The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Teaching Literary Feminism

Posted on | April 30, 2015 | 68 Comments

“Why invite the potential headaches of teaching a lesbian graphic novel in a religious institution?” asks Professor Scott A. Dimowitz in an essay published in an academic anthology this month. “In the course of several iterations of a class on Literary Feminism that I teach at Regis University, a Jesuit school in Denver, Colorado, I have used Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and selections from her long-running comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For to explain postmodern life narratives that incorporate nontraditional matter and a nodding acquaintance with Roman Catholic Church doctrine.”

Perhaps the disclosure of Professor Dimowitz’s curriculum is shocking to some alumni of Regis University and to Catholics who don’t realize how “postmodern life narratives,” including feminist gender theory, now pervade academia. As I previously explained (“Introduction to Feminist Theory”), “there are very good reasons why the proceedings in Women’s Studies courses are generally not discussed outside the classroom.” If parents and alumni were aware of what was being taught in these programs, and if voters understood how taxpayer subsidies to higher education are helping fund such ideological indoctrination on campus, we might expect a political firestorm to erupt. One can easily imagine a congressional committee hearing on what Professor Glenn Reynolds has called The Higher Education Bubble, where the “Your Tax Dollars At Work” aspect of this nonsense could be exposed to public scrutiny.

There are now Women’s Studies programs at some 700 U.S. colleges and universities, enrolling more than 90,000 students annually, and these programs are the intellectual command centers of the Feminist-Industrial Complex. Many thousands of professors are employed to teach courses in this interdisciplinary field. Carmen Rios, the self-described “raging lesbian feminist” who is Communications Coordinator at the Feminist Majority Foundation, has explained:

Is it Gender Studies? Women’s Studies? Women’s And Gender Studies? Sexuality Studies? Gender and Sexuality Studies? LGBT Studies? Queer Studies? Feminist Studies? . . . Women’s Studies remains an interdisciplinary field, making its name all the more difficult to decide on. Is it Women’s History and Theory, or is the program really Lesbo Recruitment 101?

She said that, not me. Regis University describes its program:

Women’s and Gender Studies examines the intersections of gender, race, and class, and also considers how gender roles are constructed in different global cultures and historical periods. Women have made important contributions in traditionally defined “male pursuits” (politics, science, art, etc.) Although traditionally understudied, women’s experiences and participation have led to the reexamination of long-held interpretations and conventional wisdoms in a wide variety of academic fields. Uniting all women and gender studies inquiries is the effort to understand and explain inequality between men and women, and to envision the possibility of new social practices that could bring about greater equality, mutual understanding, and human flourishing.

And also, lesbian comic books. Professor Dimowitz explains that he teaches Bechdel’s cartoons because this helps “defamiliarize traditional linguistic life narratives and form a uniquely productive site of tension and destabilization of students’ assumptions about gender, sexuality, and the very nature of what constitutes aesthetic merit, which few of the other traditional texts were able to achieve to the same extent.”

Exactly how does all this relate to the aims of a Catholic university? Professor Dimowitz is eager to explain:

To be clear about my own position . . . I was raised in a particularly strict form of Pennsylvanian, Croatian-immigrant Roman Catholicisim. . . . Years later I find myself teaching Catholic students, although Regis is a Jesuit university and Jesuits have always been more of a distinctly unconventional form of Catholicism. . . . As a specialist in postmodern literature and gender studies, I have an investment in engaging students in open discussions about representations of gender and sexuality in contemporary literature and culture.

Hmmm. So now the professor talks about his Literary Feminism class:

The course is offered as part of Regis University’s Integrative Core Curriculum, which was established in 2009, seeking to integrate juniors’ and seniors’ understanding of four key areas: (1) Diversity and Cultural Tradition, (2) Global Environmental Awareness, (3) Justice and the Common Good, and (4) The Search for Meaning. As a Diversity and Cultural Tradition course, Literary Feminism has two pragmatic goals, among others: (1) to introduce students to the idea of gender as a performative act, and (2) to understand the complexities and varieties of human sexual expression and representation. These goals reflect an overall tolerant approach to the study of gender and sexuality. . . .

So here we find the postmodern “idea of gender as a performative act,” i.e., the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. One wonders what would be the reaction to Professor Dimowitz’s recitation of all this academic jargon, if you could present it to the devout priests who established this university, originally called Sacred Heart College, in the 19th century? One wonders, indeed, what the Pope must think of this, considering how he has twice in recent months condemned gender theory. In an interview with Italian journalists Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi, Pope Francis compared gender theory to the doctrines of the Hitler Youth and, on April 15, Pope Francis described “so-called gender theory” as “an expression of frustration and resignation that aims to erase sexual differentiation because it no longer knows how to come to terms with it.” Anyone who expects Catholic institutions of higher education to heed the Pope and fight against the nihilistic doctrine of gender theory, however, will be disappointed to discover what Professor Dimowitz is teaching at Regis University:

This graphic nature of the form is clear throughout Bechdel’s 2006 Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, a darkly humorous coming-of-age memoir of Bechdel’s childhood growing up in a funeral home run by her father, a closeted homsexual who was also a high school English teacher with a penchant for seducing some of his male students.

(Feminist Literature is so wholesome and inspiring!)

The book cycles its meditations around the event of Bechdel’s father’s death, which she believes may have been a suicide. Juxtaposing her own coming out story as a lesbian against her father’s inability to lead an authentic existence. Bechdel in Fun Home metanarratively meditates on the nature of life writing. . . . The book is frank about sexuality and blunt about her father’s statutory rapes of high school boys, and the text even includes several panels in which Bechdel recreated imagined scenes of seduction of these students. Bechdel struggles to understand her ambivalent responses to her father’s death while trying to unify a life narrative out of the fractured collage of documents and memories.

Again: Why is this being taught in a Catholic university? Do the parents who are paying $33,060 a year to send their children to Regis University have any clue what is being taught there? Does anyone even care? Professor Dimowitz says 70 percent of freshmen at Regis “self-identify as Roman Catholic.” However:

Many incoming students . . . have a rather cavalier attitude toward Church orthodoxy, which is part of an overall movement in contemporary attitudes. In America, especially, belief in strict Vatican law is clearly trending away from dogma. . . . According to a 2011 Pew survey of Americans, clear majorities “across most demographic groups say homosexuality should be accepted by society” and not discouraged or ignored (which are the two other categories). Interestingly, Catholics, in general, favor acceptance at 64 percent, which compares positively to the overall population’s acceptance, which is only 58 percent.

Here it should be pointed out that the choices Pew offered — whether homosexuality should be “accepted,” “ignored” or “discouraged” — omit other alternatives, particularly “tolerated,” i.e., an attitude somewhere in the range of “live and let live” or ‘who the hell cares?” This kind of toleration of homosexuality has in fact been widespread in America for decades, even while gay activists have hyped up claims that America is gripped by “homophobia.” So, sure, given the three choices the Pew poll offered, most people would say “accepted,” particular because they know that’s the answer they’re supposed to choose. We return to Professor Dimowitz’s discussion:

This general trending toward acceptance [of homosexuality], especially among millennials, opens up a fertile space for dialogue with students of a traditional college age.

(Professor Dimowitz gets paid to have a “dialogue” about gayness with college kids, and he seems quite eager to do so.)

When asked in a survey, “How did you feel about our openly discussing homosexuality in a Catholic school?” the Regis students were overwhelmingly positive. . . . Of course, part of this positivity is perhaps a function of Regis University’s generally progressive Jesuit orientation, and the question might receive a different response from a far more conservative school.

The bottom line, then, is that Professor Dimowitz and the administration at Regis University are comfortable with the idea that moral issues should be determine by (a) public opinion polls, or (b) “progressive Jesuit orientation,” and certainly not by (c) that old-fashioned “Thou shalt not” stuff in the Bible. Any institutional resistance we might have expected Catholic educators to make against society’s drift toward nihilism has been swept away. A progressive devotion to radical egalitarianism (the heretical “liberation theology” that embraced Marxist revolutionary movements in Latin America during the 1980s) steadily replaces devotion to God at institutions like Regis University.

Being “conformed to this world,” they teach “doctrines of devils.”

“Especially important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. . . . He is a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, Damien, and powerful. So don’t listen to him. Remember that — do not listen.”
The Exorcist (1973)

Nobody believes in that kind of stuff anymore, I guess.



68 Responses to “Teaching Literary Feminism”

  1. Quartermaster
    May 1st, 2015 @ 5:30 pm

    Good translation don’t have that problem. The NIV has problems, however. Dynamic equivalence is a method that begs the “translator” to write a commentary instead of translating what the original says. There also tends to be problems with those translations that use the “scholarly text” rather than the ecclesiastical text that lies behind the KJV. The Alexandrian text type has serious problems. I use the NKJV and refer to the ESV and the Greek New Testament when I study. NKJV is an excellent translation, although it perpetuates some of the awkward sentence structure seen in the KJV.

  2. Quartermaster
    May 1st, 2015 @ 5:31 pm

    I agree.

  3. RS
    May 1st, 2015 @ 6:17 pm

    It is only archaic if one does not read it. When I was ten, my parents had an evening post-prandial devotional where we each took turns reading a Bible chapter per night aloud. I started reading the KJV then and my reading scores shot through the roof in school.

    Additionally, Elizabethan English was a richer language and allowed greater translation nuances of the source documents, particularly the Textus Receptus for the New Testament. (Fun Fact: Martin Luther used that as a source for his German New Testament translation.)

    What we call archaic is merely a way of saying that the English language has devolved over time and as a result, it becomes harder to express more complex ideas. (See, e.g. Twitter or your average cell phone text message.)

  4. RS
    May 1st, 2015 @ 6:23 pm

    One must do the research. While I don’t know about Catholic higher education, I know there are still Lutheran colleges and universities which haven’t jettisoned sound doctrine. We told our two older kids–youngest is still in H.S.–that they could attend any college they wanted. However, if we disapproved of their choice, they would not get any money from us. Amazing what happens when you assert parental authority.

  5. Squid Hunt
    May 1st, 2015 @ 6:44 pm

    That’s not what I said. You’re missig the point of my comment. And I take genuine issue with the additional source documents for the modern Bibles, which I’m sure you would agree is more important than dialect.

  6. Da Tech Guy Blog » Blog Archive » Uncomfortable Truths 5/1/2015
    May 1st, 2015 @ 7:01 pm

    […] Robert Stacy McCain in a piece titled Teach­ing Lit­er­ary Fem­i­nism. […]

  7. Quartermaster
    May 1st, 2015 @ 7:15 pm

    Be a bit more precise in what you are saying then. you don’t have to have to have the KJV only to avoid PC. Please explain if I’m not responding to what you think you are saying. My church teaches all of the Bible and we are a long way from KJV Only. There are Florida Churches that are the same way.

    You can take issue with the source documents of some modern translations if you like. The fact is the NIV and ESV are based on the Alexandrian text type but the translations are different as the translation philosophies are quite different.

  8. Quartermaster
    May 1st, 2015 @ 7:25 pm

    Language changes, but does not necessarily “devolve.” Elizabethan English was regarded as archaic even when the KJ translation was made. The KJV has also changed markedly over its life span. The most common edition is the 1769 Oxford edition. The RV of 1880 was the last official revision, but was never well received.

    The TR had its beginning with Erasmus, and has changed quite a bit as well. The last accepted revision was in the 1890s. It has passed through many hands, Beza of Geneva being one. IIRC, the Complutensian Polyglot was the only other Greek text, but came out a bit after Erasmus published his text.

    Don’t get the idea that I condemn the use of the KJV as I don’t. I chose the NKJV for myself, and bought copies for my grandkids and wife because it is easier to use for personal study as well as for personal witnessing. I’ve had people turn me off when I was still using the KJV for witnessing as it does not sit well on the modern ear, and that’s who we have to reach.

    I have teased a friend at Church who uses the NIV, but I have never teased those using the KJV. I grew up with it and have no personal problems with it. I also agree with Chuck Missler’s attitude on scripture memorization and the use of the KJV, for the same reasons he gave.

  9. Squid Hunt
    May 1st, 2015 @ 7:32 pm

    Ms. Deadmessenger stated she had a hard time finding a church that would let her teach without PC. I said if that’s what she was looking for she’s guaranteed to find it in a fundamental King James only church. Of which there are bound to be plenty in her area.

  10. Quartermaster
    May 1st, 2015 @ 8:26 pm

    KJV only groups have their own version of PC. No guarantees anywhere. You have to get to know the group and not be afraid to ask questions. I have found all KJV only groups to be suspect.

  11. Squid Hunt
    May 1st, 2015 @ 8:31 pm

    Well, thanks for your opinion.

  12. Wombat_socho
    May 1st, 2015 @ 10:20 pm

    He was indeed.

  13. Steve Skubinna
    May 2nd, 2015 @ 12:50 am

    Oh yeah, I reread that every couple years, along with Hagakure and the Book of Five Rings (it amazes me how closely those two cultures converged in some ways).

  14. Steve Skubinna
    May 2nd, 2015 @ 12:53 am

    Bode also influenced Bakshi’s quirky Wizards.

  15. Steve Skubinna
    May 2nd, 2015 @ 12:55 am

    Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A: Jokes like that are not funny!

  16. K-Bob
    May 2nd, 2015 @ 6:34 am


  17. Teaching Literary Feminism | Living in Anglo-America
    May 2nd, 2015 @ 12:47 pm
  18. ChandlersGhost
    May 3rd, 2015 @ 2:05 pm

    I want nothing to do with any of them. If the churches are SJW, atheists are SJW and the Shrieking Loony Queers are SJW, what’s the difference?