Thursday, October 15, 2015
Last month, Michigan became the latest state legislature to introduce a “Yes Means Yes” law, mandating the teaching of affirmative consent as a sexual standard. In the past year, affirmative consent has become the mandated standard on college campuses in New York and California and is being voluntarily adopted by a growing number universities beyond those two states. The idea is simple: In matters of sex, silence or indifference aren’t consent. Only a freely given “yes” counts. And if you can’t tell, you have to ask.
Every time one of these bills is introduced, a certain subset of adults freaks out. Earlier this year, as the spring semester got underway and these new policies took hold on some campuses, Robert Carle, writing for libertarian outlet Reason, shrieked that “[a]ffirmative consent laws turn normal human interactions into sexual offenses,” as if there’s anything “normal” about a disinterest in whether or not the person you’re having sex with is a willing participant. In the New York Times, Judith Shulevitz dismissed the new standard because “[m]ost people just aren’t very talkative during the delicate tango that precedes sex, and the re-education required to make them more forthcoming would be a very big project,” an assertion for which she provides no evidence. But if students aren’t yet used to practicing affirmative consent, that’s no argument against it. Marital rape used to be both popular and legal, and we didn’t wait until everyone had stopped committing it to institute new laws. And in the Boston Globe, Wendy Kaminer protests that “in practice [affirmative consent standards] aim to protect women from the predations of men,” even though, as even she acknowledges, the standard is gender neutral. (More on that in a moment.)
All the grownup scaremongering is drowning out one important fact: Young people are embracing affirmative consent.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Wash Post, What a Massive Sexual Assault Survey Found at 27 Top US Universities (summarizing the results).
The Association of American Universities’ much-anticipated report on sexual assault—a survey that compiled responses from more than 150,000 students at 27 universities—is out today, and it confirms that the situation on campus is as bad as you probably already thought it was. Some bullet points:
• One-third of female college seniors reported that they had been the victims of nonconsensual sexual contact at least once since enrolling in college.
These numbers are roughly consistent with findings of previous studies; if anything, they’re a little higher than the results of the seminal 2007 study that gave us the grim axiom “1-in-5.”—but the authors acknowledge that could be due to the low response rate of 19.3 percent, and the possibility that people who’d experienced misconduct were more likely to participate. As always, the authors had to deal with the challenge of conveying uniform definitions in an area where every experience is intensely individual; for this reason, they didn’t use loaded words such as rape and assault, instead trying to precisely describe situations. But this could’ve caused confusion as well as averted it.
The most interesting thing in the AAU study isn’t what’s on the page, but a question that hovers, frustratingly, between the lines. “The study found a wide range of variation across the 27 [institutions],” the authors write in the executive summary
Friday, September 11, 2015
As the “yes means yes” standard of sexual conduct spreads to many US college campuses, California legislators have passed a new measure that will put affirmative consent curriculum into the state’s high schools beginning next year.
The legislation will require high schools that have a health component as a graduation requirement to teach the “different forms of sexual harassment and violence”, and include lessons on seeking explicit, affirmative permission from a partner before moving forward with sexual activity. The bill, SB695, is now awaiting the signature of the governor to become law, expected in the coming days. California would be the first state in the nation to adopt a mandatory education policy on the topic for K-12 students.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Inside Higher Ed, Ban on Banning Words
Washington State University on Monday announced that it would not allow instructors to make "blanket" bans on the use of certain words or phrases in class, even if those words and phrases offend people. Further, the university said that instructors could not punish students for use of such words or phrases.
The announcement followed a barrage of criticism of the syllabus for Women & Popular Culture, a women's studies course, that banned specific words and phrases and set out punishments for their use.
Here is the language on the syllabus:
"Gross generalizations, stereotypes and derogatory/oppressive language are not acceptable. Use of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist or generally offensive language in class or submission of such material will not be tolerated. (This includes 'The Man,' 'Colored People,' 'Illegals/Illegal Aliens,' 'Tranny' and so on -- or referring to women/men as females or males.) If I see it or hear it, I will correct it in class since it can be a learning moment for many students. Repeated use of oppressive and hateful language will be handled accordingly -- including but not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and -- in extreme cases -- failure for the semester."
This summer has seen several instances in which websites of various college or university groups have featured language discouraging the use of words and phrases that many find offensive. There was much discussion in July about the "bias-free language guide" at the University of New Hampshire, but UNH never actually banned any words or phrases. One office published some recommendations for those seeking to avoid offending others, and most people at UNH didn't know that the guide existed until it was debated nationally -- and the university affirmed that there was no requirement to follow its suggestions.
In the Washington State syllabus, however, there was a specific statement that the instructor could punish any students using the banned words and phrases. And that appears to have led the university (which, as a public institution, must provide First Amendment protections) to get involved. The university statement said that it was asking all faculty members to review their policies "to ensure that students’ right to freedom of expression is protected along with a safe and productive learning environment."
Saturday, August 22, 2015
A former instructor at a Christian university in Oregon is taking the school to court after it allegedly fired her for planning to have a baby out of wedlock.
Coty Richardson was working as an exercise science teacher at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Ore., when she notified school officials that she was due to give birth in November and wanted to know if her maternity leave would create scheduling conflicts.
She claims in a lawsuit filed in state court on Tuesday that the school’s administration told her that her lifestyle was inconsistent with the university’s “faith-based standards.” She was given a choice: If she wanted to keep her job, she would either have to break up with the father or marry him.
Ms. Richardson, who is 35, said in her complaint she was “mortified and crushed” by the ultimatum and “refused to cut ties with the father of her child and her partner of twelve years.”
In July, according to her lawsuit, a school official told her she had a week to make her decision. Days later she told administrators she didn’t want to discuss her personal life. And on July 28, she says, she learned that she had lost her job.
Her lawsuit, which seeks $600,000 in legal damages, accuses Northwest Christian of pregnancy, sex and marital status discrimination, along with wrongful termination and breach of contract.
Sunday, August 9, 2015
At SUNY Stony Brook, Michael Kimmel proposes just that:
You’ve heard of women’s studies, right? Well, this is men’s studies: the academic pursuit of what it means to be male in today’s world. Dr. Kimmel is the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system, which will soon start the first master’s degree program in “masculinities studies.”
No, Dr. Kimmel joked, the department title doesn’t just roll off the tongue. But it’s called “masculinities” (plural) to acknowledge that there is “more than one way to be a man.”
Monday, August 3, 2015
Three former members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia filed a lawsuit against Rolling Stone on Wednesday for defamation and infliction of emotional distress, saying the magazine’s discredited article on a campus gang rape had a “devastating effect” on their reputations.
The article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely and published last fall, set off a national discussion with its vivid account of a student’s assault, but it was retracted in April after it fell apart under scrutiny by journalists and law enforcement officials. A report by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism uncovered an assortment of journalistic lapses, including a lack of skepticism and a failure to interview those accused of the assault.
On July 11, 2015, NY passed a yes-means-yes law for sexual intimacy on college campuses. Here's the story:
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- What if you had to ask if it was okay
to put your hand on the other person's butt during foreplay? What if you had to
ask again before touching her breast? What if there was a law that said you had
to do this?
In New York, there is now on all college campuses. A bill signed into law July 7 requires both parties to obtain consent for sex and each nibble and caress that sometimes paves the way. The law applies only on college campuses. At its heart is a simple concept: instead of "No Means No," it's "Yes Means Yes."
It switches the dynamic of consent in what could be an empowering way. The hope is that by changing the power structure of the hook-up and making it law, college sexual assaults will decrease. The legislation, proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and called "Enough is Enough," was passed unanimously by the state Legislature.
There have been critics, including this one:
"You look at the legal system we're building and it's incredible risky to hook up with someone you're not married to," said Peter Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University in Florida.
"It changes the rules of the game. It gives the game rules," Lake said.
Perhaps Prof. Lake said more in the interview, stuff that wasn't included in the article. But what he does say makes no sense to me. There's no explanation for why the consent requirement would make things "incredibly risky." Nor do I see what is presumptively problematic about "chang[ing] the rules of the game" or giving the "game rules." (Is anyone else unsettled by the description of sexual intimacy as a "game"?) Sexual intimacy already has rules; it is already governed by norms for what is acceptable intimacy and what is rape. A proposal to change said rules--or, rather, make them more explicit--is not in and of itself objectionable.
Friday, July 10, 2015
Casey Hoke would spend an average of two minutes out of his seven-hour school day in the restroom. “That’s it. Business as usual. No one bats an eye,” Hokewrote in January, back when he was a high-school senior in Louisville, Kentucky. “How we go about our business is none of yours.”
By “we,” Hoke was referring to transgender students. He was primarily addressing Kentucky’s legislature, which at the time was considering a bill that would’ve cracked down on transgender students’ use of K-12 bathrooms. The legislation would’ve legally required schools to ensure that children follow anatomical conventions when using gender-segregated school facilities: that children who were born boys but identify as girls use the boys’ restroom, and vice versa. What Hoke found particularly egregious about the “Kentucky Student Privacy Act” was that, in its original version, the legislation also would’ve entitledstudents who sued offenders in state court to damages of $2,500 each. Hoke compared this proposed system to a witch hunt.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
In a first, the NALSAR Law University in Hyderabad has issued a gender-neutral graduation certificate to a student who did not wish to be identified with honorific Mr or Ms but with "Mx".
Anindita Mukherjee, who graduated this year from the Law school, had requested the authorities to address her as "Mx" in her certificates and the university, which has probably become the first Indian educational institution to do so, accepted the "fact".
Mukherjee also prefers to be addressed as "they" rather than "he" or "she".
Note the "Mx." designation:
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Before this year's new hires, women constituted 20.6% of Law Deans. See ABA Commission on Women, A Current Glance at Women in the Law
By my count, women constitute 11 of 24 (46%) of new deans this year.
Jennifer Bard (Texas Tech), Cincinnati
Kathleen Boozang (Seton Hall), Seton Hall
Lyn Entzeroth (Tulsa), Tulsa
Melanie Leslie (Cardozo), Cardozo
Jennifer Mnookin (UCLA), UCLA
Suzanne Reynolds (Wake Forest), Wake Forest
Laura Rosenbury (Wash U), Florida
Melanie Wilson (Kansas), Tennessee
Help keep the list current. Add others to comments below.
Monday, June 8, 2015
A growing number of children’s app makers are upping their efforts to ensure their products do a better job of reflecting the diversity of their young audiences.
And (regarding the picture above, of the robot):
As an example, he gave Toca Robot Lab, a robot-building app that was released in 2011: a “classically boy-skewing theme of building robots” that the auditor suggested played to those stereotypes with its colour scheme and art-style of “rusty old things that you might find in a garage, as opposed to everyday things you might find at home”.
Toca Boca redesigned the game’s visuals and added in more of the latter kind of objects. “It opened it up and made it much more inclusive than it was from the beginning,” said Jeffery, who cited his company’s Toca Hair Salon range of apps as much more successful in bucking gender stereotypes.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Directions from the College Common Application.
Ms. and Miss
If you are describing an unmarried woman, please select Ms. as your choice. This title can be used for a married or unmarried woman (like Mr. refers to a married or unmarried man).
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
An article by Jim Lindgren so argues.
How diverse are tenured and tenure-track law faculties? Which ethnic and gender groups are now the most under- and over-represented in law teaching compared to a very broad measure of the pool: English-fluent, full-time working lawyers of a similar age?
In “Measuring Diversity: Law Faculties in 1997 and 2013,” which can be downloaded from SSRN, I explore tenure-track law school diversity in 1997 and 2013. For the gender and ethnicity of law professors in 2013, I use data released by the ABA, representing the 2013-2014 academic year. For the lawyer population, I use data from the government’s 2011-2013 American Communities Surveys.
This study finds that diversity hiring in law schools has been a great success, at least as to ethnicity and gender. All large traditional affirmative-action groups in law teaching are now at or above parity with full-time lawyers, and such groups as women, minorities, and minority women are significantly over-represented in law teaching compared to working lawyers. Indeed, the only ethnic and gender groups that are more than a half slot short of parity on a typical tenure-track faculty of about forty are non-Hispanic whites, males, and non-Hispanic white males, the groups typically thought of as over-represented.
Monday, May 18, 2015
One of the nation’s largest public school systems is preparing to include gender identity to its classroom curriculum, including lessons on sexual fluidity and spectrum – the idea that there’s no such thing as 100 percent boys or 100 percent girls.
Fairfax County Public Schools released a report recommending changes to their family life curriculum for grades 7 through 12. The changes, which critics call radical gender ideology, will be formally introduced next week.
“The larger picture is this is really an attack on nature itself – the created order,” said Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council.
“Human beings are created male and female. But the current transgender ideology goes way beyond that. They’re telling us you can be both genders, you can be no gender, you can be a gender that you make up for yourself. And we’re supposed to affirm all of it.”
The plan calls for teaching seventh graders about transgenderism and tenth graders about the concept that sexuality is a broader spectrum --- but it sure smells like unadulterated sex indoctrination.
Saturday, May 9, 2015
Natl Women's Law Center, What is "Appropriate" Prom Attire Anyway?
The dress codes for prom have become overwhelmingly stringent in the name of keeping girls from being promiscuous and “compromising their character.” Many schools force students, especially girls, to conform to “traditional,” stereotypical ideals of appropriate attire at their proms. At one school, a student was asked to leave the prom because school officials thought her dress was too revealing, even though the mother and daughter had worked hard to find a dress that fit all of the school’s dress code rules.
Schools across the country are restricting what gay and lesbian students can wear and who they can bring as dates. Girls are required to wear a dress even if they prefer pants. Girls also have to dress in a way that not only conforms and complies with arbitrary rules and guidelines but must also take into account that their different body frames and shape can make a dress look and be “overly sexual.***
It’s clear that sexism is at the heart of these attempts at controlling girls’ bodies and enforcing outdated and wrong perceptions of how girls should dress and behave.
Friday, May 8, 2015
For some transgender high school students in the Virginia suburbs, a school board decision Thursday could mean an end to death threats and the beginning of freedom to live openly as who they truly are.
But to some parents, adding two words to a nondiscrimination policy — “gender identity,” words intended to protect transgender students in the public schools — could be a reason to remove their children from school because of fears that allowing genders to mix in bathrooms and locker rooms could be a safety threat.
What began in March as an effort to protect transgender students and staff in Fairfax County schools has inspired a national debate on gender identity issues for children. It has also garnered opposition from Virginia lawmakers who see the proposal as overreach by a local governing body on an issue where no state law exists.
Monday, April 27, 2015
A male student accused of raping his classmate has sued Columbia University for failing to protect him against backlash and harassment.
Authorities rejected Emma Sulkowicz's case that Paul Nungesser, a German citizen, was a 'serial rapist' who assaulted her after class.
Nonetheless, the case gathered international attention as Sulkowicz, a senior majoring in visual arts, publicly paraded her mattress in protest, calling for his indictment.
And according to Nungesser's lawsuit citing 'gender-based harassment and defamation', Columbia presented the allegations as fact on a university-owned website.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
As a senior administrator at an all-boys' school in suburban Philadelphia, I spend each day with 1,000 boys, many of whom, by virtue of their gender alone, occupy positions of privilege and power at least one step removed from the important issue of sexual assault. To state the obvious, while it is women who are overwhelmingly the victims of this crime, its prevention is not a women's problem -- and boys' schools have a unique opportunity and responsibility to be part of the solution.
The challenge has been well chronicled: from our earliest days, we boys bask in marinades of hyper-masculine stereotypes. From the sandbox to the locker room to the high school dance to the conference room, we are conditioned to compete: relationships, we learn, are zero sum games to be won. Of course, where there are winners, there are also losers, but it does not pay to consider their fate too carefully. Keep your eyes on the prize. Act hard, and tough; be logical and remote, witty and distant. And then become boyfriends and husbands and fathers... of sons.
But by placing relationships at the center of everything we do, we can break the cycle. Witness the first day of school here: a senior takes a new kindergartner by the hand and walks him to opening assembly. Without thinking, the young boy crawls into his lap, and the young man responds by instinctively wrapping a pair of gangly arms around him. "It's safe here," the arms say. "I've got your back." Or witness the last day of school, some twelve years from now, when that same kindergartner, now a grown man himself, will cry in the arms of a classmate, a teacher, or a coach.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
A middle-school student at Clermont Northeastern Middle School in Ohio is fighting back after a T-shirt she wore for a class photo was censored. The offending word? Feminist.
Principal Kendra Young chose to black out the word from student Sophie's shirt after being alerted to it by the school's alarmist photographer. "Some people might find it offensive," Young said.
MSNBC reports that after discovering the doctoring of her image, Sophie took to Instagram to ask classmates to join her in a protest last Friday:
EVERYONE PARTICIPATING WILL BE WEARING A SHIRT WITH A PHRASE LIKE “I DESERVE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION” OR “FEMINISM ISN’T OFFENSIVE” OR ANYTHING THAT YOU BELIEVE FITS! PLEASE MAKE A SHIRT AND JOIN US AND HELP TAKE CARE OF THIS ISSUE.
After enough local-media scrutiny, Ms. Young reached out to Sophie's mother with an apology. She also apologized to Sophie herself, asking, "What do you want from this?"
Sophie, official new feminist teen idol, reportedly replied:
I want everyone to realize that we need feminism ... I want you to have someone come into the school and educate everyone about feminism. I want us to go to the news station together and show the people that we are working together to make this school and our community a better place for everyone. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
We'll be eager to see whether the school does indeed "hold larger discussions with students regarding feminism.