Why is DUB writing about the Protos incident?


Last week, there was quite the commotion again. Volleyball association Protos made the news for posting a photo on social media on which the entire team made slant eyes. Should DUB even write about this? Wouldn’t that be unnecessarily blowing up the issue? Editor-in-chief Ries Agterberg explains why the article was published.

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These days, you can’t do anything anymore. Such is the complaint you regularly hear these days. With every expressed opinion on the Internet, you run the risk of having your wrist slapped by groups who feel they’re discriminated against. Things that are meant to be innocent suddenly lead to serious complaints in which the board and members of the association in question can’t do anything but apologise.

They’re familiar with this over at Earth Sciences, when their sexist introduction songs made it to national newspaper NRC Handelsblad. Student association Veritas recently had to apologise for a rowdy performance by some of its members, and student association Unitas suspended a member for sending others sexist and racist remarks.

Aren’t one’s college years meant to be the time for freedom and trying things out? Why do these incidents get so much attention from DUB? We were asked this question last week after publishing the article about volleyball association Protos. A women’s team had taken a photo after dinner at a Chinese restaurant, and all the women pictured made slant eyes with their fingers on the photo. Funny, they thought. Funny enough to post it to Instagram this summer. When an Asian woman commented on it, her objections were dismissed. It wasn’t until she used her account Broodjekaasmetsambal to post both the original photo and the response from Protos that the photo gained traction – and complaints – on social media. The association caved quickly and removed the post.

Among DUB’s editors, there was some hesitation about whether to turn this incident into a news article. Sure, the editors felt it wasn’t smart of the volleyball players to share that photo on social media, but still suspected the ladies didn’t have any racist motives. Nothing more than a joke, meant to be innocent.

Now, on social media, you can say ‘hey people, this wasn’t very clever’. And that’ll be the end of it. Still, it’s important to remind ourselves that we need to become more and more aware of the (subconscious) mechanisms at play in our heads.

After all, we’re living with people from different cultures, and different backgrounds. That means we should also be more aware of the effect certain remarks can have. That doesn’t just apply to remarks about ethnic groups, but also about gender and sexuality, for instance.

Research has shown that a lot of our behaviour stems from subconscious biases. Many of us don’t think about the consequences of sexist or racist remarks, but they do unwittingly help keep certain mechanisms alive. The same is true for that photo of the Protos women. They say it themselves: “It was never our intention to hurt people.” But they did.

And for that reason, it’s not odd that DUB noticed the incident, and then, as proper journalists, highlighted both sides of the story.

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