In which we marvel at the mental entanglements of our self-imagined betters.
Our year began in academia with a discussion panel of stern and pious ladies. Among them, Professor Judy Haiven, who believes that male students mustn’t speak first and must always defer to women, until the menfolk learn their place in the ‘progressive’ pecking order. Professor Haiven denounced the evils of an alleged male “monopoly” in a campus environment where women outnumber men, and while sitting on a panel with no male participants, and with no-one present to argue a substantively different view. Days later, and while reminding the world that she’s “a Journalism Fellow at Harvard,” our dear friend Laurie Penny struggled with the thought that printed newspapers tend to have an even number of pages. And artists Eames Armstrong and Matthew Ryan Rossetti showed us how to improve Shakespeare by “transgressing conventions,” “destabilising visibility,” and shrieking incoherently in various states of undress.
In February, Professor Janice Fiamengo, a critic of campus feminism, illustrated just how readily feminist “activism” blurs into sadism and sociopathy, while exposing how leftist groups are indulged by administrators with what amounts to a unilateral license for thuggery, disruption and physical violence. A sort of light relief came via an introduction to mukbang, the South Korean phenomenon of watching strangers eat, prodigiously and at length, on the internet. Further distraction was offered by the world of performance art, students of which shook our tiny minds with “intersectional meaning,” “the politics of identity” and three whole hours of radical pavement mopping.
The rise of the hipster breakfast alarmed us in March, as did the more disastrous pretensions of ‘progressive’ education policy, in which classroom aggression was excused on grounds of race and imagined group victimhood, resulting in a widespread surge in violent assaults against staff and other students. As students’ hair was set on fire and female teachers were repeatedly punched in the face and hospitalised, “restorative justice co-ordinator” Eric Butler boasted, “I don’t blame, I don’t punish.” Adding insult to very real injury, white teachers who found themselves being beaten in class were subsequently asked not to press charges, because of the difficulties facing young black thugs burdened with criminal records.
April brought us the exquisitely tiny dramas of students at Harvard, where the emotional perils of a radical poetry slam became all too apparent, resulting in one student’s claim of fearing imminent death. Meanwhile, students at Stevenson College were left “harmed” and traumatised by an insufficiently sensitive buffet. Thankfully, saner voices prevailed in the pages of the Guardian, where Deborah Orr explained, or rather asserted, that the only vital qualification for presidential office is the possession of a vagina, the “symbolic power” of which “transcends all else.”
In May, we witnessed the intellectual heft of the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, including her belief that obesity isn’t chiefly a matter of inactivity and overeating but instead has a more pernicious cause, i.e., a lack of socialism: “It is inequality and disrespect,” we learned, “that makes people fat.” Though chunkier readers should note that waiting for a socialist revolution probably isn’t the best way to lose those extra pounds. We also pondered the deep ruminations of Marxist philosopher Adam Swift, who insists that reading to your children causes “unfair disadvantage” to the children of parents who are negligent and stupid, and should therefore induce feelings of guilt and discomfort. To our Marxist intellectual, being a competent, caring parent is something to atone for, being as it is an act of class oppression.