice for all.