Yale Daily News Editorial on DKE Rape Song Gets It Dangerously Wrong on Rape Culture

Responding to an ugly episode by Delta Kappa Epsilon, the Yale Daily News just barely avoids saying "boys will be boys" in an editorial dangerously dismissive of concerns about rape culture.

Today, we published a powerful condemnation by Will Neville, our colleague from Advocates for Youth, of Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon pledge stunt encouraging rape.

In a comment, one of our regular readers and participants at Rewire, Crowepps, linked to an editorial by the Yale Daily News in response to what must have been the widespread reaction by women’s groups to the DKE episode.  I have to thank her for the tip.

And boy, does YDN get it wrong.

Calling the DKE stunt an effort to “push the right buttons to get a rise out of others,” and the chanting “idiotic,” YDN goes on to say:

And yet, as groups rushed to condemn the foolhardy DKE bros, they threw overwrought epithets, some almost as absurd as the chants themselves.

What was almost as absurd as the chants themselves?  According to YDN, the response by the Yale Women’s Center and feminist blog Broad Recognition that called the chants “an active call for sexual violence.”

We do not believe that a drive to inspire rape motivated the young, impressionable brothers on that cold Wednesday night. As the Center responded with histrionics, what could have been an opportunity for our campus to maturely and gracefully reprove public stupidity and affirm mutual respect turned into a daylong, private spat. Although the fight was, ostensibly, resolved on Thursday with DKE’s apology, the rest of us were left unsatisfied.

I can not speak to other issues raised about past actions of the Yale Women’s Center also critiqued in the editorial. 

I can say this:

Rape culture is deeply embedded in U.S. society and has found sympathizers as high up in the political food chain as Senators. Congressmen, and Presidential candidates.  It is often tolerated in business.  And many of those illustrious leaders of politics and industry come from Ivy League schools like Yale.

What the Yale Daily News misses, dismisses lightly, or completely ignores, is the fact that the majority of sexual and gender-based violence experienced by women in the United States and elsewhere in the world comes at the hand of intimate partners.  Translation: People women already know.  Their dates, their husbands, their partners. Their frat “brothers.”  Their male teammates.

In fact, as a series of reports by the Center for Public Integrity revealed, sexual assaults on campuses are widespread and are often committed by repeat offenders who suffer few or no consequences. Universities, by making light of such assaults, in fact perpetuate the culture of rape and assault that under-gird the notion that “No means Yes.”

In fact, in an article on this issue for Rewire, Sarah Martino wrote:

For the past twenty years, experts on sexual assault, victims’ advocates, and students and their parents have repeatedly called on colleges and universities to take rape seriously and live up to the standards that, beginning with 1990’s Campus Security Act, have been outlined in Federal law. And for the past 20 years most schools have not been paying attention. Last week the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) launched the second series in a three-part investigative report on campus sexual assault, exposing what they call the “culture of indifference” on college campuses that allows perpetrators to go unpunished and re-traumatizes rape survivors. Indifference may indeed be putting it nicely.

So YDN misses the point when it says:

Feminists at Yale should remember that, on a campus as progressive as ours, most of their battles are already won: All of us agree on gender equality. The provocateurs knew their audience’s sensibilities and how to offend them for a childish laugh. They went too far. But the Women’s Center should have known better than to paint them as misogynistic strangers and attackers among us, instead of members of our community; after all, they once partied in the brothers’ basement.

In fact, it is most likely that rapes on a campus like Yale do come from the attackers “among” them.  And that is part of the broader problem.  The very facts of intimate partner violence, of date rape, of transgressions made when too much alcohol is consumed, and the very fact of editorials like these in response is the foundation of the problem writ large.

Moreover, it strikes me as demeaning and insulting for YDN to state:

We would all do well to remember that, at Yale, the effectiveness and inclusiveness of women’s advocacy is inversely proportional to its radicalism.

At Yale, and at every other university and in every other frat house, they would do well to look in the mirror and see if their understanding of the issues is proportional to the reality of rape culture in and on campuses throughout this country.