Though I have long since forgotten most Freshman Orientation activities, the showing of the movie “Relationships: Untitled” during orientation still stands out for me. To say that the film was appalling in every respect doesn’t come close to expressing the intensity of my anger at the ideas it perpetuated.
Its key point was self-evident: women ought to treat most, if not all, men with a good dose of suspicion. Dangers lurk around every corner, and a man who seems at first glance to be striking up an innocent conversation is probably doing so with evil intentions.
What was particularly saddening was the entirely inaccurate impression it gave of the wider social scene at Yale. Most men here aren’t sexual predators, and most women don’t think that they are. If “Relationships: Untitled” was a genuine representation of our campus, we’d be living in a miserable place filled only with men seeking opportunities to take advantage of women, who in turn exist in a state of constant and heightened vigilance. To misquote the admissions video, that’s not why I chose Yale.
I’d like to think that we’re better than this. I’d like to think that we can treat important issues with a sense of dignified moderation, not with scaremongering and hysteria. That’s why the actions of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity are so deeply regrettable.
However lurid their chants, I don’t believe that members of DKE were engaging in what the Women’s Center branded “a direct call for sexual violence.” But whether their actions were motivated by unmoderated exuberance or by some inherent misogyny isn’t really the issue. In their stupidity, DKE have conferred a renewed sense of legitimacy on wholly counterproductive projects like “Relationships: Untitled.”
This was demonstrated by the fact that DKE made their apology directly to the Women’s Center. I’m not suggesting that DKE didn’t need to apologize; they most certainly did. But they owed that apology not merely to a particular group on campus, but to the entire Yale community. An outbreak of such grotesque vulgarity pollutes the environment of every single member of that community, male or female.
Actions have consequences, and it is remarkably disturbing to think that not a single one of the DKE brothers or pledges stopped to consider the repercussions of their misjudged and inflammatory language. It is worse still to think that they did realize the potential results of their chants, but chose to continue regardless. Nobody has ever overstated the power of words, and the wounds that these ill-judged words have opened will take time to heal. Voices of sanity who share neither the attitudes of DKE nor the extremely pessimistic view of half of the human race espoused by “Relationships: Untitled” find themselves marginalized. Many will undoubtedly suggest that DKE’s actions are rooted in a lack of education. They’re not. They’re rooted in a childish and unthinking attempt to stir up controversy, and it’s an attempt that’s backfired spectacularly.
So it isn’t more education that we need, but rather a willingness to engage maturely, seriously and without exaggeration with sensitive and important issues. That’s a willingness that the overwhelming majority of students already possesses. It simply isn’t good enough to rightfully condemn DKE and then sit back and wait for the next incident like this. We need to move our discourse away from the taunts of the playground and toward the type of rational consensus that will, in time, create a more comfortable environment for everyone on campus.
But I want to end with a simple message. Thank you, DKE. For those of us who hoped that our comments and concerns might convince the administration to take a second look at the messages sent out by “Relationships: Untitled,” you’ve just made our job much, much harder.
Alex Fisher is a freshman in Morse College.