Editor's note: This letter to the editor is a response to an opinion column written by Sam Dittmar and published in The Daily Nebraskan on Oct. 27, 2016. The original article can be found by clicking here.
Dear Sam Dittmar,
Let me introduce myself as a former editor at the Daily Nebraskan. I firmly believe in an independent editorial section and the importance and role of a diversity of fact-based opinion pieces. That being said, I must say that I was appalled when I read your article, “Counterpoint: Modern Feminism is based on lies.”
I believe your point (though loose at best) is that we, as American feminists, must check and use our own privilege to refocus our work toward the plight of women across the globe. I agree that the fight for women’s rights should have no borders. But I must also point out the glaring hypocrisy in that argument coming from you. You are a white, educated, American male. At no fault of your own, you were born near the pinnacle of privilege. Therefore, I would encourage you to use that position of privilege to help the women around you. Perhaps you think you are helping by writing this article. But then you haven’t actually taken the time to listen to women.
Your point is as weak as that of a parent saying to a child “eat what’s on your plate without complaint because there are starving children in Africa.” Yes, what happens to women in some other cultures is horrendous. No woman, self-proclaimed feminist or otherwise, is refuting that. But that fact doesn’t give you the right to wave your hand over the problems women face here in our own country.
You say that this issue should be an “intrinsic moral imperative for ALL cultures” and “it is especially important that we have honest discussions concerning real problems.” Then let me open up an honest discussion – one that I am saddened you have so clearly closed your ears to.
I was sexually assaulted more than two years ago. I’ve only recently been able admit that phrase to myself and others, largely because I’d internalized the arguments of people like you.
I was blacked out and woke up with an acquaintance curled up next to me. He had taken some of my clothes off, had persisted after I said no. He left visible bite marks. Though I don’t remember much of what happened that night, what I do remember makes my stomach churn each time I think about it. Hearing arguments like yours are both offensive and painful. What I experienced falls into a category that you implied doesn’t qualify as sexual assault. Then what else was it? See, that’s not yours to tell me. Just because you likely will never understand how violating that experience really is, does not mean you can tell me or any other survivor that our reports are any less justified by your definition of assault. We’ve seen this in the media and the political arena lately but that’s a whole other conversation.
As a journalist, I am deeply disheartened by the recent quickness to spew off numbers, research and facts and then completely disregard them simply because they counter your personal beliefs. You work for a newspaper and I pray that you understand the danger in that tendency. I expect that you are receiving the level of outrage you expected. Your article was offensive and did not present a supported argument. You could have had a very valid topic – helping suffering women abroad. Instead, you skimmed over that idea and tried to support it by writing about realities you so clearly don’t understand. I would encourage you to ask four women about their experiences with sexual assault to better understand the statistic you tried to discredit. However, until you proved some sensitivity to this issue, I wouldn’t wish that conversation upon any sexual assault survivor.
There are several other points I could dissect and refute but I will refrain. You already cherry-picked facts and ideas from your “research” and I don’t want to give you the chance to do that in this email. I pray that the messages you receive help broaden your worldview with honest discussion. After all, that’s what you called for.
On a final point, let me clarify: I’m a feminist not just because of what I’ve experienced, not even because I’ve so often felt silenced as a woman. I’m not a feminist because I want to send emails to privileged white men. Rather, I’m a feminist because I’m incredibly proud of what feminists before me have accomplished.
However, we still have a long way to go. This metaphorical bridge of progress you refer to is still paved with ignorance. It’s haunted with men who don’t understand the concept of consent and littered with the countless ways women are made to feel “less than.” If this bridge were not just a weak extended metaphor in your article, I’d invite you to take a walk on it with me. That would require you to truly listen, to set aside your privilege and realize the cracks in the cement support pillars aren’t just a figment of the imagination of raging feminists. And sure, there might be bigger cracks on a bridge across the ocean. But that doesn’t mean that the bridge we are standing on is any less dangerous.
A proud self-proclaimed feminist and former editor at the Daily Nebraskan