This week some boys marched around the Yale campus shouting slogans including "no means yes," "yes means anal," and "I fuck dead women." They were clearly seeking attention. Fine. Here.
According to the many emails we received about their little stunt, some pledges from fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon walked around campus Wednesday night chanting this:
My name is Jack
I'm a necrophiliac
I fuck dead women
and fill them with my semen
No means yes
Yes means anal
Fuck Al Qaeda
Fuck Al Qaeda
[note: this one was said quickly and angrily, not broken up into syllables]
Well, at least they were patriotic about it. But yes, obviously this is offensive — it's also obviously a ridiculous and desperate attempt to bait anyone willing to take it seriously. And they were, in fact, canny in this regard; adding the bit about Jack the necrophiliac pretty much ensured that anybody who did get outraged would look pretty silly. This didn't stop the Huffington Post from picking up the story, which they ran under the headline, "Yale Fraternity Apologizes For Chanting 'I F—- Dead Women.'" What? Is this The Onion?
The Yale Women's Center is apparently planning a campus-wide discussion today, and maybe it'll be a good opportunity for Yale students to combat sexism and the problems of rape culture. Maybe it's true that, as Kathryn Olivarius told the Yale Daily News, "there is not enough education about sexism and other prejudices at Yale" — that's certainly true of most places. "No means yes" is an attitude that's all too real and needs to be corrected — and maybe this incident will help Yale move toward correcting it. I just wish they didn't have to start with giving asshats exactly what they want by reacting to their transparent pleas for attention.
We've received emails describing the Yale incident in terms like "solemn," "disturbing," and "horrific." But if this is all dudes have to do to horrify us, aren't we giving them a little too much power? And what words are left over for the truly horrific things women unfortunately have to endure? Our outrage will be taken less seriously if it's so easily earned — and we need to be taken seriously for when real bad shit goes down.
Getting all up in arms about Jack the necrophiliac is like yelling at your little brother when he pokes you — he's just going to do it again. And in this case it's worse, because it just allows Yale students to fall into stereotypical campus roles — frat boys say dumb things, feminists get mad, frat boys apologize (we're sure they're really sorry), nobody learns. This predictable dance ends up making both sides look bad, and it makes it all too easy to claim that feminists are consumed with minutiae when in fact we definitely have bigger fish to fry. Absolutely, let's have a dialogue about rape culture and how to combat it. But let's have it on our own terms, not terms dictated by a chant that's frankly extremely silly.
I know we call out a lot of misogynist "jokes," rants, and other bullshit on this blog. We're not going to stop. Sometimes a supposedly satirical comment reveals something deep and fucked-up about the culture that produced it, a not-so-secret belief that whatever's being presented as humor is in fact the truth. And sometimes a chant is just a chant, a nakedly obvious attempt to piss people off for the sake of pissing people off. Paying too much attention to the latter has a way of trivializing the former — and it also makes us look bad.
DKE Apologizes For Pledge Chants [Yale Daily News]
Yale Fraternity Apologizes For Chanting "I F—- Dead Women" [Huffington Post]
DKE Chants On Old Campus Spark Controversy [Yale Daily News]