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Ah, The Innocence of
[Editor's Note: This article was actually written shortly after the events discussed took place but due to a number of circumstances is only being published now. Just think of this as a Time Warp.]
This past fall, on the campus of Georgetown University, along with their student I.D.s and room keys, incoming freshman women received a little booklet called "The Guide: A Little Beige Book for Today's Miss G." Written by Dawn Scheirer and Bryanna Hocking, and underwritten by the conservative Independent Women's Forum, the pamphlet has created a serious fervor on the Georgetown campus. While much of the booklet is concerned with trivia: reasons why Georgetown men no longer adhere to the dating conventions of 40 years ago, exhortations to "femininity," and the like, it also contains some fairly incendiary stuff. Much like Christina Hoff Summers, Schreier and Hocking assert that feminism is irrelevant to today's Georgetown undergrad. Much like Katie Rophie, they bemoan purported feminist overstatements of the prevalence of rape, date rape, and eating disorders. The controversy was reported in the Washington Post, in the Style section, on January 12.
There are several aspects of this whole thing I find troubling. First of all, on the one hand, the Post is purporting to write about a serious debate in modern feminism...in the Style section. Moreover, and you'll have to take my word for this unless you feel like visiting http://www.washingtonpost.com/ yourself and looking up the article, the tone of the whole thing was, shall we say, a bit light. Translation: feminism and debates about its contemporary relevance and content are not "real news." Wars, policy decisions, random shootings, are REAL news. Anything that has to do with women gets stashed in the Style section, the place for comics and Ann Landers.
Secondly, there have been allegations that Hocking and Scheirer are fronts for a Georgetown alum named Manuel Miranda who, upset that Georgetown, a traditionally highly conservative school has actually had the temerity to open a Women's Center, was looking for a way to fight back. It seems possible that these two young, impressionable women were coaxed into a controversy not of their own making for the satisfaction of the conservative leanings of an older alumni unhappy with the current direction of the school. And lest one get the wrong idea about Georgetown, it has hardly become a hotbed of liberalism of late. Only this part fall, Georgetown sponsored a conference on the Church's position on homosexuality that was hardly progressive in nature.
Third, it worries me that ideas which have been repeatedly proven to be false (for instance, women do not over report rape, in fact they tend to under report rather dramatically) are still being fed to and swallowed by young women. It worries me that Hocking and Scheirer and their supporters have so little understanding for or appreciation of the struggles of the past 25 years.
Fourth, Scheirer reports, in the Post, that the source of her conservative beliefs is her own father and her conservative boyfriend's father, who apparently spends a great deal of time railing against "feminazis." It is sad that someone so young is so quick to point out the perceived biases of others and so blind to her own and to those of people who happen to agree with her.
But that points to perhaps the most troubling aspect of this whole business: these two young women, who have taken such a public stand on such a controversial issue, are 18 years old. We're all idiots at 18. No one has examined beliefs at that age; that's why we go to college in the first place. Most of us, and I freely include myself in that, are merely regurgitating what has been fed to us by parents and teachers at that point in our lives. Critical thinking skills have never historically been at their strongest during the teenage years. Again, that's one of the major reasons people go to college: it's an opportunity to be exposed to other ways of thinking and living and viewing the world. Most of us find that time in our lives, those first few years of adulthood, to be a time of exploration and dramatic change.
Unfortunately for Hocking and Scheirer, they now have a large ego investment in a position they hold at 18 years of age. I've spent a long time in academia, as a student, as a teacher, and now in a professional association for academics, and I've seen first hand the often nasty results of ego involvement in a foolish but publicly stated position. Some academics end up spending 20 or 30 years defending a position taken early in their careers whose foolishness would have become apparent to them if they had just waited a few more years.
Ultimately, I feel sorry for these two young women who have, up until this point, lived sheltered lives of privilege. They may find that as they move out into the "real" world, getting first jobs and getting involved in serious relationships, that the "feminnazis" may have been right about a thing or two. Many of us only become feminists after our first experiences with the "real world." I just hope for both their sakes that the positions taken in their youth don't turn around and bite them in the ass in later years.
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