Rape is more complex than viewpoint suggests

To the Daily:
No one should have to tell James Dickson that falling back on the simplistic frame of good guy vs. bad guy is unsophisticated journalism (Don’t be afraid to challenge feminism, 03/06/07). He relies on the trope of feminists as extremists, one end of a spectrum that supposedly conflicts with his enlightened ideas for reform (i.e. petitioning for more safe ride programs and streetlights in Ann Arbor).

What Dickson fails to recognize is the complexity of combating the issue of rape. While surely the reformist action he suggests is vital, it is necessary to recognize how the F-Word’s green flyer campaign is addressing the cultural messages that contribute to an environment in which sexism and female objectification are often condoned or trivialized.

He writes that “no one supports rape except rapists,” which completely misses the point. It is not whether men and women support rapists, but whether we support a social and political environment that contributes to the objectification of women (in the media, at home and at work). It is this cultural environment that leads to cases of rape and violence against women, and it is thus important to engage in social activism that confronts this environment, while also seeking the reform he suggests.

Overall I ask why is it not OK to be “alarmist” about the issue of rape? When the front page of the Ann Arbor News on the same day that Dickson’s viewpoint ran describes the rape of a University student at knifepoint, why shouldn’t we be outraged and alarmed? If Dickson truly thinks the biggest issue concerning the F-Word’s campaign against sexual violence is its “alarmist rhetoric,” then shame on him.

Erin Cosens
LSA senior

Rape stereotypes lead to lack of understanding

To the Daily:
I would like to register my disappointment with the James Dickson’s viewpoint printed Tuesday (Don’t be afraid to challenge feminism, 03/06/07). A few of the themes of the article are insulting to both women and men.

Dickson’s major mistake is to imply that rapists are a category of people totally separate from college students in the statement, “no one supports rape besides rapists.” This is the same mistake that most college students make until someone they know is a victim of rape. Statistics show that rape most often occurs at the hands of an acquaintance or friend, someone with whom the victim may even have had consensual sex in the past.

Dickson continues this false assumption into his next few paragraphs: “Rapists are reviled and sexual offenders are required to identify themselves to local authorities whenever they move to a new neighborhood. Simply put, there is no amen corner for rape or rapists anywhere, yet some feminists still try to convince us otherwise.” He imagines that college women are raped by men in trench coats lurking in dark corners. This assumption is in itself insulting to logical people everywhere. Trying to shake students of this assumption should be our primary goal.

College women are, by and large, raped by college men – people who we all speak, eat and go to class with. That is a simple and sad fact.

I do commend Dickson for suggesting proactive changes that can be made to create a safer campus environment. But why did he not lead the article with these positive thoughts instead of attacking an important student group? The Daily’s editors should have thought seriously about whether this article even merited printing. I think they would have decided that it did not.

Ajay Prakash
Medical School

No sweat – University addressing labor issue

To the Daily:
I am writing in response to Tuesday’s viewpoint from the Sweatfree Coalition (‘U’ should go sweatfree, 03/06/07). The working conditions for people who manufacture university-licensed goods are an important concern for all of us. Thank you for the opportunity to explain the University’s position regarding the proposal for a Designated Suppliers Program developed by United Students Against Sweatshops.

The University’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights will host a public forum on the topic at 7 p.m. today in Room 2011 of the Modern Language Building. Students are invited to attend this session to learn more about the current situation of the DSP in the University’s deliberations and to express their views on this subject.

The University maintains a strong commitment to fair and lawful labor practices in the manufacture of its licensed goods. Neither I nor anyone else wish for our university to support sweatshops. We have a well-established Code of Conduct for Licensees designed to improve labor conditions for apparel industry workers and, in the advisory committee, an effective student-faculty-staff committee review process.

In April of 2006, after careful consideration of the DSP proposal, the advisory committee recommended that the University not endorse the DSP program at the time because of unanswered questions about its proposed structure, feasibility, potential unintended consequences and questions regarding how it would be implemented.

The advisory committee also recommended the University take steps itself and with other universities and organizations – such as the Fair Labor Association and the Workers Rights Consortium – to make its existing code of conduct more effective. University President Mary Sue Coleman accepted these recommendations. The advisory committee’s April 2006 report, President Coleman’s response and her original charge to the committee are available at http://www.ilir.umich.edu/CoLSHR/Index.cfm.

Most universities that have signed on to the principles of the DSP have done so with caveats and qualification. Michigan continues to monitor development of the DSP and has been participating as an invited observer in the DSP planning meetings. We think apparel workers will ultimately benefit because of the tough questions that the advisory committee and others are grappling with now. The advisory committee will report on the progress of the DSP and on its other activities before the end of the academic year.

Gary Krenz
The letter writer is special counsel to University President Mary Sue Coleman.

Laziness, not racism, makes students tune out

To the Daily:
In Wednesday’s Statement cover story (The subtle racism behind why you don’t like your GSI’s accent, 03/07/07), Gabe Nelson hits a number of relevant points about international GSIs and the intolerance they face. Although I agree with most of his discussion, I think the assumptions of racism are off base.

If someone is hard to understand it’s easy to have an aversion to doing the extra work to decipher the words. In the case of accents, we can take the positive approach of viewing it as an opportunity to increase our ability to communicate comfortably in the global world.

However, if someone doesn’t want to do this, I think it’s laziness, not racism. Consider the case of a GSI who mumbles or speaks too softly – in a perfect American accent. Not wanting to strain yourself to adjust is perfectly natural.

Of course, using this as an excuse for academic failure deserves criticism, but let’s watch the inflammatory condemnation – it is helpful to no one.

David Pederson
LSA sophomore

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