Letter: Our responsibility to lead by example

There is a pervasive misconception in our society that women’s issues are “old” issues. Many of those who have been published in this newspaper have rightly pointed out that this is certainly not the case; in fact, the events of last week highlight how ingrained sexism is in our social assumptions, language and perhaps our traditions. Clearly, the chants were deplorably offensive and disturbing, but beyond that, we should consider what this episode conveys to us about our communities, both at Yale and beyond.

Without overemphasizing Yale’s influence on the U.S. and the world, I feel privileged to have studied and now work at such a progressive, open-minded, and research-driven institution that in many ways sets the standard for public thought in this country and contributes to the advancement of our global society. What does it say about society if, at one of the most elite and privileged institutions, we still have students who glorify sexual assault, intentionally or unintentionally? As students, it is a full-time job to deconstruct the -isms in our society and to think about how to intentionally incorporate strategies of equality into our everyday lives. How do we expect our broader communities to change if, even within this bubble, we are not free from repeated acts of degradation?

The chanting on Old Campus is an extreme example of sexism at Yale, but it was not done in a vacuum. Indeed, this is not the first and only time egregiously sexist public behavior has occurred on Yale’s campus in the past few years. It is a product of how systems of inequality and degradation are sown into all of our minds even in unconscious ways. The behavior we witnessed indicates that our work on behalf of women’s rights and equality continues. And it is good work, until we are truly able to root out that which calls us out of our best selves.

Ruth Vaughan

Oct. 24

The author is a 2009 graduate of the Divinity School and the Gender Equity and Policy Postgraduate Associate with the Yale Women Faculty Forum.


  • Summer

    Look – it’s three paragraphs of untestable, unverifiable sociological rubbish. Look at actions instead – what passes for rampant sexism nowadays are isolated outbursts of rude frat-boys. By that standards, inviting Gloria Steinem (“”Men should think twice before making widowhood women’s only path to power.”, “No man can call himself liberal, or radical, or even a conservative advocate of fair play, if his work depends in any way on the unpaid or underpaid labor of women at home, or in the office.”) to campus is far more sexist than anything DKE has chanted.

  • RexMottram08

    “The author is a 2009 graduate of the Divinity School and a gender equity and policy postgraduate associate.”


  • jvpyale1

    The foregoing comments are good arguments for requiring real signatures and real reply emails.

  • Summer

    > The foregoing comments are good arguments for requiring real signatures and real reply emails.

    So were the Federalist Papers.

  • RexMottram08

    > The foregoing comments are good
    > arguments for requiring real
    > signatures and real reply emails.
    > Posted by ***jvpyale1***

    I repeat, LOL.

  • fakbik

    Stupid is as stupid does Rex. This is exactly why people who want to be taken seriously should sign their names and be on the record for their stupid and unnecessarily degrading comments.

    As for Summer, you’re totally on point. Just because someone is offended by chants of “no yes, yes means anal”, or signs saying that “We Love Yale Sluts,” that makes them automatically endorse every absurd quote ever said by any feminist who ever existed. That’s irrefutably logical, and not the “sociological rubbish” that you soundly refuted… It’s not sexist, because other people have said even crazier things, a perfectly sound argument.

    I cannot understand why it is difficult for people to agree that this behavior is inexcusable. Disgusting chants about necrophilia and rape are unacceptable. An environment in which this kind of behavior (“we love yale sluts”, disgusting and weird chants on old campus, etc) has repeatedly occurred is one that needs changing. I’m not sure how this has become a point of contention.

    There’s nothing “unverifiable” about it. It’s not just a dozen stupid frat boys. This sexist, wannabe-machismo mentality is present throughout various niches within the student body, and represents one end of a spectrum within our community. It is demonstrated in extremes when stupid people do stupid things, like holding up signs about sluts in front of the women’s center, or glorifying rape in a fraternity chant. Of course, there are other metrics to look at how women are or are not respected within our community. Questions like the number of sexual assault investigations (a gross underestimate of reality, both at the graduate and undergraduate level), or more subtly, if women feel like they are treated differently in various classes or by various professors. I’ve personally talked to women who have experienced both here, and it doesn’t translate into everyone at Yale being a raging bigot—but it does mean that this problem still exists within certain niches here.

    It’s not the Taliban, it’s not men chaining female classmates to the stove, but sexism is here and present in both subtle and overt ways despite the significant advances made over the past 40 years. Sometimes it’s more subtle when certain people are treated a certain way in class, or slightly more concrete like when they are paid less (or tenured less often) than their counterparts, and other times, it’s when stupid people do outrageously stupid (and offensive) things. Either way, we should call it what it is and take action against it.

    So pay attention to what people are actually saying. You might just catch a nuanced picture of reality, and maybe, understand that gender inequities (among other kinds) still exist, both here and beyond.

    Feras Akbik MD/PhD 2013

  • Summer

    > I cannot understand why it is difficult for people to agree that this behavior is inexcusable. Disgusting chants about necrophilia and rape are unacceptable.

    Disgusting is a matter of taste. Did any of these chants rape a woman? Has any of the pledges ever had a complaint (formal or informal) lodged against their person?

    Sexual assault is unacceptable. Chanting “no means yes” as part of a fraternity initiation is merely dumb.

    As for my citation of a leading feminist (one who is practically deified by the YWC and most likely by Ruth Vaughan as well), I merely seek to illustrate the disparity between the YWC and its proponents’ claims and their actions.

  • mbrooks

    Thank you, Ms. Vaughn, for the excellent letter that reminds us of the unfinished business of gender equality and that we all can do more to help.

    Mr. (River) Tam – Ms. Vaughn’s letter makes the compelling point that we should recognize our progress towards gender equality as an unfinished effort that we should continue to address in our institutions and individual lives. This point is dead on. The recent DKE chanting helps prove her point, although she generously does not vilify or focus exclusively on one group. This is something we all can do better.

    So what exactly is your argument in response?

    Your statement, “Chanting ‘no means yes’ as part of a fraternity initiation is merely dumb” is inaccurate. Common sense should tell us that speaking favorably of sexual violence is more likely than not to increase the practice of sexual violence. But even if we granted your assertion, how does it disprove Ms. Vaughn’s point about gender equality? Even if it is “merely dumb” to chant about performing anal sex against someone who has said “no,” doesn’t it still demonstrate gender inequality? When was the last time you saw a group of woman chanting in favor of sexual violence against men? If we get right down to it – if we consider your sisters, mothers, daughters, or spouse – do you truly believe in your heart that we have achieved gender equality?

    I don’t mean to be rude, but comparing your decision not to sign an Internet comment to Hamilton, Madison, and Jay not signing The Federalist Papers is just hilarious. You neither have spent the lifetime of learning and leadership to accrue wisdom they did nor invested the time and energy into your comment that went into those papers. I’m not trying to say you’re dumb; I haven’t done those things either. But words and facts should have meaning. A flippant comparison to the founding demeans both our nation and your point.

    Mike Brooks MBA/MDiv 2014