President Obama’s commencement speech choice inspires hatred against Barnard College

March 5th, 2012  |  Published in Democracy, Featured, head2head, Logan Clark, Politics, Public Health, Rachel Peck  |  1 Comment

President Obama’s commencement speech choice inspires hatred against Barnard College

By: Rachel Peck

President Obama will speak at Barnard's commencement in May, and some Columbia College students have turned to sexism in response. (Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Rachel Peck

Saturday morning, I learned that Barack Obama had been scheduled to speak at my Barnard College commencement ceremony this May. After a moment of unadulterated excitement, I found myself immediately confronted with an unprecedented backlash from my classmates across the street at Columbia College. CC students felt understandably snubbed by Obama, an alumnus from the class of 1983, and news outlets have already profiled the anonymous jealous musings of angry Columbians who blame the President for abandoning their alma mater.

But what is not getting press, and what should really be at the forefront of this discourse, is the unabashed sexism that’s percolating on online message boards, social media outlets, and blogs. The President’s decision to speak at the affiliated women’s college of Columbia is catalyzing an onslaught of hateful speech that his visit, ironically, was politically calculated to defuse.

As of 12:00pm on Sunday, March 4, 2012—just over twenty-four hours after the initial announcement was made—over 680 comments appeared on Bwog.net (a University blog run by undergraduate students). Among them include:

I’m ashamed by the vocal minority of Columbia students, the men and women who use gender and sexuality to devalue others, particularly because the President decided to speak at Barnard’s commencement in part to address the recent onslaught of restrictive contraception legislation. The hate speech at Columbia feels like just a microcosmic exemplification of the national gender-fueled fire. Just as my classmates are referencing speeches from the 1950s encouraging women to enter housework to serve their husbands, Rush Limbaugh is calling a Georgetown Law student a slut.

I hope the discourse in this country—and on my own campus—soon transcends the name-calling, woman-bashing, slut-shaming, and gender-stereotyping that has devolved our collective sense of compassion and justice. I hope that no institution is ever defaced as a product of subconscious misogyny. And I hope that as a society we’re able to allow our President to stand behind women.

And I hope it happens soon.

vs.

How misogyny hurts men

By: Logan Clark

Logan Clark

I know head2heads are supposed to work in a point-counterpoint fashion, but this week should be a High Five rather than a head2head. I’m on a bit of a “Down With The Patriarchy” kick this week, for obvious reasons (looking at you Rush Limbaugh and RFK Jr). Rachel is absolutely right when she talks about misogyny dominating our national discourse. But I want to focus on one specific comment she posted, which demonstrates how a misogynist patriarchy hurts women … and men.

Here’s the exchange:

Anon1: “…This is really exciting for everyone that falls under the Columbia University umbrella. Let’s all be excited for the lovely ladies across the street.”

Anon2: “You’re only saying that to get laid, Anon1.”

Anon3: “Na, because he’s whipped by his gf.”

There is a veritable mountain of things wrong about this, so let’s break it down.

Anon1, Anon2 assumes, is a straight male who can only view the women’s college as an object of his sexual desires. Anon3 assumes that Anon1 is only saying supportive things about women because, evidently, that is the only way that a weak-willed man like him can procure sex from his girlfriend. The only way to be a man in their eyes is to be a raging asshole. I beg to differ.

I dance at the mere suggestion of music. I belt out Madonna while driving. I baked muffins and bread one summer to make money.* I enjoy snuggling and hugs more than most people I know. I was in drama club in high school and I like musical theater.

I also was captain of my high school lacrosse team. I like stupid action flicks with big honking explosions. I still think fart jokes are funny. I like putting bacon on just about everything I eat. And to top it all off, my girlfriend is fiiiiiiiiiiiiine (which is an added bonus to her being extraordinarily intelligent, funny, and caring).

So with one set of interests I’m at best A Pitiful Excuse For A Man and at worst A Sissified Queer. With the other, I’m just another straight dude. These people who think that female empowerment must come at the expense of male liberty don’t see the shackles society puts on men today (and yes, I just used the word shackles). Where’s the “liberty” when you are shamed for acting differently than the way people expect you to act because of your sex?

The women’s rights movement is inherently about the equality of genders and sexualities. It means that I can be a straight guy and like Lady Gaga. It also means that I can be a straight guy and like beer pong and raging with my bros. It means that we can break down the walls that society has built for the sexes and be free to be the person that we each want to be. And that’s an idea more American than apple pie.

Now spit out the haterade and chew on that for a bit, Columbia. That’s all I got for you.

*It should be duly noted that it was called La Boulangerie du Pauvre for a reason.

Check back next Monday for a whole new head2head! Thanks for reading, and for joining in the conversation.

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