No Defense, No Excuse
Kathleen Reeder '03 wrote in May 2 column "Sex, Lies and Feminism" that "the failed feminist movement is feeding [young women] grossly inflated statistics and half-truths one in four college women has not been raped." A very good friend of mine once defaced his statistics book such that it was entitled "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics." Whether or not the one-in-four statistic or Reeder's refuting statistic (I assume she has one, although it was not in her opinion piece) are good examples of any of those three subsets of numbers, I am not qualified to say. What I am qualified to say (and I will say it even if I truly am not qualified) is that regardless of the truth of this statistic, some of Reeder's assertions are certainly not buttressed by her denial of the frequency of rape on college campuses.
For instance, it appears that by denying that a quarter of college women are raped, Reeder wishes somehow to strengthen the argument of the anecdote she offers: "Think back to last weekend. With the alcohol flowing, the dance floor spinning and the temperature rising, maybe you ended up behind a closed door hooking up. I'm willing to bet that any guy reading this saw his rendezvous as a great time -- the end. The girl, on the other hand, finds herself thinking about it, mulling over it -- and maybe wants to know why the guy hasn't blitzed or called."
I cannot express how saddened I am that this anecdote -- one that seems to pass the buck for an implied claim of sexual abuse onto the whimsy of a drunken female -- is what follows from "the reclamation" of feminism.
I am not a feminist. I could not begin to tell you what the tenets of "liberal feminism" are (as opposed to conservative feminism). I can't say whether or not Reeder's statistics are bogus. What I can tell you, and what I will vehemently insist, is that Reeder's editorial has at best ignored (and at worst down-played) through its simplistic anecdotal description, some of the most horrible and heart-rending things I have ever experienced in my life. At the risk of being disgustingly blunt, I would ask Ms. Reeder, what you would think if I took you to a party, got you drunk enough to set the room spinning, and you "ended up" behind a closed door with me? Hey, what a great time, right! Especially now that you've denied yourself the claim that I've assaulted you -- we just wanted different things!
The problem goes beyond this simplistic example. I am not the most sociable male on campus, and even I know far too many women that have been treated like garbage to believe that many others don't know more such women. Given the fact that all of us are likely close to someone that has been sexually abused (whether you know it or not), it is unconscionable to stand on a statistic and not even acknowledge the fact that there is, undeniably, a tremendous problem.
Would anyone, I wonder, dare stand on such a number if someone they loved were raped? This has nothing to do with feminism or equality or fairness. This has everything to do with basic respect for the rights of other individuals. This has to do with people being abused to the extent that there is no denial of that fact. It has to do with the fact that even as many people (yes, on this campus too) claim to be taking responsibility for their actions and endeavoring to stop such behavior around them, there are still others who are vehemently defending those very behaviors ("oh, it was harmless, he was drunk, he didn't mean it")! There is no defense for the violation of another person. None. There is no excuse. None. And there is no statistic that changes those principles. None that even begins to cast doubt on them. There are too many people, just at Dartmouth, who have been the victims or friends of the victims of sexual assault. How could one look them in the eye after denying their statistical significance?
I have been a friend to enough people that have been affected by situations like the one caricatured in Reeder's anecdote. I have shared their pain and grief, and as such I have been hurt (to a far lesser extent) by sexual violence. I wonder, as I consider this, how will thos de with Ms. Reeder's opinions look at me, knowing that I have too many times seen the tears in the eyes of the statistically marginal of whom she has written?