Ten years ago while teaching English at Emory University, I noticed a trend. Each year there seemed to be more and more girls on campus. Also, from the time I started teaching college in 1993 as a graduate student, I would hear gripes from male students about their high school teachers and college professors who made them read books by Amy Tan and listen to lectures on feminism, even in math.
As time passed, I also noticed a change in the demeanor of boys. Each year they seemed to become less confident. By 2013, my last year of teaching, many were walking in a stooped-over shuffle and ending statements with a question.
In 2008, in an article for the Weekly Standard, I looked into the decline of boys’ academic performance. Forced to read books about feminine topics and forced to learn under feminine pedagogy, they weren’t performing well academically. While slightly more men than women held bachelor’s degrees in 2005, women made up 57 percent of total fall enrollments and were much more likely to graduate. By 2014, 30.2 percent of women held bachelor’s degrees opposed to 29.9 percent of men. Among younger adults, aged 25 to 34, 37.5 percent of women hold bachelor’s degrees, but only 29.5 percent of men do.
Men in 2008 still held a slight advantage in earning doctorate degrees, but were projected to drop behind women by 2014. Today, women earn the majority of doctoral degrees and outnumber men in law school and medical school, as Tucker Carlson reports. He also reports that younger women now surpass men in rates of homeownership and wages. Men’s addiction and suicide rates are rising, while testosterone levels are plummeting.
From Bad to Worse to “Uncomfortable”
In the intervening 10 years, as things have gotten worse for boys and men, the rhetoric about “white male privilege” has become more strident. There are mandatory classes on diversity. Workshops on “toxic masculinity” tell men they aren’t OK. Men are even attacked forthe way they sit on a chair or a subway seat. Many teachers make it a policy to call on boys last in class and to give girls extra attention. On most campuses when it comes to charges of rape, there is a presumption of guilt. Fraternities have been banished on many campuses.
Here at Hamilton College, there has been a concerted outreach to create a more diverse student body. In my four years of living here I’ve noticed that more of the student body seems to be openly gay. All-gender bathrooms have been installed to make the rare transgender student in a campus with 1,850 students comfortable. The college puts out the welcome mat with an LGBTQ Resource Center, and a well-funded on-campus Days-Massolo Center dedicated to diversity.
Yet there is a place on campus called Little Pub, which happens to draw a mostly male clientele. This upsets student Julia Dupuis, who wrote an article in the student newspaper, The Spectator, titled, “PUB POWER must force campus to recognize privilege and broach uncomfortable conversations.”
When she learned that the establishment, with “majority white male patrons,” was known as a “man cave,” she translated it to “an underlying message: the Little Pub was not meant for me.”
She and a female friend did venture there once, but were apparently so traumatized by being the only females there that they left. “It is impossible to describe the discomfort, vulnerability, and isolation of being the only women in a male-dominated space,” Dupuis wrote.
Now she wants to force the perpetrators of her discomfort into an “uncomfortable conversation.”
She justifies her demands with material that could have come from a womyn’s study textbook: “For all of American history, white men have been both the dominant and default group. It has been mostly white men in charge and it has been the white male experience against which all others have been defined.” She recites clichés and statistics about women not being in leadership positions at work, the high visibility of sexual harassment and assault, which are “still happening at astounding rates.” She rattles off meaningless statistics about women being 19 percent of Congress and having only 33 percent of speaking roles in top-grossing films. She announces that the Little Pub movement is about “reclaiming” the “space.”
When I learned about this through a posting on Facebook, I commented that the student obviously had psychological problems. Why else would someone describe the experience as being so traumatic? Why would she feel “vulnerable”? She did not mention harassment or rudeness. There were no offensive images. Apparently, there were just a bunch of guys exercising their right to purchase food and drink, and eat it in an establishment open to all. Her fear must have arisen from something imagined.
This brought on a flurry of retorts—surprisingly by white males. I was lectured about listening to others’ feelings. One guy justified himself by claiming that he had been listening to the women in his life, who said they would feel uncomfortable in a room full of men, and thus implied that I should feel the same way. I accused them of imposing their views on me in a chauvinistic way. It was suggested that I just stop commenting.
If this is a case of imagined persecution or hypersensitivity, then Dupuis should learn how to handle it. Once she leaves the cocoon of her campus, she may very well have to deal with situations where she is in the minority. (As the parent of one of the white male students more gently commented.)
But I think it means more.
The administration caters to demands like hers from people like her (she is openly gay). Hers is an assertion of raw power. She objects not to illegal activity or even to any noted annoying behavior but to the presence of a certain group of people. Because she is uncomfortable, she wants to force others into having “uncomfortable conversations.” This group of people happens to be male and mostly white and so they are fair game.
Not Just a Tantrum—A Warning
Of course, Dupuis, and the professors who no doubt give her the ideas, know they cannot legally make an establishment deny service to a group based on their race and sex. But they can make them uncomfortable, or more accurately, more uncomfortable.
Many may dismiss Dupuis’s demand as a silly adolescent tantrum, but her tantrum is a way for administrators and faculty to fulfill their own radical agendas. Many of the noxious practices in the adult world began on college campuses. A 28-year-old friend told me that at meetings of the Democratic Party in his area the policy is to let everyone else speak before the white guys do. One of the biggest companies in the world, Google, has imbibed the policies of the campus as we saw in the example of James Damore, who was fired for criticizing their anti-male diversity policy.
The “uncomfortable conversations” are held in workplaces in the form of mandatory diversity training. At least one business establishment has tried to take it to customers, as happened when Starbucks employees were instructed to write messages on the coffee cups of patrons regarding their thoughts about race recently.
Today, there may be an “uncomfortable conversation” at the Little Pub on the campus of Hamilton College. Tomorrow it may be at your favorite sports bar.
It is the new Jim Crow; it is the exclusion of certain groups by determining to purposefully make them feel uncomfortable. It is intended to marginalize certain people and keep them out of school, the workplace, and now public places. It needs to be nipped in the bud.
Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corbis via Getty Images