As usual, the new school year brings a raft of slick marketing detritus into the mailboxes of University of New Hampshire employees. Which is how I laid my hands on the announcement of the "Saul O Sidore Memorial Lecture Series 2006-2007." The theme of this year's lectures is:
Violence Against Women:For those who don't get UNH junkmail, the lecture series also has a web page, where you can read about the lecturers and take in the following gem:
Complicating the Legacy of Andrea Dworkin
Lectures will be followed by facilitated dialogues run by and for men, women, and all people.Yes, after specifiying "men" and "women," it's necessary here to append "and all people." We don't want to exclude anyone recognizably human at the University of New Hampshire. Not on the basis of your self-defined gender identity, anyway.
Anyway: this year's lectures revolve around the late Andrea Dworkin. Professor Marla Brettschneider states the rationale:
The life, ideas, legendary status and vilification of this extremely controversial thinker eerily resonates with the situation on the UNH campus in the past year. Dworkin's life work commands interdisciplinary attention. The uncanny coincidence of her death at the height of a chaotic, runaway discourse, threats and assaults on women and those deemed "feminists" at UNH presents a unique opportunity to wed interdisciplinary scholarly examination to a serious practical need on our campus.It's eerie! Uncanny! But in any case, we've been bad, so we deserve it. (Please take Professor Brettschneider's allegation of "threats and assaults" as incredibly overblown.)
People with longish memories might remember Dworkin coupled with law prof Catharine MacKinnon in an anti-pornography campaign back in the 1980s. As a user of the World Wide Web, you probably have a pretty good idea of how that worked out.
A commitment to sexual equality with males is a commitment to becoming the rich instead of the poor, the rapist instead of the raped, the murderer instead of the murdered.If you find this kind of rhetoric insufferably tendentious, worthlessly overbroad, and essentially incoherent: well, you're right. But you're also missing the point. You simply can't argue against such assertions; the people that make them aren't interested in debating them. They're interested solely in marking out their territory, signalling fellow believers. About all you can do is shake your head and walk away.
Men have defined the parameters of every subject. All feminist arguments, however radical in intent or consequence, are with or against assertions or premises implicit in the male system, which is made credible or authentic by the power of men to name.
Sexism is the foundation on which all tyranny is built. Every social form of hierarchy and abuse is modeled on male-over-female domination.
Or you can mark your own territory; this can be fun, and nobody does it better than Camille Paglia:
MacKinnon and Dworkin are victim-mongers, ambulance chasers, atrocity addicts. MacKinnon begins every argument from big, flawed premises such as "male supremacy" or "misogyny," while Dworkin spouts glib Auschwitz metaphors at the drop of a bra. Here's one of their typical maxims: "The pornographers rank with Nazis and Klansmen in promoting hatred and violence." Anyone who could write such a sentence knows nothing about pornography, or Nazism. Pornography does not cause rape or violence, which predate pornography by thousands of years. Rape and violence occur not because of patriarchal conditioning, but because of the opposite, a breakdown of social controls. MacKinnon and Dworkin, like most feminists, lack a general knowledge of criminology or psychology and hence have no perspective on or insight into the bloody, lurid human record, with its disasters and triumphs.
And it's not just Camille. Cathy Young dug out more quotes in a Boston Globe op-ed after Dworkin died:
To put it plainly: Dworkin was a preacher of hate. Her books are full of such declarations as, "Under patriarchy, every woman's son is her betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman." ("Patriarchy," of course, covers contemporary Western societies.) "Male sexuality, drunk on its intrinsic contempt for all life, but especially for women's lives, can run wild." "Hatred of women is a source of sexual pleasure for men in its own right."[Cathy Young also bemoaned the "Dworkin Whitewash" at Reason's Hit&Run blog, using language that probably wouldn't make it into the Globe.]
Needless to say, neither Camille Paglia nor Cathy Young will be giving any of the Sidore Lectures this year. That would "complicate" the legacy of Andrea Dworkin a bit too much.
No male lecturers, either. Although (see above) it's promised males will be allowed to run "facilitated dialogues." Other than that, however, we'll be getting a "diverse" array of lefty feminists from academia, who seem to have been picked to make sure the all the racial, ethnic, and sexual orientation bases were covered.
While our local 9/11 conspiracy theorist is getting all the current limelight, this kind of stultifying intellectual conformity is business as usual in the modern university. That's the real scandal.