Noted copy-paste journalist Margaret Wente has an article this week delving into recent events at Dalhousie’s Dental School, allowing us to return to our discussion from last Friday. Wente takes aim at the notion of “rape culture,” and puts the onus for progress squarely on women’s perceived sense of threat:
How did that happen? How did we create an entire class of highly privileged, mostly affluent young women who feel unsafe on campus, microaggressed at every turn, utterly unable to cope with the garden-variety misdemeanours of boys and men, who have been behaving badly since time began despite our many efforts (most quite successful) to civilize them?
Well, you know the answer. The universities are hothouses for a grievance culture that sees racism, sexism and misogyny under every rug. Many of the faculty derive their livelihoods from it. These institutions have constructed increasingly elaborate codes of conduct and large administrative apparatuses to detect and uproot these evils, however subtle and invisible they may be to ordinary people.
In Macleans, Anne Kingston musters a brief but thorough critique of Wente’s dismissal:
Protecting those accused of abusive behaviour is a hallmark of rape culture. So is dismissal of those subject to abuse. We saw it in the hand-wringing after the 2013 conviction of two teenagers for brutally raping a young girl in Steubenville, Ohio.CNN, for one, fretted how the young men “had such promising futures, star football players, very good students,” not for a moment considering how the assaults might affect the victim’s future. In a similar vein, Wente praised the dentistry students who joked about drugging and sexually assaulting women as “decent people.” If she had a daughter in the class, she writes, the first thing she’d ask her was: “What are these guys like in person? Are they disrespectful pigs or are they decent people? (The answer, evidently, is that they are decent people.)” What evidence she marshalled to conclude the group is anything but “disrespectful pigs” is unclear. The fact they’re enrolled in a professional school? The fact they knew their posts were offensive, and then scrambled to cover up when they were about to be exposed? Equally unclear is why their actions in private shouldn’t be a more significant marker of character than their public personae—a lesson learned in the Jian Ghomeshi scandal. If these students were decent people, they would come forward with an abject apology. They haven’t. Which means that if anyone needs a retrograde lecture on how to “man up,” it’s them.
Whether you are swayed by either of the pieces, they can be seen to broadly sketch out two fundamental planks of the argument over systemic misogyny and the ‘rape culture’ we discussed last week.
Based on the above readings, a few questions:
- What do you feel are the merits of these two arguments?
- Similarly, where do you feel that either of the arguments is vulnerable or weakly articulated?
- Have you seen others make either case better?
- Are there further perspectives that these two essays may be leaving out?
As ever, I’d be curious to hear from you in the comments.