April 13, 2008

When "the juxtaposition of weaponry and sexuality" violates the campus conduct code.

Instapundit links to this Denver Post story about 2 male students who distributed a parody — "The Monthly Bag" — of the feminist newsletter — "The Monthly Rag." Here's a PDF of the 1-page flier (via Ace).

This was a problem:
Did You Know...??

The Barrett .50 Caliber sniper rifle has an effective range of 2000 meters?
There's also a comic discussion of a chainsaw, making it seem like a male sex organ. And there's a description of a sexual practice in which the woman takes the demeaning/ridiculous position of a wheelbarrow.
"We quickly determined this was one of the worst cases of the year," said Adam Kissel, director of FIRE [the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education], because the parody publication was singled out. "It's such an obvious double standard. The fact that 'The Monthly Rag' mentions male castration alongside an announcement for a feminist porn activist provides the same juxtaposition they're claiming for Robinson of violence and sexuality."

Tomi-Ann Roberts, director of the feminist and gender studies program that publishes "The Monthly Rag," said participants in her program were surprised when this situation arose.

"We were like 'whoa ... wow ... wait.' Obviously, there are some men here on this campus who are very angry at our flier," Roberts said....

At the conduct hearing in March, Robinson and other students raised concerns about the offensiveness of The Monthly Rag. Roberts dismissed those complaints.

"There's a difference between material that is 'offensive' ... versus material that demonizes or threatens or belittles groups of people," Roberts said.
The main problem is that men who were not identifying themselves were wafting confusing suggestions of violence toward women. It's a big overstatement to say the flier "demonizes" or "belittles" women, but look at the quote carefully. Roberts doesn't say this flier demonizes and belittles women, only that there's a distinction between merely offensive material — which I hope she thinks should protected — and threats and hate speech that put other students in fear.

FIRE's position is that the men's flier was so much like the feminist flier that it's got a case of inequality: Women can do what men can't. Anybody got a PDF of The Monthly Rag? Did The Monthy Rag create anxiety about school shootings? I'm not saying the school was right to punish these boys. (The punishment is forced speech: They must conduct a forum on the issues raised by their case. Are they allowed to say what they really think or must they spout the party line?) I'm just saying that that Roberts has drawn a real distinction. We can still talk about whether that's where the line should be drawn. But let's not act as though it's been established that The Monthly Bag was only a comic, male version of The Monthly Rag.

(By the way, I suspect that the author of the headline to that Denver Post story was expressing covert support for the comedic college boys. If you don't get my point, read this.)

ADDED: Let's also examine Roberts's response: "Obviously, there are some men here on this campus who are very angry at our flier." I think she's imposing her own prejudicial belief that men are angry. One could just as well look at The Monthy Bag and say: Obviously, there are some men here on this campus who think our flier is ludicrous.

And let me say that I think the "group" that the men's flier seems to "demonize" or "belittle" is just the "group" that publishes The Monthly Bag. That is, there is speech and an answer to that speech. In this sense, FIRE is on the right track. When you have speech responding to speech, you shouldn't squelch one side of the dialogue. But the Monthly Bag guys muddied the issues by bringing in the sniper rifle (and the chainsaw). I assume they intended comedy, but comedy isn't easy, and comedy isn't an all-purpose excuse.

AND: Here's the PDF of an issue of The Monthly Rag. The reference to castration is no sort of threat to men, but the statement: "Many cultures have cautionary tales about the dangers of sex with women. It is associated with the fear of male castration." That is, the group that published the flier — the "Feminist and Gender Studies Interns" — is expressing a concern about men's fear of women, not saying that the fear is justified and certainly not that they have any idea of harming anyone.

I got the link to that PDF from Just One Minute, which has some commentary on what I've said here and some other things.

54 comments:

BJ said...

That's not funny!

dbp said...

Ann: "But let's not act as though it's been established that The Monthly Bag was only a comic, male version of The Monthly Rag."

I agree that it is not established, but given two things: "The Bag" as one title and "The Rag" as the other, plus the obvious attempt at humor; shouldn't it be a starting assumption that it is a satire?

Even if it wasn't a satire, should the standard of acceptability be that it won't be threatening to anyone? Pretty much anything can seem threatening to a person who either A) Has a fevered imagination or B) Wants to find offense in order to shut-down opposing viewpoints.

Ann Althouse said...

DBP: See my update. I assume it's comedy. But I think you can picture a scenario where a genuinely threatening person is expressing himself comedically. Imagine a stalker who sends funny anonymous notes to one person, describing violent acts in comic terms. It could be truly frightening, even if you see the humor. I'm not saying these college boys crossed the line. I'm only saying that FIRE's argument based on inequality isn't quite apt.

George said...

Good thing Shakespeare's not in college today...Surely he would flesh out his will...

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus;
More than enough am I, that vex'd thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.

Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?

The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
One will of mine, to make thy large Will more.

Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one Will.

Sonnet 135

What kills the Will more than killing?

Ah, to die...to issue forth and be reborn to rise again.

peter hoh said...

It sure looks like an attempt at satire, but the sniper item goes too far. It presents a fat, juicy target for those who want to take aim at the satire.

I am constantly trying to teach my 15 y.o. the line between funny and too far. I hope he gets it before he's a legal adult.

dbp said...

Ann,

I understand your point and have seen the updates to the post.

I don't think the boys have crossed the line though. Guys are interested in things like gun trivia--especially in a place like Colorado, where I would guess that most young men have done some shooting--so it fits in with the parody.

Now say the parody went on to say, "To give an idea of how far 2,000 meters is: That is like shooting from Skylar Science Tower to Markus Hall" I've made up building names, but let's say Markus Hall is the location where "The Monthly Rag" is put together. Now that would be threatening.

The gun trivia by itself threatening? Not so much. Only if a person had a preexisting bias against guns and gun-owners.

downtownlad said...

Is it a private university? If it is - then this is only a concern for people who attend the university.

Republicans don't seem to have an issue when Christian universities kick out students who don't conform to their beliefs, which they do quite often.

Maguro said...

I can understand college administrators being a little unnerved by the rifle business. As much as I disagree with academia's precious regard for campus gun-bans, "sniper" jokes in a college setting go a bit too far. Kind of like kidding around with your flight attendant about hijacking.

That said, the college's demand for a Soviet-style self-denunciation forum is too much. These guys should have been given a warning and sent on their way.

peter hoh said...

Totally agree that someone at the Denver Post has a sly sense of humor. It'd be even funnier if the headline writer was an older person who really did not get the double meaning of "carpet."

downtownlad said...

Here's a student that was expelled from college for being gay, from a school that received state funding.

Where were Ace and Instapundit then? Oh thats right - they were silent. And if this did speak about it - they would say it was fine and dandy.

Where was FAIR? Oh that's right - they were silent too.

It's the hypocrisy that annoys me.

Instanpundit and Ace, after all, wanted the editor of the New York Times tried and executed for treason - let's not forget that - all for publishing a legitimate news story. They don't give a rats ass about free speech.

downtownlad said...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12394904/

Forgot to post the link.

rhhardin said...

And there's a description of a sexual practice in which the woman takes the demeaning/ridiculous position of a wheelbarrow.

The sun doth shine,
The world is mine,
My bones are full of marrow;
O for a wench
That has a trench
Where I may push my barrow

-- A.D.Hope

Trooper York said...

Women just don't have a sense of humor.

Chip Ahoy said...

^^^It's the hypocrisy that annoys me.

No, that would be the bug up your arse that's annoying you.

rhhardin said...

This is a case, more or less exactly, of the men on campus entering a pig in a school beauty contest.

It's a statement about the official women's line on life. In particular, ``I don't think so.''

It's college so the humor isn't very good. I put this down to inexperience and zero education.

The Monthly Rag is almost enough on its own. Just add, ``Exactly.''

If it needs expansion, make it ``The Monthly Rag and Storm Report'' and discuss weather. Add a lunar phase chart. It doesn't take much to make a point that has the benefit of being true.

Instead it's an ``Oh Yeah?'' against the disparagement of all violence. Guggenbuhl-Craig has an essay ``The Blessings of Violence'' if better ideas are needed. His example has it ending bullying.

downtownlad said...

Chip - Perhaps you could respond to my valid points rather than resorting to ad hominem, homophobic attacks.

Trooper York said...

"Chip - Perhaps you could respond to my valid points rather than resorting to ad hominem, homophobic attacks."

I think it would only be an ad hominen homophobic attack if he said that the blogging cockroach had a bug up his ass. Technically.

downtownlad said...

Now Trooper York resorts to homophobic attacks.

I don't mind. Proves my point that Americans are anti-gay bigots.

downtownlad said...

Janet Jackson's breasts shown on TV for 2 miliseconds. Station fined hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Conservatives response - Cheering!

John Burgess said...

Two commenters get it exactly right:

1. dbp on how the mere mention of a firearm, even at a university, should not be the cause of knicker-knotting. School shootings, at least since UT-Austin in 1966, have not been the act of snipers.

2. chip ahoy and his analysis of downtownlad's problem. dtl's outrage is mighty. That all do not share that outrage--or that bloggers do not have to comply with a law compelling them to write on things that outrage dtl--it is indeed a 'bug up his arse'. Unless one is really into some out-there entomological, sexual proclivities, that phrase is not homophobic in the least.

Paco Wové said...

Unless one is really into some out-there entomological, sexual proclivities, that phrase is not homophobic in the least.

Really. Chips could have said, "gerbil up his arse". But he didn't.

downtownlad said...

Wingnuts are outraged at the actions of a private college - solely because they were perpetrated against conservatives. When universities suppress the free speech of liberals or atheists of gay people - those wingnuts are silent.

My own opinion is that a private university can limit speech all they want. A public university cannot, as it would violate first amendment rights.

Now since you are incapable of responding to valid points - please proceed with your homophobic taunts.

Trooper York said...

Technically, inter-species sex is neither hetero nor homosexual unless you specify the gender of the bug being implanted. If he had said he had a male bug up his ass then you would have been correct. Unless of course you claim that anal sex is strictly a homosexual phenomenon. If that is your point, I refer you to the work of Erica Boyer (available on Dark Brothers Production website) to show that you are quite mistaken. Pointing out your inconsistent phraseology is not an attack. Sharpen up

downtownlad said...

As I suspected - they just continue with the attacks - rather than responding to valid points.

Wingnuts have no real goals for society, other than inflicting a second Bush recession and a pointless war on this country. And since those aren't favorable, they resort to the politics of personal destruction.

But getting back to the subject at hand - where is FAIR when Christian universities ban the teaching of evolution?

downtownlad said...

The ACLU is actually consistent in these manners, defending both conservative and liberal speech.

But the ACLU, since they support left-wing speech, is therefore EVIL and they should be STOPPED, i.e. silenced.

That's why stoptheaclu is one of Instapundit's and Ace's favorite bogs.

Paul Zrimsek said...

We seem to have skipped an analytical step here. Are we simply taking it for granted that the male-castration stuff was non-threatening?

Richard Cook said...

downtownlad

In the studen handbook one of Colleges goal is to uphold "freedom of speech". It would seem then they are violating their own student handbook. When Christian colleges kick someone out it is usually because their behavior was not in accord with Christian values.

No one should have a problem with Christian schools kicking out students that do no adhere to publicly stated goals of a private Christian school unless you are against Christianity. The Colorado school should not have put freedom of speech as an explicit goal in their handbook.

madeleine said...

I've lived 5 blocks from Colorado College for most of my life, in a neighborhood replete with Volvo-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, PACE flag-flying CC professors and alumni. It's highly unlikely that any "guys interested in gun trivia" would be allowed through the front door--or even the back door--of that school. Nor would they be likely to want to go there. Nonetheless, it seems that some may have managed to sneak in while no one was looking. I'll be sure to attend the forum. What fun!

Synova said...

Some people see horror in the simple fact of a gun of any sort.

That's their problem, isn't it? Just a picture of a stylized BFG shooting laser beams has gotten boys suspended from school.

A picture on paper.

If I assume that threat was read into something where it wasn't, I've got a whole lot of reason to make that assumption.

The Drill SGT said...

I think that the students created a simple clear parody. an article on chain saws is not violent.

The Rag was discussing violence against fetuses. any mention of a gun is horrific?

The college should not haul students in for interogation over a free speech issue.

particularly when those students are in the minority (male/female ratio :)

former law student said...

The guys found "The Monthly Rag" posted in campus washrooms. Therefore, the Womyns (TM) invaded sacred Manspace to post their offensive menstruation-inspired tracts. The Womyns called out the men, demanding their response, by this invasion of their sacrosanct excretory areas.

Ralph said...

Instapundit's and Ace's favorite bogs.
"Bog" is British slang for a men's room. Are you insinuating Glenn and Ace like to hang out in men's rooms? Now who's dishing out homophobic slurs? You could be right about Ace, but Dr. Helen is no Mrs. Craig.

Madeleine, we expect a full report. I went to one of those my freshman year, when the student newspaper I was working on put out a lampoon issue that got the usual suspects all worked up. Editor quit before he was tarred & feathered.

Tom said...

The Monthly Rag flier is at the FIRE website.

The castration myth is barely legible down in the lower left hand corner; it is an explnation of "vagina dentata", a toothed vagina that castrates the unwary. Apparently, many cultures share this myth.

Pastafarian said...

Ann --

Were you aware that the issue of the "daily rag" that provoked this satire included an article on castration of men?

Or should we men not consider that as threatening as, say, trivia about the performance characteristics of a rifle?

Synova said...

Yeah, the castration reference is small, but castration is directly castration.

Guns are not directly anything except in the fevered minds of those who get faint and/or upset tummies at the mere idea of guns. Nothing about the gun reference (the range!) addresses a gun injury, real or mythical. It was not "the entry wound of a .50 cal appears much smaller than might be expected" but even that isn't something like "isn't the idea of a c*ck chewing vagina interesting!"

Paco Wové said...

"Were you aware that the issue of the "daily rag" that provoked this satire included an article on castration of men?"

But it didn't, really. It contained a single paragraph that says:

Vagina dentata is the Latin term literally meaning "toothed vagina". Many cultures have myths and cautionary tales about the dangers of sex with women. It is associated with the fear of male castration.

It's certainly not advocating the practice, or even describing it.

rhhardin said...

Vagina is Latin for scabbard or sheath.

Ralph said...

The Rag is this close to self-parody. Perhaps gender-studiers do have a sense of humor.
It's certainly not advocating the practice, or even describing it.
Neither was the sniper rifle filler fact.

Trooper York said...

Man, I remember Rosie Lopez from Clinton St who had a scabby vagina. So it comes from the Latin. I wish I knew that way back when.

Fen said...

Some people see horror in the simple fact of a gun of any sort.

Its even more ironic if you consider: the movement that demands "safe" sex be taught in our schools refuses to teach them how to safely handle a firearm.

former law student said...

Sure, there's nothing threatening to men about a Feminist Flyer talking about a woman's vagina sawing off his privy member during intercourse.

Perhaps the feminists and gender studies interns could sponsor a screening of Teeth. Not that that would be meant to disturb any penis-possessors, either.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0780622/

Ralph said...

Here's the author of the satire's response:
Link
He's a good fire-breather, but his argument would be better with more pith in the middle.

blogging cockroach said...

Trooper York said...
I think it would only be an ad hominen homophobic attack if he said that the blogging cockroach had a bug up his ass. Technically.


trooper ill have you know im not that kind of cockroach

i could tell you about all the insects i know
where the female bites the head off the male etc
after they have had their fun
but this is all too grotesque anyway
and i dont want to spoil my sunday dinner
or yours either
oops i just heard mom come in the kichen
she says its leftover chinese tonight
so maybe my dinner will come prespoiled
perhaps after dinner i will tell you about
the poor widowed mantis i know out in the garden

Trooper York said...

I know blogging cockroach. In fact I saw that video of you with the two ladybugs on spring break. And let me tell you, those bugs weren't no ladies!

Kurt said...

This isn't particularly on-point, but I was surprised that the Monthly Rag apparently isn't published on-line. I found no copies besides the PDF scanned from a printed page that Ann linked to. It's apparently really a newsletter that lives only in printed form. How delightfully retro!

I was curious what they write about rather than imagining it from the first page of one issue.

memomachine said...

Hmmmmmm.

1. "The Womyns called out the men, demanding their response, by this invasion of their sacrosanct excretory areas."

ManLaw!

2. Frankly the whole subject of male castration irks me. Why? Because it's a constant subject with femnazis.

But if it's an ok subject then an appropriate parody would involve the amputation of women's breasts.

That'll get a laugh eh?

3. This nonsense is why I'm planning on going to an online college. I've got better things to do with my time than put up with this sort of nonsense.

PatCA said...

IMO the gun thing was unacceptable. I would have called both groups into my office and had a Serious Talk. Let the boys apologize for the gun thing and redo their parody; the girls can be told to chill out. Then everyone goes out for a beer together.

Meade said...

Apparently then, happiness is NOT a warm gun bang bang shoot shoot.

Meade said...

Hey how about just giving me a Mens Room of One's Own so I won't have to be so afraid of Virginia's vagina wolfe dentata while my zipper is down and we'll call it even.

Woodsman said...

Ann,

"There's also a comic discussion of a chainsaw, making it seem like a male sex organ"

I must disagree with your comments about the chain saw. I didn't note anything sexual at first read. In fact, when I read the bullet points in The Bag about chainsaws, my first thought was "these guys know what they are talking about". I actually considered cutting the article out and taping it inside my saw case.

Here is my reasoning:

1) Everyone knows that a chainsaw is not an inside toy, but it is still one of the first bits of safety advice the manufacturer provides.

2) Kickback can occur in a tenth of a second, too little time for the sawyer to react. Low kickback chains have been recently developed, they aren't in wide use yet.

3) Guys try to show off their guns whenever possible.

4) An empty bar lube reservoir is a recipe for disaster. Bar lube reduces friction and heat between the chain and bar...too much heat or friction and the chain will seize.

The next time you’re back in Madison shoot me an email. We'll get you set up with a pair of Kevlar chaps, some leather gloves, and a hard hat with a mesh face shield. Then we'll find some for firewood to cut. You can fill your fireplace with the fruits of your labor.

jeff said...

Sometimes a chainsaw is just a chainsaw. And a sniper rifle is just a sniper rifle. And the wheelbarrow is.....well, actually its pretty cool. "demeaning/ridiculous position of a wheelbarrow" Oh, not really. No more than the man and women assuming the demeaning/ridiculous position of a missionary, should they choose another position. And finally DTL again confuses ridicule of himself as a grand conspiracy against homosexuality. Hell, if he ever just once gave a coherent, logical argument on ANYTHING, I would turn gay. Whoops, how homophobic of me.

Michael said...

Q: How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?

Don Singleton said...

You wanted a PDF. Gaius has a pdf of both issues

gregd said...

Hmm, so If I'm reading you correctly, what you're saying here is that anyone who mentions guns has given up all First Amendment rights? because I don't see any other way to read what you're saying.

That makes this part of their Flyer even more appropriate:
Block 6 Word to Know! “Political Radicalism”
Is adherence to political views far outside the mainstream of a given society’s norms. It is often accompanied by a willingness to cross all ethical boundaries in pursuit of its
various ends.

"We should kill all uppity bitches" is (maybe) a threat. "Look at our guns. Aren't they cool" is not.

Girls (of any physical age) who get the vapors when someone talks about guns desperately need to grow up. What they do not need is to have their pathetic immaturity pandered too.

University Administrators have a fundamental charge: help their students grow up. This kind of idiotic pandering is a violation of that charge.