BAIG: Alienating fellow feminists

Title IX complainant Kate Orazem argues that rape exists on campus. That’s incontestable. (“Rape is real at Yale,” Sept. 22.)

But the tone of her argument and her drive to deem certain dogmas and concepts “unspeakable,” indicates intellectual intolerance. Orazem compares Staff Columnist Julia Fisher’s arguments (“Not a rape culture, just a PC one,” Sept. 22) to “scientific racism [and] Holocaust denials.” But Fisher never condoned sexual violence or asserted that rape was anything but an incredible act of violence. Orazem sets up a straw man, and we see her strike it down. This is only the first of many instances where she seems to bully those who disagree with her.

She challenges us to stand up in an LGBT history section and oppose gay marriage, and hopes to see what happens next. She believes that academia can be politicized, and furthermore, that students who disagree with prevailing politics should be pariahs in the classroom. But the University, unlike so many other institutions, bears the burden of maintaining independent study, insulated from the changing winds of our time. This is not to say that our studies should be politically isolated, but rather, that the university should be concerned with protecting the integrity of research and scholarship against popular opinion or mainstream politics (left or right). A university at which intellectual discourse can only be pursued if it is deemed politically acceptable is not the kind of university that I would like to attend. Orazem puts quotation marks around political correctness in order to trivialize the imposition of dogma.

Orazem is right to assert that ideas are powerful, and can do real violence to men and women. Rape is a serious, violent crime. But that is exactly why we must use words like “rape” and “rapists” carefully, and not fling them too freely. Cecily Carlisle’s article (“Rape without rapists,” Sept. 23) points out the essential problem: so many young men on our campus associate the word “rapist” with a predator that assaults unsuspecting prey. She provides an example in which a drunken hook-up results in one of the participants feeling violated, and the other remaining oblivious that they have engaged in a non-consensual act. It is in these circumstances that I would feel troubled to call for the university to take serious punitive measures, such as expulsion, against the accused. Punishment alone is insufficient to educate the “unconscious rapist.”

I recall the Women’s Center’s choice to include fraternity members in a discussion on the DKE chants last spring. It was a decision that recognized the perpetrators of violence as human beings: ignorant and unaware of the violence they had inflicted on others by their words or actions. Yale’s punitive measures against these individuals will not improve our sexual climate. Instead, there must be dialogue and a sincere effort to communicate across the Yale community. Though Orazem claims rightly that rape is a symptom of women being seen as passive objects of male desire, we must also acknowledge that men can be the victims of rape too, even if rarely.

Orazem and the other Title IX complainants cannot justify their use of the inflammatory phrase “rape culture.” Yes, rape happens at Yale. I would attribute that to problems within our sexual culture and our administration’s policies for reporting sexual assault. But the term “rape culture” originated in feminist theory to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence against women is common. The complainants’ use of the term fails to see the forest for the trees — the true problem at hand is a culture that promotes violence and the mistreatment of others, period. Rape and sexual assault are one part of this greater problem. Violence is endemic, and it is a disease that includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse of all forms.

Orazem’s column bullies those who disagree with her, instead of sincerely engaging those who hold opinions different from her own. I am a feminist, an ally to the greater cause of disabling a dangerous sexual climate which condones rape — not a “rape culture,” but a disrespectful, apathetic and occasionally violent one. Orazem’s column challenges those who disagree with her to meet a victim of sexual assault, face to face. I have met many women who have been raped or assaulted, and have spoken to them about their experiences. I am aware of the lack of punitive measures at Yale and the psychological damage made worse by social stigma. But I also recognize that mere punishment is insufficient for changing the climate, and the Title IX complainants’ growing intolerance for viewpoints different than their own makes constructive discussion of any kind impossible.

Orazem’s hard-line views unwittingly alienate those who agree that the sexual climate at Yale is unhealthy, but who do not indulge in hyperbolic terms like “rape culture.” But I would argue that she and her compatriots would do well to make allies and not enemies of fellow feminists who don’t hold views entirely identical to her own.

Minnie Baig is a senior in Trumbull College.

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