Letter to Biddy Martin, in Response to Ali Safran's Letter

Dear President Martin,

I am a junior at Mount Holyoke College, an I am writing to you about the recent controversies at Amherst College. I am also writing in response to a letter written to you by my good friend and fellow Mount Holyoke woman, Ali Safran ’14. Ali and I are good friends and I respect her as a feminist and an activist. I feel that her opinions are strong and valid, however, I do not fully agree with her approach in writing her letter. In regard to the handling of Angie Epifano’s rape, I do not think fault lies entirely with the administration of your predecessor, President Marx. Instead, I blame our society’s aversion to discussing rape as a legitimate sociopolitical epidemic and a lack of addressing it as a real crime that is never the fault of the victim. As a feminist, I feel that this is largely because accusation and prosecution is based on the testimony of women, and internalized sexism has taught us that a ‘woman’s word’ simply is not enough. This needs to change, especially on college campuses.

In regard to the fraternity t-shirt, President Martin, I would like to refer to your work with Chandra Mohanty, featured in the book Feminism Without Borders. While they may seem slightly unrelated, I would like to point out
the apple in the woman’s mouth, she is silenced. One of the major things that I took from Feminism Without Borders is that all women, regardless of their global position, deserve a voice. President Martin, I work for the
Mount Holyoke College Office of Admission, and I understand that a college must take their public perception into consideration, but by keeping the fraternity shirt controversy from the public, Amherst College failed to give
the woman on the shirt a voice. I blame the college, not exclusively you, because I know that there are many people with power and agency at Amherst with whom you collaborate in leadership. I also disagree with the closed-door nature of your October nineteenth meeting. In regards to the handling of the shirt, I do not think that as a woman you should feel any more shame than your predecessors or your male colleagues. All people should be ashamed of the shirt, as it speaks volumes about collective society. Acts like the creation of the shirt should provide us with an opportunity to be critical of social constructs that that change blatant sexism into ‘harmless jokes.’

This is a subject on which all people need to be heard.

As a student at a historically women’s college, I understand that my exposure to collegiate sexual assault and rape culture is by no means eradicated, but it is lessened. However, I identify myself as privileged ally to those who have been exposed to and affected by rape culture. I have been to Amherst’s campus many times, most recently to cover the October nineteenth protest, and I would return again in a similar journalistic capacity. I will continue to cover the discussions on collegiate rape culture awareness that these controversies have brought forth. Awareness is one thing, action is the next, much more difficult step that I and many others would like to see. Therefore President Martin, I ask that you remember to silence no one, and keep in mind the mistakes of the patriarchal past as you move forward. I do have faith that you have agency to do so. As one student in a valley of 35,000 I am willing to help in any way I can.