Simply speechless

Terence Kealey, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, says female students are a perk of the job for male university lecturers – though they should look, not touch.

In an article for the Times Higher Education magazine on lust, part of a feature on the seven deadly sins of universities, Kealey wrote: “Normal girls – more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos – will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers, but nonetheless, most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays. What to do?

“Enjoy her! She’s a perk.”

For the rest of the story, see here.

(Thanks J-Bro and Kalbir!)

51 thoughts on “Simply speechless

  1. I always get those rather nonpacifist thoughts with guys like these, somehow, and I hold them responsible for that. So they are wrong twice.

  2. I write occasionally for the Guardian so I regularly read comments from readers and they are full of this laddish anti-feminist stuff. This seems to have become cool amongst a particular subset of the left in the UK. Just go to Comment is Free and check out the comments on any article written by any woman on any topic that could be construed in the most latitudinarian sense as “feminist” and out come the lads, bashing the author as a man-hating feminist, complaining that women tease and manipulate them, that white males don’t have a chance because of “reverse discrimination,” that women don’t do the hard manual labor they do but want clean, cushy jobs at high pay and that they expect to get the same career options as men in spite of the fact that they expect to take years off to care for their kids and to enter and leave the workforce whenever they feel like it.

    A little while back I recall there was an earnest, thoroughly ideological piece by an Asian woman describing how some socially concerned group had set up a battered women’s shelter for immigrant women whose husbands were beating them up. Sure enough, out came the lads accusing her of man-hating feminism and complaining that no one cares about men whose wives or girlfriends beat them up.

    I’m half of a transatlantic couple and wonder whether there may be some cultural difference here. But still seems to me in any case that anti-feminism has become the racism of the left.

  3. Hmm. I’m tempted to say that the people commenting on the Guardian pieces are either (i) young; (ii) trolls. I’m not sure that it’s exactly cool amongst a subset of the UK left. Rather, I think that there are rather a lot of young blokes (early twenties at oldest) who think along those lines, some of whom read the Guardian. I teach some of them on my feminism course, which is an interesting experience. Susan Bordo talks about this a bit in her book on the male body. The flip side of teaching males that they should be masterful and in charge of sex (that isn’t very well-expressed, but I hope you follow what I mean) is that they feel hard done by and resentful when women don’t obey them. They feel like they are being manipulated because they’re not in charge.

  4. I’m a college student (education) and I can certainly say that I haven’t spent all this money and gone this far into debt to stare at men, whether they are my classmates or professors. And I’m certainly not there to make the male professor’s job easier or be anyone’s perk

  5. Stupid question time: while I agree that there’s SOMETHING “icky” and off-putting about Kealey’s remarks, I’m struggling to articulate it.
    Is he wrong to consider “getting to look at physically attractive people” a perk of a job? Is he wrong to SAY that he does? Is he wrong to adopt such a straightforwardly heteronormative stance? Is it more the things that he DOESN’T say (e.g., it’s possible to find someone physically attractive but your first responsibility, as her/his instructor, is to their learning)?

  6. Certainly teens and early 20-somethings but too many of them to be trolls–they dominate the discussion. And you certainly get lots of this in the US too–though my impression is not quite as much and not with the laddish pose.

    Partly I think is it’s being naughty–taking down feminism perceived as a respectable piety. The same guys show up in the religion section, where I write, ranting endlessly about sky-pixies and flying spaghetti monsters. Part is their sense of entitlement, and resentment because they can’t get the jobs to which they feel entitled or the women to which they feel entitled on the no-strings terms to which they feel entitled.

  7. @philosoraptor: While it might hard to see what would be wrong with this in an ideal world, it’s not so hard to see what’s wrong with it in this world. Young women mostly don’t want to be leered at, or even just seen as a “perk”, by their male profs. Might be interesting to contrast the prof job with the job of a photographer who shoots pics of beautiful models. There it just seems true it’s a perk of the job to look at the models. This spoof ad for the model massager (“worst job ever”) plays on this idea. But students aren;t chosen for their looks nor is it any part of their role. But my brow is still furrowed thinking about your question!

  8. Frankly my issue with this is that I’m ugly. I accepted this fact at a young age, knew that there were a variety of options that weren’t open to me because of my appearance and, striving to be realistic and avoid self-deception, avoided situations in which my appearance would count against me. I never applied for cocktail waitress jobs or receptionist jobs and never went to pick-up bars.

    I assumed that academia was a congenial place where appearance didn’t loom large and in particular that instructors weren’t surveying classes to feast on pretty chickies. But this just brings it home to me that there are no places where appearance doesn’t matter.

    Compare appearance to other gifts, e.g. musical talent. If I were tone-deaf I would be foolish to go around auditioning for choirs. People should be realistic and know their limitations. There are plenty of places where being tone-deaf doesn’t matter–where no one knows, notices or cares. No one sees musical talent or a variety of other gifts as being as big a deal as appearance. But appearance is a big deal that figures wherever you go.

    It’s depressing that that’s the way it is–that men, as the article suggests, are always, always intensely aware of women’s appearance and always appraising them, that one always has to fight and strive to be accepted in spite of one’s appearance. It just makes life tough and tiring for people like me.

  9. for what it’s worth, it seems to me that it is ok to appreciate that your students are attractive, but it’s not ok to say that you are doing this, or to help create an environment in which it is not only common knowledge but *salient* common knowledge that professors notice how their students look and take pleasure in this. So, to go back to philosoraptor’s questions, it doesn’t seem to me that it is impermissible to be attracted to one’s students, and it doesn’t seem to me to be impermissible to enjoy the feelings of attraction. (Acting on these feelings is a whole other matter, obviously. But one often can’t prevent feelings of attraction from occurring. And I don’t see why one should feel guilty about having them, or that one is a less virtuous person in virtue of having them or being disposed to have them.) But it is really important that the classroom and other academic settings be ‘safe’ for the students, that they are in an environment in which they can flourish and feel that they can flourish. And this fact provides a reason to not make it salient that one way in which a teacher can view a student is as an imaginary romantic partner. (I haven’t read the linked article, so please don’t construe this as an attempt to defend anything the author says. And I want it to make clear that I am not condoning leering or any other overt activity that makes it manifest that one is feeling some sort of attraction. That would be clearly yucky. Same with ‘surveying classes in order to feast’. That seems yucky to me too. )

  10. So I read the article and read the comments. Here’s the thing, DUH, its not like people are offset or surprised to discover that men look at women.

    Here’s my BIG problem with this, I come from a family where I had no respectable adult males to look up to and learn from. As we know, often that makes young women (and I’m sure young men in the converse) feel the need to seek out attention from men in a manner that probably won’t get them the understanding etc. they need about men. Generally, it gets them used.

    I realized this growing up, that i had female friends who did seek out this attention, in what i felt was a very unhealthy way. At least for me, which is why I sought out the attention (not at all sexual) of my friends who had cool dads for the kind of reassurance, advice and all around mentoring that young people need. Thankfully, none of my friend’s dads were creeps, they were actually amazing men who helped shape my life for the better by providing me a dollop of privilege that their daughters received from their loving and intelligent fathers.

    I can’t say the same for the male teachers (in my experience, by high school those were most of the teachers I had and of course through college). Many were total perverts. I never ever flirted or anything with them, I was only one of those apparently non-“normal girls” (what an insult) who wanted to learn. I wanted to learn about politics and philosophy and poetry. But they wanted me.

    Even in situations where male teachers openly mentored male students (and so i thought I might enjoy the same privilege) I soon realized I was only afforded that special knowledge from the teacher if I gave him what he wanted. And I didn’t, and so I was denied knowledge others were freely given because the men (this happened with THREE university profs, yes 3) in these particular situations decided I had to pay. They were not thinking with their heads. To a young girl, especially from a middle eastern culture that keeps women in the dark about a lot of sexuality, this was very scary and upsetting for many reasons. They thought they were enjoying perks, they totally didn’t get that they were denying me education based on my sex, or lack of it with them.

    Many young people come to school and even university, lacking mentorship that, to some degree, should be a part of education and a safe place to seek this type of relationship. So what does this post mean for women who are interested in education and worried that their profs are more interested in their bust size than their level of progress on the topic? What are we paying for? are women not available enough to men in every other capacity that they can’t just maybe notice an attractive woman and then move on with the lesson? Its almost like you are trying to make an “i can’t help myself ” argument.

    As a law student, this reminds me of how rape was rationalized and how much MORE sympathy there was for rapists. You can help yourself, and if you can’t maybe you have a problem.

    And here’s the real question: when guys defend this kind of talk with a snicker and a “well boys will be boys” it reminds me of what my best friend says in response to that same line , which is, “yes, but men should be men”. ISn’t that what would separate the two ? not that you would be any less attracted to women, but that you wouldn’t act like a 13 year old about it? Isn’t it an insult to you men out there , that you are perceived as a large penis brain? Doesn’t it insult you that ad brain washers know they can always get your attention with sexist pictures? Does it bother you that a seemingly leading philosophy of women in finding some power like men have is to manipulate you with because we know “guys can’t help it” ?
    How insulting to men! And yet so many run to claim this like it is a badge to wear with pride?!

    I just can’t believe that the male libido is this much more NATURALLY unreasonable and unscrutinizing than females. I know many women who would fit the male proscribed bill of the “ever horniness ” that men claim to be afflicted with, and , to note, they do and say just as insulting and stupid things. Doesn’t that mean that maybe its just an issue that some people in general have? Maybe that issue has been exaggerated by the VAST amount of sexist media propaganda that is our culture? Like Allen Ginsburg said, “whoever controls the media controls the culture”. And media is our culture, and it is in the interest of many to delude us into a brave new world type of drugs and sex induced coma.

    He could have AT LEAST said what he said in a more tactful way. And for those who are saying, “well he’s just being honest…” Isn’t if funny when we are ok with honesty and defend it? Generally when its to the detriment of an innocent party. So under that rational couldn’t we just say being a jerk is being honest?

    He said to look not to touch, but what about publish? But i guess we know about the old boys club, and this ain’t the half of it. This is not just about normal heterosexual attraction, this is about having a hard time seeing women as SOMETHING MORE than objects. Cut and dry.

  11. What I find ridiculous (and troubling) about Kealy’s remarks is that he frames women attending university as if it were still a curiosity: “So chaps, look, there are women in the room. What are we to make of that then?” The “look but don’t touch” advice deepens this sense of novelty and exoticism about the presence of women. Of course a lecturer shouldn’t touch his students – doesn’t that go without saying? But nor should they leer. It’s not about allowing a space for desire or for being fallibly human: that a vice-chancellor makes these remarks demonstrates to women students of his institution that they are an anomoly, that they don’t quite belong to the academic context. I’m hoping dinosaurs like Kealy are a dying breed, and not a resurgent force in academia.

  12. So, given the parameters provided by the article’s title, specified as “lift[ing] the lid on the rampant wickedness troubling the sanctity of our hallowed universities”, is there a better topic for the category of Lust, or just better ways in which Kealey should have addressed it? And what might a female guest contributor have written for the category?

  13. The comparison to Casaubon and Dorothea made it icky, given how Eliot actually wrote that relationship; but I find Kealey’s comments not so much icky as infuriating. What sort of view do you have to have of your students in order to talk about them, any of them, in the way Kealey does here? And, to top it all off, the accusation that it is the fault of the women in particular (“The fault lies with the females”) that faculty-student relationships are common (because they made it transgressive, and “the best sex” is transgressive) is a sure sign that we are in absurd territory. Well, no, what really tops it all off is that it’s apparently OK to admire the ‘curves’ during the day, as you would at a lapdance club, if you do it to spice up your sex life with your wife at night! A little sop of empty bourgeois moralism apparently makes everything OK.

    I find it interesting that Kealey thinks that the only power an academic could have over a student is the power of determining grades. I’ve come across this before, and I find it worrisome, because it shows a blindness to the different ways power can manifest itself. Instructors are often seen by students as standing with the institution behind them; they often don’t know the full extent of the limits placed on an instructor; and in any case an instructor is in a position to affect, to a very great extent, how a student perceives herself (or himself) in a classroom.

  14. One thing that strikes me very strongly is the way that something like this, coming from an authority figure, may make female students think twice about asking for help on their essays.

  15. H.E.Baber — I just wanted to say that I appreciate your honesty about one reason this story is so upsetting. I’m in the same boat, though I haven’t quite come to terms with my appearance yet; it’s something I’ve struggled with most of my life. I remember entering grad school and thinking, “Finally! A place where I’ll be judged on my intellectual skills, and not my appearance.” I was in for a very rude awakening when I discovered that some of the top profs in my department viewed female grad students (only the pretty ones, of course) as perks, and cultivated mentoring relationships with them. The same thing happened with the other grad students, and sometimes I felt like I was back in high school where the pretty girls got invited to parties and I was invisible.

    However, there is one point Kealey makes in his heinous essay that seems right to me and that isn’t discussed enough: for academic men, no matter how “nerdy” looking, there always seem to be some female students who develop crushes and flirt with them. This can be a perk for a heterosexual man — it gives a person a little ego-boost when someone shows attraction and seeks out their advice. But for heterosexual female academics, especially the nerdy looking ones, the corresponding “perk” is quite rare. Male students for the most part ignore us. Sometimes when I see my male colleagues being fawned over by one or two female students, I feel a little jealous.

  16. I’m finding these comments really interesting, and particularly liked m’s.

    Look, it just IS a perk of academia that, whatever your gender and sexual orientation, you get to spend your whole career, well into your dotage, interacting with and gazing at rooms and lawns filled with 20-somethings, many of whom are attractive. C’mon. Can anyone seriously deny that? It’s a real upside, compared to being, say, an ER doc or a criminal lawyer.

    So the problem with this guy’s comments is complicated – it is about heteronormativity, the reductive structure of the male gaze, and the performative effect of making explicit what there are reasons to keep implicit. Somehow we have to be able to articulate all that without engaging in bad faith. Challenging and important. Most of the media comments just go the bad faith route though.

  17. my first thought about this was: what if it was reversed? what if cute male students were seen as a perk to women professors? do people take the same offense? i think there’s a (potentially) interesting asymmetry here…

  18. I had a thought similar to this too. My office overlooks the rugby field and yesterday I had a view of shirtless male undergrads exercising. I looked and I smiled. So sure, one might say “the view” is a perk of my job but again, they are not my particular students, not in my class. Context matters. In class, talking about philosophy, I do think I’m able to put looks aside and concentrate of their ideas. Male students also are not worried that they are being seen only as eye candy for profs. It doesn’t undermine their sense of belonging. I think female students do worry about this and that makes a world of difference.

  19. Kealey says publicly what male teachers joke about when they’re together, in my experience as a male teacher. It’s always a sin to say publicly what people say privately. Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, they say, and Kealy doesn’t pay that homage. I don’t want to condone the abuse of male power over female students in any sense, but Kealey doesn’t do that either. Furthermore, his reference to Casaubon drenches whatever sexual ego that older males may have left.

  20. To me, beautiful girls as a perk is annoying but the lesser evil of a piece that says “Normal girls [are] more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos.” So normal girls only go to college for the ol’ MRS. degree. Really? I feel this part of the statement is what we should be focusing on.

  21. I am one who would deny that there is any meaningful sense in which attractiveness of students is a ‘perk’ of being a teacher; one might as well say that having good-looking secretaries is a perk of being an executive. The two are, and should be, completely incidental to each other; the one is not a perquisite of the other. The teacher-student relationship is a professional one; students are colleagues, even if not in exactly the same sense that fellow faculty are colleagues, and (as far as I can see, at least) treating their attractiveness as a perquisite makes no more sense than treating it as a perk that the colleague whose paper one listens to is nice to look at. It may well be that they are nice to look at, but to the extent that we manage to be professionals it is neither here nor there, neither harm nor benefit, neither burden nor bonus. I can make no sense of regarding it as a perk.

    So perhaps ‘perk’ is being used with different meanings — some people taking it as ‘perquisite’, others just as ‘something nice’?

  22. I agree with Jeden and dcardona. His remarks are not troubling simply because he admits that he likes the look of female students and considers this a ‘perk,’ but because he also implies (with the “normal girls” statements), that the main purpose of female students is to provide this perk (rather than, say, obtain an education).

    Not only does he look at his female students, but also he seems to think this is *what they are there for.*

    This reminds me of Susan Moller Okin’s discussion in “Women in Western Political Thought” where she says, “Philosophers who, in laying the foundation for their political theories have asked, ‘What are men like?’ ‘What is man’s potential?’ have frequently, in turning to the female sex, asked ‘What are women for?’ … a functionalist attitude to women pervades the history of political thought” (10).

    Terence Kealey seems to think that female students are not there to develop their potential, since they are more interested in “abs than labs,” but are instead there in a functional role to serve his sexual interest. This trivializes the women at his university. It makes them seem shallow and incapable of engaging with the educational purposes of the university.

    It is not that he admits his sexual attraction that troubles me. It is what his sexual attraction *does* to his view of these women. His comments are objectifying in a troubling way that refuses to see female students as human beings, seeking to discover, through education what they are like and how to reach their potential. It seems to recapitulate the functionalist attitude toward women, and answers that what women are for is to sexually stimulate men, and this is fine, so long as he acts on this with his wife rather than with the women he finds sexually stimulating. But this is not fine, because it reduces women to a role and removes his ability to see them, like he would see his male students, not as students *for the purpose* of providing him with sexual fantasies, but as students there to develop their human potential.

    His remarks are troubling, not because they have sexual content, but because he uses that sexual content in a dehumanizing way.

  23. how about the fact that it’s possible to use the way women view men to teach them something about themselves…? the first section of todd solondz’s “storytelling” comes to my mind.

    as for the whole idea that *saying* this sort of thing reduces the ability to *see* the potential of women, saying and seeing are obviously different things. in a class of 20-30 students, you’re lucky if you *see* anything of potential in 3 of those students. gender and sexual attraction are the least of it!

  24. I am not quite sure what a ‘perquisite’ is, but by a ‘perk’ I just meant something reliably nice about our job. I don’t see how Brandon can coherently say both that something is ‘nice to look at’ and that it is ‘not a benefit’. Isn’t looking at something nice a benefit? And of course it is a nice treat if someone giving a paper also happens to be attractive! Aren’t we feminists waaaay past this idea that the mind and self are so separate from body that we can interact with one without engaging the other?

    As for Amos’s point about hypocrisy, I thought what was cool and subtle about the points made by m and some others is that since speaking is a performative act, there can be reasons not to say something, especially in a particular context, even when it is true. This is not always hypocrisy – it can be a matter of understanding the subtleties and power of speech.

  25. Oh, and by the way, I definitely agree with the various people above who say that the comments about women’s place at a university are way more offensive than the comments about looking at them.

  26. Rebecca: There are many situations when it is preferable not to say something true, but I don’t see this as one of them. Kealey’s remarks brings the issue of how male teachers view women students out of the closet, which seems positive to me. By the way, it is possible for a teacher to view a woman student as a sex object and as a brillant thinker at the same time, perhaps not at exactly the same instant of consciousness, but seeing a woman as a genius and seeing her as sexy are not mutually exclusive.

  27. Rebecca, I see where you are coming from BUT i think that it’s not that we feminists aren’t wayyyyyy past this idea of the mind and self so separate that we can interact with one and not the other, what IT IS our awareness, as persons who can get past this idea of the mind and self so separate that we can interact with one and not the other, is what is driving this discussion. We are aware that others are not as capable of doing this. That is what his comments remind me of Rebecca, they echo every piece of media that I am constantly bombarded with on a daily basis which tells me I better look good cause that is my PRIMARY worth. That’s it, its not that we can’t do that, that is what he did, that is what is upsetting us. I hope I communicated that effectively :) and I am loving this blog and this discussion–thanks for existing. I think the involvement in this thread and the comments of hurt by women being expressed in response is indicative of the fact that this is a problem, that we are vulnerable to feeling a little less than human. There is a reason for that.

  28. I’m sorry, i feel the need to clarify. I meant to say that all we are really seen for and have been seen for is our body. If there is any place the mind should be engaged and the body be more ignored it is in academia. IF not , where do you go when you are interested in using your brain? e

  29. I just read Kealey’s actual mini-essay at THE (after waiting an eon for the apparently-overloaded page to load), rather than just the bits excerpted in the Guardian article.

    Read in the context of the other short essays about the other six “deadly sins of the academy”, and the editor’s statement that precedes all seven entries, the tongue-in-cheekness of Kealey’s approach was quite a bit more evident. All of the other contributors adopt a similar tone when discussing procrastination, arrogance, and other deadly academic sins, though Kealey’s might be the most extreme.

    I’m saying this not to defend Kealey’s words from any deserved criticism — in fact, he might be due for even more criticism, as someone attempting to be humorous in a situation where he was almost guaranteed to fail (or, anyway, where his intent was almost certain to be misunderstood).

  30. Hi, Rebecca,

    Sorry, I should have been less condensed in my description; by ‘perquisite’ I meant a payment or commodity due to someone for a job, outside of wages or salary and health benefits. They are things given or allowed to you as a special privilege. (For instance, a company car, or special library privileges for faculty.) ‘Perk’ was originally a short form of this, and still often is (it’s the context in which I’ve usually heard the term), but this discussion has made me realize that it’s also used in a much broader sense, and that what used to be at most a metaphor now might be main meaning.

    I live fairly near the campus where I teach, and walk to it, often in the mornings. It’s fairly common for me to catch the sunrise, and, this being central Texas, there are often wildflowers all over the place, and the air is reasonably clear and clean, especially after a rain (which brings out even more wildflowers). This is all very nice; it’s a benefit of walking to campus in this location, which I do because I teach. But I wouldn’t consider it a benefit or perk of teaching itself, and I would suggest that attractive students are likewise, at most, a benefit of being able to sense — it has nothing to do with the fact that they are students, and nothing to do with the fact that one is teaching, and nothing to do with the context of education itself. It might, like having a good sunrise view from one’s office, be something that (for instance) makes a difficult day easier to get through professionally, but in this case I rather doubt that’s the usual result. And whether it’s actually a benefit, I think, depends on what people are likely to do about it; the sort of case noted in the above comment by redeyedtreefrog is obviously totally benign, but clearly there are a disturbing number of people who react to the attractiveness of their students (or their colleagues) in such a way that they harm their students and even their own ability to act professionally and as a reasonable human being. We tend to locate the benefit or harm of how other people look in them; but I think it really lies in how we are reacting to how they look.

    In any case, as a practical matter the last thing a male instructor with attractive female students should be doing is explicitly thinking of them as perks, especially if that means, even half-jokingly, Kealey’s ‘look but don’t touch, like when you’re getting a lapdance’. Our female students, all of them, deserve more respect than that, and we male instructors should be taking more prudent measures than that.

  31. Brandon, thanks for the link. So it was all tongue in cheek, or, as he says, “Because transgressional sex is inappropriate, the piece uses inappropriate and transgressional language to underscore the point – a conventional literary device. ”

    Unfortunately, parodies of demeaning behavior can still employ demeanging language and images. The implicit operator that the Times and he seem to think in place – PARODY TO FOLLOW – does not remove all the normal effects, nor should one think it would.

    Basically, it’s locker room behavior hyped a bit, but still a sad reminder of the sexist cliches in the academic culture.

  32. Ruwayda, your comment was so out of place that it didn’t get any responses, I guess, but I will make an off topic remark on it anyway.
    For women to wear a hijab a niqab or whatever does not safeguard them from this kind of treatment by men. For instance, the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR) did a survey that demonstrated that whether a woman covers up or not makes no difference to whether she gets harassed on the streets of Egypt, 83% of the women get harassed no matter how they dress (see BBC report here).
    No matter how many layers you make a woman wear, she will still be a woman, and unfortunately and apparently, is still seen as a lust object by a lot of men. Now THAT is the problem.
    It seems to me that you are shifting the responsibility for the completely inappropriate declartions by this Kealey bloke to the female students. I have trouble accepting that, for the obvious reasons.

  33. Furthermore, excuse my rant, this makes the issue something religious, which it is not. By denying that veiled muslim women are subject to this kind of treatment, you also make it harder for them to speak up against it, because that would seem a disloyalty to their religion, which it is not. This is NOT about religion, this is not about the modesty of the dress of women, this is about women being seen as sexual objects. And as far as I know, unfortunately, this is universal.

  34. He scolds in a passive aggressive way by saying its “a conventional writing method” but obviously he didn’t do it well and further, parody and satire have been used to justify much propaganda against those disenfranchised. think blacksploitation (John waters, Quentin Terentino etc.) Call it what you want, but in the end if the disenfranchised group is very upset about it, perhaps that non-disenfranchised person or group should reconsider telling the disenfranchised group what they should or should not be offended by. Hopefully this type of discussion comes out to the surface more, perhaps we should thank him for saying in public what most don’t so we can open a discussion about why it is demeaning. That should be one of the benefits of free speech–evolution.

    Great point hippocampa, but what I got from Ruwayda’s remarks was understanding the reasoning of women who chose to wear a hijab. Yeah they are still getting harassed, but I think (as a middle eastern woman) the feeling is more like, “well, i’m not going to give in and just let them have what they want to see, to dress for them”.

    I think, personally, there is a middle-ground, the golden mean that has been lost on many aspects of most societies. But that is a little inside into how non-western women often perceive western feminism as well as their reluctance to conform to it. As an Iraqi American woman who ran away from an abusive situation thinking as a teen being “free” in America would be so much better, I found that is not the always case. I often felt and still often feel (though I understand that benefits of being an American female are still numerous) that I traded being a “slave” for being a “whore”. At least as a “slave” you have a moral high ground. To be clear, I don’t personally believe a hijab is necessary or even all that helpful, but I respect those who do truly chose this way of life and why they are confused or not into western feminism. Remember, the hijab has become increasingly popular in correlation with the influence of western media.

    We think that those cultures that utilize the hijab or burka are afraid of women’s freedom. But understand that many of those people wonder why we equate women’s freedom with a need to encourage with objectification that demeans women. Maybe Americans would respond that we don’t mean that those women should dress in an objectifying manner or even that we encourage that, but then most of the dialogue between western and eastern culture is through media. Our media is telling them this is what we think women should be like. I have a high hope that a new type of better feminism may eventually come from this area of the world–however I don’t mind where it comes from as long as it gets here soon! I think the sex strike by women in Kenya was probably the coolest thing I have heard a group of women do to advance the voice of females in society and touches on the nonwestern feminism not being into “choosing objectification = freedom” which seems to be a theme in much western feminism.

  35. Jeden, you’ve made a number of great points. I think that the idea that the dialogue on women’s freedom is so mediated by the media is immensely important. Having discussions on campuses on something like “Is this it: Slave or whore?” might be wonderful. Does anyone know if that is happening?

    I did participate in one on my campus some years ago. It is much harder to position other women as lacking freedom of choice when you are sitting across a table.

    Your examples remind me of the long string of comedies portraying people with mental disabilities.

    One of the common things abusers appeal to is humor, as in “I was just joking,” or, much worse (I think), “You don’t have a sense of humor.”

  36. the dialogue on women’s freedom needs to be held somewhere besides academic campus’; it isn’t just mediated by the media but pre-mediated by the soci-economic status of women’s families who allow– or make it possible– for them to enter those doors.

    i’d say it’s harder to position a women as lacking freedom of choice when you’re sitting across that table because just by being at that table it’s unlikely that those women lack the freedom you’re talking about. the type of freedom she lacks is likely to be much more insidious.

    done. sorry if this seems off-topic!

  37. Amen to that, Jeden!
    And jj, it is indeed exactly that “you don’t have a sense of humour” stuff… well, indeed, I really find things completely and utterly unfunny!

  38. I think for that particular type of satire to work, the result has to be so utterly outrageous that no one would think it plausible that the writer actually felt that way, e.g., Swift’s A Modest Proposal.

  39. About what ‘normal girls’ are interested in: I think it’s safe to say that (statistically) normal girls and normal boys who go to college are most interested in getting a certain piece of paper, which is the only reason they or their parents are willing to pay the outrageous tuition bills. But, given that they’re doing that, partying (with all that it entails) is of incomparably greater interest to them than anything they learn in their classes. As usual, ‘normal’ is far from ‘good’, but it’s to be expected given our economic system and our hedonistic culture.

  40. The other six ‘deadly sins of the academy’, according to the Times Higher, are:
    Sartorial inelegance
    I think it’s interesting that lust was included in this list. Apart from anything else, it’s the only one which is also one of the original ‘deadly sins’ (though I suppose procrastination has links with sloth, and arrogance with pride). I have a hunch which I can’t articulate that lust is much less trivial than these others, and so including it in this apparently satirical series was asking for trouble.

  41. reel aesthete, two comments on your response:

    1. There are all sorts of precedents for starting on campuses, even though that at the beginning leaves out some important voices. To some extent it amounts to choosing a strategy that is both top-down but still within a community. The list of reasons for starting with students includes access, potential leadership, communication, and so on.

    2. The remark about freedom and sitting across a table really was directed at Jeden’s comments about slave or whore, and it was principally about dress. I agree of course that all of us will bring hiddenlacks in our freedom.

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