Wednesday, February 05, 2014

"The library's named after a DUDE!!!!"

You may have heard about the students at Columbia (or Barnard, some of the reports I've heard said Barnard) that filmed a porn video in the library, to protest a variety of things. (The radio news here spun it as "Because the library was named after a dude" but it sounds like it was also about "the expectations of female behavior on campus")

I dunno. Maybe I'm a Philistine here, but I don't think that's quite what Gandhi intended with "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I guess they're getting notoriety for it, but....if there's a culture on the campus of pressure for women to have sex when they don't want to, or if they think women are being objectified, I kind of think there are maybe more productive ways of directly tackling the issue.

Also, I have admit, the "It's only dead white dudes in the canon" argument doesn't generally sway me, at least not in the sense of "We have to throw all of them out and find replacements." It's a historical thing that most of the well-known writers were dudes....and most of them were white Europeans. In the past, generally men were ABLE to write because they had wives to take care of the day-to-day stuff. Most of the women writers of the past that I know were women who weren't married, and many of them came from well-off families. And until recently, most of the known books out there were by Europeans, or people of European heritage. Yeah, you may not like it, but it's kind of how history happened. And much of American culture still harks back to Shakespeare and Dickens and even sometimes people like can't change things overnight by declaring "Those guys are now taboo; here are the new cultural icons" because culture doesn't work like that.

(Though honestly, in the future? Maybe we'll be hoping that people read, period, much less read Dickens and Shakespeare.)

Maybe I'm unenlightened. Or maybe my perspective is very different. But when I walk by the library here (which does happen to have authors' and philosophers' names on it, and as far as I can remember, yes, they are all dudes), I don't feel harassed or excluded or put down. It's just how things were. I'm grateful things are different now - if it were still the 15th century I might not be able to read at all - but I'm not outraged at how it is.

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