Saturday, November 6, 2010

Yale Frat Proves Itself Particularly Insensitive to Issues of Sexual Assault

Fraternities at North American universities have not been traditionally recognized as particularly sensitive to issues surrounding sexual assault (…or women).

Thanks so much Yale for proving us right.

Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity has recently come under media-fire for making their pledges march around campus (and stopping outside an all-female dorm) and chanting “No Means Yes! Yes Means Anal!” among other declarations mid-October.

There has been outrage, from within as well as outside of the Yale community. DKE has issued an apology swiftly. Here is an excerpt:

The brothers of DKE accept responsibility for what we did, and want to sincerely apologize to the Yale community. We were wrong. We were disrespectful, vulgar and inappropriate. More than that, we were insensitive of all women who have been victims of rape or sexual violence, especially those here at Yale. Rape is beyond serious – it is one of the worst things that any person can be subjected to. It is not a laughing matter, yet we joked about it.

They have agreed to work with the Yale Women’s Center to create dialogue on campus around sexual violence.

I think we can all appreciate the sentiment. And while I can recognize that these boys were young, drunk and stupid and accept their apology as sincere, this is certainly not an isolated incident at Yale let alone in a larger university culture.

There’s something bigger going on here.

Salon recently interviewed an anonymous member of DKE. When asked about his previous experience as a member of the fraternity he was quoted as saying:

“Since I've been here, DKE has never actively promoted misogyny. This particular incident is an example of a thoughtless and hurtful joke, not an indication of a dangerous culture.”

I’m not so sure I agree. When a group of men are running around screaming, “No means Yes!” they are not taking consent seriously. Consent does not seem to be important to them at all. It’s even less funny when you take into consideration that 1 in 4 women in university have been sexually assaulted or experienced an attempted sexually assaulted. Or the fact that, in one survey, over half of college men reported that they have engaged in sexual aggression on a date1

Words are important. They matter and they represent ideas; in this case dangerous ideas about consent that result in the physical and emotional harm of real people every day.

The pledges of DKE may feel sorry and embarrassed for doing what they did (or maybe for getting caught) but forgive me if I don’t totally buy the idea that this fraternity or others like it are not misogynistic. McGill is not exempt from this. Remember, that awesome Engineering Frosh chant from a few years back?

I’m glad that the Women’s Center at Yale was able to turn this disaster into a learning experience for everyone. We definitely need more forums to discuss sexual assault on university campuses. It just sucks that such an awful event had to occur to spur one.

Related Links:

The Last Straw: DKE Sponsors Hate Speech on Yale’s Old Campus via Broad Recognition

Yale Frat Punished for Stupid Chant via Jezebel

Privileged boys, impoverished ethics via Feministing

Yale frat boy talks about "thoughtless and hurtful joke" via Salon

The Daily’s Amelia Schonbek tackles the notion that a song is just a song via The McGill Daily


No comments: