In discussions around campus about Mohsin Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist, I heard drastically different opinions on protagonist Changez’s relationship with Erica. I heard fellow students asking hard, important questions about whether Changez raped Erica and about what constitutes affirmative consent in the situation in which we witnessed the two characters.
Of course, I have my own feelings about the book’s scene, but what I mainly enjoyed was hearing my friends debate an often-avoided issue. We had numerous discussions about affirmative consent and the definition of rape in English classes, at sit-down tables, in the dorms, at Scroll meetings, during peer tutoring duty, and more, and we are a better community for it.
Coincidentally, on the same day that Hamid spoke at Deerfield, Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of the Senate about her own sexual assault story. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that I unequivocally and unconditionally believe her, just as I believe Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas from 27 years ago.
Many people asked me why I so immediately believed Blasey Ford, even before the hearing. It’s because she had nothing to gain, and everything to lose, in coming forward. And while I believed her immediately, one has to look no farther than her passed polygraph and her request for the FBI to investigate, as well as all the death threats her family has received, to know where the truth lies.
I stand with millions of other Americans when I say that Christine Blasey Ford is a national hero. She did what nobody should have to do. She shouldn’t have needed to be perfect, to be apologetic, and to be gracious, to be believed. But she was. And in telling her story, she has served as a model for thousands of women now coming forward to talk, sometimes for the first time, about their own experiences with sexual assault or rape.
And through watching Kavanaugh testify, so many young men across the country had the opportunity to learn an important lesson. They learned that their actions against women matter, and that youth is never an excuse.
As the story played out in Washington D.C., here at Deerfield, we were talking. We were thinking. We were shaping one another’s understanding of such a critical piece of history. And it was magical.
Let’s keep doing this. Let’s keep digging into complicated events and challenging each other’s initial assumptions, whether it be through writing a Scroll opinion piece, a talk with someone who lives on your hall, or a discussion with your advisory.
And more specifically, let’s keep a dialogue about gender and sexual assault going. So often it can feel as if it’s such a personal topic that we must avoid discussing it in explicit ways. Let’s make an effort to have a continuous community-wide discussion; we’ll all be better for it.
All the best,