The right to read freely

It is troubling that a Sterling professor of French, R. Howard Bloch (“Why I like Yale-NUS,” March 19) would endorse Yale’s expansion into a country where students could not read, among other authors, the Marquis de Sade, whose works are banned in Singapore. Yes, a liberal arts education may help liberalize illiberal politics. It may offer students wider opportunities for the benign dilettantism Bloch finds lacking in discipline-driven higher education. But what is a liberal arts education without the chance for what Milton so righteously called promiscuous reading? Alas, a country in which students cannot read what they want to is a country absolutely incapable of supporting a Yale-like institution.

Ryan Pollock

March 20

The writer is a junior in Calhoun College.

The global fight for women’s rights

Elaina Plott (“The real war on women,” March 19) provides a series of cherry-picked examples which seem to imply that only Arabs are capable of discrimination against women. The great irony, of course, is in her third example; she fears (rightly so) the hypothetical abuses of an Islamic-majority parliament in Egypt, when actual abuses are happening right here in the U.S., home to a majority-Christian legislature.

All the actual abuses Plott cites occur in nations with monarchies funded, stabilized and supported by the United States. The United States supplies both Jordan and Saudi Arabia’s regimes with weapons used to oppress the citizenry.

Additionally, in 2009, there were 22 murders classified as honor killings in Jordan, a nation of 5.91 million. Proportionally, this would be equivalent to 1,117 honor killings in the U.S., with a population of 300 million. In 2005, 1,181 American women (roughly three per day) were killed by an intimate partner.

But what about rapes? The FBI reported 90,000 people — or 0.03 percent of the population — were raped in the U.S. in 2007. That year, there were 628 rapes — 0.01 percent of the population — in Jordan. Statistically, then, an American person is three times as likely to be raped as a Jordanian person is. Realistically, both these numbers are probably actually higher, since the vast majority of rapes go unreported.

Finally, a study published in Haaretz a year ago found that 61 percent of Israeli men and 41 percent of Israeli women did not consider forced sex with an acquaintance to be rape.

I’ll close with two points: firstly, just because things are bad in other countries, that doesn’t mean they aren’t awful here as well. And secondly, rapists and murderers are a diverse group of people – racially, religiously, and politically. If we wish to fight them, we must unite across these boundaries as well. Plott is right on one count – feminism does not belong to any one party, nor does the burden of the struggle fall strictly on the left.

Bassel Habbab

March 20

The writer is a sophomore in Morse College.