More than 40,000 students are enrolled at Concordia University in Quebec, one of Canada’s largest universities and home to the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, named for the author of The Second Sex (and Jean Paul Sartre’s lover). The institute employs four full-time professors, 10 part-time professors, two visiting professors and 25 research associates. The total undergraduate enrollment is “usually around 150 in our Women’s Studies Major program and 70 others in our Specialization, Minor and Certificate programs.”
Among the fall courses at the institute was “Feminist Perspectives on Culture” (WSDB491) taught by Magdalena Olszanowski, a part-time instructor in communications who has written a paper entitled “Feminist Imaging Practices: Fostering Community on Instagram Through the Hashtag.” Here is the course description of WSDB491:
This seminar explores the central concepts and theories in feminist cultural studies, as they inform feminist, post-colonial, queer, and post-structuralist understandings of culture. The focus is on women as cultural producers and subjects in/of various cultural texts (e.g. cinema, visual arts, music, advertising, popular media, feminist writings). The discursive construction of gender, as it is inflected by class, race, sexuality, and location, is examined as well as the ways in which it is used, displayed, imagined and performed in contemporary culture. Students develop practical and analytical skills, posing questions of how particular cultural narratives function within social, political and economic contexts. Students are required to participate in and lead discussions of the readings and to create and/or critique cultural productions.
Ah, “the discursive construction of gender”! This senior-level class — open only to students who have completed a prerequisite 30 credit hours of Women’s Studies courses — distinguished itself by creating a Tumblr blog, which includes among other things, a course syllabus for “Feminist Perspectives on Culture.” What are these Concordia feminists required to read in this senior-level course? Among the assigned readings is “Rape Culture and the Feminist Politics of Social Media” by Carrie Rentschler, director of the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at McGill University in Montreal. Professor Rentschler cites the 1993 book Transforming a Rape Culture in defining the phenomenon:
Rape culture refers to the “complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.”
Thus, feminists are taught that “sexual remarks” are part of “a continuum of threatened violence” that “encourages male sexual aggression” and “condones . . . emotional terrorism.” Men cannot be permitted even totalk about sex, because anything a man says about sex is part of the “continuum” of rape culture. Stigmatizing male sexuality as inherently violent and harmful to women fosters a sexual paranoia (“Fear and Loathing of the Penis”) that is fundamental to the feminist worldview.
It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that the assigned texts in “Feminist Perspectives on Culture” include SCUM Manifesto, written by Valerie Solanas, the psychotic lesbian who attempted to murder artist Andy Warhol in 1968. Homicidal rage against males is celebrated in this Women’s Studies course as “the culture of resistance.”
Endorsing anti-male violence as “resistance,” by assigning the deranged screed of a notorious criminal, while accusing men of “emotional terrorism” merely for making “sexual remarks,” is typical of the Feminist-Industrial Complex of academic Women’s Studies. In these programs, feminist intellectuals provide emotionally vulnerable young women with one-sided arguments that function as rationalizations to justify an attitude of hatred and hostility toward men. The indoctrination process in Women’s Studies programs can best be understood by studying cult “mind control” methods. It may be assumed that all women who enroll in these programs are inspired by some level of anti-male prejudice, sharing the feminist belief expressed by the 1969 Redstockings manifesto: “Women are an oppressed class. . . . We identify the agents of our oppression as men. . . . All men have oppressed women.” The Women’s Studies curriculum provides young women with arguments that articulate that sense of oppression, justifying their resentment of men as “agents” of the hostile patriarchal force arrayed against them. Within this academic cult environment, students are bombarded constantly with information that supports feminism’s anti-male worldview, while criticism and dissent are prohibited.
The syllabus for “Feminist Perspectives on Culture” includes a paragraph on “Learning Environment” which explains that “the production of research on culture . . . cannot be apolitical, value-free, neutral, non-biased.” Professor Olszanowski declares that “her role is to offer an analytical framework for understanding culture from a feminist standpoint” before issuing this warning:
It is the responsibility of all to create a learning environment where one can safely say what one thinks, keeping in mind the collective responsibility of all to create an environment free of racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, cisgenderism, classism, ageism and ableism.
A student “can safely say what one thinks,” but only if what is said does not violate the “responsibility” to “create an environment” that excludes a long list of possible Thought Crimes. Of course, if every student in this senior-level class has already taken at least 30 hours of Women’s Studies courses, they have almost certainly attained a level of intellectual homogeneity that would rival the Soviet Politburo under Stalin, so that Professor Olszanowski’s warning is a pro forma gesture.
Probably no senior student in the Simone de Beauvoir Institute would even notice the contradiction apparent in a class where (a) the assigned texts include a would-be murderer’s anti-male manifesto, and (b) the course syllabus features a “safe space” disclaimer:
Concordia classrooms are considered ‘safe space classrooms’. In order to create a climate for open and honest dialogue and to encourage the broadest range of viewpoints, it is important for class participants to treat each other with respect. Name-calling, accusations, verbal attacks, sarcasm, and other negative exchanges are counter-productive to successful teaching and learning. The purpose of class discussions is to generate greater understanding about different topics. The expression of the broadest range of ideas, including dissenting views, helps to accomplish this goal. However, in expressing viewpoints, students should try to raise questions and comments in ways that will promote learning, rather than defensiveness and feelings of conflict in other students. Thus, questions and comments should be asked or stated in such a way that will promote greater insight into the awareness of topics as opposed to anger and conflict. The purpose of dialogue and discussion is not to reach a consensus, nor to convince each other of different viewpoints. Rather, the purpose of dialogue in the classroom is to reach higher levels of learning by examining different viewpoints and opinions with respect and civility.
Yes, we must have “respect and civility”! No “name-calling” or “sarcasm” will be tolerated in this class where all men are portrayed as complicit in oppression, rape and “emotional terrorism”! We will permit no “negative exchanges” which might be “counter-productive” while we teach the “culture of resistance” by reading SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas!
Feel free to examine the, uh, scholarship these students have produced, which is to feminist insanity what Baskin-Robbins is to ice cream. Among the 31 flavors of crazy offered by these senior Women’s Studies majors is “an online feminist art exhibition that explores the uterus and vagina from the perspective of someone who has painful periods every month and who doesn’t like most kinds of penetration”:
In conversation with Carolee Schneemann’s “Inner Scroll,” and to a lesser extent, Magenta Baribeau’s Maman? Non Merci!, my work explores the vagina, the uterus, and the vulva, or to be more specific, my vagina, my uterus, and my vulva, in ways that I feel are at times unacceptable to express within feminist circles. My work sometimes depicts penetration as disgusting or scary, because that’s where I’m at in my process of learning to be comfortable with my body. Similarly, some of my other works depict periods as violent and aggressive, because that’s how my period feels to me sometimes. I want to make it clear that I’m not advocating for people to be disgusted with their bodies or periods, but merely voicing my reality, merely saying that sometimes, when I sit in on feminist community events, I’m frustrated that the body, and more specifically the uterus, is mystified and uncritically celebrated. I want there to be space to express discomfort with one’s body or with sex without being labeled as body-shaming or sex-shaming, so that people, like me, who still struggle with total body image, who are uncomfortable with things like penetration sometimes, and who cannot, and will not ever be able to embrace periods beyond the point of agreeing that they should not be taboo have a space to speak. Because sometimes it is so hard to not be allowed to openly critique something that causes you so much pain, and that is, for now, incurable. But again, this is all coming from the person who interviewed you all about your periods a few weeks back! All from the person who wants to talk about periods, and make them less taboo! But I’m also the person who wants to move beyond the current popular discourse in feminist circles in Montreal, that are uncritically celebratory of period experiences, and silence those who wish to speak about their frank dislike of them (that sometimes co-exists with their appreciation of periods of course!).So all in all, I’m a little nervous about sharing this work, both because I’m afraid that the content may come to bite me in the uterus ass later, and because I’m nervous that despite my whole spiel, my work will simply be dismissed as some body-negative, sex-negative art, making me a “bad feminist.”
Question: Has she consulted an endocrinologist? To convert one’s medical and/or psychiatric problems into a senior-level university project for “Feminist Cultural Perspectives” is a sort of academic alchemy, where“the personal is political” means you are entitled to three semester credits for complaining about your menstrual cycle. Women’s Studies promotes a feminist ideology which views activism as a valid substitute for therapy, so that the student gets academic credit for producing art that depicts vaginal “penetration as disgusting or scary” as part of “my process of learning to be comfortable with my body.”
Alas, sarcasm is “counter-productive”! Students in WSDB491 are OK with a movie celebrating serial killer Aileen Wuornos, but sarcasm is impermissible. Meanwhile, this is a senior project:
Exploring the links between archiving and activist action/intervention, my final project, in conversation with The Lesbian Avengers Documentary Project, is a zine documenting and commenting on the creation of the first dyke marches in Montreal from 2012 to the present. This zine is also part of a larger project called LEARNING HOW TO SCREAM, an activist and archival project which by its focus on lesbian lives, theory and activism aims to confront lesbian history and make sense of it in contemporary contexts.
As part of this project, I will be facilitating a lecture series next semester on lesbian theory and activism.
Women’s Studies at one of Canada’s largest universities means a “discursive construction of gender” through studying “rape culture,” an art project about menstrual cramps, and a lecture series about “dyke marches” and lesbian theory. When the only thing you produce is ridiculous gibberish, sarcasm is counter-productive.