Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin
Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin write from Brownsville, Minnesota.
The 6/30 issue of the Weekly Standard features two striking articles about what I suppose we should call sexual politics on campus, one by Charlotte Allen - "The Professor's Tale" - and one by Harvey Mansfield - "Feminism and Its Discontents." The first tells us a story that seems incredible to us, but must be commonplace today. A young woman, a graduate student in Philosophy, writing anonymously in an online magazine, writes an account of how she was seduced by a professor (incidentally a specialist in "global justice" and "moral philosophy"). She was not his student, nor were they at the same institution. Her account reveals astonishing navet, noted amusingly by Charlotte Allen. Eventually, of course, she discovers that he's an active philanderer and, is disillusioned:
I falsely assumed that the man who calls affluent Westerners human rights violators would treat women with dignity.
She writes the online piece, but also sends it to a feminist blog, and now the story gets complicated. The blog is "What Is It Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy?", a forum for disgruntled female grad students in philosophy. It seems that philosophy is the only department in the humanities that is still overwhelming male, and feminists, eager to find a patriarchal conspiracy against them (instead of the obvious: Most women aren't interested in the subject), are conducting a vendetta against philosophy departments. As a result of the blog, Anonymous was put in touch with a female Yale grad who is suing Yale and the professor (the sometime lover of Anonymous) for sexual harassment, even though the university had cleared him of the charge, and now the professor has been publicly identified. The picture is further complicated - and darkened - by the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) that, under the Obama administration "has been issuing increasingly draconian rules and press releases regarding campus harassment."
The situation is a beautiful set-up for vindictive feminists to put pressure on colleges and philosophy departments (and some prominent male academics have joined the wolf pack) who fear the OCR and yearn "to be perceived as sufficiently enlightened and woman-sensitive." It does not matter now if actual sexual harassment is proven; it is not even necessary to actually file suit - this is "extra-judicial sexual-harassment 'justice,'" in other words, a witchhunt.
The Harvey Mansfield article - "Feminism and Its Discontents" - tells a simple story: a woman undergraduate at Harvard wrote anonymously to the student paper claiming that she was pressed into intercourse while drunk, something that made her feel "hopeless, powerless, betrayed, and worthless." Immediately the university created committees to consider the matter. The author construes the situation as a result of two foundational principles of feminism:
. . . that there is no essential difference between men and women. . . . men and women . . . are arbitrary "social constructions" containing nothing "natural" or permanent.
If this is true, if women are defined by society, then they are not independent, being dependent on society's definition.
The feminist model of sexual independence wants women to be equal to men; it is therefore taken from the independent male whose main feature is the ability to walk away from sex afterwards . . . the predatory male from whom the Harvard woman suffered and whom feminism imitates and paradoxically glorifies.
Then Harvey Mansfield contrasts it with the old ideal of feminine modesty that gave women some protection as well as the pleasure of courtship (which also restrained men). It is the culture of feminism that led the woman "into consenting to a very bad experience." And this mess is worsened by the government, as the author describes the Office of Civil Rights' efforts to force universities to prevent a "'hostile environment' caused by sexual assault." Of course, the university hastens to aid in this
. . . ridiculous accusation against itself . . . for having failed to establish a culture of sexual adventure that never results in misadventure.
He concludes with this plaintive question: "How can we recover some sense of feminine modesty and male restraint?" *