Sunday, February 14, 2010

The New Math on Campus?

An article entitled "The New Math on Campus" appeared in last Sunday's New York Times. The author of the piece deplored the "shortage of male students" on college campuses in light of affirmative action as well as speculated about what this supposed "shortage" could mean for female students when it comes to the dating scene. There are so so SO many things wrong with this article that it's hard to know where to start. Besides being extremely heteronormative and misogynistic, the article depicts women as shallow, desperate vultures who only care about "snagging" a man. Apparently a woman's main purpose for attaining a college education is not to get a good job, but to find a good husband. And forget about being happy and confident on your own -- according to this article, being single is worse than having swine flu. Because, let's face it, it's impossible to be self-fulfilled and content without a boyfriend, right ladies?

I feel like this article is particularly relevant to the University of Michigan campus community because, for one, we're college students, so these issues directly affect us. Further, the article bemoans the current college "hook-up" culture, an area which feminist Jessica Valenti heavily focuses on in her book, "The Purity Myth" (and also gave a really awesome speech about in a debate against the director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values... I've linked to it below.) Just in case you've been living under a rock, Jessica Valenti will be coming to speak at the University of Michigan this Tuesday at 7:30, so make sure you check it out!

After you read the New York Times article and develop your own opinions, I would also like to direct you towards popular news media blog Gawker's response to the article. Where many of us would probably label the Times' article as guilty of creating a "crisis" where no crisis exists as well as extremely misogynist, the Gawker correspondent argues the opposite: he claims that the article is misandrist (a concept which I personally do not believe even exists in the context of privilege, but you know, I guess arguing that misandry exists is the nature of privilege! Score one for Feminism 101!)

There are obviously a lot of people who feel very strongly about this topic, as evidenced by the over 150 comments in response to the New York Times article thus far. The Gawker response to the original article has generated even more comments than that. From my observations, the feedback around this topic is pretty thought-provoking and sometimes frustrating; however, it is still illustrative of some of the issues and misconceptions that most directly affect our cause.


New York Times Article: "The New Math On Campus"

Gawker Article: "The Dance-Card Problem: College Girls Outnumber College Guys, Misandrist Chaos Ensues"

Extra Credit: Jessica Valenti's "Speechifying: So-called hook up culture and the anti-feminists who love it"

P.S. - While this has nothing to do with the actual article that appears in the New York Times, as an additional point, I would just like you all to note the section of the paper that the article appears in: Fashion & Style. This is yet another example of the long-standing news media tradition of relegating any article that is at all related to women to the frivolous and seemingly unimportant "Style" section. If you've never noticed this before, I guarantee that you'll start noticing it now -- a lot of reputable publications do it. Because of course the only section in the newspaper that us silly wimminz care about is "Fashion & Style"!

- Katey Sill

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