The tyranny of the individual

The convergence of political correctness and identity politics have funneled us into an ever attenuating tube of acceptable opinion and speech. It seems to me we are nearing the end of this tube and are now confronting its natural consequences.

We started out as a country committed to preventing the tyranny of the majority over minorities, mainly political and religious minorities, while preserving individual rights. We evolved into a society where minority interests took center stage and the majority had to accommodate whatever grievance was presented by whatever minority, no matter how small the group was. The logical conclusion of this is that minority groups as small as a single individual can now demand the acquiescence of everyone else.

Anyone on this flight allergic to peanuts? No peanuts for anyone else.

A really interesting article entitled “When Women Become Men at Wellesley” appeared in the New York Times a couple of years ago. It aggregates several of my favorite preoccupations:  racism, sexism, intellectual dishonesty, political correctness, the cowardice of university administrators, and more. But, in the end, its about what I would call “the tyranny of the individual”.

The article starts with a student at Wellesley College named Timothy Boatwright who wanted to run for MAC (muticultural affairs coordinator)  on the student cabinet . Timothy describes himself as “masculine-of-center genderqueer”

A movement sprung up to oppose Timothy, called “The Campaign to Abstain”. The idea was that if enough people didn’t vote in the election, Timothy could be denied the office he wanted. But why deny him the office? There were dozens of trans and genderqueer people at Wellesley and no one had had any issues before. Or at least no one had talked about any.

The principal argument of the Campaign to Abstain was, “Of all the people at a multiethnic women’s college who could hold the school’s “diversity” seat, the least fitting one was a white man.”

Put another way, all would have been well if Timothy had been a black woman, a black man, or a white woman. But he was a white man, and this was too much.  I don’t know whether this falls under the heading of racism, sexism, or both. I’ll leave that for someone smarter than me to sort out. It’s something, though – that I can tell you.

And why would Timothy want to go to an all women’s college in the first place? Well, “because it seemed safer physically and psychologically”. He knew who he was in high school, before applying to college, and was “out” as transgender to his friends, though not his mother. But he didn’t reveal his gender identity on his application, partly because his mother helped him with it (really? why?) and partly because, as he put it, “it seemed awkward to write an application essay for a women’s college on why you were not a woman.” No shit.

It would indeed have been awkward to write it, and, you would think, awkward to live it. But he needed his safe place, so honesty on the application was not really a priority. As we have all come to understand, a “safe” place is an absolute requirement for anyone under 30. If someone feels unsafe or discriminated against in some way, the rest of us – all of us – must right the wrong. So many snowflakes to accommodate!

The number of women-only colleges has shrunk down to a precious few and they struggle to remain viable.  Should they modify their charter to stay alive? Turn their back on their founding principles to save their jobs? Attempt to satisfy all special-interest groups in the name of progressivism and inclusion, even when doing so betrays their most sacred principles? And what about the alumnae who don’t like the changes they see and may withdraw support.

According to the article,

Women’s colleges argued that they offered a unique environment where every student leader was a woman, where female role models were abundant, where professors were far more likely to be women and where the message of women’s empowerment pervaded academic and campus life.

A Wellesley student, Laura Bruno, in describing in a radio interview what she thought the benefits of women-only education were said, “We look around and we see only women, only people like us, leading every organization on campus, contributing to every class discussion.”

Kaden Mohamed, another student, heard this and was horrified. He demanded an apology, which he got. In an email, he said Laura’s speech was “extremely disrespectful.” Really? “Extremely”?

He continued: “I am not a woman. I am a trans man who is part of your graduating class, and you literally ignored my existence in your interview. . . . You had an opportunity to show people that Wellesley is a place that is complicating the meaning of being an ‘all women’s school,’ and you chose instead to displace a bunch of your current and past Wellesley siblings.” 

OMG! Kaden was “literally ignored” in someone else’s interview? This cannot stand!  He was aggrieved, and no individual’s grievance can be left unaddressed.

What has become of sisterhood? Or even siblinghood?

Around campus, more and more students were replacing “sisterhood” with “siblinghood” in conversation. Even the school’s oldest tradition, Flower Sunday — the 138-year-old ceremony that paired each incoming student with an upper-class Big Sister to support her — had become trans-inclusive. Though the school website still describes Flower Sunday as “a day of sisterhood,” the department that runs the event yielded to trans students’ request and started referring to each participant as a Big or Little “Sister/Sibling” — or simply as Bigs and Littles.

Some female students, meanwhile, said Wellesley wasn’t female enough. They complained among themselves and to the administration that sisterhood had been hijacked. “Siblinghood,” they argued, lacked the warm, pro-women connotation of “sisterhood,” as well as its historic resonance. Others were upset that even at a women’s college, women were still expected to accommodate men, ceding attention and leadership opportunities intended for women. Still others feared the changes were a step toward coeducation. Despite all that, many were uneasy: As a marginalized group fighting for respect and clout, how could women justify marginalizing others?

The  Wellesley administration is tied up in a gordian knot of political correctness, with individuals and groups arguing with each other over what is correct.  What to do? Ultimately, I’m pretty sure they’ll do whatever cowards do. Leadership and taking a strong stand on controversial issues never gets you anywhere in those jobs.

You can’t solve this or any dispute to everyone’s satisfaction, and since each individual must be satisfied, the only answer can be one which would piss everyone off equally. If Solomon were here, he would divide this baby into 2300 pieces, accommodating each of the 2300 individual tyrants in the student body.

At the end of the tube of political correctness and identity politics is the end of Wellesley College.

 

 

 

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