At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Laura Smith, president of Yale labor union UNITE HERE Local 34, reminded Yalies everywhere that Annie Le’s MED ’13 murder is but one tragic example of the continued victimization of women around the world.
Despite the pervasiveness of violence against women, the words we use to describe Le’s accused killer — monster, psychopath, evil — are meant to distinguish him from “us.” While these words certainly may apply, Le’s tragic death came on the heels of another, if understandably less newsworthy, attack on women perpetrated by men from inside the Yale community: the “Preseason Scouting Report,” the e-mail rating freshmen girls’ attractiveness.
Although I emphatically do not equate such an e-mail with Le’s murder, both attacks contribute to an unwelcoming and unsafe climate for women on Yale’s campus. Whether sexual in nature or not, any act that objectifies women decreases the value of and respect for a female life. And it paves the way for dehumanizing acts that rob us of friends, daughters and fiancées.
My heart goes out to Le’s family and friends. As we move forward from this tragedy, ensuring women’s safety is regrettably not just a matter of stationing police in a lab basement to keep outlier “monsters” at bay. Creating a world where women are not only physically safe but also respected must begin with us: We should root out those who wrote the “Scouting Report” e-mail and show them that we will not stand for a community that objectifies women, strips them of their humanity and thereby places them in danger.
The writer is a 2009 graduate of Calhoun College.