By Damon Krane
April 18, 2002
The Post (Athens, Ohio)
I wish I had the space here to respond to each of the arguments against the post-walkout demands for Ohio university policy reforms intended to curb sexual assault and hate crimes. This list of demands is long, so there is admittedly a lot to discuss. If those opposed to the demands would like to engage in a public debate, I’d be happy to participate. In the meantime, I’ll respond to just one of the more annoying things that characterize four recent letters published in The Post.
Without exception, each of these four letter writers have presumed to speak for the majority of the OU community while attempting to portray demand proponents as an insignificant, fringe minority. Since we’re apparently talking numbers here, let’s compare a few. 300 OU students participated in February’s walkout and rally. 200 have signed letters and petitions endorsing the full list of demands. The majority of this newspaper’s editorial board has since joined them, and Student Senate has passed resolutions in favor of several of the campaign’s demands. In contrast, three OU students and one former student have expressed opposition to the demands while confidently appointing themselves as the majority’s spokesmen.
True, there are thousands of OU students from whom we haven’t heard yet. But where does this meager handful of opponents get off claiming to speak for the majority with such confident certainty? Just because many students have been quiet so far, does that mean we should therefore assume that they are thrilled with the current climate on campus for women and LGBT students? Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that people opposed to these demands, many of which are aimed at combating sexual assault, would be so quick to confuse silence with consent.
Of course, these four letter writers haven’t attempted to portray demand proponents as a minority by comparing proponents to the overall number of students who attend OU. Instead, wherever possible these writers have tried to erase the existence of certain groups of people who support the demands in an attempt to whittle down a broad and diverse constituency into one easily scapegoated group. By using “gay/lesbian community” to refer to demand proponents and claiming that feminism, by definition, means the exclusion of men, the writers would have us believe that the only people working for these changes are lesbians.
What’s more, no one but lesbians could possible have such goals. See, these aren’t even respectable, quiet lesbians. You know – the kind that look like Barbie dolls and only make out with each other in the pages of Penthouse. They are power-hungry, deranged lesbians, hell bent on “brainwashing” the rest of us into “conforming to a particular set of values” through their sinister diversity course.
Interestingly enough, each writer who makes the brainwashing argument simultaneously argues that education is totally “ineffective” at changing people’s attitudes. It would be bad enough if these arguments contradicted their own logic, but they also contradict reality. First of all, the lesbian conspiracy is not out to make us their mindless drones. While the group Swarm of Dykes has humorously referred to itself as the Dyke Mafia, there is no lesbian conspiracy. What’s more – and this is the real shocker – queer identified women are not the only students calling for these changes.
But how could this be? Don’t feminists hate men? Don’t queer people hate heterosexuals? Isn’t that why they won’t sleep with me?
Anyone the slightest bit familiar with feminism and the queer community knows that the answer to all of these questions is “no.” Obviously that group forsn’t include the four letter writers, but they should still know better. The fact that women and men, queer people and heterosexuals, have worked side by side on this campaign – before, during and since the walkout – proves this. Just look at the names of those who signed the group letters published in the local papers. Though they’d probably all consider themselves feminist or pro-feminist, they’re not all women. Though not so evident by their names, they’re not all queer either.
I, for instance, am a heterosexual man. Lots of my friends are queer, and not since high school have I dated a woman who wasn’t proud to call herself a feminist. (Yeah, I went to high school in an unusually conservative area.) But according to these letter writers, I don’t even qualify as a minority. Like the man in Feminist Coalition, those in OU Men Against Sexism, all those who spoke at the walkout rally, and all those who continue to work for these demands – like the heterosexuals in Open Doors and in One, and all our queer and feminist friends and lovers who don’t hate us for being heterosexuals or men – I simply don’t exist in the fantasy world of these letter writers. If I did – if all of us did – that would create a big problem for their arguments and make demand proponents looks a lot less like an isolated and menacing minority. So these writers simply choose to ignore reality.
If demand opponents would only broaden their social circles a little, they’d quickly discover how wrong they are – not only with regard to queer people and feminists, but many straight guys as well. I hope someday they will have the courage to do so. I expect they will discover that life is a lot more enjoyable without living in fear of being enslaved by some imaginary lesbian conspiracy. In the meantime, I hope you four letter writers will at least refrain from presuming to speak for the majority. You certainly don’t speak for me.