Saturday, February 28, 2004


  • First, something serious: I first saw this over at Fimoculous. Author/scholar Naomi Wolf recently wrote a New York magazine story about how, 20 years ago at Yale, Harold Bloom made sexual advances on her. Wolf's point in writing the essay, ostensibly, is to raise the issue of how Yale maintains a wall of silence around incidents of sexual harassment and, in essence, is uncaring about how women are treated at the institution.

    For anyone who's ever been in the academy, Wolf's points are important though hardly a revelation. My own department at UC Berkeley has had a scandalous record - like probably ALL college departments - and most of these incidents have been quietly swept under the carpet or ignored completely. Frankly, given that I could care less about Harold Bloom (his intellectual conservatism aided the cause of the Right during the '90s Culture Wars), I also thought Wolf was raising important issues about the ways in which sex is wielded as a weapon on college campuses, usually to the detriment of women.

    I mean, this shouldn't be a surprise to say that women have it pretty bad in academia. They, across the board, are tenured at a lower rate than men. They find it far more difficult to raise a family then their male counterparts. I'm sure they're also likely to get paid less for all this. And of course, there's the issue of sexual harassment which, whether manifesting in college football recruitment parties or in someone's office hours, seems never too far away from the Ivory Tower.

    Yet, instead of being supported, Wolf is getting attacked from everywhere. Here's just a partial listing:
    • In the Chronicle of Higher Education, the reporter quotes Camille Paglia (jesus, isn't she so five minutes ago yet?) as such: When she was a graduate student there more than three decades ago, [Paglia] said, her fellow female graduate students "were having affairs right and left with faculty members." "I never did," she said. "It wasn't my style, but women freely chose. No one felt that they were abused."

      This has to be one of the most absurd defenses I've ever seen mounted...maybe Paglia was quoted out of context but she makes it seem like NO kind of coerced sexual situations existed at Yale in the early '80s and given that I know this kind of shit happens NOW within the academy, I find it highly unlikely that Yale would have been so unblemished in its past. Plus, Paglia is about one step from saying, "they asked for it." I agree with Paglia's point that women are not these meek flowers waiting to be plucked by male professors - they have agency, certainly - but in trying to counter Wolf's claims, Paglia seems to step far past the other side of the line.

    • At least the Chronicle was trying to be objective. Editorials in The New York Observer as well as go on the unabashed offensive on Wolf, trying to destroy her story's credibility, questioning her motives and defending Yale's actions.

      In Slate, Meghan O'Rouke sounds less a culture editor (her formal title) and more like a cruty legal analyst. Here's a typical passage: Yale's response to her disclosure of a 1983 offense is not necessarily predictive of its response to a present-day offenseŚnot just because the statute of limitations for what Bloom did to Wolf expired 18 years ago, but also because what Bloom did may not have been explicitly wrong by Yale's standards at the time and by law (though from our vantage point it looks sleazy).. I understand O'Rourke's point - one should be careful in bashing Yale today for what it may or may not have done 18 years ago - but even though the Slate author argues that "this may sound like splitting hairs," it really does seem like O'Rourke is splitting hairs and missing the forest for the trees.

      In fact, O'Rourke's piece bears a disturbing similarity to fellow Slate writer Jack Shafer's obsessions with debunking Peter Landesman's New York Times Magazine story on sex slaves in the U.S.. What is it over at Slate? Is there something in the water cooler out there that encourages them to become nitpicky gnats over small details while losing sight of the bigger picture? I'm all for journalistic credibility too but O'Rourke is picking an odd fight.
    I fail to really understand what the hell is so outrageous about Wolf's claims? A male professor hit on her in an inappropriate manner and Yale is failing to deal with that. I mean, seriously, what the hell is so surprising with this?

  • Congresswoman Lynn Woolsley tried to intervene on behalf of an accused rapist in a case involving a 17 year old Asian American woman who was assaulted and raped by the son of one of Woolsley's aids. (In predictable but still pathetic fashion, ultra-right-wing conservative commentator Michelle Malkin put Woolsley on blast, calling her a "rapist-loving feminist.")
    (both spotted at

  • We're in awe of Sasha Frere-Jones who just wrote his first of at least six upcoming pop culture/music stories for The New Yorker, beginning with a fantastic profile of the enigmatic disco-era producer and musical provocteur, Arthur Russell.

  • Saw this over at,'s "People in the News" gossip column: Gibson's 'Passion' Sparks Christian Fashion Craze
      Mel Gibson's new movie The Passion Of The Christ has inspired a new craze across America for Christian-themed jewelry. The hit film, which follows the final 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life, is at the center of continued controversy with accusations of potentially inciting anti-Semitism. But as well as fierce debate, the movie has also led hordes of people to buy such souvenirs as crucifixes, lapel pins and cards tied to the film's promotion. A particularly popular item is a pendant fashioned from a single nail made of pewter and attached to a leather strap, say officials of Bob Siemon Designs, licensed by Gibson's Icon Productions to produce jewelry linked to the film. The pendants represent the nails used in the film to fasten Christ to the cross. The company has shipped around 75,000 cross pendants to Christian bookstores across America and approximately the same amount of nail pendants.

  • "Smart is sexy" - so says the tagline for, the "Ivy League of dating." Sharon and I came upon this - of all places - on the backpage of the SF Bay Guardian, next to ads for penis enlargement, bartending school and nude modeling offers. I took a look at the site and it's basically designed for lonely, elitist graduates and faculty at a "select group of excellent universities" which, includes Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Harvard, etc. but only one public school from what I could see: UC Berkeley (woo hoo! I feel so validated...) Just to make this very clear, here's what they say: "To join you must be a graduate or a faculty member from one of our group of excellent schools. You may provide proof or we will verify your status for you." Yes, that's right folks - if you're from UT Austin, UC San Diego, NYU, Hampshire, Williams and Mary, etc., you need not bother applying. Wow, this is like intellectual eugenics.

  • How come no one thought of this sooner? It's the Chinese Restaurant Project, whose mission it is to "collect the take-out menus from every Chinese restaurant in the USA."
    (also spotted at

  • I found this blog, Girls Are Weird, because author Theresa linked to my recent gay marriage postings. She has good things to say on the subject herself, but I'm also enjoying reading her voluminous opinions about everything from the Grey Album and copyright, to the upcoming Beyonce, Missy and Alicia Keys tour. My favorite though? Theresa's confessionals about her dating history. She does claim elsewhere that she has a penchant for attracting bastards and apparently, that's no exaggeration.