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Club explores gender and sexuality in popular American sitcom

| Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Men Against Sexual Violence, or MASV, hosted a screening and panel-led open discussion Monday night focusing on gender and sexuality in one of the most popular episodes of American television sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

“What struck me, apart from everything, is … there’s a list of guidelines that you follow: You follow these rules, you get what you want,” Aman Mital, MASV officer, said.

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is a show following a group of friends that run a bar in Philadelphia. The show is known for its cringe-worthy, offensive humor, as well as “the gang’s” shared vanity and cluelessness about women. In the episode discussed during the panel — “The D.E.N.N.I.S. System” — Dennis, one of the friends, explains his “fool-proof system for getting any chick’s undying love and affection for life.”

Mital said the members of MASV visited the Reddit page devoted to pick-up techniques for men. What they found was surprising.

“It’s a joke in the show … the things in it are so horrendous that we think that no one would ever do something like that, but that’s the actual technique for a lot of people,” Mital said.

According to their mission, MASV is a group dedicated to taking responsibility for men’s role in sexual violence – not just physical, but emotional as well. An aspect of sexual violence that was discussed was the objectification of women by men. Panel member John Johnstin, assistant director of the Gender Relations Center, related the “D.E.N.N.I.S. system” to Ford’s assembly line.

“A system is set up to work with interchangeable objects … if you’re running a system, are you actually dealing with individuals? Or are they just interchangeable objects that are there for that purpose?” Johnstin said.

The perpetuation of this system in society, Johnstin said, harms both men and women. The discussion touched on how Dennis’s system affects his sister Dee’s perception of her own well-meaning boyfriend’s actions.

The discussion delved into the sense of brotherhood seen, for example, in Fisher Hall’s “we are fishermen” chant, Siegfried Hall’s antics in the first pep rally or the hyper-masculinity of the Keenan Revue dance numbers.

Finally, the discussion turned to the line between endearing persistence and stalking, as seen in the character Charlie’s seemingly innocent, but ultimately detrimental relationship with a waitress he claims he is in love with.

“There’s a difference between wanting to be there for someone, and being obsessive … what you’re really saying is, ‘I don’t care what you want, it’s about me,’” Mital said.

Keenan Hall rector Noel Terranova finished the discussion with a call to action.

“If there is going to be someone on this campus who does something, has one meaningful interaction that can positively impact someone’s life or prevent something negative from happening, it’s going to be you, yourselves. So I would ask you to do just that, to really engage in this conversation.”

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