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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Kipnis: Feminism shouldn’t be fragile

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A week after a Middlebury crowd disrupted Charles Murray’s speech, and sent a professor to the hospital with a concussion, feminist cultural critic Laura Kipnis spoke at Wellesley about “the growing climate of sexual paranoia on campus,” she writes in New York Magazine‘s The Cut.

“The talk went fine and the students I met were great — tough-minded, super-articulate,” she writes.

It was only later that I heard that other students had made a video denouncing me, ahead of my arrival, for being a white feminist (“white feminism isn’t feminism”), among other crimes. Once home, I heard that some of my critics were threatening to file Title IX complaints against the professor who’d invited me and had started a letter-writing campaign to get him fired on account of my visit, or at least deny him a pay raise.

It got worse. Six professors on Wellesley’s Commission for Ethnicity, Race, and Equity (CERE) sent an email urging faculty not to invite speakers who might upset students, reports the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

The professors claimed to support free speech, but not if speakers impose on the liberty” of students, by compelling them to “invest time and energy in rebutting the speakers’ arguments.”

When dozens of students tell us they are in distress as a result of a speaker’s words, we must take these complaints at face value. . . .  those who invite speakers to campus should consider whether, in their zeal for promoting debate, they might, in fact, stifle productive debate by enabling the bullying of disempowered groups.

It’s “not a matter of ideological bias” to exclude speakers who advocate “pseudoscience,” such as the idea that men are better “equipped to excel in STEM fields,” the email continues. “Similar arguments pertaining to race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and other identity markers are equally inappropriate.” The CERE professors offered to vet speakers for their colleagues. No ideological bias there.

It’s astounding to think that college professors could argue that debate on campus should be limited to ideas that students agree with so they won’t have to come up with arguments to refute speakers.

All this will be great publicity for Kipnis’ book, Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus.

Kipnis, an old-school empowerment feminist, argues that “sexual McCarthyism” is sweeping college campuses. Anyone who questions ideas such as “rape culture” is accused of being pro-rape.

Women fought hard for the right to be treated as consenting adults, argues Kipnis. They shouldn’t go back.

A film professor at Northwestern, Kipnis published an essay arguing that new university rules prohibiting professor-student dating “infantilized students and ramped up the climate of accusation, while vastly increasing the power of university administrators over all our lives.”

Charged with creating a “hostile environment,” she endured a Title IX investigation that cleared her — eventually.

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