Welcome To Academic Disneyland

Almost exactly one year ago, Washington Post journalist Anne Applebaum wrote a terrific lead to a column about 2004’s feminist kerfuffle of the century in academia:


Sometimes in the course of a great American debate there comes a moment when the big battle guns fall silent, the pundits run out of breath, and — unexpectedly — the long, bitter argument suddenly turns into farce

As George Will notes, the long bitter argument again turned into farce earlier this month.

Update: For more academic farce, Roger Kimball has some thoughts on Catharine MacKinnon, tenured professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and founder of what has been dubbed “feminist fundamentalism“, including the banning of all pornography, First Ammendment be damned:

it is worth remembering that virtually all advanced societies produce pornography; its partisans call it–or the forms of it they approve of–“erotica.” This does not, I hasten to add, mean that the ubiquity of pornography is a reason that its production and circulation should not be restricted in various ways. In most societies, it is: often by indirect social pressure as much as by law. The point is that in a free society, people are legally “allowed” to do many things that we hope they will forbear doing. The limits of permissible behavior are not the same as the limits of desirable behavior. We count on upbringing, education, and socialization to nudge us closer to the latter. Because we value freedom, we grant the latitude to err.

It is this that MacKinnon cannot abide. Thus she advocates a sweeping program of censorship that would restrict not only pornography but also “materials that promote inequality.” This brings us to what is most radical in MacKinnon’s thought. Although pornography is her chief subject, her goal is not simply the eradication of smut. For her, pornography is a metaphor, a crystallization, of social and sexual inequality. Banishing pornography is only one element in a campaign to revolutionize the law and, with it, all of society. MacKinnon calls for “a new model for freedom of expression in which the free speech position no longer supports social dominance, as it does now.” What she opposes even more than pornography is what she calls “the stupid theory of equality”–the theory, that is, according to which everyone is equal under the law. Because some people are disadvantaged, she argues, they deserve unequal (i.e., preferential) treatment in order to establish “true” equality. Hence she wishes to replace the “abstract rights” guaranteed by the Constitution with a menu of “substantive rights.”

What would this mean? The short answer is a new feminist tyranny. MacKinnon tells us that she looks forward to the imposition of a “nondominant authority.” This marvelous Orwellian oxymoron–even she admits that it is currently “unthinkable”–perfectly epitomizes her approach to social policy. Tyranny is necessary to establish freedom, while the rule of law must be broken to make room for a “higher” law. To Catharine MacKinnon, it looks like the promised land. In fact, as our ravaged times have shown repeatedly, it is a recipe for disaster.


Nice to see tuition dollars being spent so wisely.


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