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.

3 comments:

  1. Very well-written response, Abigail. I can't understand how people could engage in such "locker room" behavior in public and not be embarrassed out of existence. I agree that a strong response was totally appropriate.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The fact that the editorial essentially takes the defense of "they probably didn't intend to incite rape with their words, so those words are okay" really bothers me. It's a rehashing of the "following orders" defense that soldiers have tried in the past when ordered to commit atrocities, or any leader who wants plausible deniability by not knowing exactly what the underlings do to accomplish their results.

    The "clarification" was essentially a complete reversal without apology. "You may have read this, and the words probably pointed you towards this, but what we really meant was this totally opposite thing, so we're in the right."

    And frankly, I didn't think the Women's Center response was strong enough. It described and condemned the actions while describing some of the consequences that could arise, both physical and emotional. It did not condemn the young men themselves, but rather explained that they were put into an impossible situation that they should not have been subjected to. That's perhaps a more reasonable response than this situation deserved.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the supportive comments guys :)

    ReplyDelete