You’ve already heard about DKE. We all know that a group of pledges stained our community with disturbing, painful language. I, along with the vast majority of the Yale student body, believe that this was wrong; the Women’s Center believes that this was wrong; the brothers of DKE know that this was wrong.
You’ve probably also read the Yale Daily News editorial published Monday. In “The right kind of feminism” (Oct. 18), the News chose to disparage seven students — the Women’s Center board — for the outraged tone of their initial response. I will not add my name to the list of those instructing women how to be feminists, nor should the editors of the News.
Instead, I want to broaden the conversation and enlist Yale men in support of Yale women. I believe the News shared this goal but failed to achieve it through mistaken dismissal of feminist battles as “already won.” This is simply not the case. The very subject of Wednesday’s chanting mocked one of the scariest battles of all.
Rape is not alien at Yale. Perhaps the unfamiliar, repellent phrase, “sexual violence,” with its connotations of armed strangers in the dark, has distracted us from the familiar stories we hear friends whisper on Sunday mornings. About a woman who wanted to go home, but not be rude; who wanted to hook up, but not have sex; who can’t remember what happened after the party; who, according to a guy, “wasn’t that into it.” You don’t have to remember freshman orientation to know: these are the masks often worn by rape at Yale.
When we refuse to talk honestly and openly about acquaintance rape; and when a group of male students follow my friend across Old Campus, shouting out sexual claims on her body; and when the “Preseason Scouting Report” earns multiple panlists’ approval before raising any red flags, I don’t think we can claim that the battles against sexism are won. Honestly, of all the avenues of insensitivity available to us these days, we at Yale have worn the path of misogyny most publicly in recent years. From co-education’s delayed arrival to “We Love Yale Sluts,” we have struggled to build a community in partnership between men and women.
And in regard to the many battles feminists have won, I suggest that the last thing women should do is rest on those victories and lower their voices. I trust the Women’s Center and other women on campus to keep talking about persistent inequality — what we need is for the men of Yale to join in.
I am not writing as President of the Yale College Council, which I am, nor as a radical or a woman, which I am not. I’m writing as a pretty average Yale man — or, perhaps, a Yale guy trying to earn that loftier title. I’m proud of how I’ve treated many of the women I’ve known here, ashamed of how I’ve treated others, and determined to do better in the future. I respect people who stand up for themselves and who dare to use unequivocal language in times of crisis. Yale feminists, including the current Women’s Center board, are some of the people I respect most. Moreover, I know that only when I join their chorus in sincere commitment to gender equality do I respect myself.
No one’s asking you to parrot the Women’s Center — use your own voice and actions. Stop saying “slut.” Ask someone to dance before grabbing her hips. Give and receive enthusiastic consent. In these gestures, large and small, you can do your part in reforming our sexual culture. At Yale, feminism is still worth fighting for. If we care about the united strength of our community, men should join the cause. It’s our battle, too.
Jeff Gordon is a junior in Saybrook College and the president of the Yale College Council.