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.

Comments

  • FailBoat

    Their chants of “fck al Qaeda” and “USA” are offensive as well. I do hope the Democratic Party at Yale ensures that action will be taken.

  • FailBoat

    > 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.

    I still don’t understand why ranking women (or men, or cows, or cars) by attractiveness constitutes misogyny or is offensive at all. Misogyny is defined as the “hatred of women” – and the Preseason Scouting Report seemed to be penned by those who felt anything but.

  • RexMottram08

    Never joined a frat. Never will. Never supported the Women’s Center. Never will.

  • FailBoat

    > Never joined a frat. Never will. Never supported the Women’s Center. Never will.

    Amen to that.

  • MikeC

    > I still don’t understand why ranking
    > women (or men, or cows, or cars) by
    > attractiveness constitutes misogyny

    Just roll with it or they’ll call you a misogynist, too.

  • FailBoat

    > Just roll with it or they’ll call you a misogynist, too.

    I’ve been called it before. I never really understood the charge. I was raised by a single mother, with three sisters. I was taught to open doors, pull out chairs, and take bullets for women.

    What the fratboys did was rude. It’s uncouth and insulting. My mother and grandmother would cane me on the spot if they saw me do what 90% of Yale does on a regular basis. But what they do is not misogynistic – merely degenerate.

  • Yale12

    FailBoat, misogyny is defined as a hatred for women. Chants that promote sexual violence – and you cannot deny that “No means yes” is doing exactly that – are promoting hateful acts towards women. That is misogyny.

  • Quals

    Yale12, misogyny is defined as a man hating a woman as much as women hate each other.

  • FailBoat

    > Chants that promote sexual violence – and you cannot deny that “No means yes” is doing exactly that – are promoting hateful acts towards women.

    1. I can deny it. I’ve heard many people at Yale make that remark before – it is a joke in poor taste. None of the people I’ve heard make that joke would actually take it to be serious.

    2. Promoting sexual violence is not necessarily misogyny. Even the most evil rapists are not necessarily misogynistic. Prison rapists are not necessarily misandrists either. They are simply depraved, degenerate members of humanity.

    3. For the charge of misogyny to stick, you’d have to not only prove that the chant was a call to sexual violence, but that it was an *intentional* endorsement of sexual violence. One cannot hate women accidentally or by using bad judgment.

  • YaleAlum08

    Who cares if it’s misogyny or degeneracy or depravity? At the end of the day it’s disrespectful towards women and there’s no need for it in public forums at Yale.

  • GW11

    @Failboat: I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. Any act of sexual violence directed against women, is misogyny. Regardless of the perpetrator’s intentions and personal feelings toward women, the very act of sexual violence (or even inciting or suggesting sexual violence) is misogynistic. What’s important to note, is that these events don’t occur in a vacuum. Sexual violence is about power, not about sexual pleasure.

    I am a woman. If someone said “no means yes, yes means anal” to me, I don’t find that to be a funny joke. In fact, I find it to be extremely offensive. That comment SPECIFICALLY CONDONES rape, that is: sexual penetration **without consent**. Nothing about that is funny.

    It is clear that we live in a culture that belittles sexual violence and rape. As many people have already noted, if a group was chanting that we should all lynch black people at Yale, there would be a national outrage. Yet because these are women, and we’re talking about sex, not *death*, and because we live in a culture that doesn’t take sexual violence seriously, it’s “a joke in poor taste.” Like I said, nothing about being forcibly penetrated by fingers, a penis, or a foreign object, is a joke in **any** way. It’s too bad more Yalies don’t recognize that.

  • YaleMom

    I am letting loose a wail of shame and fear!!!

  • FailBoat

    > Any act of sexual violence directed against women, is misogyny.

    Just as any act of sexual violence against a male is misandry? Can a woman be misogynistic if she commits or abets sexual violence against another woman? Is violence against a black man automatically racist? Your statement is hilarious in its overreach. It reminds me of the time a classmate at Yale said (in all seriousness) “you can’t be racist against white people – racism is about power.”

    Words have meaning. Stop polluting them. Misogyny means hatred of women. It does not mean “offensive to women”, no matter how offensive that thing may be.

    > Yet because these are women, and we’re talking about sex, not death, and because we live in a culture that doesn’t take sexual violence seriously, it’s “a joke in poor taste.”

    Yes, it is because Yale cares more about black people more than it does about women. Seriously? Can you take yourself seriously?

    > Like I said, nothing about being forcibly penetrated by fingers, a penis, or a foreign object, is a joke in any way.

    Quite the lurid picture. Thinking about this quite a bit?

  • The Anti-Yale

    *”Though many students have expressed disappointment, frustration and sadness after Wednesday’s chants”*

    That’s all?

    How about disgust? How about shame?

    This kind of locker-room talk (i.e., the words of the chants) has been going on for at least the 50 years since I was teenager.

    My approach has alwas been to avoid the boors and bores. Admittedly, this procedure can be awkward and isolating.

    The trouble is that what was once confined to the locker-room is now paraded in public.

    Pretty hard to avoid a parade.

  • csa

    I think the Women’s Center has chosen a dangerous and unhelpful stance here, even though I don’t think the strength of their reaction is one bit excessive.

    Terming this a “call to violence” and calling it an issue of “sexual violence” does undercut their argument and what they (I assume) stand for. It undercuts by simplifying and even partially dismissing the wider problem of sexual safety. Which is a slightly weird thing to accuse a women’s rights group of, I admit.

    First, their wording, as true and accurate as it seems to them, weakens their message. The connotations of “violence” are just too strongly linked to physical assault. You can see it in the reactions to the Women’s Center’s response: “Hey, it’s not like they’re saying ‘everyone go grab a girl and rape her!'” “No one’s going to hear that ['no means yes'] and think they should go out and rape someone, you’re just overreacting.” “I don’t think those guys are trying to incite people to attack women.” The logic chain goes something like this:

    1. The WC has called this a “call to violence,”
    2. “No means yes; yes means anal” is not an obvious incitement to violence (i.e. [physical and forceful] sexual assault), therefore
    3. the WC is overreacting and what they say is hyperbole [and should be dismissed].

    Second, equating “rape” with “violence” is dismissive. It’s dismissive to every victim who’s ever experienced ANY kind of sexual violation that didn’t involve physical force. It’s dismissive to anyone who’s ever been pressured, drugged, blackmailed, or otherwise maneuvered into sexual activity that was unwilling, unwitting, or even reluctant. The equation of “rape” with “violence” or even “force” discourages those victims from coming forward, either because they don’t think it “counts” as rape (because there was no violence, right? no one was grabbing me/holding me down/hitting me…) or because they think that no one else would consider it rape and that they’ll be shamed instead of supported.

    Third, equating “rape” with “violence” is dangerous. It undermines the completeness of a sexually safe atmosphere almost as well as “no means yes.” Guys who have sex with a woman who’s too drunk to talk or stand, even though they know she’d never agree if she were sober? They can sleep just fine at night, because they’re not rapists, they’re not violent. People feel okay making jokes about rape, because their concept of rape is linked to a socially abhorrent enough level of violence that they can easily tell themselves it’s nothing anyone THEY know would ever do.

    Those chants were offensive, certainly. Misogynistic, even; they encourage an antagonistic approach towards women and foster the idea that sexual behavior towards women should ALWAYS be aggressive; even if they consent, push them farther. (If no means yes and yes means anal, what on earth would yes to anal mean?)

    But proclaiming them a “call to violence” is some serious shooting yourselves in the foot, there.

  • The Anti-Yale

    *Third, equating “rape” with “violence” is dangerous. It undermines the completeness of a sexually safe atmosphere almost as well as “no means yes.”*

    csa:
    Just because YOUR GENERATION has sexualized the world and the word, does not mean the etymological history must follow your lead and abandon meaning and subtelty.

    PK

    World English Dictionary
    rape 1 (reɪp)

    — n
    1. See also *statutory rape* the offence of forcing a person, esp a woman, to submit to sexual intercourse against that person’s will
    2. the act of despoiling a country in warfare; rapine
    3. any violation or abuse: the rape of justice
    4. archaic abduction: the rape of the Sabine women

    — vb
    5. to commit rape upon (a person)
    6. ( also intr ) to plunder or despoil (a place) in war
    7. archaic to carry off by force; abduct

    [C14: from Latin rapere to seize]

    [C17: from French râpe , of Germanic origin; compare Old High German raspōn to scrape together]

    Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
    2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
    Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
    Cite This Source

    Word Origin & History

    rape
    late 14c., “seize prey, take by force,” from Anglo-Fr. raper, O.Fr. raper “to seize, abduct,” a legal term, from L. rapere “seize, carry off by force, abduct” (see rapid). L. rapere was used for “sexual violation,” but only very rarely; the usual L. word being stuprum, lit. “disgrace.” Sense of “sexual violation or ravishing of a woman” first recorded in Eng. as a noun, 1481 (the noun sense of “taking anything