Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng

Reporter

Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.

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A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for ShoeComics.com. His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

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Read the Devastating Letter by a Harvard Sexual-Assault Survivor

| Tue Apr. 1, 2014 11:00 AM EDT

On Monday, the Harvard Crimson, the university's student newspaper, posted an anonymous letter written by a student and sexual-assault survivor. The student details the aftermath of the alleged assault that occurred last year, and discusses how Harvard University administrators profoundly failed her. (This sort of thing is hardly unique to Harvard; rape and sexual assault on college and university campuses across the country is a huge problem, as is too often the administrative response to such cases.) The letter, titled "Dear Harvard: You Win," was published one day before the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.

Here is an excerpt (read the whole thing—which is obviously tough to get through—here):

More than anything, I'm exhausted from living in the same House as the student who sexually assaulted me nine months ago.

I've spent most of 2013 fighting the Harvard administration so that they would move my assailant to a different House, and I have failed miserably. Several weeks ago, in a grey room on the fourth floor of the Holyoke Center, my psychiatrist officially diagnosed me with depression. I did not budge, and I was not surprised. I developed an anxiety disorder shortly after moving back to my House this fall, and running into my assailant up to five times a day certainly did not help my recovery.

[…]

Dear Harvard: I am writing to let you know that I give up. I will be moving out of my House next semester, if only—quite literally—to save my life. You will no longer receive emails from me, asking for something to be done, pleading for someone to hear me, explaining how my grades are melting and how I have developed a mental illness as a result of your inaction. My assailant will remain unpunished, and life on this campus will continue its course as if nothing had happened. Today, Harvard, I am writing to let you know that you have won.

[…]

The last time I met with my resident dean, I told my dean about my depression, and how I thought it had been caused by the lack of validation and empathy I had received from the Harvard faculty. I said that it would be immensely helpful for me to know that my dean, not as a school official but as a human being, understood my pain and empathized with it. I asked my dean to take a step back from the situation and to admit that I had not been served well by the Harvard system. My pleas were met with a refusal to comment and an argument that it was not an administrator's role to criticize Harvard's sexual assault policy.

If my resident dean refuses to question the current policy we have in place, then I will. Dear Harvard: You might have won, but I still have a voice. And I plan on using it as much as I can to make things change.

In response to this letter, the Undergraduate Council, Harvard College's student government, announced the formation of a task force to involve students in discussion of Harvard's sexual assault policies.

Harvard University public affairs did not respond to Mother Jones' request for comment.

UPDATE, April 3, 2014, 4:48 p.m. EST: A Harvard alumnus forwarded Mother Jones an email from Drew Faust, president of Harvard, announcing a presidential task force. The president's statement was sent out to the Harvard community on Thursday. Here's an excerpt:

After consultation with deans and others over recent weeks, I have asked Steven E. Hyman, Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology as well as our former provost, to chair a task force that will develop recommendations about how Harvard can improve efforts to prevent sexual misconduct and develop insight into these issues based on input from both within and beyond our community.

[...]

I believe that anyone in our community who hears the reports of those who have experienced sexual assault must share my sense of urgency to do all we can to address this issue. We must do better.

(h/t Jessica Testa)

Elton John Is Getting Married: "We're Living in Extraordinary Times."

| Mon Mar. 31, 2014 11:58 AM EDT
From left to right: David Furnish, Elton John, and Bill Clinton.

Singer/songwriter Elton John and filmmaker David Furnish are officially getting hitched. The couple, who have been in a British civil partnership for nearly a decade, announced that they intend to marry in an English registry office in May, in an intimate ceremony, with their two young sons and a few friends.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Furnish referred to the recent legalization of gay marriage in England and Wales (Saturday was the first day gay couples could legally marry in England):

We don't feel the need to take an extra step legally. But since we're committed for life, we feel it's really important to take that step, and take advantage of that amazing change in legislation. We all live by example...We're living in extraordinary times. My god, 20 years ago, when I started seeing Elton, if you asked me if I'd be able to get married, if I'd be able to have children, it was unthinkable, literally unimaginable.

You can click here to watch Elton John denounce Russia's anti-gay law during a Moscow concert last December.

Ricky Gervais Is Absolutely Right About Hollywood's Woman Problem

| Thu Mar. 27, 2014 4:35 PM EDT

In an interview with Radio Times, English actor and comedian Ricky Gervais expressed his frustration with how women are portrayed on TV and in Hollywood movies, especially comedies. (The 52-year-old co-creator of the UK's The Office was promoting his show Derek, which returns for a second season in April. He said his show will soon feature some "real, good, modern girl power.")

"I love writing interesting female characters because usually they're props, particularly in comedy," Gervais said. "Even in Hollywood, they're usually air heads or if they're ambitious they're straight away cold and need to be taught a lesson. They need to show that getting a man is more important than getting a career. Or they're just props for men to do funny things...People think that men rule the world but they don't, really. That was never my experience growing up and certainly not at Broad Hill [nursing home]. Men, when they're together, revert to the playground."

(Gervais is correct; Hollywood absolutely does have a womanand girl—problem.)

For this, Indiewire declared him the "Hollywood Feminist of the Day," which fits nicely with some of Gervais' other comments:

Gervais has also spoken about atheism, war, racism, rape jokes, obesity, Nelson Mandela, Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, and animal rights, typically in very funny ways.

Thu Jun. 12, 2014 5:51 PM EDT
Mon Apr. 28, 2014 12:48 PM EDT
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Thu Apr. 17, 2014 6:00 AM EDT