Getting Off The Bus

We walk to work on our tiptoes. We self-police our facial expressions, smiling enough to ingratiate but not so much as to risk not being taken seriously. We make sure that our voices are not too “shrill,” that we do not laugh too much. We read articles cautioning us not to show weakness by apologizing, although we know that doing so is a way to accommodate our coworkers when they feel threatened by our expertise. Even when there is nothing to apologize for, we say “sorry,” as if we regret our very presence in the workplace. And for good reason: the truth is that we are unwelcome.

I’ve been haunted the last couple of days by the image of Donald Trump looming over Hillary Clinton in the second presidential debate. This has been described as “creeping,” “lurking,” and “stalking,” and Trump has even been called a “walking trigger alert.” As the debate took place, some viewers took to social media to express their fear that Trump might physically attack Clinton during the proceedings.

Add to this the din of the Republican politicians who are suddenly shocked—just shocked!—at the indignity of women’s genitalia being spoken about in vulgar terms, which interferes with their right to conceive of us as their hypothetical and wholesome “wives, daughters, and sisters.” We are construed as extensions of them, not as speaking subjects with a right to have sex as well as to say no. The righteous want to “champion and revere” our genitals, as long as we ask their permission before seeking out the medical care those genitals need.

This messy mix of public and private pussy-mongering played itself out on the stage on Sunday evening. Given Trump’s own habit of treating his business as entertainment, it’s tempting to see his antics as more a personal tic or a boorish embarrassment than as an obstruction of women’s professional activity. That his own “business” has required women to wear evening gowns in the “office” further blurs the line between blithe recreation and self-regulation.  But as hard as it may be to remember that Access Hollywood is a workplace, we do well to remember that what happens on the bus does not stay on the bus.  Indeed, one does not have to work for Access Hollywood or in reality television to encounter aggressive, discriminatory coworkers who seem to think, “I can do whatever I want.”

Back to the image of Trump hovering behind Clinton: of course, he is seeking dominance by aiming to control the physical space, flaunting his physical size, disrupting and distracting from the business at hand. But what is the nature of the disruption and distraction?

Viewed just a few days after the abhorrent video was released, Trump’s belligerent pouting and intrusive pacing have a particular flavor.  His refusal to take the proceedings seriously recalls the way some treat the workplace as a playground. We had just seen and heard that video, with Trump revealing to another man, in private, what sorts of things he thinks women are. Appropriately, the video does not show him talking about “legs” and “tits” and “pussy,” but the video allows (forces?) us to hold a glass to the wall and witness the disgusting—a word Trump used to describe breast-feeding!—words. Only the exterior of the bus, the “wall” keeping us separate, is in view. When Trump and Bush exit the bus, we not only see the men who have been bantering, but we take in their somewhat more public personae: still creepy, to be sure, but with a thin veneer of cordiality over their grabbiness, pretending to their mark that they believe she is something other than a thing.

It’s telling how many headlines purport to reveal “the most disturbing aspect” of this video. And they are all correct. Indeed, as I write this commentary, I run across an article that acknowledges the discomfiting shift from private to public in the video.

Jessica Valenti writes, “In that moment, Bush and Trump are in on a joke and Zucker is the punchline.” And Susan Dominus wonders about Zucker’s experience in that moment:

Maybe Zucker thinks that she is in on the joke. But really, we know, the power is all theirs. It is not just that the two men have erased her as a person, during their conversation on the bus; it is that they share the knowledge that they have done so, silently, collectively, which amplifies their power over her. It is all unspoken, a clubby secret, a male form of control based on exclusion.

Hearing the men within the bus and then seeing how they behave when they disembark is unsettling; it makes one wonder what might be going on behind closed doors, not only on the Bushy Bus festooned with the word “access,” but in the conference room when one is home sick. (And again, we see a woman at work in clothing designed to be worn out dancing. No wonder Donald gets confused about how to behave!)

How often do we act in good faith, presenting ourselves professionally and responsibly, even as colleagues and professional contacts carry on entirely different conversations just out of earshot? Are such conversations about our legs, or about saddling us with legwork? Are they about “grabbing pussy” or grabbing credit for our research? Are they about being a “star” and thus able to get away with sticking one’s mouth on a woman without permission, or about putting words in her mouth, projecting one’s own unaddresssed psychological issues onto her in an email about tax regulations or expenses reports or copyright?  What sort of joke is it?

Trump looms over Hillary Clinton on stage. He paces and lurks like a pre-verbal ancestor lacking opposable thumbs. The differential in the candidates’ physical statures eerily reinforces the unequal statuses men and women experience in the workplace and elsewhere. (Just imagine if Clinton were to hover behind him making faces. This would never happen.)

It’s an Orwellian spectacle: a man interrupts a woman yet again, then, when corrected on it, boorishly disparages her by claiming that he interrupted what she was saying “because she’s got nothing to say.”

It’s not only his efforts to monopolize the physical space, and not only his flaunting of his size and his gender dominance. There is also that pout, the sticking out of the lower jaw. Are there Tic Tacs jostling about in that cavity, “just in case” a hottie in the audience asks him about carried interest and he cannot stop himself from slobbering all over her face? Trump uses his entire body to interfere with his opponent’s right to do her job, but I cannot help but focus on that mouth: the source of those abhorrent words, the instrument of interference, the untamed yapper that keeps trying to shut the woman up.

Having “not seen” Trump demean a woman in private (albeit in a corporate vehicle), only to meet her and pretend to treat her like a human being, I shudder to imagine what this thug, right here on stage, in this debate, might be saying silently. He is not behind closed doors now, but he is behind her, creating a male-only space we, but not she, can see. It’s like the workplace equivalent of cuckold ears (fancy that), or as if he placed a whoopee cushion on her seat. His inane showboating reminds us that she is acting too. If she is prepared, if she exercises self-control, perhaps “she’s not really” who she claims to be (although I for one want a president capable of self-aware behavior, not one who “tells it like it is” in lie after lie). Trump’s interference in Clinton’s presentation breaks the spell and even mocks our belief in the performance. He invites us to ridicule her for daring to assume such a role. She listens to others, takes their questions seriously, responds in complete sentences with enthusiasm and expertise—all with a man behind her silently boasting, “I can do whatever I want. She’s really an it. How silly of her to think we would listen to what she is saying!”

The fact that Clinton looms over him in qualifications, maturity, responsibility, impulse control, and even command of the English language, jars in the face of this display of male dominance and aggression. Watching the reality “star” mugging behind the former Senator and erstwhile Secretary of State eerily reminds us of the ways men are empowered to exploit their unwarranted privilege, even when we cannot see it. Speaking of us in unacceptable terms — sexually objectifying or not — and turning serious business into a circus, such overgrown adolescents hijack the political process, public life, and professional dealings. Before and after the legitimate meetings, made up of staged discussions of promotions and strategic plans, they retreat to their cushy buses with their own kind, speaking of us in ways that reassure them, again and again, that despite our qualifications, expertise, and performance, they are under no obligation to admit us to their club.

As he takes his stalking and sabotage public, Trump flaunts his unearned privilege, but he also reveals the imbecility and desperation of such plays for power. The only power he holds over Clinton is social: he is neither her supervisor nor her special prosecutor. He is certainly not her president. All he has is maleness. But he seems to believe himself her “star” who can do as he wishes, if not with her actual body, with the presentation of her body on stage. If this is how a man applying for the job of governing the country behaves in public, and after he has been caught out degrading women in private (again), one wonders what he, and others, might do behind closed doors when they do hold institutional power. And what women do when they are invited onto the bus cum locker room, only to find they are expected to dress up in skimpy waitress costumes and serve the cocktails, balancing the tray in one hand to give “the Bushy” a mandated hug with the other.

Workplaces seldom have an Anderson Cooper on hand to insist that coworkers answer the question of whether “grabbing pussy” constitutes sexual assault—or to interrogate a worker about whether taking credit for a female colleague’s work is theft. Nor do we have someone to insist that the looming bully hold his tongue when it is his female associate’s turn with the mic—or to ensure that our professional expertise and wisdom is accorded its proper place and monetary compensation. We do not have a Martha Raddatz to repeat the question, and repeat it again, when a bully too big for his too-often-discussed britches tries each time to wriggle out of the topic.

The moderators strove to maintain decorum. They resisted Trump’s apish antics. His dirty mouth was quieted, some, but its visual presence serves as a reminder of the way damaging words are born in the body. His lips expel offensive sounds, but that is not all: that orifice plants itself, uninvited, on women’s mouths, with only a speck of candy to cover over the bad taste. And the same mouth boasts about it later on.  Perhaps that is where we need a wall.

How many of us wish for a Cooper or a Raddatz to keep things in line at work? It might be nice to have a referee who could say, “Please allow her to respond. She didn’t interrupt you.” Or, “Provide the resources and climate necessary for her to do her job. She has every right to be here.” Even better would be to be entitled to say, oneself, “Do not interfere with my right to earn a living, to engage in public life, and to serve the citizenry, including you, with my expertise. You see, you can’t do whatever you want. And, by the way, I decommissioned the goddamned bus.” But we know that all too often such self-advocacy occasions a visit from the henchman attorney general or even a harsh prison sentence. One does not want to risk being thrown under the bus for thinking oneself a person.

It’s been said that one (the only?) positive outcome of Trump’s campaign is that he has exposed the misogyny many of us knew was there all along. The gaslight burns as bright as day. Trump degrades women behind closed doors, yet Clinton is chastised for advocating a distinction between public and private “positions.” (Tellingly, one commentator changes the words around and objects to her promotion of different “personas.”)  Trump boasts that he could commit murder without consequence, yet he implies that Hillary is “the devil,” literally demonizing her. He declines accountability for his objectionable behavior but holds her accountable for her husband’s actions of yore; unable to distinguish between the two partners, he even describes the rape victim whose assailant Hillary defended as a victim of Bill.  His negative projections know no bounds: he gives himself permission to bring his personal biases and flaws into public life, but inverts that for her, making the professional personal by claiming that she, as a public servant, harbors hatred in her “heart.”

Enough man talk. What do we women discuss in private? Do we gloat that we can “get away with” treating our coworkers’ genitals as public property, or do we steal credit for their labor? Do we argue over which colleague is worthy of our objectification, or do we allow personal bias to control which one we award a a promotion?   Do we rate their appearances on a scale of 1 to 10, or license ourselves to devalue the one whose expertise makes us feel insecure? No, we compare notes on how to get by in environments where some men do such things.

—Rose Marie McSweeney

If You See My Superhero On The Street, Kill Her

The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out.  They got that way because shit went wrong, and they handled it.  They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it.  Those women are my superheroes.

—Elizabeth Gilbert (Facebook Post, March 26, 2015)

Women are not required to suffer and “handle it” for me to admire them. They do not need to be superheroes.  They do not need to do anything to serve me.

We all suffer and manage as we can—or not. If one is going to invoke the greatness of “handling it” when “s*** happens,” it might be useful to distinguish between the inconvenience of waiting for the bus in the rain or finding that one’s favorite restaurant is out of squid pasta and the outrage of being undervalued, overlooked, underpaid, harassed, threatened, stalked, abused, beaten, raped, or killed—all of which happen to women every day simply because they are women. Idealizing “superheroes” who “handle it,” without elaboration, risks giving the impression that one approves of those things, that one is content with inequity, exploitation, even atrocity.

Replace “women” with “men,” and see how that sounds.

By admiring “s*** handling,” one disregards the matter of injustice—and we are not obliged to “handle” that either.  Not on our own.

Sure, rhapsodize about the gifts of suffering—there are many—but rhapsodize over one’s own, not someone else’s.

There is a tired old myth still circulating out there about women—a myth that says that we must be rescued, that we are fragile and helpless, that without external validation we collapse, and that disappointment and heartbreak and loss will destroy us.

—Elizabeth Gilbert (Facebook Post, March 26, 2015)

Another tired myth is that it is noble for us to withstand, to endure, without any expectation of relief or release.

If a woman loses her nerve, falls short of her goals, crumples in despair, or takes her own life, she is not failing to serve her purpose as my “superhero.”  She does not have to “handle it” for my sake.  She has the right be destroyed when destruction finds her.

Women (and others) who romanticize women’s suffering and endurance in the face of adversity—or outright injustice—have my compassion but not my admiration.

No matter; their value is not dependent on my admiration.  My opinion is irrelevant.

Yes, you are allowed to be sexist. And yes, I’m going to call you a sexist.

Thoughtful post by Marc Naimark.

Marc Naimark's writing and interviews _____________________________________________________

I’m a member of a Facebook group about language usage. A fellow member started a thread asking whether it was OK to use the word “freshman”, and if not, what alternatives exist. Just to be clear, the issue at hand is whether the “man” in “freshman” excludes women students.

There was some good discussion. I noted that I’ve recently heard many women students use the term “freshman” for other women students. Others wrote that terms like “first year” or “frosh” were favored in the schools they know.

And of course, there were the regular lot of men (only men) complaining about having to be “PC”. In their mouths, “politically correct” is an insult. For me, it means being inclusive, sensitive to others’ feelings and history, being gracious to others. For such traditional guys, it might even be described as simply being a gentleman.

Instead, we get stuff like: “So why…

View original post 771 more words

Who is Qualified? A Quiz.

As the Columbia University student tells it, the encounter was harmless fun: A female freshman invited him into her suite bathroom, got a condom, took off her clothes and had sex with him. But as that young woman later described it to university officials, the encounter was not consensual. The university suspended him for a year.

—Ariel Kaminer, New Factor in Campus Sexual Assault Cases: Counsel for the Accused

Quiz
What is the point of view of this passage?

  • First Person
  • Second Person
  • Third Person Objective
  • Third Person Limited
  • Third Person Omniscient

Show your work.

From Jonathan Bellman’s Post on Disparagement

Ironic dismissal of passionate commitment to ideals, or indeed to anything, is as unsophisticated as anything on earth—simply a sneering “Huh-uh, no you can’t” with more syllables. Beyond being lazy, it is cowardly: the tacit acknowledgment that someone’s commitment, passion, and action have called you out, and cast your ironically superior pose into the light for what it is.

—Jonathan Bellman, “On Disparagement,” posted on Dial M For Musicology, September 19, 2014.

Hold Me Close, and I’ll Hold You Deeply

Transcribed by Holly Hobbie from dictation received directly from God. And God.
And God, and God, and God.

Holly Hobbie

These are Gods’ rulings on various corporations-qua-people’s religious beliefs’ approved effects and emendations to ACA doctrine. If you don’t like what you read, do not blame the messenger, please; I am just a doll in calico, provided for entertainment purposes only.
—Holly Hobbie™

The Church of the Bodhi Tree
No medical coverage of any kind. We embrace impermanence, for ourselves, for you, and for however many children you may have.

The Trembling Quiverers Sect
Procreation prohibited, thus coverage for birth control, but not for pre-natal or natal care.

The Order of the Ostrich
Silently to self: “Let’s not think about why someone might seek out Plan B.”

The Shortage of Scarcity Sect
Denied. If someone else gets birth control, there must be something I am not getting.

The Order of Orthotics
Prescription insoles covered up to $1000, every other year.
Just wear these: they’ll have the same effect as any other method.

The Gaggle of St. Francis
ACL surgery for deer is covered. People: nah.

The Right Reverend Akin’s Church of Magical Thinking
The body has its own way of shutting the whole thing down. If it’s legitimate.

The Deflecting Detour Denomination
If she wants an IUD, she can just get another job.

The Church of Sisters Thelma and Louise
What’s the point? Let’s get outta here.

The Convent of Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All to You
No birth control. Women’s trip to ER for injuries resulting from spousal abuse are covered, with a discount on co-pay. If you are in a same-sex relationship and experience spousal abuse—what???

Church of Revlon™
This lipstick will make everyone want you.
After that, you’re on your own.

The Paleo Church.
We do it all ourselves, old-school.

Church of Mary Mag
Individual Incentive Plan.  “Pal, things are a little tight right now. Could you leave $100 in the jar by the door so I don’t have to ask you for child support later on? And if you talk me up to some others, I may be able to give a discount next time.”

Church of Personal Responsibility
Drunken fall down stairs, broken ankle: covered.
Texting while driving, broken leg: covered.
Extreme yoga competition, pulled groin muscle: covered.
IUD to avoid unplanned pregnancy: that’s your personal responsibility.

The Church of the Weight Police
BMI Too High? No health care, period.

The Liberation Theology Theorem
This is an improvement in health care options.  The ACA was designed by the government to oppress us citizens, so removal of any benefit is an act of emancipation.

Church of the Running Number
Just count.  (There’s an app.)

Church of Joe Smith
All plural wives—that is, wiveses—get fertility treatment, whether or not they want it.

The Oneida Community’s Silver Rule
The “Wait Until You’re Older” Method: have as much sex as you want, once you have completed menopause.

The Church of Sappho
Why would we need birth control? Ha!

The Church of Academia
Who has the time?

The MRA Bro Bunch
We don’t cover IUDs or Plan B for men. So covering them for women is anti-male.

The Church of the Amazon
We’ll take care of it ourselves, thanks.

The Coven of Lysistrata
Sorry, guys. We’re closed for the season.

—Posted by IAmNotMakingUp

George F. Will, Touch My Breast

[Warning: the following content may not be appropriate for all readers.  Please use discretion.]
Dear Mr. Will:
In response to your June 6 article, “Colleges become the victims of progressivism,” I write to invite you to touch my breast without my consent.  First, a few questions, starting with your headline:

Colleges become the victims of progressivism

George (if I may be so informal; it seems fitting, given the topic), would you please clarify the signification of this word “ victim”?  Do I understand that women are so eager to identify as victims, in order to achieve “coveted status,” that the institutions to which they pay tuition, and which are charged to provide a safe and equitable environment, are the real “victims”?  Does that mean, then, that these very universities are accorded special status and privilege as they are victimized by the proliferating women who are eager to believe themselves victimized (or who make false claims—you have not specified which, though some have claimed that you say women are lying)?  Or might an intrusive and sensation-seeking editor have misrepresented the content of your article?  It seems that your truth might have been mangled a bit.
Moving on to your text:
Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate. And academia’s progressivism has rendered it intellectually defenseless now that progressivism’s achievement, the regulatory state, has decided it is academia’s turn to be broken to government’s saddle.
Do I understand that being informed about others’ victimization, in words and ideas and reports, and being asked to craft responses and policies, is “excruciating”?  But that identifying one’s self, one’s person, as having been physically violated, is appealing, that it confers privileges?  And learning about “’micro-aggressions’” might be inconvenient or daunting, since they require a “[tutored] eye”?  Perhaps it is too much to think one might be tutored in detecting—and perhaps even avoiding—verbal interactions that lack understanding of another or that limit the other’s participation or standing in the educational process.  But, since you are a “privileged old white guy”—as many outraged citizens have been commenting—perhaps you have not been on the receiving end of micro-aggressions?  Would you like some tutoring?
Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. “sexual assault.” Herewith, a Philadelphia magazine report about Swarthmore College, where in 2013 a student “was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months”:
“They’d now decided — mutually, she thought — just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. ‘I basically said, “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” And then he said, “OK, that’s fine” and stopped. . . . And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything — I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.’”
Six weeks later, the woman reported that she had been raped. Now the Obama administration is riding to the rescue of “sexual assault” victims. It vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults.
Can you please fill me in on the use of quotations around the term “sexual assault”?  Are they what we call “scare quotes,” or are you citing an unnamed source?  Are those two words together copyrighted?  I’ve long thought this expression to be a legal term, albeit, like most legal terms, subject to interpretations and ambiguities.  Have I misunderstood?  Might you provide a citation for the identification of the “epidemic”?  I’d like to make sure I am fully informed about such claims, whether true or false.
And I am not sure I follow your point about the story you report here.  Is it true that this incident alone incited the Obama administration’s efforts at “rescue”?  I thought there were more cases than this one, but perhaps I have misunderstood.  And is it true that rape—sorry, I meant to say claims of rape—only became fashionable when that cocktail you identify came on the market?  
Since you have not identified explicitly what your interpretation is of the account above, could you please fill me in?  (No pun intended!)  Is it a facet of that prolonged adolescence?  Who is privileged?  The young man, because he assumed access to the body of a woman who said no?  Or the young woman?  Was her unwarranted privilege in trusting that she could safely don her pajamas in the presence of her platonic friend, since they had agreed to forgo sexual activity?  (What sort of pajamas were they, by the way?)  Was her privilege in believing she was entitled to say no?  In being able to put her panties back on after “he finished”?  Is it one gender that is enjoying privileges or both?  If both, are said privileges of equal capaciousness?
I’m also not sure why you mention the six weeks.  Do you mean that she should have taken longer to think about it?  Since there seem to be so many questions about identifying oneself as a proliferating victim, should she have sought tutoring on the proper definition of sexual assault?  (And what is that, by the way?)  Should she have asked more advice about whether she was overstepping her rights and mistreating her “ friend”? How long did the man have to report that he had been victimized by her?
The administration’s crucial and contradictory statistics are validated the usual way, by official repetition; Joe Biden has been heard from. The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12 percent of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous. Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes, for example, that in the four years 2009 to 2012 there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State. That would be 12 percent of 817 total out of a female student population of approximately 28,000, for a sexual assault rate of approximately 2.9 percent — too high but nowhere near 20  percent.
Education Department lawyers disregard pesky arithmetic and elementary due process. Threatening to withdraw federal funding, the department mandates adoption of a minimal “preponderance of the evidence” standard when adjudicating sexual assault charges between males and the female “survivors” — note the language of prejudgment. Combine this with capacious definitions of sexual assault that can include not only forcible sexual penetration but also nonconsensual touching. Then add the doctrine that the consent of a female who has been drinking might not protect a male from being found guilty of rape. Then comes costly litigation against institutions that have denied due process to males they accuse of what society considers serious felonies.
I am sorry to say I am not good at math.  I’m in the humanities, and it’s been thirty-some-odd years since high school algebra, when I was a little distracted by Johnny McCann stroking my backside during class.  (Now I know I can feel fortunate about that; I suppose the other girls coveted my status.  Though they didn’t need to; he touched them too.)  Now I worry that I have been misunderstanding all these years and wrongly thinking that “‘sexual assault’” is a serious problem that undermines women’s health and well-being—as well as their legal rights and access to education.  (Is the data that says men are raped too also incorrect?)  
George, could you tell me how many sexual assaults there really are on our nation’s campuses?  And how many should there be?  Does some of the confusion over numbers arise from the different definitions and shifting capaciousnesses?
Now this thing about “’nonconsensual touching’” is especially perplexing.  I’m not that informed about jurisprudence either, but my impression is that plain old assault has to do with touching someone, or with threatening to do so, when they do not want to be touched.  The University of Google seems to concur that raising one’s fist might constitute assault.  So, let’s see . . . if a stranger slaps my face without my consent, that is a crime, but if he touches my breast without my consent, that crosses a line into a non-crime that has proliferated to give women status?  Would it be helpful if we just called “ nonconsensual’” touching of sexual body parts “assault” then, leaving out that confusing word “sexual”?  (Interesting idea!) Or should those areas be fair game, with “assault” referring only to the rest of the body?
George, how do you feel about all those outraged readers (and probably some non-readers) who are registering comments along the lines of—I hate to say it, for I hate violent words (do you?)—that you should be raped to see what it feels like? 
Here are a few responses.  Please be forewarned; they could be upsetting, and I do not want to disturb your serenity:
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These posts do not represent the point of view of the author!  I shudder at such hostile language.  To think that your comments on “‘sexual assault'” have met with fantasies of same.  It’s chilling.
But back to the “‘nonconsensual touching’”: I guess I wonder: would you want to touch someone who wanted not to be touched?  Again, let’s take it out of the titillating and confusing sexy area, that cocktail party that makes overgrown adolescents feel so entitled to special status.  Say you were at a professional dinner and you thought it would be nice to hold the hand of the man next to you.  Say he moved away.  Would you think you should try to hold his hand again?  Or if a woman you had just met at a benefit came up behind you and grabbed your bottom?  Would you move away, or would you tell her you were displeased?  Or that you’d rather she caress another spot?  Would you turn the other cheek?
George, this may seem bold, since we have not met, but I would like to invite you to touch my breast without my consent.  I say “breast” in the singular advisedly, since one of my “breasts” is prosthetic.  Just to show my intentions are honorable, I’ll sweeten the deal: you can touch either or both.  (Just try to go easy on the facsimile, since it punctures easily, and that gets messy and requires patching with unsightly duct tape.)  Anyway, I hereby invite you to touch me against my will.  I hope you will share with me afterward how doing so feels to you.  I’ve always wondered.  And if you would rather not touch my breasts without my consent, I won’t insist.  I won’t, for example, rub my breast against you. I wouldn’t want to force contact you do not want with someone who has not consented.
Now academia is unhappy about the Education Department’s plan for government to rate every institution’s educational product. But the professors need not worry. A department official says this assessment will be easy: “It’s like rating a blender.” Education, gadgets — what’s the difference?
Agreed.  I have little in common with a blender.  A whisk, perhaps.  Though I have always dreamed of being a cauldron. . . .
Meanwhile, the newest campus idea for preventing victimizations — an idea certain to multiply claims of them — is “trigger warnings.” They would be placed on assigned readings or announced before lectures. Otherwise, traumas could be triggered in students whose tender sensibilities would be lacerated by unexpected encounters with racism, sexism, violence (dammit, Hamlet, put down that sword!) or any other facet of reality that might violate a student’s entitlement to serenity. This entitlement has already bred campus speech codes that punish unpopular speech. Now the codes are begetting the soft censorship of trigger warnings to swaddle students in a “safe,” “supportive,” “unthreatening” environment, intellectual comfort for the intellectually dormant.
There has been some interesting discussion about this.  In fact, I have seen no evidence of dormancy.  I myself have discussed it with colleagues, and there was a cogent and eloquent essay published by several faculty members who, while sympathetic, found such a proposal problematic and counterproductive.  It’s funny though: while before I was introduced to the term “trigger warning” on feminist websites that, as part of their activism, necessarily show gruesome pictures of crimes and so on, I have often thought it useful to ask my students about any sensitivity they might have to course content.  I don’t tell them, though, that “traumas could be triggered in students whose tender sensibilities would be lacerated by unexpected encounters with racism, sexism, violence”; nor did I mention “facet[s] of reality that might violate a student’s entitlement to serenity.”  I think that wording would sound a little dramatic and might cause them upset.  But, my course material might involve the slaughter of a cow in an Eisenstein film or a Criminal Minds episode in which a “‘supposed’” rape victim shoots her “‘supposed’” assailant in the hand.  (And he’s a pianist!  How cruel!)  This year there was a clip of a group of African-American men using “the N-word,” and although the film authored by Spike Lee, I wondered how the students would react.  And do you know Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece,” in which the audience slices off her clothing?  Well, perhaps that one needs no warning, since she asked for it.  Anyway, I just prepare the students for the material as best I can and ask them—always, whether in a specific instance or at another—to let me know if any course content causes them difficulty.  Do you think that is “swaddling” them?  It’s funny; I’ve always observed that such explicit acknowledgment of our humanity, diversity, and vulnerability actually encourages more elevated and probing intellectual work, perhaps because the students are invited to name the signifiers and stimuli that we sometimes take for granted or neglect to question.  Isn’t a little bit like warning celiac about a glute?  Or is it ?
It is salutary that academia, with its adversarial stance toward limited government and cultural common sense, is making itself ludicrous. Academia is learning that its attempts to create victim-free campuses — by making everyone hypersensitive, even delusional, about victimizations — brings increasing supervision by the regulatory state that progressivism celebrates.
I’m not sure “academia” is one entity or that all its members agree, but wow, the idea of “victim-free campuses” sounds pretty great!  I’d love to give it a try, though it is a daunting challenge.  Do you think we could drop the “hyper” and just aim for “sensitive”?  And maybe instead of becoming “delusional” we could just entertain the notion that we are unlikely to understand others’ experience without sprinkling a bit of curiosity, effort, and compassion in with our intellectual acumen?  Now that is a privilege I would love, both to confer on others and to enjoy myself.  It makes me wonder: could it be that if someone else’s experience perplexes me, it might be due to my inexperience or lack of understanding rather than to that person having a deranged impression of reality?  Wow, I never thought of that before.  Thanks, George, for opening my eyes to what I might be missing and what I might be denying others.
I’ve always loved the notion that academia could provide a forum for the vigorous exploration of, exchange of, and debate about ideas, though I wish this last could be more respectful and open-minded at times.  I wonder, George, do you think it might be useful to have some sort of a forum or colloquium on this topic?  Would one limit such a gathering to professional commentators like yourself who can retain objectivity?  Would it be inappropriate to invite some of the proliferating victims to come?  Perhaps they could learn from your wisdom and discernment.  I mean, if these women have been duped into believing themselves victims by faddish campus culture, then maybe all they need is another point of view in order to recognize their privilege, abdicate it, and stop all that distasteful coveting?
What government is inflicting on colleges and universities, and what they are inflicting on themselves, diminishes their autonomy, resources, prestige and comity. Which serves them right. They have asked for this by asking for progressivism. 
Do I understand  correctly that the university is being victimized by the government’s attention to this coveted victim status?  But it’s the university’s own fault, because they “asked for it”?  Where have I heard that before?  Could you remind me?
I look forward to hearing from you.  I do hope you will accept my invitation.  I have yet to have the experience of receiving “‘nonconsensual touching'” that I requested.  It could be enlightening.
Yours sincerely,
IAmNotMakingUp

Everything Happens, Maybe

“Everything happens for a reason.”  (Marilyn Monroe)
“Everything happens for no reason.”  (Nietzsche)
“Nothing happens for a reason.”  (Sartre)
“Nothing happens for no reason.”  (Buddha)
“No reason.”  (Žižek)
“Right.”  (Dolar)
“No.”  (Barthes)
“Absolutely not.”  [Later:] I miss you, Roland.” (Derrida)
“Quite possibly.” (McLuhan)
[Unearthed:]  “Mom?”  (Barthes)

—Posted by IAmNotMakingUp

Hillary Clinton Dodges Shoe—But What Brand?

Remember when Ms. Rodham said,
“I don’t bake cookies or knead bread!”
The voters lacked all sympathy,
Until an intern bent her knee.

A wife be-cheated, it turned out
Was given by some folks more clout
So, to be thought not a shrew
Must I field a shoe from you?

Please tell me it isn’t so!
I’d rather see your Manolo™
Grace your foot than fly in peril
To meet up with my own Merrell™.

—Posted by IAmNotMakingUp