Without redress, Yale’s public space at risk

Every year, women on this campus confront sexism varying from personal encounters with peers and professors to public declarations of “No means yes, and yes means anal.” Many of these acts of hate and disrespect are dismissed as mere jokes. However, to misread these occurrences as jokes is to fail to understand the ways in which acts of sexism perpetuate and normalize a culture of violence on this campus.

The Zeta Psi incident was more than a fraternity prank. It was a usurpation of public space and a threat against all who seek to inhabit this campus outside of its oppressive framework. Twelve men, mostly white, reported as chanting “Dick, dick, dick” and holding up a sign reading “We Love Yale Sluts,” asserted their sense of masculine dominance and devalued the sexual autonomy and humanity of women.

Many have attributed this incident to frat culture, athletic culture and the age-old justification of “Boys will be boys.” Irrespective of their affiliations on campus, these students are not “boys.” They are young men at Yale University, an institution that has professed a renewed commitment to “promote inclusion and to build on our campus a community where diversity of all types is celebrated and recognized as a precious asset,” as expressed by President Levin in his e-mail on the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The sign that reads “We Love Yale Sluts” propagates a view of women as objects of male desire that lack agency and dignity and can therefore be sexually owned and mistreated. Not surprisingly, the logic that disregards women’s right to sexual autonomy is not only manifest in Zeta Psi’s actions, but also underlies rape.

Although the spectacle would be threatening anywhere on a campus that often feels as if it belongs to heterosexual white men, the members of Zeta Psi were deliberate in their decision to stage this performance in front of the Women’s Center. They recognize the significance of degrading women at a site that commemorates women’s presence and participation at Yale. Therefore, we must respond to these men in the terms that they themselves have already established: violence, gender, power.

The Women’s Center rightfully condemned the incident for its misogyny. However, their statement relied upon an offensive and inaccurate analogy to racism. They compared Zeta Psi’s actions to an imagined group of white students standing in front of the Afro-American Cultural Center, holding up a sign containing a racial slur. In an attempt to demonstrate the severity of sexism, the Women’s Center Board reprinted hate speech and alienated potential allies in the black community. Rather than recognize the ways in which racism and sexism worked together in this episode, the Women’s Center Board separated and thereby ranked these different but interrelated oppressive forces.

The privilege to occupy public space is not based merely on gender, but also on race. On a campus where one black man is often seen as a threat, imagine 12 black men chanting in the same manner. They would be perceived and treated as dangers in ways that the members of Zeta Psi were not. We use this analogy to convey that the men of Zeta Psi were protected and continue to be defended in part because they are a majority white group. Moreover, for many women of color, 12 white men chanting “Dick, dick, dick,” evokes a long history of the sexual exploitation of women of color under slavery, colonialism and the consequences of these systems. Women of color and queer women are unable to so easily disentangle race, gender, class and sexuality in the way the Women’s Center’s false analogy does. This problematic analogy creates fissures along lines of identity and precludes the possibility of true solidarity.

There are many similarities between the instance of hate speech graffiti from last semester and this act by Zeta Psi, particularly regarding campus response. In public forums, there has been a willingness to condemn acts of resistance rather than the acts of hate that mandated resistance. There is greater discussion of the Women’s Center’s consideration of a lawsuit and the value of an anti-hate speech rally than the injustices that actually cause emotional and physical violence. If there is to be healing and progress on this campus, we must continue to speak out against acts of hate and bigotry. We must engage in more nuanced conversations between communities committed to ending inequality on campus.

We hope this incident will push the administration to address the necessity for official means of redress. We call for the establishment of a functional, public, diverse and representative Grievances Board at Yale to record and address racial and sexual harassment and other forms of bigotry. It is time to liberate the public spaces that ought to constitute our community.

Naima Coster and Lea Krivchenia are seniors in Timothy Dwight College. Elizabeth St. Victor is a senior in Silliman College. Coster and St. Victor are writers for “The North Star: The Black Justice Blog at Yale.” Krivchenia and Coster are members of the Coalition for Campus Unity.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    That you were "offended" by the prank, of course, is not taken seriously anywhere except in the hyper-sensitive halls of academia. Personally, I am offended that the rape counseling advocates at Yale and other college campuses offer no counseling to Yale's male population who claim they were wrongly accused of rape. How in the hell does that square with Title IX? It doesn't.

  • Anonymous

    Blah blah blah…

    "The privilege to occupy public space is not based merely on gender, but also on race."

    You know, in SOME towns anti-KKK or anti-Nazi demonstrators figger out how to occupy public space in concert with some or other Constitutionally protected white supremacist rally (and, really, those guys are WAY scarier than anything the nerds at Yale can come up with…).

    Are Women's Center constituents so delicate/helpless/tender that they canna figure out the same?

    Don't be so weak: it perpetuates the very negative stereotypes you purport to abhor.

  • Anonymous

    "There are many similarities between the instance of hate speech graffiti from last semester and this act by Zeta Psi, particularly regarding campus response. In public forums, there has been a willingness to condemn acts of resistance rather than the acts of hate that mandated resistance. There is greater discussion of the Women’s Center’s consideration of a lawsuit and the value of an anti-hate speech rally than the injustices that actually cause emotional and physical violence. If there is to be healing and progress on this campus, we must continue to speak out against acts of hate and bigotry. We must engage in more nuanced conversations between communities committed to ending inequality on campus."

    YESSSSS!!!!!!!!!! It's always disturbing when people are more offended by a resistance to bigotry than by bigotry itself; by our refusal to be silenced but instead speak up for ourselves then by those who wish to denigrate our identities and lived experiences. Some people criticized the Women's Center for considering a lawsuit and said that conversations should be had instead. When organizers of the anti-hate rally coordinated campus-wide residential college dialogues following the hateful graffiti last semester, we were criticized for urging for conversations at all. It seems no matter what the response to bigotry on campus is, there will alway be people who will use their voices to tell us to silence ours. Thanks Naima, Lea, Elizabeth and so many others who stand for justice for refusing.

    - Funmi

  • Anonymous

    So utterly tedious.

    The diversity racket on this campus really has become a caricature of itself, hasn't it? It is nice to see, however, that the next crop of race and gender theorists will be as irrelevant as its predecessors… just fyi, to "inhabit this campus outside of its oppressive framework" is meaningless jargon outside of your AmStud echo chamber.

  • Anonymous

    "Premeditated hate speech."

    Ya gotta love that one!

    Folks should really REALLY read Ayn Rand's "We the Living," not for its philosophical bent, but for its semi-autobiographical re-telling of the rise (and the means of that rise) of Marxist oppression--to include an analog to "hate speech."

    Today's outcrier's against "hate speech" are tomorrow's victims of instituted policies. Unwitting hypocrites, but hypocrites--and dangerous hypocrites--nonetheless.

  • Anonymous

    post #4 "the diversity racket on this campus"

    yea man, i too seriously hate it when people of color, women, lgbt peoples, and religious minorities fight against injustice. i mean, if we're going to let them go to school here, can't they just be quiet…next time #4, actually make a point, instead of using this board to pose offensive rhetorical questions as if we are your racist and sexist friends. we're not. and sign your posts

    -andom

  • Anonymous

    The battle is not yet won; the battle is far from over. And those who think this column is nothing but political correctness testify to the fact that the question of equality--economic, racial, sexual--remains unresolved. The older generations that the authors represent had confronted a more vicious enemy in an equally vicious environment. In the end, those who challenge the authors' ideas are free to say what they want to say, inasmuch as they are free to choose intolerance over freedom. But those of us who believe in social justice applaud Naima Coster, Lea Krivchenia, and Elizabeth St. Victor for their courage and determination to create a space where no feels threatened. And thank God for American studies for producing minds that challenge the commonsensical. American studies, it seems, is not for dummies.

  • Anonymous

    "just fyi, to "inhabit this campus outside of its oppressive framework" is meaningless jargon outside of your AmStud echo chamber."

    One of the things that disappoints me the most about Yale is that it seems like many people don't learn how to think critically about their own situation. If you don't understand what this campus' "oppressive framework" looks like it is because you have never tried to step outside of yourself and understand why instances like this most recent one make so many people so deeply angry and upset.

    -tucker

  • Anonymous

    "Moreover, for many women of color, 12 white men chanting “Dick, dick, dick,” evokes a long history of the sexual exploitation of women of color under slavery, colonialism and the consequences of these systems."

    This statement is pretty much what is wrong with the reaction to every questionable incident that has happened on campus in the past…forever.

    As insensitive as this will sound, the idea that black women who walked past had some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks to their ancestors being raped by slavers in the late 18th century is pretty ludicrous and barely believable. If anything, that is an intellectual connection made much later (say, when writing an op-ed piece) than some sort of visceral, instantaneous reaction. Besides, even assuming that it really was the latter, saying that person X can't do action Y because it might remind person Z of something terrible is a pretty slippery slope.

    Should the Zeta Psi pledges have chanted "dick" and held up that sign in front of the Women's Center? Eh, probably not, in the sense that it was in bad taste. But to accuse them of perpetuating the legacy of slavery and colonialism for a drunken, objectively harmless (and legal) prank just reeks of what's wrong with every single "minority" group on this campus (and, I'm a minority too, though that really shouldn't matter): We're all on pins and needles just waiting for something "offensive" to happen so that we can all jump on it and feel like we're crusaders for social justice when most of us are more worried about our social lives. If every single person who has written an op-ed about blackface, frat boys, Rumpus articles, cartoons, etc. had used that one hour of their time to actually DO something (which is not to say that none of them do, and the Women's Center for example certainly does real, valuable work) they might've actually made a difference in a significant way instead of bickering with other privileged people about things that won't matter tomorrow.

    -A.C.

  • Anonymous

    So, 1:43
    Eradicating liberty in the name of equality to create an androgenous society is the agenda.

    If you wanted true equality, then you would be outraged over the lack of women working in coal mines, on battlefields and other crappy jobs and forcing more men to stay home to keep house and rear children.

    The wage discrepancy is largely due to women taking more time off related to children/family, pursuing less lucrative 'career' options and - GASP - different skill level.

    Men and women aren't interchangable, aren't equally suited to the same tasks, aren't inclined to pursue the same ambitions. We each need each other and our complementary differences for a healthy society. We don't need to be mirror images of each other to be equally valuable to society.

    Gender is not an imaginary construct but rather the behavioral aspect of true biological difference.

  • Anonymous

    @1:43 pm- Your rhetoric belies the problem. Instead of phrasing these issues as collective dilemmas that can be resolved through communal discussion and positive action, you use obviously divisive war rhetoric. I'm sure you'd love to lead a just crusade against the unenlightened, especially one that you've defined in such starkly moral terms (i.e. anyone who disagrees with you is choosing intolerance over freedom), but guess what? You can't resolve these problems that way. As the Women's Center has so ably demonstrated, you'll just end up alienating most of the campus from your cause as you bemoan their collective ignorance and intolerance. Fortunately (for everyone), neither you nor any other single individual or faction has a monopoly on the reins of power. That means you have to convince people, and you'll find that the old saying about catching more flies with honey than vinegar is almost universally true.

  • Anonymous

    I wholeheartedly agree that the Women's Center's use of a racial analogy in their op-ed was unwarranted and offensive, and I also agree the misogyny and sexism do remain a problem at Yale.

    However, I have a couple problems with this piece.
    1) While everyone has taken the Women's Center's claims at face value, it is most likely that the pledges were chanting "DKE, DKE, DKE." It is normal for pledges or new team members to chant the name of another group in order to avoid identification and punishment for their idiotic and usually drunken initiation rituals. This does not change the fact that a large group of men chanting anything outside the Women's Center could be intimidating. However, chanting "Dick, Dick, Dick," while nonsensical, could be construed as some sort of masculinist statement.
    2) This op-ed continually harps on the idea of "white men" and makes this into a racial issue, when the only people who brought race into the discussion were the Women's Center. Zeta Psi is one of the more diverse groups on campus, and has a much higher percentage of non-white members than most non-cultural organizations on campus. Perhaps the authors are trying in their own way to present this as an issue of wider discrimination, but they fail in this endeavor, just as the Women's Center did, by unnecessarily (and presumably unintentionally) alienating a group who might otherwise support them (i.e. white men who support the right of women and minorities to live and go to school on a campus where they feel safe, accepted, and just as valued as the next person).

    KT

  • Anonymous

    American Studies? A degree in American Studies--at least from Yale--will get your resume roundfiled in pretty much any lucrative, technical, or useful field.

    But, as they say, "whadevah."

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    This is getting really annoying…

    @ Funmi (and to whomever else this is relevant): I can only speak for my own experience (and, to some extent, that of my friends) as it pertains to the graffiti incidents last Fall. However, what upset me, and many others, was not that various minority-focused groups responded and spoke out, or whatever. Rather, it was the pervasive over-exaggeration of the responses. As many pointed out, for example, a vigil, given the historical uses of such a device, was grossly inappropriate given the relatively minor nature of the incident (compared to say--a murder or savage beating, or some other actual assault on someone). Secondly, which particularly relates to the current WC-rape issue, was the annoying habit of bringing in outside incidents that had nothing to do with the campus incident, be it a black woman from some other region who was assaulted or the question of rape stats (even when the connection between this situation and rape is tenuous at best) at non-Ivy colleges. Thirdly, the offensive hyperbole in defense of the cases of those who claimed to speak on behalf of all offended. Last fall, for example, it was the dozen or so (literally) facebook and email messages that many of us received regarding the vigil and rally. More pertinently, it was also the signs erected around campus depicted Yale as some bastion of Old Southern bigotry. I happen to be a Southerner whose family has lived through the early 20th century in this country (as are many others on this campus). Trust me, the Yale atmosphere is lightyears beyond the sort of place the authors of those signs seemed to want to portay it as. In this case, the repeatedly exaggerated (grossly) rape stat and the inclusion of rape as it has been in the discussion at all has been highly contemptible, to put it mildly. And how can the WC claim to be fostering open dialogue when they’re apparently refusing Zeta Psi’s attempts to establish communication. That strikes me as a bit of double-speak. Thoughts?
    People like me are fed up with overreactions, as they serve to desensitize. I was--and am--not convinced in the slightest that the incidents of graffiti had anything to do with Yale students, as there is no evidence to support this (as far as I know). While I sympathize with the WC's offense at the extremely poor taste of Zeta Psi's joke, is it really reasonable to suggest that they are part of some vast campus-wide conspiracy to devalue women's rights and whatnot. I happen to know two of the pledges from that photo, and they're not nearly the horrible, depraved kind of people one might think they are upon absorbing many of the WC written assaults in the YDN. That said, if the WC honestly wanted healthy dialogue, that's what they should have had with the frat and the administration (and hell, why not with the campus). Instead, however, like the irritating and at times offensive response to the childish graffiti of some random disgruntled person unfairly affiliated with Yale, the WC chose to jump immediately to the extremes, and when they were pressed about it, they cited a couple quasi-related instances, many at least one of which stretches back to before any of us were here at Yale. Quasi-related and old, yes, but that's all they have because the fact remains, as has been pointed out, Yale simply is far less misogynistic and homophobic and sexist and racist (and whatever other -ist might be relevant) than most other places in this country.

    In short, the reason attention has shifted from the frat's digression to the WC's overreactions is that the former simply doesn't warrant the kind of (negative) focus as the latter. If this response seems angry, that’s because it is. To be honest, there are a number of things I could think to say against those whose attacks on the WC or defense of the frat have gone way out of bounds, but strangely enough, their callous and sometimes ignorant speech is not what nags at the end of the day. Rather, it’s the resounding cacophony of those who screech and shout when inside voices might have more readily done the trick. I’m a black male student, and I’ve come across some instances of possible racism here, and yet I have managed to keep it all in context: the vast majority of my experience has not been tainted by such things. In fact, I’ve encountered far less racism here than I ever did back in Florida or Virginia or elsewhere (been to far too many places to recount here). I’ve talked with plenty of women and minority students who seem well aware of reasonable offense at abhorrent occurrences on campus and elsewhere while also recognizing that sometimes reactions go over board. I only ask that WC and whoever else “is on their side” as it were (although I think such language is misleading, hence the quote) to realize as much.

  • Anonymous

    @ #4 (and the many others to whom this applies): People really ought to sign their responses, especially when they attack someone. It's cowardly and dishonest to hide behind anonymity and write as though with clarity and understanding. It seems you have some point you consider worth saying, so why not man up to it and write as though you actually want people to take you seriously.

    Anthony "Rek" LeCounte, TD 2011

  • Anonymous

    As a Yale alum, I am shocked by how blown out of proportion this incident has become. I think the members in the photo should be punished (maybe make them clean the Women Center's bathrooms or make them do more community service). Suing them or removing them from Yale for this "joke" makes no sense. The punishment would then be much greater than the crime. And just for the record, I have no idea where all these posts about sexism being rampant at Yale are coming from. I never felt it, and my women friends never mentioned it to me. As far as I could tell, females got drunk and did just as stupid things as males did.

  • Anonymous

    @Anthony

    #4 here. Your point about anonymity is valid so I thought I'd take a stab at responding. I choose to remain anonymous because I'm a recent grad with a career and reputation to protect. As someone on one of these comment boards noted the other day, Larry Summers - a seriously accomplished dude with a record of unblemished integrity - was run out of Harvard for merely raising an academic question about potential gender differences. Far lesser lights suffer similar fates in professional and academic environments every day. This latent hostility to any honest disagreement with the liberal status quo constitutes the crowning achievement of 30 years of vicious identity politics in academia. It's a large part of why most of us - and, if it matters, I'm not white - resent the hell out of farcical displays like this. Like most others, I dutifully attend my various diversity trainings and I bite my tongue in public when necessary. Not because I think I'm wrong, or hateful, or racist, but because I choose not to devote much of my energy to childish debates over cooked-up controversies with people who live for this sh-t. It's just not worth it. So that is the great concession won by the more "enlightened" among us (e.g. the YWC). Silence in the face of most of their outlandish crap. I ask you, is that the great utopia these liberals envisioned? I wouldn't think so. But when our campuses and politics are overrun with group after group pushing speech codes, filing lawsuits, staging protests, and destroying reputations of basically good kids simply because we don't all conform to the dictates of a washed up New Left, silence from the rest of us is the inevitable result. Some in the diversity racket may even view such silence as an accomplishment - pushing the "wrong" thoughts underground or to the margins. I think it's absurd; and judging by the visceral backlash from those in the community who aren't invested lock stock and barrel in identity politics, I don't think I'm alone. But again, the rest of us just tread lightly, mostly ignoring and occasionally resenting this nonsense. I personally don't feel it's "cowardly" to refuse to play a game on a field of their choosing, where they make the rules, change them at will, officiate and keep score. Certainly not when doing so could cause serious problems for someone who says the wrong thing to the wrong person without all the appropriate mealy-mouthed qualifiers.

    Anyway, that's why I choose not to sign my comments. Moreover, I didn't think I was "attacking" anyone - not in the ad hominem sense at any rate. I simply think this article is complete garbage, symptomatic of the overt politicization of academics that has undermined this school and many others. The jargon about "spaces" and "frameworks" and all the other claptrap is straight out of the seminars in HGS and exemplifies the groupthink that makes all this possible, so I pointed it out. That is not attacking a person. It used to be called vigorous debate, the marketplace of ideas, all that good stuff. But I suppose today the only thing that matters is whether or not someone may be "offended" so we should all just tone it the hell down, huh?

    For what it's worth, I think you make a lot of good points in your 4:22 post, most of which I agree in full.

  • Anonymous

    Free speech and the definition of the public space is a contest. I say "Yes", you say "No", and we duke it out -- usually by proxy. However, we first have to agree that free speech and an open public space are good things. Both of the parties here seem to agree on that, but disagree on how to get there. With their words, neither the Women's Center nor Zeta Psi is in the wrong.

    However, it would be proper of Zeta Psi to put some teeth into their apology. Chapter President Charest wrote in the YDN, "In the future, behavior of this nature will neither be enacted nor tolerated" (http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/23058), but what about the present? Are there no further repercussions at the chapter, rendering the apology suspect? Are there any sanctions for those who concocted this puerile stunt? Quite simply, Zete should take action against the offending members (and it shouldn't even induct a pledge who can't be bothered to read his own pledge materials). (http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/23105)

    As well, The Women's Center should take Charest up on his offer to meet for discussion, asking how in the future the fraternity intends to fulfill better its mission statement: <quote>“ . . . Zeta Psi members are committed to the development of leadership, character and intellect and to the service of their brothers, their communities and mankind.”</quote>. Certainly, educated and responsible campus leaders can resolve the issue to the satisfaction of all concerned.

    (+1 for @Anthony L, #15)

    Trip Kirkpatrick
    BK '93
    Current Yale staff member
    (standard disclaimer here about how I speak for myself, not Yale)

  • Anonymous

    @ #4/#18: I see your point. I chose my words the way I did (in post 16) because I thought you were dismissing the whole notion of opposing bigotry out of hand. Having read post 18, however, I realize that we actually seem to share many views. In fact, that entire post resonated very strongly with me, and it's something of the sentiment I was trying to get at, albeit in my limited college freshman way. While I'm not sure I fit in the modern notion of conservative, I'm certainly not a liberal--I, also not being white, hate the abominable world of identity politics, and in fact, resent the hypersensitivity forced upon modern society per the outspoken radicals who claim to speak for us all. I don't acknoweldge the role of any "black leader" to speak for me, and I refuse to endorse, support, or follow any campaign on racial grounds (hence my opposition to both the vigil held here last fall and the nonsensical response by many to the Jena 6 issue). But I digress, and so I'll just sum this up again by thanking you for detailing your opinion. Like you, I'm so tired of this all this bull, but it feels as though I could shout all day and get nowhere. And yet, I can't in good conscience, just let it all go because I want something better than all this mess. At any rate, I'm currently refusing to walk on eggshells as best I can, but I don't harbor the illusion that I'll be able to walk so freely in the professional world. I wish you all the best.

    @ Trip/#19: well said. I heartily agree.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous #4. Who is "they?"

    What it comes down to is that you are never going to walk outside to face down racist comments that demean your humanity and intelligence. You're never going to face misogyny that makes you feel more like an object than a person. You will never be denied anything in your entire life, despite that which is denied to you by lack of merit and you'll never have to wonder which is which. You will never be punished for your crimes the way a person of color is punished for them. You'll never be the usual suspect (except for serial murder).

    Worst of all, you'll never really care to understand how that makes others feel. It's not politics, it's basic human dignity.

    Luis Medina
    Saybrook 09

    PS Spaces means EVERYWHERE OUTSIDE MY HOUSE. Frameworks means CONTEXT, or if that's too deep in the dictionary for you, WAY TO THINK ABOUT THINGS.

  • Anonymous

    @ Trip/#19: Actually, I responded a bit too quickly to your post, so let me try again. I still agree with your statements concerning Zeta Psi. I would, however, point out that WC did, in fact, overreact, and they were wrong--in my opinion--to take things so quickly to the point that they did. It's not a matter of learning to take a joke or anything so dismissive. Rather, it's a simple willingness to at least engage the other party, given that, all things considered, they really weren't so horrible (again, not supporting what they did but keeping everything in context). In short, the WC would benefit from taking a few breaths, allowing the vengeful ire to diffuse, and then approaching the "problem" more productively.

    I think both sides could benefit a bit from seeing things through the other's perspective. Zeta Psi, if nothing else, now knows (along with the rest of the frats) not to try this sort of stunt again, as the WC doesn't appreciate the humor. WC, on the other hand, can give the guys the benefit of the doubt and assume (not unreasonably) that they honestly wouldn't have done that if they knew it would have been perceived as hurtful. Just to clarify; I'm saying it's best to assume (unless there is good evidence to the contrary) that at least most of those involved would have regret the act even if it hadn't gotten so messily public simply because it was genuinely hurtful to some. The key factor in all this is just rememebering that we're all human and little good comes of generalizing and railroading. I think the WC can appreciate and agree with that much, as well as Zeta Psi.

    All that said, I'd like to reiterate my hatred for this PC culture and remind all that the ability to laugh at these sorts of things (e.g. the photo and, more pertinently, the resultant situation of which this post is a small part) is not a sign of bigotry, weakness, or primitive disposition. Rather, it's merely the pure and honesty understanding that life is too short and Yale too awesome to sweat small things. And some things are genuinely funny, even if in perverse ways. So, was the photo itself funny? That's in the eye of the beholder. I can respect both opinions, and I remain unsympathetic to PC cacophony. That said, I applaud the WC for all the great work it does, has done, and will do in the service of the Yale, New Haven, and global communities. I'm glad the people there are committed to what they do, and I admire their passion. I only suggest that they pick and execute their battles a bit more cautiously, practically, and proactively, and that they remember that they're always dealing with people who misunderstand each other, who come, some times, from vastly different worlds where the rules aren't always so smoothly comparable.

  • Anonymous

    "so why not MAN up to it and write as though you actually want people to take you seriously." emphasis added

    thats sexist im suing

  • Anonymous

    re: anonymity

    Like taxes: you only begin to care (i.e., resist) the re-distribution of wealth when it is YOUR wealth that is redistributed (i.e., college kidz vote for it because it costs them nothing).

    Similarly, those of us no longer on campus have much more to lose than any of you still sucking the teat of our alma mater. No, not in real terms (and silence hear does not equal racism/bigotry/hatred or admission of guilt), but, seriously, who has the TIME to defend oneself from college kidz who have nothing BUT time (perhaps to write letters to employers or whatever).

    If the YDN is against anonymity, then by all means enforce registration…

  • Anonymous

    Rek,

    Thanks for your comments. A few things - I appreciate your critique of our use of the word vigil. While many people thought it was appropriate, many people also took issue with it. I'm not above acknowledging that perhaps we should have used a different word to describe the event in order to appease those who may have been turned off by or angered by the word vigil as the purpose behind it was community-building and thus it's important to reach out to others. (I think that Lea, Naima, and Elizabeth show through this op-ed that you can agree with the general sentiments of an action, but diagree with the method - which I think that the organizers of the rally were open to as long as we were depicted in truthful and accurate ways, which usually didn't happen.) That said, I still fully stand behind the purpose of the event which was to create a safe space to talk about personal (and national) encounters with bigotry and rebuild a sense of community. The event was beautiful, the testimonies of others inspired me, and there are few times in which I felt such pride for my fellow Yalies or a sense of community across differences than at the vigil. I think that many left the event with an appreciation for it, even if those who did not attend may not have found value in it at all.

    I also don't think that the existence of what people may consider larger examples of bigotry elsewhere means that we should not stand against acts of bigotry in our community.

    During the rally, residential college conversations, forums, and vigil (all of which was in response to more that just the graffiti which we did not assert was or was not done by a Yale student), we were not saying that our every Yale experience is defined by racism. Nor do I think that we were speaking for others - though we did call on others to speak with us. But I think that it is important to discuss racist incidents that have occured at Yale and to work towards preventing them. Part of that I believe is acknowledging the many incidents that have occured on campus that people often don't acknowledge or talk about - thus the reason for the signs. In response to many incidents of racism that has occured in the past 3 or so years was "this is an isolated event" or "this doesn't happen at Yale." We hoped the signs would challenge this misconception. From some of the feedback that I've received, for some people it did.

    And lastly, the thing with being different is that we all have different experiences. I'm glad that you've experienced less racism at Yale than prior - that is my hope for everyone. But some others have experienced more. And thus while we should acknowledge your experience, and those like you, and be grateful for it; we should also acknowledge the experiences of others in meaningful ways.

    I don't think that at the end of the day, we'll all agree. Some think that any reaction other than no reaction is an overaction; others believe that legal action is the answer; and most fall in between. But if we go away at least understanding one another better, then I think this dialogue is progress.

    ~ Funmi

  • Anonymous

    @AC
    "As insensitive as this will sound, the idea that black women who walked past had some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks to their ancestors being raped by slavers in the late 18th century is pretty ludicrous and barely believable. If anything, that is an intellectual connection made much later (say, when writing an op-ed piece) than some sort of visceral, instantaneous reaction. Besides, even assuming that it really was the latter, saying that person X can't do action Y because it might remind person Z of something terrible is a pretty slippery slope."

    women of color don't have to have "post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks" to their ancestors' histories to know what it feels like to be objectified by white men. i think most, if not all, women of color on this campus can point to moments when they have been objectified by white men because of BOTH their race and gender.

    "Besides, even assuming that it really was the latter, saying that person X can't do action Y because it might remind person Z of something terrible is a pretty slippery slope."

    And likewise, there's no reason person Z can't tell person X why action Y was incredibly offensive of her because of her personal history and lived experiences.

    Mark Ro Beyersdorf 08

  • Anonymous

    "Your rhetoric belies the problem. Instead of phrasing these issues as collective dilemmas that can be resolved through communal discussion and positive action, you use obviously divisive war rhetoric."

    Collective dilemmas
    Communal discussion
    Divisive war rhetoric

    Priceless.

    Men are from Mars; Womyn are from Vladivostok.

    (Gee, and all this discussion over our communally created ARPANET, tapped out on our collective typepads; hey, shouldn't womyn be boycotting hierarchical, male-run companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and, well, pretty much any company that produces useful and beneficial engineered products? Okay, yeah, the foregoing was just mean-spirited, but not too too far off the mark regardless.)

  • Anonymous

    It seems that few people make the connection between Zeta Psi's initiation rite and the incidents of rape on the Yale campus. I've read many posts encouraging the WC and others to "lighten up" or "laugh" at this "joke," even if it was in "poor taste." I think that the use of threatening and aggressive language, particularly with regards to rape, constitutes more than a joke in poor taste. For years now, certain groups at Yale have ritualized verbal attacks that use the language of sexual violence. Each year, a group of men stakes out the Women's Center and chants, "yes means no and no means anal;" it seems that this year included a variation on the content of the chant. The "We Love Yale Sluts" sign is not unprecedented either; several years ago, a banner was hung that read "We Love Yale Virgins." In either case, the message is the same: we enjoy taking advantage of women sexually. I'm surprised that no one wants to connect the dots between these incidents and the rapes that occur (and they DO occur) on this campus. Asking members of the Yale community to laugh at this kind of speech is tantamount to asking them to laugh at rape, or, at the very least, it is asking them to divorce threatening messages from threatening actions. I don't know that such a division exists. I am certainly not accusing any group or individual of promoting rape, but I believe that in order to stop rape at Yale, we need to make it clear that we take the issue seriously. Refusing to laugh at these pranks does not indicate a stunted sense of humor but rather an understanding of the severity of sexual violence.

    Maggie

  • Anonymous

    @Mark

    I have no doubt that women, and women of color in particular have been objectified by men, black and white alike, on this campus. The column's authors were the ones to bring up colonialism and slavery, so that is why I echo it in my "post-traumatic stress flashbacks" comment.

    The problem is that a person's "personal history and lived experiences", as you call them, cannot be the measuring sticks by which we regulate public, social behavior. While I could ask a good friend of mine never to wear a red sweatshirt around me because I was one brutally beaten by a man in a red sweatshirt, I certainly can't ask that of an entire community, and I most certainly can't threaten to sue if they do, no matter how much it personally offends me.

    I know that's not exactly the best example, but I hope it serves to illustrate the point that people's reactions to things like this are so varied and personal that we can't expect others to take all of them into account -- especially during a moment of drunken decision-making.

  • Anonymous

    To #29:

    For you to use the phrase "post-traumatic stress flashbacks" jokingly shows that you have no understanding of the fact that HISTORY MATTERS. People study it for a reason. Brief history lesson: young women of color today have grandmothers and mothers who can tell them stories of Jim Crow segregation in this country, of postcolonial politics in other parts of the black Atlantic, and of the Civil Rights Era. Those memories are REAL. Not to mention, the reality of violence that women of color still face, as you acknowledge, "on this campus" and elsewhere. The fact that this sexual violence is a LEGACY, something that grandmothers, mothers, and daughters can talk about (accounting for differences due to time and space) shows that these "post-traumatic stress flashbacks" are real. The fact that someone's great great grandmother was harassed and taunted in a way that resonates with the way she is currently being taunted (I say RESONATE, not exactly RESEMBLES) is indicative of the persistence of racism and sexism over generations and generations.

    history is real. legacies are real. and for you to deny that is not only inaccurate, but very arrogant.

    you're right that your analogy is completely inadequate. how can you compare one attack by a man in a red sweatshirt on you ONCE to how a woman of color feels when she knows women in her family and community who have been raped or otherwise harmed. if you have heard the stories of sexual violence against people you love, if you have experienced sexual violence yourself, are your visceral, intellectual, and spiritual response to threats against your body and your self not only completely reasonable but also fully human?

    the fact that this violence is cyclic is HORRIFIC and the fact that we women of color press on in the face of ongoing patriarchy and white supremacy is a huge testament to our commitment to resistance and resilience. we confront attacks against our humanity (and denials of the pain that these attacks cause) every single day yet keep living and contributing to our communities.

    so really, how dare you make fun of pain that is real and that people navigate with determination and community that you will (choose to) never understand?

    in denying the pain that these attacks cause, you are implicated in the persistence of these injuries. you not only refuse to stand against them, you stand for them.

    - N.

  • Anonymous

    If the uber-feminists want to appear as strong as men, they shouldn't cry and howler over such a stupid and immature prank. Seriously, grow up.

  • Anonymous

    Dear N,

    Thanks for the history lesson. Obviously my disagreement with you stems from my complete lack of historical knowledge and perspective. So you've solved that problem. Moreover, you obviously did some very close-reading of my first post to so expertly identify all the places where I'm denying and making fun of people's pain. I sure thought I had hidden those sentiments well by, you know, never actually saying anything like that. But you got it!

    Furthermore, I applaud you for following the column writers' lead (or for reasserting yourself, if N stands for Naima) and inserting race into an incident that did not really have a racial element to it. I guess I left my UV light at home and couldn't see the word "black" written before sluts in invisible ink. My bad. Oh, and could you call the black guy in the picture and let him know that, for all intents and purposes he is now just another white oppressor? Thanks. I would do it myself but I'm a little busy standing for sexual violence instead of against it.

    Finally, I'd like to apologize for daring to question anyone about anything. What was I thinking? Surely, expressing any sort of reasonable doubt in this situation is the worst possible thing I could've done. Next time I will remember to do the right thing and simply fall in line with my mouth shut, lest I commit any more crimes against humanity.

    Best,

    A.C. (which apparently stands for Asshole Caucasian -- guess my brown skin is just a hell of a tan)

  • Anonymous

    P.S. I know I already mentioned it but it bears repeating: Fantastic use of the "you're either with us or against us" rhetoric. Really, nicely done. After it worked so well for George W. Bush, I completely understand why you want to adopt that kind of attitude.

    -A.C.

  • Anonymous

    @ #29

    "The problem is that a person's "personal history and lived experiences", as you call them, cannot be the measuring sticks by which we regulate public, social behavior. While I could ask a good friend of mine never to wear a red sweatshirt around me because I was one brutally beaten by a man in a red sweatshirt, I certainly can't ask that of an entire community, and I most certainly can't threaten to sue if they do, no matter how much it personally offends me.

    I know that's not exactly the best example, but I hope it serves to illustrate the point that people's reactions to things like this are so varied and personal that we can't expect others to take all of them into account -- especially during a moment of drunken decision-making."

    just to briefly add on to n's response, it's absurd and insulting for you to think you can compare an isolated instance of random violence to systematic exploitation and violence.

    people's personal histories and lived experiences have ALWAYS provided the foundation for the ways in which they challenge offensive and degrading public, social behavior. and it's repressive for you to say that an indivudal should shut up and accept the status quo instead of challenging "public, social behavior," that is offensive and degrading to his or her community--whether based on gender, sexuality, race, or religion. As N points, for many women of color, this incident reflects the cycle of racialized gender violence--albeit not a physical act of violence--and while some might say it's a small-scale instance of such violence, it is one nonetheless, and women of color and their allies have every reason and right to speak out against it.

    and poor drunken decision making is never an excuse.

    Mark

  • Anonymous

    I still want someone to explain to me how race got into this whole incident. Seems like people are just conflating all the events of the past few months and relating them to one another even when they're completely separate things.

  • Anonymous

    race got involved in this whole incident because of the simple fact that PEOPLE OF COLOR EXIST and women of color will react differently to incidents of gender violence and discrimination because their experiences of gender are almost always mediated by their race.

    you don't have to study u.s. history too deeply to see these intersections of racial and gender oppression--to call them "completeley seperate things" is absurd. women of color exist; they're not the "conflation" your comment dismisses them as.

    Mark

  • Anonymous

    @ Mark and N: I'm not buying it. Race has nothing to do with it. Certain elements at Yale seem intent on blowing this whole incident way out of proportion, and they will apparently go to any lengths to attack any moderate voices in the name of their impassioned and misguided agenda. And to preempt any ridiculous claim that I am somehow part of the white establishment helping to perpetuate the problem, I am a black Southerner, and I am quite familiar with racism. This is simply not it. It gets no simpler than that. As an earlier post points out, one of the people in the photo is, in fact, black. It's funny, I talked to some women of color on campus about this very incident last night, and they found the whole thing laughable--that is, they couldn't imagine how people could let this ordeal blow up like it did, and they considered the WC's response to be ridiculous at best (their view of the frat was understandably condescending, but they didn't jump to any bizarre conclusions). However, I suppose I should choose my words carefully lest I be labelled part of the vast campus-wide conspiracy to devalue women and oppress minorites (although I am one who has no idea why race is an issue here) everywhere. As one who finds this whole affair rather ridiculous (to include the WC's recent push to alter University policy regarding freedom of expression with what they're calling changes to the harassment policy), I suggest that those determined to be offended stop reading too much into these situations. Really, it's just not that serious, no matter how ardent you seem to be in claiming otherwise, and I feel no shame in pointing that out. It really is one thing to say the frat boys were wrong and ought to make amends; all this mess is quite another animal.

    @ A.C.: Nicely said; I hear you loud and clear, and it's unfortunate that N seems intent on unjustly making you out to be a bad guy.

    @ Luis/ #21: If you actually paid more attention to the posts, you would realize that #4 also wrote #18 and is, in fact, a person of color. This is exactly the kind of jumping to conclusions that leads many reasonable people to distrust voices such as yours.

    @ Funmi: at the end of the day, the rally/vigil/whatever was not the nice, warm event you seem to want to portray it as. It was inherently divisive and offensive. It's not about me having experienced less racism at Yale; it's about Yale NOT being a racist place. That some have encountered instances of probable racism does not make the whole campus a bastion of hate. Rather, it means that some people have had some bad experiences with some rotten apples. Let's not read more into situations than what is actually there. What's bad is bad, without being needlessly embellished. I'm tired of the liberal whining and exaggeration in which mountains are made out of mole hills. If people want to be taken seriously, they ought to approach the "problems" a bit more sensibly.

  • Anonymous

    @Mark:

    So your answer to why this is a racial issue is: "because of women of color exist"?

    Wow.

  • Anonymous

    "The sign that reads “We Love Yale Sluts” propagates a view of women as objects of male desire that lack agency and dignity and can therefore be sexually owned and mistreated. Not surprisingly, the logic that disregards women’s right to sexual autonomy is not only manifest in Zeta Psi’s actions, but also underlies rape."

    Can someone please explain this statement to me? Clearly, 'we love Yale sluts' propagates a picture of women as objects of male desire. But how does it show that they lack agency and dignity? This is not obvious.

    It seems like girls get drunk and want to have sex as much as guys, but they're making that choice. Are signs showing appreciation for this making that less of a choice? It seems like they take their own dignity away by getting drunk and trying to get sexed up, if you consider that something that deprives them of dignity. The link between "we love Yale sluts" and rape depends on the assumption that Zeta Psi's members don't believe women have a right to decide when and under what circumstances they have sex. I see no indication that they have such a belief.

  • Anonymous

    to #39:

    To clarify why the word "sluts" is not only demeaning but "underlies rape" as a previous poster said (or at least the motivation behind rape)-
    In using the term "sluts", one that "propagates a picture of women as objects of male desire" as you admit, it turns women into "OBJECTS", which does two things: removes their personhood (and thus their dignity as human beings), and removes their agency, since an object has neither of those qualities. As to why the question of rape comes up in this situation, people have to realize that although rape is a sexual act, rape is often (and most of the time) not MOTIVATED BY SEX OR SEXUAL DESIRE ITSELF. That is one false assumption that keeps the connection from being made. If rape were purely desire-driven, why would soldiers in ethnically-motivated civil wars conduct mass abductions and rapes of the women of the "enemy population"? Why the mass scale and systematic targeting of women that aren't necessarily "desirable"? Because rape is an act of violence and domination intended, whether consciously or not, to exert control over the victim and deny their agency as people. Sex is merely the instrument of control and often has little or nothing to do with a rapist's attraction to the victim outside of the rapist's objectification of the victim or drive for control. I admit, for some it might be somewhat of a stretch to go from "slut" to "sex object", "object" to "denial of agency, thus dignity", and finally to a means of denying human dignity and agency through sex, i.e. RAPE. I'm not a gender studies major or one of the "liberal PC crazies" people seem to take joy in bashing in general, and I empathize with a lot of what has been said by Rek and others, but even I can put two-and-two together in that case.

    The date rape of drunken women you refer to may not seem to have this same violence dynamic, but the same scenario of control and objectification still applies. A woman in that scenario is still objectified and denied respect as a person if the man pursues her as an opportunity for an "easy lay", especially if she is drunkenly acting like she "wants it" (and I've seen this situation play out before, and not just at frats so don't try to tell me this doesn't happen). Just because the woman is drunk doesn't mean she wants to get sexed up, and saying they are "depriving themselves of dignity" when they get drunk is using a different definition of dignity. A drunk person, while perhaps being disrespectful to themselves and their own bodies, isn't depriving him/herself of inherent dignity as a HUMAN BEING, despite their inability to make conscious decisions at that moment. The explanation of "self-deprivation of dignity" is tantamount to blaming drunken date rape victims for their predicament, and that (and I emphasize, NOT you as a person, but the argument being made) is disgusting.

    However, I agree that to apply this framework and context to the Zeta Psi pledges or even to you personally is unfair on an individual level (I'm NOT accusing them of being rapists or misogynists personally). It's not unfair to say, though, that their behavior speaks to a problem with a larger social framework that is far bigger than just a stupid and drunken initiation stunt they pulled. Their critics are not (I hope) blaming them for CREATING an atmosphere of misogyny via what they did - but they do deserve blame for perpetuating it, regardless of whether or not they believe it personally or claim ignorance of it altogether. Lack of knowledge of the consequences of their actions never removes culpability, or at least that's what law students better versed in those matters tell me. Whether there should be punitive action is a different question, though, which I'll leave to others to unpack. I'm not personally sure whether or how they should be reprimanded, since it seems to be turning them as individuals into social examples which I don't agree with, but maybe someone can come up with a better solution that will better address the issue as a whole and not penalize the single action, which is not the heart of the problem here.

    SM, TD 2009

  • Anonymous

    @#27
    2 things: 1) If you actually read anything in my post, you would know that I was criticizing a previous poster for being overly zealous and contentious in his PC crusade. In other words, I thought he was taking political correctness way too far. 2) I'm a guy, so the whole Men are from Mars thing doesn't really work. I don't see why criticizing a post as overly contentious implies that I'm a female advocate for the "Womyn's Center". Does that mean they're a bunch of men since they're threatening to pursue "typically male" aggressive legal action (which, by the way, I personally think is frivolous)? In sum, you're ridiculously off the mark, but thanks for playing.

  • Anonymous

    #40 - Thank you for responding in such detail and with such painstaking precision, as well as careful restraint, to my post.

    To begin with, I remain unconvinced by the link between slut and object w/o personhood. I think acknowledging that women are the objects of sexual desire is really using object in a different sense from 'inanimate object.' It's like, the professor was the object of my pleas to get into the class. We really mean they are the subject, or the recipient, as well as the purpose (object) of the pleas. Surely in at least some cases of rape a motivation of domination/doing an act against someone's will exists. This is surely not the case in Yale's hook-up culture. Part of the point is *mutual* desire, which has its own social validation blah blah to go along with it. I don't think the psychology of normal non-rapist men's desire for women can exclude considerations of the women's wants, and so an account of men desiring women making them into objects will fall short of reality.

    Also, I for one don't want to have sex with an object.