Women’s Center Board Members: Responding maturely to misogyny

Last night, DKE pledges chanted as they marched on Yale’s campus, including on Old Campus and Cross Campus, as well as in Jonathan Edwards, Pierson and Davenport colleges. Footage of these chants is available online both on the Yale Daily News’s website and on YouTube. This is what they shouted:

My name is Jack

I’m a necrophiliac

I f— dead women

And fill them with my semen

No means yes

Yes means anal

(repeated)

F— al-Qaeda

F— al-Qaeda

(repeated)

F—ing sluts

F—ing sluts

(repeated)

USA

USA

(repeated)

This incident is not isolated; some of these slogans have been heard before on Yale’s campus, though usually behind closed doors. We recognize that these shouts may have been meant in jest, but the meaning of these phrases — “I f— dead women,” “f—ing sluts,” and “no means yes; yes means anal” — is not a joke. For survivors of sexual violence and their allies, this chant serves as a jarring reminder that Yale is not always a safe place for women. For everyone on Yale’s campus, this sets a tone for our community’s sexual culture that is at best irreverent, and at worst, violent.

It is particularly egregious that this initiation took place on Old Campus, the center of freshmen life at Yale. Wednesday’s chants sent a clear message to impressionable first-year students: both to the pledges who were told to repeat the chant and to the students who were forced to listen. The verses treat sexual violence as a joke.

But sexual violence is a serious problem: women are raped at Yale. Those rapes take place within a sexual culture that often minimizes, excuses and even enables sexual violence. Wednesday night’s chanting, when taken at face value, is a call to commit rape. We do not think that the fraternity brothers intended to incite violence; more likely, they neglected to consider how their words would impact our community.

These verses are only one part of the way sex is talked about at Yale. Though many students have expressed disappointment, frustration and sadness after Wednesday’s chants, it is important to recognize our potential to utter more positive words, ones of mutual respect. This event should be a starting point for broader conversation committed to making our campus safer.

In calling for change, the Women’s Center is building on momentum from last year’s response to the “preseason scouting report,” which ranked and criticized freshman women’s physical appearances, initiating the Class of 2013 with an act of misogyny. Chants like those on Wednesday may have happened in the past, but our campus’s tolerance for them has diminished. There are positive signs. Student leaders have begun to challenge the social norms that condone these incidents. Pi Phi is bringing self-defense empowerment training for women to campus, and Sig Ep is partnering with the Women’s Center to organize a workshop about sexual violence.

At our event today, students will share their thoughts on this incident, as well as discuss broader issues shaping sexual violence and sexual culture at Yale. Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry will open the discussion alongside college deans and masters who share our concerns. Then it is up to us, the students, to answer the question: how can we work together, across our differences, to create a positive and affirming sexual culture at Yale?

Laura Blake, Elizabeth Deutsch, Diana Ofosu, Diana Saverin, Natalia Thompson, Sally Walstrom and Quingan Zhou are members of the Yale Women’s Center board.

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