An Open Letter to the DKE Fraternity at Yale University

Hi guys,

You know how sometimes when you walk down the street and accidentally step in dog poop because some inconsiderate person has failed to clean up after his or her dog? It is really gross when that happens. It smells really bad. And it can be tough to remove the crap from the bottom of your shoe. Whenever this happens to me I feel really irritated at the jerk who failed to clean up after that dog, and left this pile of shit for me to step in. It always makes me wonder how anyone could be so self-absorbed as to not worry about the impact he or she has on other people. When I step in dog poop I also experience a deep revulsion on a visceral level. Stepping into this hideousness always leaves me feeling just a little bit contaminated.

I had these exact same feelings when I first heard about your recent sexist antics on the Yale University campus. (For those who haven’t heard, here’s what happened: this past week members of your DKE fraternity, as part of a pledge event, marched over to where the female student residences are located and began to chant horrible pro-rape slogans. In a unified voice, you yelled: “No” means “yes”! “Yes” means “anal”! “No” means “yes”! “Yes” means “anal”! “No” means “yes”! “Yes” means “anal”!)

Here is a brief audio link to these loud, frightening, hate chants:

Your message is clear: women are not allowed to say “no” to sex. If a woman says “no,” go ahead and rape her anyway. And if a woman does indeed consent to sex, go ahead and rape her anally. And there was a larger, unspoken, message here, too: While you women may indeed be our intellectual peers, you are not our equals. Outside of the classroom, you are playthings for us to use and abuse as we see fit.

Yale is one of the world’s foremost academic institutions. It attracts (in theory at least) some of the brightest minds we have. But of what good is all the brain power that is accumulated in places like your DKE fraternity when it is being used for this kind of anti-woman hate speech? My high school grades were too low for me to consider applying to Yale. But events like this (as well as Yale University’s lack of any significant disciplinary response to this atrocious situation) make me feel that my not quite having been “Ivy League material” is perhaps a pretty small loss indeed. Today, if I were formally associated with Yale, I would feel ashamed.

But there is another association that I share with you guys that is not so easy for me to escape – the fact that we are all male.

I identify as a man. I like being a man. And there are many, many other men whom I like and admire. Men are often funny. Caring. Inventive. But we also struggle at times. And as a man I struggle, too. I have great empathy for my own struggles and for the struggles of my fellow men.

Where my empathy and sense of connectedness with other men totally fail me, however, is when some men descend into sexism and outright misogyny – like you did that night. When you degrade women, you diminish your own humanity as well. When you do these truly disgusting things, you yourselves become truly disgusting in that moment. Your actions are not separate from who you are... they become a part of who you are. As Gandhi wrote: “A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, nothing else.”

The other night you DKE boys became the men who screamed pro-rape hate speech at women. You became the men who turned that entire area that houses female students into a hostile environment. You became men whom I never want to meet.

Your actions make me sad.

But they also make me angry. In asserting your twisted, disgusting, and disgraceful model of masculinity (Real men rape women!) you sullied all men. You helped to undo the work of good men who strive to create a model of masculinity that is based in love (and not domination), in compassion (and not abuse), in gender justice (and not male supremacy).

I spend a lot of time talking about how men are actually good people – or that men at least have the capacity to become good people. Men don’t have to be violent. Men don’t have to rape. Men don’t have to bully or harass. Men are better than that.

So I am angry with you DKE boys. I am angry that your actions helped to reinforce the sense that men are ogres. That men are vicious. That men are brutes. I am angry that you contaminated our shared existence as men.

And I am angry that instead of doing what I had intended to do today, I needed to take some time to scrape your stinking dog crap off my shoes.

Bill Patrick