Monday, April 27, 2015

The real victim of ‘rape culture’? Free speech

As the Christina Hoff Sommers furore shows, too many students can’t handle debate

In November last year, anti-rape activists at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, erupted in outrage when it was announced that libertarian feminist Wendy McElroy had been invited to take part in a debate about sexual violence. McElroy, as it happens, was herself the victim of a rape so violent it left her with permanently impaired vision. But she has since incurred the wrath of those who claim to speak for rape victims by vehemently disputing the existence of what radical feminists call ‘rape culture’. Rape culture, McElroy has written, is ‘a lie [which] has been successful in spite of reality’ and is now being used to justify an illiberal and sinister attack on due process.

Whether one agrees with this view or not, it ought to be obvious that transparent debate of this issue is not only legitimate, but vital. McElroy’s activist opponents disagreed. The very expression of opinions like hers, they insisted, constitutes an intolerable threat to student safety.

This dismal scenario is now being re-run following an invitation extended by Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians (OCRL) to feminist writer Christina Hoff Sommers. Sommers – a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and author of the 1994 polemic Who Stole Feminism? – also considers ‘rape culture’ to be a dangerous moral panic. And, like McElroy, she believes it must be discredited with the careful marshalling of evidence and argument. Her opponents, on the other hand, while maintaining the truth of their own claims to be self-evident, have preferred to marshal only disgust and invective, the most recent manifestation of which has been an open letter published in the Oberlin Review beneath the maudlin headline ‘A Love Letter To Ourselves’.

These activists have every reason to feel defensive. Sommers’ talk comes on the heels of the devastating investigation by the Columbia School of Journalism into Rolling Stone’s credulous reporting of last year’s UVA campus rape hoax. Not only was the story’s fallout an embarrassment for Rolling Stone - it also painfully exposed the degree to which campus activists refuse to allow facts to interfere with conviction and radical feminist dogma. The Oberlin letter will do nothing to dispel this impression.

The letter opens with a spurious attack on Sommers’ bad timing. ‘This Monday’, it explains, ‘happens to be a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month which makes the timing of this talk particularly objectionable’. And why should awareness-raising preclude open debate and discussion? Because, we learn, Sommers is a ‘rape denialist’. The inference is not hard to grasp. Would you, the letter suggests, bring a Holocaust denier on to campus to contest the facts of the Shoah during Holocaust Memorial Day? It is difficult to conceive of a more tasteless and dishonest analogy, which may be why no attempt is made to substantiate it. Instead, what follows is an example of question begging in its crudest form:

‘By denying rape culture, [Sommers] is creating exactly the cycle of victim/survivor blame, where victims are responsible for the violence that was forced upon them and the subsequent shame that occurs when survivors share their stories, whose existence she denies. This is how rape culture flourishes. By bringing her to a college campus laden with trauma and sexualised violence and full of victims/survivors, OCRL is choosing to reinforce this climate of denial/blame/shame that ultimately has real-life consequences on the wellbeing of people who have experienced sexualised violence.’

Or, in other words, it is dangerous to challenge the existence of rape culture, since to do so inflames rape culture.

This is, at best, circular reasoning, and, at worst, an exercise in self-serving denunciation, cynically constructed to render dissent heretical. Have the letter’s authors never heard of the importance of falsifiability? Or have they simply chosen to disregard it in the name of expediency and bad faith? What follows leads me to suspect the latter: ‘We could spend all of our time and energy explaining all of the ways she’s harmful. But why should we?’ Why indeed, when to act fair-mindedly would only invite the accused to defend herself?

But like a child who has purged himself of a violent tantrum, the letter’s tone then lapses abruptly into sullen resignation. Eight ‘concrete examples of ways to engage’ are offered: ‘1) Listen to your friends who’ve been harmed; 2) use your social and financial capital; 3) challenge violence and harm; 4) participate in actions and conversations in response to the event; 5) recognise and prioritise intersectional feminism and survivor support; 6) genuinely care for one another; 7) educate yourself on the impacts of trauma and symptoms of post-traumatic stress/reactions; and 8) silence.’

But what is being recommended here is not engagement, but flight from argument, a retreat into the comforting echo chamber of like minds. Lest there be any doubt, sympathetic readers are then encouraged to ‘engage in some radical, beautiful community care, support and love. Let’s make space for everyone to engage at whichever level they want/need. Let’s come through for each other, both now and in the future. Trauma is an experience that threatens a person’s bodily, spiritual and emotional integrity. The psychological, emotional and somatic impacts extend beyond the experience of trauma. Healing is a process that looks different for each person. Let’s make space to care for all experiences of trauma and to respect those we care for. Let’s focus our energy on taking care of each other and ourselves. Let’s make [Sommers’] talk irrelevant in the face of our love, passion and power.’

If this letter is representative of intersectional feminism, then this is surely an ideology approaching its nadir. Its champions hold reason, scholarship, academic rigour and critical thought in contempt, while they re-clothe censorious spite and sanctimony as compassion. We are right because we care; you are wrong because you don’t. ‘It is important to underscore both that safety is a priority and that it’s not possible to be neutral about rape culture’, the letter runs. ‘A decision not to support survivors/victims is a decision to permit the actions of the perpetrators.’

If you are not with us, you are with the rapists. The gavel has come down. The sentence is public disgrace and excommunication from feminist politics and decent society. May God have mercy on your soul.


Ted Cruz First Signer of Phyllis Schlafly’s STOP Common Core Pledge

Limited government constitutional conservative presidential candidate Ted Cruz is the first signer of the new Eagle Forum STOP Common Core Pledge announced Eagle Forum Founder Phyllis Schlafly.

The pledge will be available for candidates at every level to sign and show their opposition to Common Core in all forms and under all names.  Senator Ted Cruz is the first candidate or office holder to sign this pledge.

“I am thrilled to introduce our new STOP Common Core Pledge,” said Schlafly.  “As 2016 elections heat up, voters deserve to know every candidate’s position on this vital issue.  Common Core has quickly become one of the hottest grassroots issues as people have seen the program for what it truly is.  Common Core offers nationalized control, special-interest strings attached, and a whole new method of learning that has accomplished nothing but mass confusion among our kids.  Candidates and incumbents now have the opportunity to make clear to voters, by signing our pledge that they will work to STOP Common Core.”

Senator Cruz’s clear opposition to Common Core, as evidenced by signing the Eagle Forum STOP Common Core Pledge, is in stark contrast to Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, who both support Common Core.

Speaking of her opposition to Common Core, former Hewlett-Packard CEO and potential Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina pretty well summed-up the problem Florida Gov. Jeb Bush  has a “big government Republican” who is “dead wrong” on issues like immigration reform and Common Core.

“Jeb Bush is dead wrong on a couple issues,” Ms. Fiorina said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show, The Daily Caller reported. “He’s dead wrong on comprehensive immigration reform. He’s dead wrong on Common Core. He’s dead wrong about government being too powerful. I think government is too powerful. I’m not sure he believes that.”

“There’s no question that there are big government Republicans and there are big government Democrats,” she continued. “Jeb Bush’s record suggests that he is a big government Republican. I don’t tend to agree with Common Core — you and I have had this discussion before — his answer on Common Core is that, ‘Well it’s not intended to be a heavy-handed bureaucratic program. It’s intended to be a set of nationwide standards.’ Bureaucracies only know one way: It’s called heavy-handed. So if you get a federal bureaucracy, or in some cases even a state bureaucracy, involved in anything, it will become heavy-handed. That’s how we’ve gotten bigger and bigger government under both Republicans and Democrats.”

Ms. Fiorina is right, and Jeb Bush is starting to realize it.

Although at a recent speech to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce Bush reiterated his support for the unpopular program that many see as an Obamacare-style takeover of local schools, he has subsequently tried to give himself some wiggle room – most notably in a recent appearance in New Hampshire.

As Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times Washington Bureau Chief noted in a Tuesday afternoon post to, “For months now Bush has maintained support for Common Core but added language to the effect that he is simply for higher standards, no matter what they are called. Bush has also stepped up talk that the federal government should not be involved, a line he used in New Hampshire last weekend.”

Jeb’s wiggling and trying to put some air between his position and Hillary Clinton’s, when there really isn’t any, is why the Eagle Forum STOP Common Core Pledge is so important.

There’s no wiggling – you either sign and promise to oppose Common Core, no matter what proponents call it, or you don’t.


School Nutrition Experts Call for Increased Flexibility of Child Nutrition Programs

The Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a hearing to discuss the importance of federal child nutrition programs as the committee begins an effort to reauthorize these programs later this year.

“Healthy meals are vitally important to a child’s education,” Chairman Kline said. “It’s just basic commonsense that if a child is hungry then he or she is less likely to succeed in the classroom and later in life … It’s the responsibility of this committee and Congress to reauthorize these programs so that students and families receive the support they need in the most efficient and effective way.”

Witnesses echoed Chairman Kline’s sentiments. As First Lady of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, remarked, “The impact of hunger and malnutrition on children is devastating, well-documented, and obvious to anyone who is a parent or works with children … How can we expect our children to be hungry for knowledge, if they are just plain hungry?”

The last reauthorization of child nutrition programs in 2010 vastly expanded the role of the federal government. As a result, program costs have increased while student participation has decreased. Furthermore, many schools are struggling to address wasted food and the nutrition needs of each individual student. When asked what Congress can do to improve these programs, witnesses responded with the need for increased flexibility to effectively serve children.

“Some of the new regulations have resulted in unintended consequences, which threaten our ability to better serve students’ nutritional needs,” said School Nutrition Association President, Julia Bauscher. She added, the US Department of Agriculture “estimated that this year, schools must absorb $1.2 billion in added costs as a result of the new rules.”

Senior Director of Share Our Strength, Duke Storen, highlighted the success of public-private partnerships to “make the federal programs run more efficiently and effectively” and to decrease the costs imposed on school districts.

Director of the Texas Hunger Initiative at Baylor University, Kathy Krey, agreed: “Public-private partnerships bridge local, state, and federal resources to maximize the efficiency and reach of these programs. Innovative collaborations increase the capacity of communities to take ownership of their needs so that children can stay fueled for learning all day, all year round.”

At the same time, Mr. Storen reminded members of the critical need to “update these programs to remove bureaucratic barriers and create efficiencies that will allow us to reach those kids who currently go without.”

"We have to find a better way forward," Chairman Kline concluded, "one that continues our commitment to providing nutritious meals for America’s students, while giving state and school leaders the flexibility they need to make it a reality."


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