Rural students are people too.
Three things you need to know about me: my entire family’s income does not exceed
$50,000 per year, I live in a town with fewer than 2,000 people and, by many senses of the word, I am a redneck. I fix cars, drive trucks, go fishing and handle livestock. While the “Redneck Dilemma” was not targeted specifically towards the low-income rural students at Yale, its publishing represents the greater issue of the existing disparity between the perception and reality of rural students.
I was shocked when the “Redneck Dilemma” was published by the News last week. My expectation was a humorous well-intentioned jab at rural Tinder and perhaps the online dating scene as a whole; Instead, I read a not-so-thinly veiled classist rant that revealed the author’s frustrations with her hometown. The author guides readers through the dating culture of her hometown in rural Montana, taking on the tone of a researcher who observes the courting rituals of low-income, rural men. She dubs them “Montanus idiotus” in the article.
The author analyzed a Tinder profile of the so-called “Montanus idiotus” with noticeable venom: “Perhaps it was the not-so-subtle bloody fingers and proudly grubby cheeks, sure markers of a blue-collar worker with a hunting hobby.” While we are running on the assumption that blue-collar workers aren’t people, we may also extrapolate that some 60 million people in the United States are somehow less human because of their income. I do not believe that the author was choosing to make this claim. However, it is the implicit assumption of creating a new species name for low-income, rural people.
As the author presents her research on the world of Montana Tinder, the participants are further dehumanized in the speculation on their mating calls and rituals which are deemed “primitive” during the article. The entire premise of Tinder could be criticized for its primal nature, so the specific usage of this qualifier for low-income rural Tinder users demonstrates a stark bias. In describing the typical blue-collar, rural man, the author painted a bleak portrait of a bigoted, racist, homophobic misogynist. This is a far reaching and damaging stereotype. These abhorrent qualities exist in rural communities as they exist everywhere, but it is a markedly false blanket assumption that being rural entails these characteristics. I have found rural people to be overwhelmingly intelligent, compassionate, encouraging and respectful to all people.
In truth, I take far less issue with the article itself than with the willingness of the News to publish such a piece without revision or clarification.
The News, as a publication reflective of the Yale community, has evidenced the work that must be done to remediate elitist biases within the university culture. How can we allow issuing of content like “The Redneck Dilemma” without caring about who this may impact? Publications like this decrease the unity within the student body, perpetuating stigma that makes rural students feel like exotic pets of Yale.