Yale Daily News blames the victim
Last Wednesday, pledges from Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity paraded through campus past the area where most first-year women are housed and toward the Yale Women’s Center shouting, “No means yes, yes means anal.” Almost immediately, a video of the initiation was posted on YouTube, and in the days following the appalling incident, the blogosphere exploded with reactions and responses. Women’s groups spoke out against the misogynistic episode and numerous articles were written attacking DKE and the event, including Vaidehi Joshi’s powerful column on Tuesday.
At Yale, President Dick Levin and the dean of Yale College published a statement condemning Delta Kappa Epsilon’s actions, and students openly expressed their outrage and disgust. The Yale Women’s Center said that Delta Kappa Epsilon’s actions treated “sexual violence as a joke” and that its chants, “when taken at face value,” were a “call to commit rape.”
Almost as upsetting as the DKE incident was the Yale Daily News’ response to it. In its staff editorial published on Monday, titled “The right kind of feminism,” the News failed to address the most serious issue raised by this incident—the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses, including Yale’s. Instead, it attacked the Women’s Center, while letting the brothers of DKE off with a slap on the wrist.
The editorial admonished the Women’s Center for its “initial overreaction,” saying that it “responded with histrionics.” Chastising the Women’s Center for rushing to “condemn the foolhardy DKE bros,” it criticized them for throwing “overwrought epithets, some almost as absurd as the chants themselves.” In minimizing the severity of the chants and equating the brothers’ outrageousness with the Women’s Center’s response, the Yale Daily News completely missed the mark.
Its editorial essentially blamed the Women’s Center for the incident, and in doing so, the Yale Daily News made a dangerous mistake. It neglected an opportunity to use its significant influence to demand a change in Yale’s culture. Unsurprisingly, readers were outraged by the editorial board’s lack of moral and journalistic standards, and the newspaper published a half-hearted editor’s note acknowledging regret for “the tone, and many of the phrases” that had been published.
As the foremost journalistic organization at Yale, the Yale Daily News had a responsibility to make a strong statement against last Wednesday’s events. Hopefully Yale students will reject the Yale Daily News’ approach, and will choose to condemn the fraternity’s inexcusable actions instead of attacking the strong reactions that followed.
The News needs to do some soul-searching. It needs to apologize sincerely and consider some personnel changes. Because its words really did do damage.
As Vaidehi wrote in her column, this incident reminds us that we must remain vigilant. And that it is our responsibility—as individuals and as a university—to protect, not blame the victim.
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