To the Editor:
As a freshman in high school, I had to write a paper on the John Scopes “Monkey” trial. Everyone knows the story: A teacher from Tennessee, a brilliant lawyer and the ACLU challenge the norm and begin a national, still ongoing, debate about the value of teaching evolution in public schools. The catch is — they didn’t actually win the case.
I think that the Women’s Center’s threatened suit is analogous in that its goal is not to seek punitive redress of grievances but rather to raise awareness of, stimulate discussion about, and propose solutions to the latent and not-so-latent sexism which exists even on liberal college campuses like Yale. In this respect, the Center has definitely delivered.
Dialogue about the incident is all over campus. I spent about an hour in my bathroom Monday night talking to two guys and a girl from my entryway about the implications of the picture and the level of propriety of the response to it. Though we diverged on finer points, we unanimously agreed that the fact the conversation had happened at all was definitely excellent and a positive result of the Women’s Center’s initiative. I have had comparable conversations with nearly everyone I have talked to this week: friends, professors, suitemates, my parents, random section-mates I hardly know. THIS CAN ONLY BE A GOOD THING.
The main problem with sexism at Yale is that most people are apathetic to it because it is subtler now than in previous decades. Of course everyone would be up in arms about a clear rape case or workplace discrimination, but how many would even think twice about a fraternity hosting a crush party essentially revolving around free drinks for hand-picked girls (who happen to be majority freshmen)? The Zeta Psi picture is a rare, concrete, recorded example of sexism to which the Women’s Center can focus attention and say definitively “This is wrong.” Such examples are necessary to kindle campus discussion and prove to the population that feminism still holds a highly relevant, much-needed, and too often underappreciated place on campus.
Let us not forget that the women of the Women’s Center board are not caricatures looking for any opportunity to prosecute men. Rather, they are a group of individuals who care deeply about social justice and who are trying to turn an offense incident to the advantage of their cause by initiating a course of action which will most stimulate serious thought, analysis, and dialog amongst a perhaps otherwise indifferent and inured community.
Therefore, agree or disagree with them; but at least respect their action and the intent behind it. I, for one, am proud to be a Yale feminist.
Blades is a sophomore in Saybrook College.