Diaper Rash And The Politics Of Academia

Universities In All But Fact

Date

The next boom market may be in accouterments for faculty lounges at universities. I have in mind training bras and, for the women, maybe penis gourds -- big ugly ones, such as denizens of New Guinea's rain forests wear. The idea isn't as strange as it seems. A penis sheath might double as a Walkman antenna, and you could fly a Cuban flag from one.

But their real purpose would be much like a child's throwing creamed spinach from a high chair: To make Mommy mad. That now seems to be the purpose of universities, whose faculties appear less mature than the college students of, say, 1964. The professoriate is holding its breath and turning blue.

What brought this on, you may be wondering. I'll tell you.

I'm reading Comedy and Tragedy 2000-2001, a book of adolescent psychology published by Young America's Foundation.* Actually that may not be quite what YAF intended it to be. Then again, it may be exactly what they intended. Anyway, the booklet is a listing of peculiar courses taught in American universities.

By now nothing can surprise anybody. Still, a few examples from among hundreds:

Harvard: "Women's Studies 133: The Queer Novel: Narrative and Sexuality." Or, at the former University of Pennsylvania: "Women's Studies 226: Vampires -- The Undead." The title may or may not describe the students. Then at UC Santa Barbara you have "English 129: Queer Textuality," and "Black Studies 136: Black Feminist Thought." If any.

I like this one, from Bowdoin College: "Women's Studies 248c, Music and Gender -- Is Beethoven's ninth symphony a marvel of abstract architecture culminating in a gender-free paean to human solidarity, or does it model the processes of rape?" Or did someone forget to take her medication?

Finally at Princeton you have "English 404: Huey, Dewey, and Louie: The Capitalist Tragedy of Emasculated Ducks With No Pants." (OK. I made that one up.)

Comedy and Tragedy is good reading just for snippets in the introduction. I particularly like:

"Last year Oberlin College offered a course called "Queer Acts," and the description stated that "Drag will be encouraged, but not required." If I went to a class called Queer Acts, I'd wear an armored bathysphere.

"In 1997, an arts instructor at the University of Southern California permitted a porn star turned student, Annabel Chong, to perform sex with two other women in front of the class for her term project."

But it gets better. The pseudo-scholar's frantic desire for attention actually leads to support for pedophilia. Says YAF,

"The Gay and Lesbian Studies Reader, the first and most widely used anthology on the subject, demonstrates what faculty activists want their students to tolerate. One of the authors, Gayle Rubin, writes, "Like communists and homosexuals in the 1950s, boy lovers [i.e., pedophiles] are so stigmatized that it is difficult to find defenders for their civil liberties, let alone their erotic orientation.'"

I guess we're kind of having to stretch for oppressed groups.

Now, if you didn't know better, you might be outraged, but that of course is exactly the desired response. One senses in all of this an overweening juvenility, a preening callowness. These folk want to stick their tongues out at adults. It is the puerile righteousness of the newly pubescent: "Mo-mmmy! People are starving in India. Why can't I give them my college fund?"

But what is normal in an early adolescent is pitiable in faculties of what once were institutions of learning. Pitiable and, to some extent, inexplicable. The usual course of events is that people grow up. In the past, professors grew up. Why not now?

Do they expect us to believe that they are serious? What would Gayle Rubin do if she found a middle-aged man sodomizing her brother of eleven years? Would she coo, "Oh, Mike-ey! You've found a progressive ungendered non-ageist relationship"? Or would she call the police? Does she really want to see a heartwarming pervert diddling Mikey? Does she really want it to happen to the children of others?

Or is she throwing an extended adolescent fit?

In the atmosphere of arrested development that enshrouds the schools, consistency gets short shrift. It would be easy to point out that the same uncomprehendingly angry people who pretend to want to promote pedophilia, also will demonstrate against the incest that they pretend to believe that fathers regularly commit. It's silly, and so are they.

Here I think is the explanation for the enormous hostility on campus to expression of ideas other than their own: They know they're absurd, and they know people would say so.

Why would any professoress, even an imposter, let some escapee from a skin bar wrestle with a couple of lesbians in class? To instruct? Hardly. We all know how sex is done. I suggest she does it for the same reason a teenage girl wants to wear black lipstick and blue hair, or her brother puts a chromed bolt through his tongue and spends his afternoons trying to astonish people.

Part of the explanation is insecurity. Professors in some fields -- mathematics, physics -- are necessarily at least reasonably intelligent. They know their subjects, which are real subjects. But professors of Black Studies, Women's Studies, and Chicana Queer Theory often are neither very bright nor very well educated. Nor do they work in legitimate fields. They aren't quite professors, really. And, at bottom, they know it. The defensive aggressiveness of the self-aware inadequate is boundless, all the more so for fear of exposure.

Read the academic journals of these pseudo-subjects and you will quickly realize that many of the authors can't write English well enough to get a job at a newspaper. Ask one what a subjunctive is. Do you really think a professor of "Black Lesbian Orphan Oppression in Chicano Queer Literature" could tell you within a century when Chaucer wrote, or what he wrote?

They're pretending to be professors, as children pretend to be Zorro. They have to erupt in pathetic foolishness so that no one will notice that they have nothing else to offer. For this you're paying $9,000 a semester.

Penis gourds are the best answer, perhaps in colors. We could issue them to instructors of nonsubjects, so that they could shock us, and then we could go back to having universities. I think fluorescent strawberry would be nice.