*This blog is now defunct. I have moved to A Voice for Male Students. See you there! Thanks for your support. - TCM*

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dare to Disagree, by Margaret Heffernan - AMAZING

I just came across this amazing talk from Ted Talks. In this video, Margaret Heffernan discusses the academic and organizational dynamics that inhibit progress and positive change, and which are highly relevant to progress and educational equity for men and boys.

Please listen:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rape Hysteria by Faculty and Administrators, Part 4 / Misandry in Education

Among certain Feminists in academia, the definition of rape is being broadened to the point of absurdity, demonizing men and trivializing the experiences of rape victims. We will cover several such definitions in this post. It is important to understand this tendency, because when we begin to discuss rape statistics, we will find that many of the methodologies that ideologically-drive professors use when they find high a incidence of rape employ broad definitions that most reasonable people would not label rape.

On page 60 their book The Female Fear, professors Margaret Gordon and Stephanie Reiger define rape in this way: “The American dating system, which constitutes a primary source of heterosexual contacts, legitimizes the consensual purchase of women as sexual objects and obliterates the crucial distinction between consent and nonconsent.”

I hope that for most of us, no argument is needed to disprove such a statement. But let us explore it, to sharpen our critical thinking skills: contrary to what these professors assume, when it comes to dating, there is no guarantee of sexual services in exchange for the man’s payment. It is not like walking into a store and giving a cashier money in exchange for a good or a service which a man could legally sue for if he did not receive it. And if a man and woman did enter into an arrangement to trade sex for money, it would still the case that both parties still have a choice.

But what if professors Margaret Gordon and Stephanie Reiger are correct? What is to be said of the women who prefer men pay? Are such women rape apologists and rape advocates? And what if a lesbian pays for a date with a woman and later has sex with her? Is she also a rapist? According to these professors, no; this concept only applies to heterosexual dating. 

The professors also say on page 6, “Then there are the wolf-whistles, unwanted hugs and pinches – what the authors of one book call “mini-rapes” – which continually remind women they are vulnerable, sexual victims.” The authors they are referring to are Feminist Professor Andra Medea and Kathleen Thompson, who together authored the book Against Rape. To clarify, if you read their book, you will find they do not describe them as “mini-rapes” per se, but instead “little rapes.” Medea and Thompson rationalize defining such things as catcalls as “little rapes” by saying on page 50, “We have defined rape as forced sexual intimacy.”

This is a very broad definition, and it is not the legal definition. Intimacy, of course, can mean not just physical intimacy brought about through touch, but also emotional intimacy brought about through words. Under this definition, the woman who was raped at gunpoint is now classified in the same category of victimization as a woman who experienced the brief discomfort of being told she was attractive in an indecorous manner.

The idea of a “mini rape” does not end with the aforementioned authors, however. In a 1994 interview among Dr. Christina Hoff-Sommers and Camille Paglia, and Ben Wattenberg, who hosted a show called “Think Tank” at PBS. Dr. Hoff-Sommers says,

I interviewed a young women at the University of Pennsylvania who came in in a short skirt and she was in the Women's Center, and I think she thought I was one of the sisterhood. And she said, 'Oh, I just suffered a mini-rape.' And I said, 'What happened?' And she said, 'A boy walked by me and said, `Nice legs'. 'You know? And that -- and this young woman considers this a form of rape!

These are not the only Feminists in academia desperate to demonize men and trivialize the experiences of genuine rape victims by radically broadening the definition of rape. According to Feminist professor Liz Kelly of London Metropolitan University says on page 41 of her book Surviving Sexual Violence

Sexual violence includes any physical, visual, verbal or sexual act that is experienced by the woman or girl, at the time or later, as a threat, invasion or assault that has the effect of hurting her or degrading her and/or taken away her ability to control intimate contact.'

What is rape? Apparently, to professor Kelly, everything. She makes this more clear on page 350 of the book The Hidden Gender of Law, saying, 

There is no clear distinction between consensual sex and rape, but a continuum of pressure, threat, coercion and force. The concept of a continuum validates the sense of abuse women feel when they do not freely consent to sex.

Dr. Kelly is an extreme Feminist. But is she a marginal one? According to the website of Northumbria University, she is head of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University, the Roddick Chair of Violence Against Women, a Commissioner for the Women’s National Commission and one of two appointed experts by the European parliament to the European Union’s Gender Centre.” She is, of course, also a professor. She is also the author of a study which found a high prevalence of rape – surprise surprise. We will discuss how her biases influence that study later.

A somewhat similar statement is made by professors Carol Bohmer and Andrea Parrot on page 3 of their book Sexual Assault on Campus, where they clarify the terms they will use throughout the book: “Sexual assault is a general term that describes all forms of unwanted sexual activity."

There are two big problems with this statement. Can you guess which ones they are? The first is this: all forms? What all can fall under the general umbrella of sexual activity? Sexual misconduct in academia, for example, is a broad term that encompasses sexual assault and sexual harassment, the latter of which involves not physical assault, but something as simple as words and facial gestures. In academia, these can all be classified as forms of sexual activity.

The second problem, which might seem easy to pass over at first – and I ask for your patience if your initial reaction is to disagree - is the word “unwanted." I myself have had sex when I did not want to at first because I was preoccupied with something at the time, as well as types of sex that I did not particularly want to have, but I did it anyway to please my partner. Sexual assault is not sex that is unwanted per se, but sex that is nonconsensual. There is a critical difference between the two. 

Consent is also an element in our everyday lives apart from sex. Have people ever done things for their partners that they did not want to do, but then went along with it because it made their partner happy? A partner may not “want” to mow the lawn or go see their mother-in-law on their day off work, but may do it anyway. A person may not “want” to donate to charity, but may do so after a persuasive request is made. That does not mean that person’s money was stolen. Not wanting to do something and not consenting to do something are sometimes – but not always – the same thing. Language matters, and professors Bohmer and Parrot need to be more careful about how they use theirs, especially in the section of a book dedicated to clarifying the terms they will use throughout the rest of the book.

A statement which is hard to read without a double-take comes from professor Carol Sanger of Columbia University School of Law. She says in her article "New Perspectives on Rape" in the Los Angeles Times (April 25, 1991, p. B7):

Consent - agreeing to something - is usually not a hard concept to understand. It may at first appear more complex in the context of rape. One reason is simply its unexpected presence. There is no other crime defined in terms of consent. Only in rape is the victim asked, ‘Did you agree to it?’ Compare: "Did you agree to be punched in the face?" "Did you agree to be mugged

You heard correct folks: professor Carol Sanger truly believes that normal sexual intercourse is rape. But perhaps I am being too judgmental of her; perhaps, like professors Margaret Gordon and Stephanie Reiger, she only believes that heterosexual intercourse, as opposed to all intercourse, is rape, and that only men are rapists. Unfortunately, she does not clarify.

But how influential can a woman like Carol Sanger become in academia? According to her CV, which like many you can now find online, professor Carol Sanger has been a member of the Executive Committee at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender from the year 2001‑present, as well as a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Diversity Initiatives. In other words, she is a gatekeeper on whether or not research she deems acceptable gets published, as well as whether or not administrators should pay attention to the inequities in educational attainment among male students.

Far too many Feminists professors believe and act as if rape (or the desire to rape) is a normal part of male psychology. For example, Feminist professor Mary Koss, then from Kent State University - says, “Rape is indeed an extreme form of behavior, but one that exists on a continuum with normal male behavior within the culture.” Professor Koss is the author of the infamous “1-in-4” statistic, which we will cover in an upcoming post.

In Professing Feminism, dissenting Feminist professors Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge summed up Feminist Professor Catharine MacKinnon’s perspective on rape by saying on page 129, “In a patriarchal society all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent.” 

While this quote is sometimes misattributed to MacKinnon, who is a professor at University of Michigan school of law, if we examine her work, we find that this description bears striking similarity to her views. First, in Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (page 176), MacKinnon says,  “This approach reflects men’s experience that women they know do meaningfully consent to sex with them…men and women are unequally socially situated with regard to the experience of rape.” 

She later elaborates on page 178“Under conditions of male dominance, if sex is normally something men do to women, the issue is less whether there was force than whether consent is a meaningful concept.”

When it comes to deciding whether a rape has occurred, if consent is not a meaningful concept, and if force is not a meaningful concept, then what is? One might wonder, on what terms does such a Feminist determine whether a rape has occurred? We can triangulate this based upon her other statements. In her book Feminism Unmodified, she says, “Politically, I call it rape whenever a woman has sex and feels violated” (page 82). 

Her statement is completely unqualified by any kind of context. One might ask: when must this “feeling” of “violation” occur for it to become rape? And what does “violation” mean exactly? Does professor MacKinnon agree with professor Liz Kelly that it could be “any physical, visual, verbal or sexual act that is experienced by the woman or girl”? People can feel “violated” by all sorts of things – both actions and words. And with the tendency of Feminists to define words in and of themselves as the equivalent of physical assault, we cannot assume that their meanings are as reasonable as we might otherwise be led to believe.

Professor MacKinnon also says in the same book on page 5, "Feminism is built on believing women’s accounts of sexual use and abuse by men.” So we know that, according to professor MacKinnon, there are two necessary conditions for a woman to have been raped. One condition is that if a woman feels violated – and again, we don’t know what “feeling” and “violation” mean exactly. And the other condition is that if she merely says she was raped, then she most definitely was.

MacKinnon’s statement that consent is not a meaningful concept is rather interesting considering Feminist politics. If, according to Feminism, “no always means no,” shouldn’t yes always mean yes? Consider this statement, which is very similar to professor MacKinnon’s, by Feminist law professor Susan Estrich says in her landmark Feminist book Real Rape, "Many feminists would argue that so long as women are powerless relative to men, viewing 'yes' as a sign of true consent is misguided” (page 318).

Similarly, professor Carol Pateman of UCLA says in "Women and Consent," published in Political Theory, volume 8, page 149: 

Consent as ideology cannot be distinguished from habitual acquiescence, assent, silent dissent, submission, or even enforced submission. Unless refusal or consent or withdrawal of consent are real possibilities, we can no longer speak of ‘consent’ in any genuine sense.

It is a fundamental element of the Feminist faith that a woman’s “no” always, inflexibly, and absolutely means “no;” even if it is said with a teasing and sarcastic tone by a woman who is at the same time pulling a man’s penis into her. But when a woman says “yes,” Feminist professors turn around 180 degrees and say that all of a sudden there are conditions and exceptions to treating the sexes equally - but here’s the catch: only when they disadvantage men and boys. I am not going to tell you what to believe in this regard – whether a “no” and a “yes” should always be interpreted as such. But I will advocate one thing that many Feminists in academia do not: consistent treatment between the sexes. If we hold one sex to a particular standard, we should hold the other sex to the same. And that essence of consistency is what true equality really is.

In these posts we make heavy use of quotations. And while certain isolated statements are alarming, there is a bigger picture in this series on misandry that I believe we must not lose sight of, which is this: the problem is not so much the singular or occasional questionable statements by certain faculty, administrators, and sometimes students. The real problem is the attitude behind it. 

As an example, professor Medea and Kathleen Thompson declare in their book Against Rape, “Rape is perhaps the foremost male fantasy in our society” (page 14). Is this a credible statement? Is it one that acknowledges the humanity and dignity of men and boys? According to these authors, the foremost male fantasy is not having a family – the dream of many young men. It is not inventing something that will change the world, a dream many men began when they started building with Legos as a boy. It is not saving the world, a theme which is featured in so many shows that men and boys like to watch; no, according to these academic Feminists, the primary male fantasy is rape. Is it more likely or less likely that how these Feminist professors feel about men and boys as a group will influence to what degree they treat men and boys fairly on an individual level?

When a university conducts a hearing regarding an accusation of rape or sexual harassment, the accusations are sometimes adjudicated by a panel of faculty and administrators. Ask yourself: looking back on the people and the stories we have covered in this series, if you were a male student attending a university and were falsely accused, or if you had a son or other male relative attending who was falsely accused of rape, would you want people with attitudes like these sitting on those panels deciding whether you or your loved one is innocent or guilty? I know I wouldn’t.

The professors we covered in this post are not marginal by any means. On the contrary; they occupy high-ranking positions in academia. Their works are influential and taught at the university level. They sit on committees where they decide what views on men and boys get published, what programs get funded, who gets hired and who gets fired. They write letters of recommendation to bring into the academic fold those whose views toward men and boys are similar to their own. They organize and preside over conferences, where they decide whose work is presented and whose career gets promoted. Their works are featured in anthologies and other scholarly publications; they make recommendations for public policy and have the ear of many administrators, committees, media outlets, and some government officials. 

And last but not least, they teach the next generation to adopt their attitudes toward men and boys. We will discuss their influence further in future videos and blog posts.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Activism: Speaking to A&M-Commerce Students about Academic Corruption

*Thanks to A Voice for Men for posting this article and the associated video on their website!*
*To see other material related to A&M-Commerce, please click here*

As an MRA who focuses on educational equity, I spend a lot of time thinking about how best to tackle the problems affecting male students. I divide these problems into three main areas: educational attainment, the academic culture, and rights and protections. Although outside academia there are numerous factors contributing to the educational decline of boys (fatherlessness ranking high among them), within academia I believe the root of these problems is the academic culture itself. 

When this culture is not misandric, it is acquiescent to the status quo. Being mentally stuck in the social justice era of the 1960s, many in academia have not progressed beyond that point and updated their data and approach with the times. In the meantime male students have slipped further and further away, especially in the areas of educational attainment and rights and protections. While I spend a lot of time documenting these problems, my thoughts constantly return to activism and considering who in academia we can rely upon to advance the cause of equality for men and boys.

And therein lies the problem: who can we rely on? Teachers, when not politically hostile to men and boys as a group, wilt under the prospect of opposing those who are, especially if they are administrators. At many institutions tenure is being phased out at the same time that misandry is becoming firmly entrenched, allowing ideologues who have completed their long march through academia to pull up the ladder behind themselves and keep those with alternative perspectives perpetually off-balance.

Administrators are also not particularly known for their vertebrae when it comes to standing up for unpopular yet ethical views. “Liabilities” is the language they best understand, a language in which federal funding speaks louder than conscience and reason. Like faculty, they too are sometimes politically motivated to ignore the needs of male students as a group. Being the very essence of the status quo, administrators by nature are highly resistant to change and will employ a wide array of bureaucratic parlor tricks to ward off those they hope are too na├»ve, ignorant, or powerless to oppose them.

They may, for example, say, “we’re thinking about it” (when  they want you to go away), “that’s not my department” (when it is), “I can’t tell you what we do behind closed doors because it’s protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act” (often lies), “ “we don’t have funding for it” (lies), “I sent you an email about it” (lies), or their secretary may say “she can’t speak with you because she’s out to lunch/sick/left early for the day/at a meeting” (more lies). I have spent more time than I would like to count chasing administrators up and down academia, and have learned from experience to have a healthy skepticism for their explanations.

Students, when fairly young, are often not overly concerned with political matters, but can be surprisingly receptive at times. It seems that every other day younger and younger students are popping up on the Men’s Rights subreddit, talking about their experiences in school and joining the ranks of those informed by an MRA perspective. I have more hope for change from students than faculty and administrators. And yet, students are often subject to the whims of educators whose idea of diversity, too often, is to oppose the freedom of speech of everyone who politically disagrees with them.

Karma MRA MGTOW has voiced that one of his main goals in going on poster runs at universities is to reach the next generation. I believe there is a lot of value to this approach. We must not only reach out to the students, but also develop creative methods to shake up academia as a means of making way for them. When it comes to direct on-the-ground activism at particular universities, I have reached the conclusion that alumni are best suited for this job. Alumni, having already received their degree, can confront faculty and administrators without worrying about their grades or careers. When speaking to students, being an alumnus grants a degree of authority not normally afforded to your average poster-wielding activist. If only for the purpose of information gathering, alumni may also have the benefit of personal and professional networks that many students have not yet developed.

When conducting activism in academia, I strongly advocate the covert use of recording devices in “one-party consent” states (where only one person in the conversation needs to be aware of and consenting to the recording for it to be legal), and the publication of that information online when corruption is discovered. In activism generally, and especially in bureaucratic settings, I advise everyone to think of recording devices as your sword and shield. Remember that reputations take a lifetime to build and seconds to destroy. While not as high a priority as funding, the prospective loss of public image and reputation is still potent. When used correctly and against the right people, recording devices effectively nail not only certain faculty and administrators to the wall, but also the institutions they represent. And when exposed as a liability or made into an example in front of their peers, the academic castles of certain corrupt faculty and administrators can just as easily become their prisons.

As some of you may know, I am an alumnus and former instructor at A&M-Commerce, and spoke last year with two administrators at that university. In our meetings, Title IX Coordinator Michele Vieira admitted to joining other administrators in taking down – not once, but five times - YouTube videos recorded by students of “outrageous harassing behavior” by professors, that those who made false rape accusations were routinely not punished, and that she could not tell me that the preponderance standard the university had adopted was justified when I asked her. I tried to work with them to change their sexual misconduct policy to be fairer to the wrongly accused, but when they cut off communication I submitted an article containing the damning recording to A Voice for Men, where it was published.

As of right now, anyone who Googles the phrase “A&M-Commerce Rape Policy” will find the videos, articles and links to the recorded interviews at the top of the search results. In addition, Googling the phrase “Michele Vieira Title IX” will return the article at A Voice for Men named “Title IX Coordinator Protects Abuser, Abusive Policy.” Students at A&M-Commerce who are wrongly accused or wrongly convicted in a university hearing, as well as their parents, will now have access to a lot of information describing what goes on behind the scenes - information they might use in their defense. When submitting the original article, I mentioned to Paul Elam that the recording and article might serve a purpose for future activism. And it has.

During the fall semester of 2012, I made several trips to A&M-Commerce to post flyers directing students to the online material, and more importantly to talk with and engage the students directly about what was going on. With my smartphone in my shirt pocket, camera turned outward, I recorded everything. I directed them to my blog, which had more information than I was able to publish at A Voice for Men due to space constraints (such as screenshots of lengthy emails between myself and administrators), and which also linked back to the article at AVFM. I have compiled some of the most representative of those recordings into a video, which is now on YouTube. In listening to their statements you will hear them say things that may surprise you. They certainly surprised me.

Above all, I was surprised at how receptive the students were to hearing me out. I encountered a man who claims to have been wrongly accused and summarily fired. One student agreed to post a flyer on the fraternity house wall. I also found a student who was already under the impression that men and boys wrongly accused of sexual misconduct were guilty until proven innocent, and another who had been interested in a career in law and had already been looking into these things.

At the end of the video, you will see that when I explained to the surrounding students in the Sam Rayburn Student Center that the deck was stacked against those who were wrongly accused, a man playing pool exclaimed “Sounds good to me. Guilty!” I later learned that this man was a staff member who I did not recognize as such because he was dressed casually in a grey t-shirt. I did not see that the back of his shirt was marked “STAFF” until I looked back over my shoulder when I was approached by another staff member asking me to leave. While I was unable to get his name (he was not wearing a name tag and I was unable to find his picture on the university website), I did manage to catch him on video.

As chance would have it I am also friends on Facebook with one of my former colleagues at A&M-Commerce, who posted a picture of the flyer on his wall and said “So someone handed this to my students before they entered class.” One of his friends named Anne Phifer, a woman with Feminist sympathies who worked as a secretary in the Department of Literature and Languages when I was an instructor there, was among those who took exception to the flyers. It is a possibility she may work there still. This is also on the video.

It is my hope that others can learn from, use, and build upon these activism strategies. This was definitely a positive experience for me. In particular, I was surprised at how receptive and thankful a lot of students were. Part of this may be due to my rhetorical approach. Before engaging students with the material, I asked them if they had a minute. If they were busy or uninterested, I wished them a good day and moved on. I kept the needs of the student central to what I was saying, was concise whenever possible out of respect for their time, and at the end asked them if they had any questions, comments, or concerns. All this can be heard in the video. The first five minutes is a recap for those on YouTube, but the rest is all new.