Let us begin with a few propositions:
Mr. Gassó, Teenage Boy Wonder and adequate tennis player, once lacked the time to worry about women’s rights. He had few scruples.
My 18-year-old self had no sense of tact.
Pre-college Jordi would have laughed at (or worse, laughed WITH) the disreputable Delta Kappa Epsilon pledge chanting.
High-school Me was a twerp.
All tautologies! But what a difference three years can make. Well, somewhat. I’ve certainly become more acquainted with the extent of my occasional crassness and the confines of American political correctness, and how much they can overlap. This awareness has led to some subtle changes in my general thinking and gut reactions. Instead of giggling at a rape joke, I’ll now just sit there with a gloomy lump of awkwardness knotting in my throat; I’ve grown more and more interested in headlines about birth control regulation. Yet despite my “scrupular” upgrade, I still don’t fully grasp the societal standards expected by the more informed and assertive members of the Yale intelligentsia.
I didn’t pursue higher education in the U.S. to bear a “Yale Feminist” t-shirt — sorry but I’m not sorry. It was never my intention to come into contact with feminism; I merely overlooked that it was even a possibility. I don’t suppose the majority of people want to understand where I’m coming from. Diff’rent strokes for different folks! For the five readers who do want to understand, then it’s a little lame to hide behind simplistic platitudes.
The life lessons began on the pages of this newspaper. As a reporter for the News, I was assigned to the student affairs beat, a task that I undertook begrudgingly at first. A week after receiving my new responsibilities, controversy ensued. We all know the story, I hope. The DKE incident, outrage, an inflammatory editorial, more outrage, media circus, panels, committees, reports, sanctions. Fast-forward to a few months later and the Title IX hullabaloo explodes on the collective lap of our campus.
My particular year of reporting can be summed up with the catch-all euphemism and winner of THE Yale Word for 2011: sexual misconduct. I beg your pardon, sexual what? I had never heard of such a thing! In Latin America, sexism and sexual violence in all their variants are so rampant, yet so unspoken that they appear seamlessly weaved into our cultural fabric. Context could never justify these problems, but it can explain the apathy I’ve shown toward women’s issues for most of my existence.
Back at the YDN, in the midst of sleepless nights and fetal positions to the sounds of Mates of State, I faced a wave of realizations about sensitivity. Part of it was tough and even felt a little indoctrinating, especially when sources treated you like a student writing a term paper rather than an amateur journalist doing his job. Decisions by some of my editors burdened this path with nasty bumps, doing nothing but injuring our newspaper’s rapport with the student body. At times I found myself trying to mend burned bridges.
When you’re a reporter of the students for the students, specifically when dealing with a contentious subject, it’s very tricky to avoid growing attached to your story or to the views of one of your sources. While Newsie Jordi remained the objective eye in the midst of the media tornado, Student Jordi grew what I dub a tiny “feminist cartilage,” somewhere along my left tibia I assume. Not a bone, not an organ nor an alternate conscience, but a wisp of improvement in all of its gelatinous glory.
I might get a noogie from my closest editor for saying this, but because I’m no longer a beat reporter, I can freely tell you that the DKE chants were blatantly misogynistic. Also, I still owe a high-five to each of the Title IX complainants. That’s my feminist cartilage talking; two cheers for that watershed! Of course, these revelations are a far cry from the Mr Gassó who used to pay no mind feminist fancies, and I chalk it all up to my time as a reporter.
My constant coverage of matters of sexual misconduct at Yale earned me verbal accolades as well as a fair share of criticism. As such, I still have residual reservations regarding my contribution to our campus climate, so I’m not quite ready to claim some kind of expertise on the subject, or even attend an event at the Women’s Center just yet. Note: I’m good friends with some the Center’s members and I’m all for chocolate fondue, but sometimes I still worry there’s a dartboard hidden somewhere inside with my face as a target.
Now during my time off back home, this renewed part of me twinges a wee bit when I read about another victim of domestic violence, or when my driver catcalls every other chica walking down the street. The cartilage’s glaring presence lets me know there’s plenty of room for growth. Given my upbringing, that’s sizable progress. Baby steps, baby steps.