Thursday, October 21, 2010

And They Call Us Feminazis

As I'm sure is "new news" to few, last Wednesday, members of the DKE fraternity marched with their pledges around Yale chanting slogans such as “No means yes, yes means anal."  Broad Recognition, Yale's feminist magazine, published a scathing condemnation of the incident and the perpetrators.  A Yale Daily News Editorial responded by claiming that while the incident was despicable, the Women's Center's response was an overreaction, serving only to perpetuate the "radical, alienating habits of years past."  Then, when there were complaints about that editorial, the Board ran one more clarification.  Needless to say, it's been a long week.

First, the incident.  There isn't much to add to the "insert-your-favorite-negative-adjective-here" characterization of what happened, except to say this.  The words uttered and the sentiments expressed weren't just "offensive" or "disgusting" or "obnoxious".  For many women, such an incident can also be incredibly frightening.  Almost two-thirds of American college students are the subject of sexual harassment, and one in three women worldwide will experience some form of gender-based violence (frequently sexual) in her lifetime.  The truth is, enduring rape culture day in and day out can be a petrifying existence for a woman.  So I'll just add "scary" to the list of adjectives.  There are too many instances when mob mentality, alcohol, and nighttime can turn violent words into violent actions.

The Yale Daily News goes too far in asking that we not be quite so outraged, and instead view this as a learning opportunity.  There's been an effort in recent years to "engage men" in the fight to end violence against women and girls.  This is an admirable goal as we certainly can use all the help we can get.  However, sometimes such campaigns get carried away by claiming that the perpetrators didn't mean it, didn't know any better, and if we just educate everyone it'll all go away.  The pledges at Yale's DKE chapter are hardly uneducated, uninformed, unenlightened children raised in some remote culture that makes no attempt at gender equality.  Asking that we just invite them to sit down and discuss it so they can see the error of their ways is, frankly, absurd.

Secondly, 90% of college women who are the victims of rape or attempted rape know their assailant.  Yet the Yale Daily News claims that "the Women’s Center should have known better than to paint them as misogynistic strangers and attackers among us, instead of members of our community".  This is really baffling to me.  Just because they are members of the Yale Community doesn't mean they aren't potential attackers or that they don't possess misogynistic viewpoints.  This is exactly the kind of permissive attitude that ensures such attitudes and behaviors will continue.

The Yale Daily News essentially asked the Women's Center to 'take it down a notch' so that people who didn't share such strong views didn't feel so alienated and the College could, in essence, use this as a learning opportunity.  Sometimes we're called bitches, sometimes we're called witches, my personal favorite is 'feminazis.'  You know, because demanding a safe world for women is roughly equivalent to the mass torture and slaughter of 5 million people.  Unfortunately, when we are having trouble convincing people there even is a problem, presumably the Yale Daily News can understand why we feel the need to get loud.

The Women's Center, with DKE's support, is now hosting forums to talk about the Yale's Sexual Climate.  I haven't seen any reports anywhere, but I really have to wonder how many men voluntarily attended.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Talking About Reproductive Rights in a Recession

The New York Times recently reported that Democrats in tight races are starting to focus on abortion rights as a strategy for attracting base voters. All I can say is, it’s about time. Republicans have argued that the new emphasis on abortion rights is an effort to distract voters from jobs and the economy, claiming that Democrats know they can’t win on the issues that really matter.
It’s no secret that the economy is the number one issue for Americans this fall. However, Democrats have made a huge error in focusing so narrowly on job creation. Financial stability and job security permeate every aspect of American life. While it’s a relief to note that the Democratic establishment has finally remembered that it is pro-choice, even the campaigns that are talking about it are doing so in a vacuum – Republican strategists are likely not the only people thinking it’s a “desperate attempt made by desperate campaigns.” Instead, Democrats should be making the case for the connection between reproductive health and the economic crisis.
Reproductive health is not just about a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body, it’s also about her right to choose what happens to her life. Many women indicate that their financial stability greatly affects their decisions about when to have children. Considering how opposed so many Republicans are to “hand outs” like welfare, (also known as much-needed assistance to those in desperate need of aid), they are often irrationally unwilling to give poor women the tools they need to prevent unplanned births, including comprehensive sex education and funding for birth control.  Last year, half of all pregnancies in the United States were unplanned – approximately 3 million. For the more than 2 million women who have lost health insurance as a result of the recession, unplanned pregnancies pose even greater burdens on already strained finances.
This recession has hit everyone hard. But this economic crisis is not an independent issue, unrelated to women’s access to reproductive health.  The Democratic Party would do better to remind voters that these issues do not exist in isolation, but rather are directly related. Want to make a poor women’s life more difficult in these tough economic times?  Restrict her access to reproductive health. See how fast the economy recovers with hundreds of thousands of children whose parents can’t afford to take care of them or themselves.