Students hoping for bitter confrontation or free copies of Playboy magazine did not receive either at last night”s “Uncovering the Naked Truth,” a debate at Rackham Auditorium between Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women, and Asa Baber, a contributing editor for Playboy Magazine.

Paul Wong
Contributing editor to Playboy magazine Asa Barber (left) debates gender issues with National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland (right) at Rackham Auditorium last night with University alum David Barringer moderating.<br><br>JOYCE LEE/Dail

Baber alluded in his opening remarks that there would be no brawls on stage. “You won”t find me saying “Patricia, you ignorant slut,”” he said, admitting her response would be along the lines of “Asa, I”m not ignorant.”

Before an audience of hundreds, both Ireland and Baber used dry humor to delve into more serious issues including traditional gender roles, abortion and the feminist movement.

Early on, the debate focused on the perceptions and receptions of the feminist movement.

Baber addressed misconceptions of the male reaction to feminism, making clear that not all men are violent people who cheat women out of equal wages. “These little slurs are very troubling,” he said.

Baber also expressed disapproval of the one-sided presentation of gender relations.

“I think there have been excesses in feminism. I don”t want to get rid of feminism,” Baber said, adding he advocates a more “balanced curriculum” on campuses that would include courses such as “Men and War,” “Fathering: A How-To Course” and “Males and the Law.”

“”Men and War” is usually referred to as U.S. and world history,” Ireland countered.

She argued that a department specifically devoted to women”s studies is necessary because women are often overlooked in more traditional disciplines. “”Normal” has been taken as male, and female is the “other,”” she said.

She added that the feminist movement does not seek to rob males of what should rightfully be theirs to ensure women receive more than their share.

“We are asking men to relinquish privileges,” Ireland said. Women are asking for equality, nothing more, she added.

Title IX, which provides for equal funding in male and female sports in U.S. schools, has meant sacrifices for men”s sports teams, Baber said. “It”s the price of equality, and I”m willing to pay it,” he added.

Ireland labeled the new administration in Washington as a distinct threat to women”s rights.

President Bush”s decision that that formal attire for women in the White House be limited to skirts is trivially troubling, Ireland said. “Maybe he just likes legs,” she quipped.

What matters is the threat the president potentially poses to reproductive freedom, she said.

“There is an imminent threat,” she said. “I don”t want to go back to those times where birth control was not available and abortion was the leading cause of maternal death.”

Baber and Ireland also debated what Ireland referred to as the danger that lies in popular culture mediums such as music and pornography.

Ireland said she finds danger in Eminem”s rap, specifically in his portrayal of violent acts against his wife, sister and mother in his music.

Ireland expressed concern over the “normalization of that kind of notion,” either through Eminem”s lyrics or violent pornographic images. As for Playboy, she said, “I think there are some things that are distressing.”

“Playboy has never been judged to be obscene by any court in the land. I don”t think it”s pornographic,” Baber said.

On the question of whether sex workers should be legal, Baber”s response was a simple affirmative, while Ireland”s was more complex.

Sex workers should be allowed the same basic protections other workers are allowed, such as the right to unionize, Ireland said. She also expressed dismay at a culture that views sex as something to be bought.

Ireland also called attention to the flaws of a culture in which women put in disproportionately higher hours caring for their families than men. She said that men are thanked for the hours they do log with their children instead of being asked to balance the scale and devote more time to domestic life.

“More and more guys want to be good fathers,” Baber said. He added that the problem lies with fathers who are excluded from playing a larger role in their children”s lives because of divorce settlements and custody arrangements that allot mothers more time with their offspring.

“I”m not suggesting that fathers are angels but I”m suggesting that a lot of them want to see their children,” he said.

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