Roger’s Rules

The Groves of Academe, or You Can't Make It Up, Episode 8,968

As of now, in the autumn of 2007, it costs $52,202.00 a year to be an undergraduate at New York University. That’s Fifty-Two Thousand Dollars, and then some. And what do you get for all that dough? Well, one thing you get are cultural events like today’s screening of a 53-minute film called Q2P, followed by a “discussion” with the filmmaker, Paromita Vohra. Larry Craig: listen up! Here’s something to get your feet tapping. Sponsored by NYU’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, the Department of Media, Culture and Communication, the Center for Religion and Media, and the Council on Media and Culture, Q2P, set in Mumbai,

observes who has access to toilets and who doesn’t, and how gender, power, and the need to “go” make up public space and bodily well-being.

That’s right folks: four separate entities at one of our premier institutions of higher learning got together to bring us a “a day-long conference on Sex, Gender and the Public Toilet: Outing the Water Closet Bringing together pioneering scholars of sex and gender with leading design professionals and activists to consider, critique, and reconstruct the public rest room.”

Think about it: “pioneering scholars of sex and gender,” “leading design professionals and activists” all under one roof to talk about sex, politics, and public toilets. A load of merde, you say? Quite possibly. An outrageous travesty as well? No doubt. But think of what it means for the art of satire. Who could possibly make this up? Back in the 1950s, Kingsley Amis wrote the splendid academic satire Lucky Jim, wherein he ridiculed that pseudo-scholarship which gloried in a “funeral parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non problems.” But how do you satirize “Sex, Gender and the Public Toilet: Outing the Water Closet”? What obloquy is severe enough for these “pioneering scholars of sex and gender,” these “leading design professionals and activists”?

I sometimes despair, concluding that these malevolent clowns have forced us to that position Wittgenstein described at the end of the Tractaus: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen”: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” But I cheer up when I remember that, although phenomena like “Sex, Gender and the Public Toilet” are beneath contempt, that doesn’t mean we should fail to let the world know about them. The sponsors of this ludicrous exercise in cultural pathology thoughtfully included contact information: the email address is [email protected], the telephone number is 212.998.7608. I hope many right-thinking people will avail themselves of that information to upbraid the people responsible for such hogwash.