As we all know, the left and particularly its kudzu-like interweaving into and strangling of all aspects of academia is very fond of its “isms.” Feminism, racism, whateverism–all purportedly designed to “call out” the oppressive white male and to tear down sexist walls, crash through glass ceilings, break out of the cycle of oppression. So imagine my surprise when, as a graduate student, I learned that I should not be teaching a particular female author in a Modern Literature class. She’s an excellent, if under-read and under-appreciated, modern writer, but the chair of my department explained to me that her work should be taught in “women’s literature” classes. It turns out that faux feminists were happy to perpetuate the idea that the term “modern writer” actually means “white male modern writer” and that because of this, a woman cannot be a “modern writer” at all. She’s a writer of “women’s literature.”
“Women’s literature” classes are chock-full of readings by people whose only qualification as a “writer” is a vagina. The “literature” is often . . . well, let’s just say, not good. This isn’t always the case, but often enough that you have to wonder why it’s being taught at all (other than to fill in the entire semester’s reading list by dredging up every female writer who ever put pen to paper). This gyno-centric reading list and my being told not to teach a truly outstanding female author in a “traditional” lit class initially unnerved and confused me. But the real reason is actually quite clear, if rather sinister: if we started selecting excellent female writers and started teaching them as if they were “real” literature, we’d end the hate-fueled gravy train. Who or what would the leftist intellectual elite write their endless, repetitive, belly-button-gazing critical essays about? What would happen to their careers if they had no one to demonize and no one to treat as a perpetual victim?
How on earth can we achieve any kind of gendered or racial harmony if we continue to perpetuate this bizarre notion that women and minorities must be treated with kid gloves or as strange anomalies to be taught in isolation, put on intellectual display as if they are animals in a zoo? Doesn’t gyno-centric or race-based “grouping” serve only to underscore the “difference,” to highlight the supposed inadequacies of said group/s? Yet when we on the right want to treat female authors or black authors as the equals of their white, male counterparts (i.e. actually worthy of study on the merits of the text, not because they have a vagina or other-than-white skin), we are not permitted to do so. In the name of equality.
My experience trying to teach female authors–I had a similar experience when I wanted to teach a black female author–as if they were actual authors and not “women’s lit” or “African-American lit” was a form of “white guilt” being implemented in the university. I think of it as “gynoguilt,” borrowing, of course, from Shelby Steele’s excellent 2006 White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era. In short and not doing justice to Steele’s watershed text, white guilt functions by virtue of manipulating white people’s angst over slavery, the guilt and remorse we feel for the enslavement of, brutality toward, and oppression of black people in America. This guilt is fed and fueled, Steele argues, by both black and white leaders who use it to manipulate public policy that effectively makes black people perpetual victims and white people perpetual penance payers.
Gynoguilt does the same thing, but works by painting women as perpetual victims of an oppressive white male-dominated society and seeks to use that to transfer power and prestige in the form of tenure and full-professorships to truly incompetent, intellectually-lazy people who serve only their own interests.
The truly rich and deeply-sickening fact is that white and gynoguilt work precisely because we are not a sexist or a racist nation. If Americans today were as racist as the political elite would have us believe, or as sexist as the academic elite would have us believe, there would be no possible way to leverage the perpetuation of liberal racism on the bogus argument of racial equality or to teach “women’s lit” and “African-American” lit courses as exclusive entities that are not to be mixed with the simultaneously unworthy and (ironically still-) vaunted canon of literature on the bogus arguments of gender and racial equality. If we thought slavery was great or that black people are “less than,” we would never have worked to enact and comply with the entitlement agenda that we’d been told was about equality. If we thought sexism was such a boon to the world, we would never comply with the illogical treatment of female writers as “other” (isn’t that what feminism is supposed to end?). The tragedy here is that if we were pleased with and saw nothing wrong with our sexist and racist past, white and gynoguilt used as tools to silence people who want to open rather than close doors to women and minorities would not work. But it does. All too well.
Cross-posted at NewsReal Blog‘s Feminist Hawk’s Nest: go see it (yay!)