Letter to the editor

To the editor,

In light of the discussions regarding sexual assault at Case Western Reserve University in the last few weeks, I feel compelled to write in for the first time in my undergraduate career. I’ve been reading The Observer as long as I’ve been here, but I’ve never been so terribly disappointed in the paper until now.

To start, the editorial from Jan. 24 covered the issue of sexual assault and Greek life, specifically fraternities—but only to say that we should be focusing on the greater campus community instead of just one facet. But how can we have a conversation as a campus community without addressing the components of that community? This conversation cannot be just about “CWRU as a whole,” because it takes responsibility away from the many organizations that make up our school, including (but not limited to) residence halls, teams and clubs, classrooms and absolutely Greek life.

Considering the tone of the editorial, I was not at all surprised by the columns from Jacob Martin on Jan. 24 (‘Rape culture’ or just ‘culture’) and 31 (‘Rape culture’ or just ‘culture’ part II). Martin made a valiant attempt to examine the same subject with an open mind, but fails to understand exactly what he means to discuss.

Let me be as clear as possible: Rape culture does NOT refer to a culture that explicitly condones rape. The term “rape culture” has roots in militant feminism and is intended to shock and provoke reactions about a topic that most people would prefer to sweep under the rug. A simple search via Google provided me with a number of reasonable definitions, all of which come together to describe how cultural ideologies, media images and societal institutions support sexual abuse by normalizing and trivializing violence against women. Rape culture also includes the way victims are blamed for their own abuse by judging a victim’s apparel, choice to drink, choice to walk home alone or any number of things meant to excuse the attacker. Remember Steubenville, Columbia, UVA, Vanderbilt—all of these instances where efforts were made to blame everyone except the accused, especially the victim.

In his second column, Martin admits that we live in a sexist, misogynistic, chauvinistic society—these are all aspects of rape culture even if he, or anyone who reads this article, doesn’t like the term. I will freely admit that it isn’t perfect, but in my understanding sometimes we need strong terminology to get people to pay attention. To say that the phrase “rape culture” blows the issue out of proportion is to diminish the very real fear that potential victims of sexual assault face every day.

Leah Feitl

Leah Feitl is a senior studying two very heavily male-dominated subjects and would advise columnists that they should probably spend at least the smallest effort to research and understand what they would like to write about.