Friday, April 7, 2017

Unwanted Advances

This book is about the application and enforcement  by University Administrations of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, a federal law that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." 

Following the copyright restrictions imposed by the publisher (for a change) I will not reproduce or try to summarize this remarkable and credibly argued book. The situation is a mess  and I recommend it  to all my blog followers if they want to know  ‘How so” and “How far”.

Two passages in the Ms. Kipnis’s work sparked my particular interest.  The first concerned the general symbolic order in which all the obfuscations and injustices entailed in the application of Title IX  in the academic environment occur.

“Woman yearn to have adventures and be reckless too (just like men), and sexual adventurism is still the main envoy of freedom we’ve got.”

I don’t disagree in the least. That’s what’s what most people seem to be thinking and is even the foundation  of the controversies now surrounding the debates on gender identity. Even ‘non-adventurism’ in contemporary society is the envoy of freedom. Adventurism  and non-adventurism serve to define each other in the context of what is perceived to be essential freedoms. My point would be to say that this symbolic order is somewhat illusory and certainly a distraction from what I perceive to be more pressing matters in the realms of freedom like work and other economic and social arrangements. The freedom to get a fair return on our labor, not to be governed by oligarchs, not to have  prosperity engendered by a modern economy squandered in war? Of course the issues  of sex and its freedoms are deeply personal, more than any other, and the desires, conflicts and contradictions it engenders appear very early in the lives of individuals without requiring that they know much about the rest of life. The consequences or ramifications of the ideas people have about sex and the decisions they make about it  last well past adolescence and often persist for a lifetime, including  ambiguities and self-contradictions that pertain to it. But it seems doubtful to me that if the mores and behaviors of society towards sex were settled generally- in some sort of universal regime personal freedom and tolerance- that would eliminate all the other un-freedoms which plague us on a daily basis. In may be just the reverse: eliminate the latter disease and the former might finally be resolved. In other words, ‘adventurism or non-adventurism’ in sex is a false envoy, it offers the  ‘mere’ semblance of freedom, as important as it seems to be.

I’m not disputing any thing Laura says in her book, just enlarging the context with a bit of structuralism, or post structuralism (who knows?)

I love the way she characterizes the testimony of feminist philosopher Jessica Wilson in her account of the ‘trial’ (if you want to call it that) of the main character by his academic peers, administrators and lawyers at the end of the book. It points to what is being lost in all the interpretations and enforcements of Title IX- a point she makes well through-out her book.

It probably sounds bizarre to  say, given the circumstances, but it felt like there was an erotic current in the room. It reminded me of my own student days, when the excitement of learning made me feel alive in such profoundly creative, intellectual, erotically messy ways – which were indistinguishable from one another, and no one thought it should be otherwise.

Not bizarre at all. Reading this book; me too.

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