Caroline Voorhees, Rashell Martell and Marian Porter hold and point to a new sign in response to the email sent out to all of campus regarding a previous sign. | Photo by Delaney Duarte

A Q&A with the “Sexist ‘Riddle'” Creators

The students behind the sign comparing Humboldt to genitalia discuss their curated material
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The students behind the sign comparing Humboldt to genitalia discuss their curated material

Humboldt State University has been abuzz in the last few weeks with speculation about a photo of a joke written on a sign by women. This photo, taken by myself, was printed in a parody newspaper, The Dumberjack. The Dumberjack, while produced as parody of The Lumberjack, is created as part of a separate class.

The stated intention behind the sign was to poke fun at the Humboldt County climate by relating the rainy weather to female genitalia. Six girls, Caroline Voorhees, Marian Porter, Rashell Martell, Sabrina Ott, Shannon Coburn and Whitney Burns, live in a College Creek apartment together. The original creator of the sign was Caroline Voorhees, but all of the girls have their own take on the sign’s meaning.

Question: What are your feelings toward the sign?

Marian Porter: “I personally thought it was funny. There definitely were no negative intentions for the sign. Before Caroline puts out a new sign, we all give our consent to what is being represented to our dorm.”

“I guess I am sort of happy the school takes things seriously, but they should focus on other things because there are other things more important than a dorm sign.”

Rashell Martell

Caroline Voorhees: “I felt bad that I might have hurt someone’s feelings and hurt their day. Being the person who wrote the sign, I never would have thought about it as being non-consensual. I wouldn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel like I was making light on their bad situation. That wasn’t what I was trying to do, I was trying to talk about sex culture and have fun.”

Whitney Burns: “I also think anyone can read anything and take it in a wrong way which shouldn’t stop people from making jokes.”

Rashell Martell: “I was actually the one to find out our sign was the one being talked about in the email and I mentioned it to everyone in our group chat. More or less I found it funny. Even though I didn’t make the sign, I gave consent for the sign to be put out. I guess I am sort of happy the school takes things seriously, but they should focus on other things because there are other things more important than a dorm sign.”

Shannon Coburn: “I didn’t think anything of it and I thought we had so many worse signs. I could see how you can take it that way if you wanted to, but it was weird that they focused their time on a sign and not things that are actually happening on campus.”

Sabrina Ott: “It seems like they blew things out of proportions and it doesn’t seem like something people are focusing so much on. I also felt really bad for the newspaper. We were more worried that the newspaper took fault for something we did.”

Question: Did you think the sign meant what HSU administration decided it meant?

Caroline Voorhees: “When you are in a frame of mind to read something negatively you will. Whoever misinterpreted my joke must have been having a bad day, or had a friend that had a bad encounter, and that wasn’t the purpose of the sign. I feel bad for those people who are going through something in their life in order for them to think that statement was negative, because it was a positive statement.”

Question: How did you personally come up with the joke?

Caroline Voorhees: “It started off as just a joke living in Humboldt where it is raining all the time, but the other part came about because I did a paper on sex positivity and culture about sex and how it is not talked about often. It is definitely shamed, for women especially. So I tried to incorporate that with the weather and being sex positive and how you should enjoy yourself before you have sex with someone and how everyone should be happy all the time.”

A message from the whole dorm: “We do take people’s opinions and complaints seriously and we are sorry that we hurt anyone’s feelings, but that is not going to change our sense of humor and we will try to be more mindful in the future.”

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