September 5, 2013
August 2012—I visited Hamilton for the first weekend of the year, right before I went abroad. As always, the a cappella groups joined forces for a collective performance to welcome the first-years and jumpstart the semester.
If you’ve seen The Buffers perform, you know the drill: Every member sings, “If I was not a Buffer, I wonder what I’d be. If it was not a Buffer, ____ I would be,” respectively filling in the blank. Like most Buffer skits, it’s supposed to be funny.
This time—and whether or not this was the debut of the joke, I can’t say—one of the members sang, “If I was not a Buffer, I wonder what I’d be. If it was not a Buffer, abortion I would be.” He then twisted a metal coat hanger above his head, posing as some sort of abortion alien.
Get it? I didn’t either. The “joke”—big shocker here—didn’t get many laughs; in fact, it didn’t get any. The twisted tune was stuck in my mind for the rest of my visit. I felt upset and embarrassed that for the first-years attending this performance, this was one of their initial impressions of our community—which we advertise as a respectful and educated place.
I left the country two days later, hoping that someone who was staying on the Hill would address the incident. How, I figured, could someone not address it?
Fast-forward one year: August 28, 2013, one of my suitemates comes back to our room after attending the a cappella concert and remarks that The Buffers made a “really not-funny joke” at the show.
“If I was not a Buffer, I wonder what I’d be If it was not a Buffer, abortion I would be.” And once again, the singer (a different one, perhaps) held a coat hanger above his head and pretended, playfully, to be “from Planet Abort.”
This has happened at the past two start-of-the-year a cappella performances, and I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that the joke was used more than once between August 2012 and this past week.
So let’s talk about “Planet Abort,” the place that The Buffers think is so funny that they can’t give the joke a rest.
In the time leading up to Roe v. Wade (1973), an estimated 1.2 million illegal abortions occurred every year. These were not safe procedures. They did not occur in a hospital. They were not performed with professional medical supervision or equipment.
Hence the metal coat hanger. In addition to this infamous instrument, women also used darning needles, crochet hooks, and soda bottles to attempt illegal abortions.
Hilarious, right? Women trapped in a common situation, scared out of their minds with no safe resources, so desperate to avoid a future they’re not prepared for that they use the nearest household item to try to save themselves.
The women who received or performed illegal abortions suffered permanent physical and emotional damage. The women who received or performed illegal abortions died.
Illegal abortions are not a joke.
Assuming that at least one Buffer is reading this, let me ask you a question: Do you know at least three women? (You must, right, since part of your audition process is mandating that freshman girls be hoarded to the all-male tryouts.)
One in three American women will have an abortion by age 45. In other words: There’s a good chance that a woman you know, a woman you care about, maybe even a woman you get pregnant will be confronted with the painful decision to end a pregnancy.
Because Roe v. Wade is still in place, this woman will not have to seek out an untrained, unsafe practitioner, or attempt an abortion herself. She will not have to visit “Planet Abort,” take a coat hanger, shove it up her cervix, maim her body and potentially end her life. As someone who is pro-choice, I think this is something to be grateful for. At the very least, however, it is not something to mock and make fun of.
The Buffers is the oldest a cappella group at Hamilton and, apparently, the most out-of-touch. It’s inexcusable and unacceptable that these men make a joke like this at a public performance—multiple times—and still saunter around in their “classy” sports jackets as if they adequately represent this community.