Want to see some real fascism?

The other day, I wrote an article on the question of the “neofascist peril” in Ukraine and in Russia.

Well, here’s an interesting sidebar, or postscript, as it were.

This is a video of a song by Zhanna (Jeanne) Bichevskaya, “Kulikovo Field,” which she performed on Russia’s TV1 (the main, state-run TV channel). I’m not sure about the date of the broadcast (the video was uploaded in 2010). The title refers to the location of a 1380 battle between Russian forces and the armies of the Golden Horde, which began Russia’s liberation from Mongol rule.

The lyrics speak for themselves. Here’s my verse translation, which alters a few words here and there for rhythm and alliterative rhyme but is very close to the original.

By the way, note the bolded stanza.  As one Russian blogger quipped, the Turks and the Israelis should be getting nervous.

Our ancestors remembers, our grandfathers remember,
And our Church remembers, in the Almighty’s name,
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

Through the morning mist here come the holy banners,
Soon, the rage of combat will shake the very earth.
The field of Russian Glory, the field of Russian battle,
The field of Russian life that triumphs over death.
The field of Russian Glory, the field of Russian battle,
The field of Russian life that triumphs over death.

But how is it, brothers, that so low we’ve fallen?
Russia’s groaning under black oppressive hordes.
Then it’s time for Russians to take up their weapons,
Then it’s time for Russians again to draw their swords.
Then it’s time for Russians to take up their weapons,
Then it’s time for Russians again to draw their swords.

The anti-world is starting great new conflagrations,
Once again, our Moscow is ravaged by their fires.
And there are new Europes menacing our homeland,
And new Khans who threaten, and the new Khazars.
And there are new Europes menacing our homeland,
And new Khans who threaten, and the new Khazars.

But our Holy Russia will be free and mighty;
Let the Devil tremble at this Russian might!
Once again, the rightful Tsar will lead his army,
Kulikovo Field will be our common fight!
Once again, the rightful Tsar will lead his army,
Kulikovo Field will be our common fight!

Then, the praying voices will arise and triumph,
Russia’s hour of glory will thunder through the world.
In the Savior’s name will stand the Holy Army,
A new Kulikovo for us has been foretold.
In the Savior’s name will stand the Holy Army,
A new Kulikovo for us has been foretold.

In the hour of reckoning, we will frown in anger,
And will sweep the vampires from our country’s path.
There will be no camps then, there will be no prisons—
All of Russia’s enemies will be put to death.
There will be no camps then, there will be no prisons—
All of Russia’s enemies will be put to death!

We will track the enemy and we will destroy him,
Tear them all to pieces, may the Lord be praised.
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

Russia will reclaim her Russian Sevastopol,
And Crimea will be Russian once again,
We’ll retake the Bosphorus, our Constantinople,
And the sacred city of Jerusalem,
We’ll retake the Bosphorus, our Constantinople,
And the sacred city of Jerusalem!

And, defying masons and all other villains,
Those who toward the Christians seethe with vicious hate,
We’ll regain the memory of Kulikovo Field–and
We will be united by this holy place.
We’ll regain the memory of Kulikovo Field–and
We will be united by this holy place.

Anywhere I go and anywhere I travel,
In my Christian heart, my country’s fields I bear.
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

(For those unfamiliar with Russian code words: the “new Khazars” are Jews.)

No, Bichevskaya does not speak for the Russian government, but it’s noteworthy that she is the recipient of several awards from the Russian Orthodox Church. She was a guest on Soyuz, the Church’s TV channel, last December.

2 Comments

March 25, 2014 · 7:55 pm

Odessa humor for our time

Odessa, a port city in Ukraine–mainly Russian-speaking but very multi-ethnic–has a long tradition of unique, quirky (primarily Jewish) local humor; there’s a whole genre of Odessa folklore including jokes and humorous songs.  One sample of it in response to current events has made the rounds recently — a video clip (subtitled in English) in which Odessa residents call Putin and ask him to go home.  (I tried inserting it here but it didn’t work for some reason.)

And now, a new Odessa joke I saw on Facebook today (in Russian).

Two friends run into each other in the street.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Shhh…. I’m trying not to speak Russian in public.”

“What, are you scared the Ukrainians might beat you up?”

“Naah, I’m scared the Russians might decide to come and rescue me.”

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Filed under Russia, Ukraine

Giving feminism a bad name, Chapter [insert astronomical number here]

So this morning, this showed up in my Twitter feed:

Image

Out of morbid curiosity, I followed the link and found this article in the Jewish online magazine, The Tablet, which skewers “male critics” for giving lukewarm reviews to the new Disney feature, Frozen, and missing its feminist message.

To start with: I haven’t seen Frozen yet.  I’m really disappointed that Disney made a film very loosely based on Andersen’s wonderful story The Snow Queen, rather than an actual adaptation of the story (which has a courageous, active female protagonist, an awesome and terrifying female villain, and other great characters including a lady bandit chief and her bratty but good-hearted daughter).  One friend of mine thought it was great.  Another, a feminist who has a strong interest in female-driven stories, thought it was so-so.

If Frozen is getting mediocre press, that’s news to me: the film has a very impressive 89% “fresh” rating on RottenTomatoes.com (though some of the reviews counted as “good” are not quite as enthusiastic as Tablet author Marjorie Ingall, the magazine’s Life and Religion columnist, would prefer).  Plenty of male critics loved it: Time‘s Richard Corliss, for instance, or The Wall Street Journal‘s Joe Morgenstern (who concludes his review by calling one of the sisters, Elsa, “a heroine for our times”). And some female critics, such as Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com, were every bit as lukewarm as the male critics Ingall castigates.  The Village Voice‘s Sherrilyn Connelly thought that in terms of its portrayal of female characters, Frozen is a step back from Brave; Ingall emphatically disagrees, which is fine.

What’s not fine is that (1) under the guise of feminism, Ingall has penned a disgustingly sexist and crass attack on male critics, a respectable online magazine published it, and some people are apparently loving it; and (2) Ingall seriously misrepresents both the overall tenor of the reviews and some of the actual critics she slams.

After cherry-picking a few “meh” reviews, Ingall writes:

All these critics are boys. This movie is an extraordinary, subversive story about sisterhood, and it is funny and surprising and weird, and they do not get it because they are writing with their penises.

Really, Ingall?  Really, Tablet?  “Boys”? “Writing with their penises”?  Good grief.  Imagine the reaction if a male writer derided “girl” critics who were insufficiently enthusiastic about some male-oriented movie and opined that “they do not get it because they are writing with their ovaries.”  (Yeah, okay, Rush Limbaugh says this kind of crap, which he rightly gets slammed for.  But I can’t imagine, say, Commentary or National Review Online publishing anything of the sort.)

Speaking of “not getting it,” I think Ingall actually misunderstood the meaning of a line that particularly incensed her in Stephen Holden’s New York Times review.  Holden wrote:

“Frozen,” for all its innovations, is not fundamentally revolutionary. Its animated characters are the same familiar, blank-faced, big-eyed storybook figures. But they are a little more psychologically complex than their Disney forerunners. Its princesses may gaze at a glass ceiling, but most are not ready to shatter it.

Ingall fumes:

Wait, what? It’s true, animated movies fall down spectacularly when it comes to body-image diversity. This is no exception. (My daughter Josie observed that the princesses’ eyes are wider than their arms, and I know of someone who dismissed the film as “Battle of the Snow Barbies.”) But how are they not shattering a glass ceiling? It’s a cartoon in which both of the leads are female, the love story is secondary to the tale of the sisters’ relationship, and oh yeah, audiences are flocking to see it in record numbers despite the tepid reviews.

Actually, I believe Holden is contrasting the film’s princesses, Elsa and Anna, to “their Disney forerunners.”  The last line in the paragraph Ingall quotes is rather clunkily written and confusing, but it sure looks to me like “Its princesses” refers to “Disney’s princesses,” not Elsa and Anna (“most” of two makes no sense).  I think Holden is saying that Frozen‘s princesses do shatter the “glass ceiling,” an interpretation supported by the fact that his next paragraph notes that this is the first Disney animated feature with a female director.

But back to Ingall for this snarky aside:

(I did laugh at the conservative New York Post’s response: “[Disney] too often panics at feminist pressure and orders up formulaically ‘strong, capable, smart’ girls.” Heaven forfend! Love those quote marks. Who’s really panicking here, monkeyboy?)

What Ingall doesn’t say is that the New York Post review by Kyle Smith is actually highly positive (he gives the movie 3.5 stars out of 4, compared to 3 out of 5 from gender traitor Elizabeth Weitzmann in the rival, and liberal, tabloid The Daily News).  Also, Smith is — in this case, unmistakably — contrasting Frozen‘s Elsa, whom he calls “intriguingly nuanced” and “cool,” to the “formulaically ‘strong, capable, smart’” girls from other Disney films.

Oh, and just to remind you: Frozen did not get “tepid reviews.”

To recap:

This is a year in which female-driven movies (Catching Fire, Frozen, Gravity) have done amazingly well with audiences and with critics.

And out of this, a feminist writer manages to get a male-bashing whinefest about slights to women and girls (or to feminism) at the hands of beastly men.

Imaginary slights, I should add.

And then feminists complain that feminism gets a bad press.

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Filed under feminism, gender issues, journalism

Was I unfair to Gloria Steinem?

Dusting off my blogging hat, at least for now.

The occasion:

Last weekend, RealClearPolitics.com ran my column on Gloria Steinem, her Presidential Medal of Freedom, and her role in twentieth and twenty-first century  feminism.  It is, shall we say, not complimentary.  Barry Deutsch of Alas, a Blog, with whom I’ve crossed reasonably friendly swords before, comments and raises some points that require a response.  Sorry it’s taken me a week to put this up; it’s been a bit crazy lately, time-wise.  (And will continue to be, so I warn in advance that I probably won’t have time for a lot of back-and-forth.)

Barry thinks my column on Steinem is an unfair, one-sided hit piece (though I’m glad to see he agrees with some of my criticisms, particularly on Steinem’s deplorable role in the child sex abuse mania of the 1980s and early 1990s and its particularly grotesque offshoot, the satanic ritual abuse panic).  You know what? I’ll concede that this is not the most, ahem, fair and balanced article I’ve ever written.  It was not a complete overview of Steinem’s career; it was a critique, based on my belief that Steinem bears a lot of responsibility for the woeful misdirection of feminism—from a philosophy of gender equity, individual rights, and gender-role flexibility to what Betty Friedan called “sex/class warfare” and, in particular, a focus on various male horrors visited upon women.  Obviously, Steinem did not single-handedly steer the women’s moment in that direction, but her influence was huge.

And now, I’m going to address what Barry believes are unfair or petty criticisms.

1.  I wrote that, as evidenced by her appearance on John Stossel’s 1997 ABC News special, “Boys and Girls Are Different: Men, Women, and the Sex Difference,” Steinem verges on what Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge termed “biodenial” in her insistence that innate psychological/intellectual differences between the sexes are nonexistent and physical ones are almost entirely irrelevant.  Barry suggests that Steinem’s line which I quoted, referring to scientific research on brain differences between men and women as “anti-American crazy thinking,” may have been taken out of context. The full Steinem quote, on this page linked by Barry from Stossel’s book (where it’s misattributed, presumably due to a typo, to Heritage Foundation analyst Kate O’Beirne, Steinem’s conservative adversary on his program) is, “It’s really the remnant of anti-American, crazy thinking to do this kind of research. It’s what’s keeping us down, not what’s helping us.”

Is it possible, as Barry suggests, that Steinem was referring to some specific research project that was genuinely outrageous (for instance, one that set out to prove that women shouldn’t be able to vote or attend college because of differences in the “wiring” of their brains), and not to any of the studies reported in the special?  Perhaps, but it is worth noting that Steinem was surely aware of the program and has never claimed to have been quoted out of context.

Barry also chides me for ridiculing Steinem’s assertion that strength tests requiring prospective firefighters to carry a dummy—challenged and discarded in many urban fire departments as discriminatory toward women—are unnecessary and that, when rescuing someone from a burning building, it makes more sense to drag them along the floor than to carry them, since “there’s less smoke down there.”

Here, I have to give a point to Barry and concede that Steinem’s statement, which has earned her a lot of conservative derision, is not quite as risible as it first appears.  Barry cites evidence that dragging rather than carrying has actually been the preferred rescue method in firefighting for a while, in part because there are fewer noxious/toxic fumes at the lower level.  I did not know this, and I will readily admit that I should have done better research rather than rely on a recycled criticism.  So, to quote a famous Dead White Male: A hit, a very palpable hit!

I will add that even without this information, when I first saw Stossel’s program, I was put off by O’Beirne’s gibe about being “dragged by my ankles as my head hits every single stair going down three stories.” It sounded like she was deliberately reducing the opposing view to caricature; there was no reason the rescuer couldn’t grab the person under the arms, which is indeed the standard technique (this article on fire engineering, which describes the drag as the preferred method, specifically states that dragging by the feet is a no-no).

But here’s why I still think Steinem is not only wrong but dangerously wrong.  As the article linked above points out, dragging is not always possible; for instance, if the stairs are inaccessible and you must get an unconscious person down a fire ladder, there is no option other than to carry them.

While doing my own actual research, I came across this very interesting 1984 article from The Pittsburgh Press, discussing objections to a revised physical test for firefighters that eliminated the requirement of lifting a 125-pound sandbag and carrying it on one’s shoulders while going up and down a staircase. (It was replaced with dragging a 145-pound dummy around an obstacle course.)  Interestingly, one person objecting to the change—made with the express purpose of allowing more women to qualify—was the city’s lone female firefighter, Toni McIntosh, who was concerned that lowering the standards could endanger everyone.

One of McIntosh’s male co-workers pointed out that there were many situations in which dragging was highly inadvisable: “There may be broken glass or other debris on the ground … or your partner may have fallen through a week floorboard and you’ll need to lift him out.”  Fire Chief Charles Lewis, who supported the new exam as a way to meet federal non-discrimination guidelines, was quoted as saying that “a drag would not work in all rescues, but neither would a lift” and that both techniques were included in the training. But why not in the test? Because, said Lewis, “Women’s groups are likely to challenge an exam when there are things in it they can’t do.”

As far as I know, no fire department has ever dropped the lift-and-carry test for any other reason than concerns about sex discrimination—either to comply with a court order or to avoid lawsuits.  And that, I think, is a problem as far as giving feminism a bad name.  The perception is that feminists like Steinem are willing to dilute the standards for physically demanding jobs to accommodate women even if it endangers public safety.  Is this perception is based on right-wing misinformation, as I’m sure Barry would say?  I think it would have been fair for Stossel to acknowledge that the drag method of rescue is a widely accepted firefighting practice, not some weird figment of feminist fantasy.  But, for the reasons explained above, I think the point still stands.  For Steinem to suggest that the lift-and-carry test is based on nothing more than some silly idea of “macho” is glib and unfair, and a cheap shot at male firefighters.

2.  Barry defends Steinem’s advocacy of the American Association of University Women study on the “crisis” in girls’ self-esteem as well as the study itself, and specifically notes that the article I linked for reference, by Amy Saltzman in U.S. News & World Report, does not describe the AAUW study as “shoddy” (as I do). Yes, I am aware of that, and I actually hesitated for that very reason about using that reference. I ended up using it because (1) the article is a pretty thorough overview of the debate and (2) it does state that the bulk of research does not support the claim that adolescent girls suffer a drop in self-esteem compared to boys (except for body dissatisfaction).

For the record, I did review the AAUW dataset back in 1994 when Christina Hoff Sommers challenged the study in Who Stole Feminism?, and I think her critique is entirely on target.  I also think Saltzman is flat-out wrong in her assertion that using only “always true” responses to “I’m happy the way I am” as a measure of self-esteem (as the AAUW did) was “standard practice” and that including “sort of true” and “sometimes true/sometimes false” responses would have been “bad science.”  The Pew Research Center, for instance, routinely combines the “extreme” responses—“very,” “always,” “completely” etc.—with “somewhat” and “mostly” ones as an overall measure of agreement; see here, for example. (Also for the record, I would not be inclined to think well of anyone over the age of twelve who was always happy with him- or herself.)

3.  Barry takes issue with my assertion that Steinem has a tendency to vilify men. Specifically, he says that the quotation I use from her 1992 book, Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem—“The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home”—is taken out of context and refers only to the statistical probability that a woman is more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner than a stranger.   He also accuses Sommers of using the same quotation in a downright “dishonest” manner.

Sommers writes:

Gloria Steinem’s portrait of male-female intimacy under patriarchy is typical: “Patriarchy requires violence or the subliminal threat of violence in order to maintain itself…. The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home.”

According to Barry, “Sommers took a partial sentence from page 259 of Steinem’s book, put it next to a sentence about crime statistics from page 261, and then pretended the two separate passages formed a single thought,” supposedly altering the meaning of the passage.

As Barry says, it is true that American women are more likely to be murdered by a current or former male partner than by a stranger—partly because stranger homicide for women is an extremely rare event. (I also suspect that the 2009 Bureau of Justice Statistics report Barry cites, Female Victims of Violence, inflates the percentage of female homicide victims killed by partners and ex-partners, which it places at about 45%.  A footnote in that paper notes that about one in three homicides reported by local law enforcement to the FBI are missing information about the offender—often because the offender is not identified.  The analysis assumes that the distribution of homicides with missing offenders is roughly the same as for ones with known offenders.  But surely stranger homicides would be far more likely to remain unsolved?)

But that quibble aside: is it “dishonest” to accuse Steinem of using homicide statistics to support her view that male brutality toward women is close to a norm “under patriarchy” (which includes modern Western societies)?  Well, let’s look at the actual context of the first part of the quotation used by Sommers:

And, of course, [domestic] violence also has the larger political purpose of turning half the population into a support system for the other half.  It polices and perpetuates gender politics by keeping the female half fearful of the moods and approval of the male half.  In fact, patriarchy requires violence or the subliminal threat of violence in order to maintain itself.  Furthermore, the seeming naturalness of gender roles makes male/female violence seem excusable, even inevitable.  As G.H. Hatherill, Police Commander of London, put it: “There are only about twenty murders a year in London and not all are serious—some are just husbands killing wives.”

Oy vey.

So, in the Steinem worldview, American (and, generally, Western) society in the late 20th Century is one in which male batterers act as enforcers for the patriarchy; the female half of the population (I’m hoping that Steinem doesn’t mean the entire female half and is resorting to hyperbole) is cowed and terrorized by the male half; and murders of wives by husbands are dismissed as trivial.  (Steinem’s quote from George Hatherill, Detective Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard in the 1940s and ’50s, is sourced to something called The Lovers’ Quotation Book by Helen Handley, published in 1986; I have not found it anywhere else and have no idea if it’s genuine.)

Is this really the kind of feminism we want to be promoting?

I will concede (having re-read parts of Revolution from Within the other day, for the first time in twenty-plus years) that I was oversimplifying when I said that Steinem’s writings usually depict men “under patriarchy” as dangerous brutes; it’s certainly not true, for instance, of her discussion of Rochester in Jane Eyre.  Except … except that Steinem has made comments that do paint men, collectively, in just such a light.  Here’s one particularly outrageous example. While stumping for Hillary Clinton in Austin, Texas in 2008, Steinem told an interviewer that many Americans want to vote for Obama because they “want redemption for racism, for our terrible destructive racist past”—but not as many “want redemption for the gynocide.”  For instance, she noted, while Americans generally “acknowledge racism—not enough, but somewhat,” they are not as ready to acknowledge that “the most likely way a pregnant woman is to die is murder from her male partner.”

Leaving aside the obscene suggestion that America is guilty of “gynocide,” Steinem’s claim about murderous men as the biggest danger to pregnant women is a blatant falsehood.  According to a 2005 report in The American Journal of Public Health, of some 7,300 deaths of American women during pregnancy or in the postpartum period in 1991-1999, 57 percent were for medical reasons while 27 percent were due to various injuries.  Among the injury deaths, 44 percent were car accidents while 31 percent were homicides—not always by male partners, of course.  (While some researchers believe these statistics undercount homicide of pregnant women, their analysis indicates that all pregnancy-related mortality may be undercounted, since death certificates don’t always mention pregnancy.) To suggest that men are routinely slaughtering their pregnant wives and girlfriends is a pretty grotesque slander.

(Oh, and on that same trip to Austin, while speaking to a Hillary Clinton campaign rally, Steinem made comments ridiculing John McCain’s military service and captivity in Vietnam—and slamming military service in general—that the Clinton campaign was forced to publicly disown.  If Hillary runs in the next election, as I hope she does, could Steinem do her a big favor and stay off the trail?)

My objection to Steinem’s the Medal of Freedom is not that she has used some shoddy statistics and made dubious claims. It’s that she often promotes a toxic brand of gender-war feminism that unfortunately tends to cancel out her achievements.  And that’s even aside from her support for the child sex abuse witch-hunts, the recovered memory movement and the Satanism craze—all of which left untold numbers of wrecked lives in their wake. (Like this woman, who was brainwashed into believing that she grew up in a family of baby-murdering, child-raping Satanists; the “therapist” responsible for this atrocity and others like it, Dr. Bennett Braun, is named by Steinem is the acknowledgments for Revolution from Within.)  For that, Steinem has never apologized.

I think I’ll stop before this blogpost balloons to a magazine-length essay.  I’m glad Barry’s article prodded me to do some more research (and, just maybe, to get back to blogging a bit!). I stand by my basic points, but I also agree that I should have done my homework better.  If nothing else, I could have used better quotes.

 

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Virgins for Putin

Dusting off this blog to showcase an incredibly tacky, and very revealing, Putin campaign ad.

Text:

Fortune teller [0:01]: Now we’ll see, my beauty, whom fate has intended for you.

Young woman [0:06]: I’d like it to be for love.  You see, it’s my first time.

Fortune teller [0:17]: The cards will tell the truth.  [0:20] I see that it will be for love, and with no deception.

Young woman [0:28]: It’s him!

Fortune teller [0:32]: You’ll be happy with him.  He’ll protect you like a fortress.

After that, we see the girl approaching a building with a sign that says, “Voting precinct.”

Tagline: “Putin.  The first time, only for (heart symbol).”

(Via Buzzfeed.com.)

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Filed under Putin, Russia

The “Racist Tea Parties” debate

My RealClearPolitics.com column, Tea parties racist?  Not so fast, has drawn not one but two responses on Salon.com.  The first is from Prof. Christopher Parker, a political scientist at the University of Washington and the lead investigator on the study of the racial attitudes of Tea Party supporters on which my column was largely based.  The second is from Salon.com editor Joan Walsh, whose article based on Parker’s findings, “The Tea Partiers’ racial paranoia,” I  mentioned and criticized in the column.

When Prof. Parker’s study was first released, it was widely discussed as evidence that the Tea Party movement was driven in large part by racism.   The proof was in the numbers: as Salon.com’s David Jarman summed it up, in a “Who are the tea partiers” article that for some reason can no longer be found at its original URL,

Among whites who approve of the Tea Party, only 35 percent said they believe blacks are hard-working, only 45 percent believe blacks are intelligent, and just 41 percent believe that they’re trustworthy.

Salon.com editor Joan Walsh, whose article also seems to have disappeared but is cached here, sarcastically inquired,

And Tea Party supporters don’t like it when anyone notices the racists in their midst?

As I found when I obtained a fuller set of numbers from Prof. Parker (by now, all the data are on the UW website), the actual picture was far more complex.  Continue reading

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Filed under conservatism, race, U.S. politics

The date-rape debate redux

Yes, I know that this blog has been gathering dust for a while, and I’ve kept meaning to come back to it.  I don’t know if I’m back on a regular basis (too much else on my plate right now), but I will try to blog at least part-time.

And I’ll start off with a follow-up to my recent Boston Globe column (April 14) on the new sexual misconduct policy at Duke University.  An excerpt:

The policy, introduced last fall but recently challenged by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, co-founded by Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate, targets “sexual misconduct’’ — everything from improper touching to forced sex. Some of the examples given in the text of the policy, such as groping an unwilling woman’s breasts, are clearly sexual offenses not just under university regulations but under the law.

But the policy’s far-reaching definition of sex without “affirmative consent’’ covers much more. Unlike the notorious Antioch College rules of the 1990s that required verbal consent to every new level of intimacy, Duke’s policy recognizes non-verbal expressions of consent. However, it stresses that “consent may not be inferred from silence [or] passivity’’ — even in an ongoing sexual relationship.

What’s more, consent can be invalidated by various circumstances — not just obvious ones such as being threatened or unconscious, but also being intoxicated to any degree, or “psychologically pressured,’’ or “coerced.’’ The latter is an extremely broad term, particularly since the policy warns that “real or perceived power differentials . . . may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.’’ As FIRE has noted, a popular varsity athlete may face a presumption of coercion in any relationship with a fellow student.

Meanwhile, women, the default victims in the Duke policy, are presumed passive and weak-minded: Goddess forbid they should take more than minimal responsibility for refusing unwanted sex. In one of the policy’s hypothetical scenarios, a woman tells her long-term boyfriend she’s not in the mood, but then “is silent’’ in response to his continued non-forcible advances; if he takes this as consent and they have sex, that is “sexual misconduct.’’ Why she doesn’t tell him to stop remains a mystery.

The man’s behavior may be inconsiderate. However, adult college students have no more of a right to be protected from such ordinary pressures in relationships than, say, from being cajoled into buying expensive gifts for their significant other.

On April 20, I received an email from my occasional sparring partner Barry, a.k.a. Ampersand, of Alas, a Blog.  Sayeth Barry (posted here with his kind permission): Continue reading

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Filed under academia, feminism, rape, sexuality, women