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Famously liberal Wellesley College has a serious problem on its hands. The female-only alma mater of Hillary Clinton has long been on the bleeding edge of feminist theory, but recent developments in the gender wars threaten their PC cred.
Recently, a matriculating young woman decided to define herself as a man. Technically “Timothy Boatwright” calls herself a “masculine-of-center genderqueer” (whatever that means) but insists that everyone on campus treat her like a dude. Wellesley’s staff and student body sheepishly complied as they have with other similarly confused undergrads.
Of course, if Boatwright really thought of herself as a guy she wouldn’t have chosen a school that forbids them, but Wellesley doesn’t award any points for logical consistency. I suspect a kid can self-identify as a chicken quesadilla as long as her parents fork over the private school’s exorbitant tuition.
Problems arose when Boatwright decided to run for student government. She vied for the position of Multicultural Affairs Coordinator (MAC), which enforces a “culture of diversity” on campus. The other candidates dropped out of the race, making Boatright a shoo-in. Until…
An anonymous lobbying effort began on Facebook, pushing students to vote “abstain.” Enough “abstains” would deny Timothy the minimum number of votes Wellesley required, forcing a new election for the seat and providing an opportunity for other candidates to come forward. The “Campaign to Abstain” argument was simple: Of all the people at a multiethnic women’s college who could hold the school’s “diversity” seat, the least fitting one was a white man.
“It wasn’t about Timothy,” the student behind the Abstain campaign told me. “I thought he’d do a perfectly fine job, but it just felt inappropriate to have a white man there. It’s not just about that position either. Having men in elected leadership positions undermines the idea of this being a place where women are the leaders.”
I asked Timothy what he thought about that argument, as we sat on a bench overlooking the tranquil lake on campus during orientation. He pointed out that he has important contributions to make to the MAC position. After all, at Wellesley, masculine-of-center students are cultural minorities; by numbers alone, they’re about as minor as a minority can be. And yet Timothy said he felt conflicted about taking a leadership spot. “The patriarchy is alive and well,” he said. “I don’t want to perpetuate it.”
As I’ve often noted, the 21st Century is exhausting. At least Wellesley’s latest moral panic illustrates the Oppression Index I posted yesterday. I’d recommend that Boatright and her detractors compare scores, but she eventually assumed the mantle of MAC without my help.
However, the recent acceptance of trans students has created a new problem at Wellesley:
Another difficult conversation about trans students touches on the disproportionate attention they receive on campus. “The female-identified students somehow place more value on those students,” said Rose Layton, a lesbian who said she views trans students as competitors in the campus dating scene. “They flirt with them, hook up with them. And it’s not just the hetero women, but even people in the queer community. The trans men are always getting this extra bit of acknowledgment. Even though we’re in a women’s college, the fact is men and masculinity get more attention and more value in this social dynamic than women do.”
Down with the transpatriarchy!
Kaden Mohamed said he felt downright objectified when he returned from summer break last year, after five months of testosterone had lowered his voice, defined his arm muscles and reshaped his torso. It was attention that he had never experienced before he transitioned. But as his body changed, students he didn’t even know would run their hands over his biceps. Once at the school pub, an intoxicated Wellesley woman even grabbed his crotch and that of another trans man.
“It’s this very bizarre reversal of what happens in the real world,” Kaden said. “In the real world, it’s women who get fetishized, catcalled, sexually harassed, grabbed. At Wellesley, it’s trans men who do. If I were to go up to someone I just met and touch her body, I’d get grief from the entire Wellesley community, because they’d say it’s assault — and it is. But for some reason, when it’s done to trans men here, it doesn’t get read the same way. It’s like a free pass, that suddenly it’s O.K. to talk about or touch someone’s body as long as they’re not a woman.”
Please note that a bachelor(ette)’s degree from this certifiably insane institution will set you back about a quarter million dollars. Perhaps Professor Rahe can include a pitch for Hillsdale College in the comments.