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Why Women’s Studies Needs an Extreme Makeover

In a column titled Why Women’s Studies Needs an Extreme Makeover, author Emma Teitel cleverly and humorously argues that radical feminists could indeed use a major overhaul, as their vitriolic anger coupled with their esoteric jargon does them few favors.

While Teitel ruthlessly bashes the conservative take on women’s studies along the way in her piece, which is largely a blow-by-blow of a recent speech given at the University of Toronto by Professor Janice Fiamengo, a former feminist turned men’s rights advocate, the column is still worth the read, for a few reasons.

For one, it illustrates just how rabid feminists are when it comes to defending their sacred academic genre, as if the notion that women’s studies is biased against men and radicalized beyond reason is the highest insult imaginable.

It also showcased the rising tide of men who are fed up with being demonized.

Finally, it’s a pretty entertaining read:

Nothing says free speech like pulling the fire alarm. It was a quarter past seven last night when police emptied U of T’s George Ignatieff Theatre. Keynote speaker Dr. Janice Fiamengo, an English professor at the University of Ottawa, rolled her eyes and adjusted her blouse as the crowd poured out of the building and onto the sidewalk to mingle with the small throng of protesters—pretty girls with big placards and little patience. They wanted Dr. Fiamengo to take her message elsewhere. But firemen came and went, and the professor, once a radical feminist, proceeded to do what the University of Toronto Men’s Issues Awareness Society, and the Canadian Association for Equality invited her to do: denounce women’s studies.

The discipline has devolved into an “intellectually incoherent and dishonest” one, she argued, replacing a “callow set of slogans for real thought.” It’s man-hating, anti-Western, and fundamentally illiberal. “It champions a “kind of masculinity that isn’t very masculine at all,” and shuts down freedom of debate, hence the fire alarm.

… (Fiamengo) railed against affirmative action, a family court system skewed unjustly to favour mothers over fathers, and the deep vein of anti-Western sentiment running through academic feminism that makes it okay to decry gender inequality in the West, and keep quiet about vaginal mutilation and honour killings in the East.

The women’s studies crowd looked constipated. Fiamengo’s arguments weren’t going down easy, this one—her best—in particular: women’s studies “can’t be about the pursuit of truth” because it has an “ideological base.” Its goal is to push the ideology that women are victims and men are perpetrators. Therefore, any evidence to the contrary, regardless of its veracity, is unwelcome. In other words, ideology censors truth. “If you believe you are righteous,” she said, “you don’t challenge other views.”

But you can try. And many did during the question period. When the professor finished her talk on an inspirational note about being relentlessly inquisitive, students and men’s rights activists filled the aisles to lambast and laud her. One man bemoaned the “feminist dictatorship,” another, the legal system that bankrupted him after a divorce. A stout black man in the corner demanded to know what men’s rights groups were doing to help him, as “a racialized person,” exploring different “gender identities.” When a woman complained that the man who spoke before her got more time at the microphone, another woman stood up and yelled in her defence, something  to the effect of “That’s because he’s a man!” A young woman with thick black hair in a yellow coat, irked by Dr. Fiamengo’s “heteronormative” answer to her question about lesbian moms, screamed “That is bullshit!” and stormed out of the lecture hall.

… Almost every pro-women’s studies person who approached the mic last night, spoke another language, a jargon you might misconstrue as scientific–only the words they used weren’t shortcuts meant to simplify or summarize complex concepts, they were used to make simple concepts sound complex: Hegemonic, racialized, problematic, intersectionality. It was pure obfuscation, 1984 with tattoos and septum piercings. Some of the students couldn’t even string together a single lucid sentence. All they had were these meaningless, monolithic words. I felt like I was on a game show, the exercise being how many times can you say patriarchal, phallocentric hegemony in 45 seconds or less. It was frankly, for a feminist, depressing.

Slogans don’t make scholarship and being self-righteous does not make you right.

Going into the talk last night I wasn’t convinced women’s studies needed overhauling. Now I’m positive that it does. Not because I believe fighting misandry is a legitimate humanitarian cause (LOL) or because Dr. Fiamengo’s speech was particularly insightful, but because her detractors—presumably, women’s studies’ finest—were so profoundly, not.”

Click here to read the column in its entirety.

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix. She previously worked as a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for a decade in Southern California, and prior to that held editorial positions at The Weekly Standard, Washington Times and FrontPageMagazine. She is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship recipient and has contributed to National Review.

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