Or at least, the language of ‘coddling’ is gendered: ‘coddling’ codes as female or feminine. This is not complicated; synonyms offered up when you Google the word ‘coddle’ include ‘mother’ (but not ‘father’ or ‘parent’). An alternate form of ‘coddle’ is ‘mollycoddle’, with the prefix ‘molly’ said to be derived from the feminine name ‘Mary’ or (relatedly) from ‘molly’, meaning ‘girl or prostitute’ [yes, really]. I also just learned that ‘mollycoddle’ can be used as a noun, meaning ‘an effeminate or ineffectual’ [yes, really] man or boy. So there’s that.
In more ways than one, the application of ‘coddling’ language to student activism echoes right-wing ‘nanny state’ rhetoric, used to criticize left-wing policies perceived to interfere with personal freedoms. In both cases, we are invited to overlay a negative, feminized, childcare-related stereotype on to something in order to condemn it.
It’s a small point, but one I’m not seeing foregrounded in current discussions about ‘coddled’ students. Once I noticed this, it helped me make better sense of (some of) what’s going on in those discussions.