Earlier in this series we discussed the vagina monologues, a Feminist university play in which women dress up as vaginas, and where, in the original production, a 13-year-old girl is given drinks by a 24-year-old lesbian until she becomes drunk, has sex with her, and afterward says “If it was rape, it was a good rape.” This play was performed on college campuses across the west for years with no objection by the academic community. From the magazine The National Review we hear of a much lighter version of the play, with a twist:
The costume of the P-Day “mascot” — a friendly looking “penis” named Testaclese, has been confiscated and is under lock and key in the office of the assistant dean of student affairs, John King.
The P-Day satirists are the first to admit that their initiative is tasteless and crude. But they rightly point out that V-Day is far more extreme. They are shocked that the administration has come down hard on their good-natured spoof, when all along it has been completely accommodating to the in-your-face vulgarity of the vagina activists.
V-Day has now replaced Valentine’s Day on more than 500 college campuses (including Catholic ones). The high point of the day is a performance of Ensler’s raunchy play, which consists of various women talking in graphic, and I mean graphic, terms about their intimate anatomy. The play is poisonously anti-male. Its only romantic scene, if you can call it that, takes place when a 24-year-old woman seduces a young girl (in the original version she was 13 years old, but in a more recent version is played as a 16-year-old.) The woman invites the girl into her car, takes her to her house, plies her with vodka, and seduces her. What might seem like a scene from a public-service kidnapping-prevention video shown to schoolchildren becomes, in Ensler’s play “a kind of heaven.”
|Lollipops. Vagina lollipops.|
The campus conservatives artfully (in the college sense of "artful") mimicked the V-Day campaign. They papered the school with flyers that said, “My penis is majestic” and “My penis is hilarious.” The caption on one handout read, “My Penis is studious.” It showed Testaclese reclining on a couch reading Michael Barone’s Hard America, Soft America.
|Provost Kavanaugh and Testaclese|
It is easy to understand why school officials would not want a six-foot phallus wandering around campus; nor why they would ask students not to paper the college with posters describing all the things it likes to do. But that is just the sort of thing the vagina warriors have been doing, year after year, on hundreds of campuses. In fact, P-Day at Roger Williams was mild by comparison. Wesleyan College hosted a “C***” workshop; Penn State held a “C***”-fest [both of which were named after crass four-letter names for female genitalia]. At Arizona State, students displayed a 40-foot inflatable plastic vagina. It was not confiscated and no one was ever threatened with probation.
Unhappily, P-Day may be the only effective means of countering V-Day with all its c-fests, graphic lollipops, intrusive questionnaires, outsized effigies of vaginas and its thematic anti-male play. The prospect of public readings from P-Monologues on campuses around the country just might be the reductio ad absurdum that could drive the vagina warriors to the bargaining table. The student activists opposed to V-Day will gladly cancel P-Day the moment the V-warriors abandon their vagina–fests.
But for the short term, college administrators should brace themselves. The rebels at Roger Williams are talking about a Free Testaclese Fund. And word is spreading to other campuses. P-Day and Testaclese will be back next year. And not just in Rhode Island.
Why is it the case among some faculty and administrators that sexual expression is pornographic – and hence crude – only when it is displayed by men? When we covered rape hysteria by students, we discussed the story from the student newspaper Harvard Crimson, in which a few Harvard students built a 9-foot “snow penis” on campus, which was torn down by a Feminist student who equated the erection of the sculpture to the support for rape. But focusing here on faculty and administrators, it is the section featuring a professor that presently concerns us:
|The Harvard Snow Penis|
She said the snow penis follows a long line of public phallic symbols, including the Washington Monument and missiles. “Women do not need to be reminded of the power of the symbol of the male genitalia,” Rosenfeld said. “My guess is that they are constantly reminded of it in daily messages.” A discussion about feminist perspectives on the statue, sponsored by the Radcliffe Union of Students, will take place Tuesday night in the Adams House small dining room.
Some questions come to mind: based on what we have seen so far, is it likely that this Feminist perspective will be one that values male and female sexuality equally, or is it more likely to be a perspective that attaches a positive sign to one and a negative sign to the other? If the latter is the case, is it then more likely or less likely that the students will adopt the anti-male attitudes of their professors and join with her in contributing to a hostile learning environment for male students? And if such is the case, could we be making a better use of our academic institutions?
Dr. Christina Hoff-Sommers, a Feminist who disagrees with much of establishment Feminism, tells us in her book Who Stole Feminism of the driving attitudes behind this reform project:
The New Jersey Project for reforming the public schools circulated a document entitled “Feminist Scholarship guidelines.” The first guideline is unexceptionable: “Feminist scholars seek to recover the lost work and thought of women in all areas of human endeavor.”
Sounds good so far. Hoff-Sommers next says, “Feminist scholarship begins with an awareness that much previous scholarship has offered a white, male, Eurocentric, heterosexist, and elite view of ‘reality.’”
|Men have all the best jobs! Male privilege!|
This is a typical Feminist argument in academia: that scholarship has historically focused on the “greats” in society and history: war generals, presidents, great poets and great artists. In other words, people, ideas, and events who and which are “at the top,” and are the movers and shakers of the world. Their approach sounds benevolent, until you consider the fact that it’s not like they care about the under-representation of men at the bottom of society: the common man who died in the coal mine, or the lowly and unnamed soldier. We will explore more of this vein of thought more fully elsewhere.
I include such quotes to demonstrate that these so-called scholarly guidelines aim to teach people – usually people who sit on committees and decide what gets published - to recognize how male scholars (allegedly) have traditionally thought, and once they are aware of it, to move away from publishing such material. But problems emerge when Feminist professors begin to stereotype what they believe to be male “ways of knowing,” or as they might instead say, “phallocentric epistemologies.” Dr. Hoff-Sommers goes on to say:
The guidelines elaborate on the attitude toward masculinist scholarship and methods by quoting the Feminist theorist Elizabeth Fee [who says]: “Knowledge was created by an act of aggression – a passive nature had to be interrogated, unclothed, penetrated, and compelled by man to reveal her secrets.” Fee’s resentment and suspicion of male “ways of knowing” follows a path well-trodden by such Feminist thinkers as Mary Ellman, [professor] Catharine MacKinnon, and Sandra Harding, whose views of patriarchal knowledge and science have quickly become central gender feminist doctrine.
Playing on the biblical double meaning of knowing to refer both to intercourse and to cognition, Ellman and MacKinnon claim that men approach nature as rapists approach a woman, taking joy in violating “her,” in “penetrating” her secrets. Feminists, says MacKinnon, have finally realized that for men, “to know has meant to fuck.” In a similar mood, Sandra Harding suggests that Newton’s Principles of Mechanics could just as aptly be called “Newton’s Rape Manual” (page 66).
Why does everything have to be about rape to certain Feminists? One might think that if they actually cared about expanding women’s autonomy, they would recognize that there is enough fear of rape in the world without needing to make it up out of nothing. But this is precisely the opposite of what they do. In the Chapter Five of Who Stole Feminism, Dr. Hoff-Sommers tells us,
Women: A Feminist Perspective is said to be the best-selling women’s studies textbook of all time. The first selection, “Sexual Terrorism” by Carole J. Sheffield, is a good example of how the Feminist classroom can “infuse” anxiety and rage.” Ms. Sheffield describes an “ordinary” event that took place early one evening when she was alone in a Laundromat:
“The Laundromat was brightly lit; and my car was the only one in the lot. Anyone passing by could readily see that I was alone and isolated. Knowing that rape is a crime of opportunity, I became terrified.” Ms. Sheffield left her laundry in the washer and dashed back to her car, sitting in it with the doors locked and the windows up. [Sheffield goes on to say] “When the wash was completed, I dashed in, threw the clothes into the drier, and ran back out to my car. When the clothes were dry, I tossed them recklessly into the basket and hurriedly drove away to fold them in the security of my house. Although I was not victimized in a direct, physical way or by objective or measurable standards, I felt victimized. It was, for me, a terrifying experience.” At home, her terror subsides and turns to anger: “Mostly I was angry at being unfree: a hostage of a culture that, for the most part, encourages violence against females, instructs men in the methodologies of sexual violence, and provides them with ready justification for their violence…following my experience at the Laundromat, I talked with my students about terrorization” (87-88).
If this event had occurred late at night – say, after dark – it would be understandable to possess a reasonable fear of being out alone – regardless as to whether one is female or male. But the timeframe of this event is “early one evening,” before dark. There is a fine line between prudence and paranoia, and by the time of day we are able to reasonably infer that she is crossing it. And more: she is teaching her students to see the imminent threat of rape everywhere. There are some people who are so strongly bound in the clutches of their self-imposed fears that they lack the ability to perform basic functions during normal daytime hours. What is often missed in such an approach is that we cannot empower women by teaching them to limit their autonomy by pretending they are always in danger of victimization when they are not. And we cannot build respect between both sexes by teaching one sex the irrational fear of the other.
Daphne Patai and Norette Koertge, two former women’s studies professors, interviewed women’s studies students and recorded their perspectives in their book Professing Feminism. Here is one student’s experiences, which deserves to be quoted at length:
“Caroline, a social worker in her mid-twenties, says that the one Women’s Studies course she took at a private women’s college was more than enough. Caroline deplores ‘this ongoing knee-jerk reverse sexism which everyone tolerated and encouraged.” She later says, “The course was Introduction to Women’s Studies. I was a senior, and I was, I think, pretty confident by that time, and I remember clashing with the professor very quickly…In the class I took, the answer was always ‘men.’ Whatever the question was, the answer was ‘men.’ It could be, ‘What style of architecture is that?’ And the answer is, ‘Men’s architecture.’ Or, ‘Who contributes to all the violence in the world?’ ‘Men.’ ‘Who’s responsible for everything we endure?’ ‘Men.’
“I was involved with a man at the time, and I thought that he didn’t fit their categories of what men were like. And I also saw him as having been pressed into stereotypes of his own. When he’d been in high school, he took up computers. He’d been very nonathletic, hated team sports, wanted to read, wanted to fuss with his computers. And he was called a nerd and hassled constantly over this and abused in various ways.
And I felt like I really identified with that – I hadn’t been all that feminine in high school. I wore a black leather jacket, hung out with the guys, and people had made fun of me. I hadn’t been desirable as a woman; he hadn’t been desirable as a man…so I guess I was interested in a more global analysis, like: What is it in our society that creates some of these tensions? What is it that we’re doing to ourselves here? I’m not saying I wanted the whole course to be about this, but these questions weren’t acceptable at all, and I felt the professor responded really aggressively to me.
“The time that it really sort of came to a head was when we were talking about rape: ‘Rape – the act of violence that men do to women, that men do to women because they want to keep them down.’ And we got all these reasons why men rape women. And I thought, well, there’s this act of violence of men against women, and why don’t we explore a little bit why people are so frustrated and so violent and so angry that they do these things? And why don’t we take into consideration that men get raped too?
I had a friend in high school, a man, who was raped by a bunch of other men his age, and when I tried to enter this information, it was met with a stone wall: ‘Those statistics are insignificant compared with how many women are raped.’ And I thought, Well, how many men are reporting it? And why are you discounting what I’m trying to share here, which would be adding to the picture?
And I don’t remember the comment the professor made, but it was very condescending, to the effect: ‘Are you saying that rapists are just poor misunderstood people who should be patted on the back and sent out?’ And I’m thinking: You miserable bitch! You know, she was really like ‘Let me humiliate you in front of everyone,’ because of course, that was not what I was saying!
“I have friends who’ve been raped; it’s not like some far-away thing to me. It’s something to get really angry about and be upset about, but something to search for a better solution to than castration! But the only solution the professor was getting at was that men are the problem and without men there’d be a solution. There was no talk of real solutions (82-84).
|A poster at UCLA|
When discussing rape hysteria by students, we covered numerous demonstrations by primarily Feminist students, the attitudes of which were pervasively one of spite and hostility toward men and boys. At the end of those videos questions that are worth asking again: does this approach work toward helping victims of rape, or encourage others to work toward helping victims of rape? And if it is not about helping victims of rape, what is it really about?
|Freshman orientation at 60 colleges|
And now that we are knee-deep in discussing rape hysteria by faculty and administrators, the time has come to ask the question: where are these students who we discussed in our earlier videos getting their anti-male attitudes? Are these students just randomly and out of the blue waking up one day with an attitude of hostility toward men and boys, or is that attitude being taught? We will continue to explore these questions in our next video in this series.