POWERS: T-Pain and the assault on Old Campus

Two years ago, the Ying Yang Twins were paid to perform at Spring Fling.

At the time, I was on the Yale Women’s Center Board. I spent that week bristling at the Spring Fling Committee’s decision to invite them, putting up signs in protest, writing an incendiary column for the News and bitterly realizing that the Ying Yang Twins, those beloved identical spouts of rapist rallying tunes would — without question — come to my school.

In the days before the Twins’ arrival, I became powerfully aware of my own impotence: I could do very little to prevent the Twins and their euphoric, carnivalesque brand of patriarchy from coming to Yale, short of physically barring them entry, which would have been a comedic occasion for all parties. (Hint: I would have lost that game.)

Effluvia poured forth in a place where we learn. The Ying Yang Twins came, and your money, classes of 2012 and 2013, paid them. Fueled by the dues we all pay to the Yale College Student Activities Fund, with the majority of Yalies blithely carousing before them, the Ying Yang Twins unloaded their hateful speech — “you screamin’ you can’t take it no more. Beat the pussy so bad we done fell on the flo” — on Old Campus.

The Twins’ performance would not be the only misogynistic act between High Street and Phelps Gate that year. In October, the brothers of Delta Kappa Epsilon paraded around Old Campus, chanting “no means yes, yes means anal.”

T-Pain is coming to Spring Fling this year. Get ready to be dazzled.

Known for crooning “couple more shots you open up like a book” in that ditty “Blame it on the Alcohol,” which the Washington City Paper included in a list of the top 5 Rape Anthems, T-Pain will sing his songs and marginalize half of Yale’s student body, and we will pay him to do so.

T-Pain’s tunes neutralize sexual assault: “Baby let me rope you up / Tie you down / No matter how hard you buck / Gonna get wild all night.”

According to his lyrics, any woman is worth only as much as the pleasure she provides to the male population: “Take your motherf—ing shirt off, hey!”

T-Pain’s lyrics relegate the female sex to an infantile status: “Back breaker, put you over my knee woo / Put you on punishment woman and I’ll spank you.”

Good, T-Pain. Good, that’s what all Yale women want. Oh, and let me take my shirt off while I’m at it.

If you think I speak derisively, you’re right; I’m tired of writing dour, anti-Spring Fling columns. But lest my choleric voice cause you to ignore me, know that I want to save something you and I both love: Yale University.

Events like the Ying Yang Twins’ performance, DKE’s parade and T-Pain’s impending arrival have a common source. Our culture deems this rhetoric acceptable.

Only diction differentiates lyrics like “I’m going to f— you til you cry” from the equally violent, equally terrorizing “no means yes, yes means anal.”

These events reveal the toxic, subterranean aspects of a culture that is on the surface beneficent and smiling. These events tear us apart.

In recent months, our campus has undergone a revitalizing exfoliation in the attempt to change the sexual culture at this school. Gender is oft-discussed on this page, Yale has created a University-Wide Committee to manage sexual assault claims and Yale has created a position to manage Title IX complaints and policy integration.

Administrative discussion is not mere institutional cant. Even if it progresses rheumatically, Yale is not failing us. Administrative action is the best chance we have.

After Title IX, Yale’s administration is moving. But there’s much to be done. The Spring Fling Committee is importing a discourse that degrades and threatens members of our community. Yale women will to go to Spring Fling, and they will have to listen to someone disparage them. The decision to invite T-Pain is cavalier and disregards any progress we’ve made. Such a decision assaults our convalescent culture.

T-Pain’s unresisted authorized arrival is not an exception but an exemplar of the times: It shows us as we are and what — apparently — we want.

We’ve made strides in my years here, but sexism at Yale remains a severe problem. Our space is not T-Pain’s to desecrate. The adjustments we’ve made are fragile. They must be fortified.

T-Pain is not going to protect what we’ve built. Will you?

Kathleen Powers is a senior in Branford College. Contact her at kathleen.powers@yale.edu.

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