The Other McCain

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

The Feminist-Industrial Complex: Guilt and Queer Theory in Wisconsin

Posted on | December 20, 2015 | 31 Comments

“The excitement around [Jessica] Valenti’s visit ignited activism among Women’s Studies Program faculty and students. . . . The students enrolled in WMNS 250: Feminist Methodologies felt inspired to join the national and international viral movement called ‘I Need Feminism Because’ . . . University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire feminists felt that Valenti’s visit was a good time to get their fellow students talking with their own signs and a video. . . . The weather was chilly, but Women’s Studies Program majors and minors dressed warm and stood on the newly opened campus sidewalks leading to Davies Center with their signs.”
Women’s Studies department newsletter, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 2014

More than 10,000 students attend the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UWEC) of whom 85 were enrolled in the Women’s Studies/LGBTQ Studies program in 2014. “The good news is that with thirty-one minors, sixteen majors, thirty Women’s Studies certificate students, and eight Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) Studies certificate holders, our program is flourishing,” Professor Asha Sen wrote in the department’s newsletter. “The challenge, though, is to sustain and grow us in a time of budgetary crisis.” Exactly why this department has any budget at all is something of a mystery.

Fewer than 1% UWEC students are pursuing degrees or certificates in this program, and the offerings are replicated in many similar programs on other campuses in the University of Wisconsin system. Among these choices, one could pursue this subject in the Women’s and Gender Studies program at UW-Green Bay, or the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at UW-La Crosse, or the Gender and Women’s Studies program at UW-Madison. Is it really necessary — “in a time of budgetary crisis,” as Professor Sen says — that Wisconsin taxpayers support so many similar programs at campuses all over the state?

Of course, efficient use of taxpayer dollars has no part in the agenda of Women’s Studies, which is basically a full-employment program for women with Ph.D.s. Perhaps someone in the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature could undertake an investigation of exactly how much is being spent to support these programs in the state’s university system, how many professors are employed in these programs and what they are teaching. If any Republican in Wisconsin cares to examine this 2014 newsletter from the UWEC Women’s Studies program, I’m sure there would be some questions that come to mind.

For example, “What’s the point?” A recent UWEC Women’s Studies graduate, Gretchen Bachmeier, wrote to praise the program:

The women’s studies courses I took were truly transformative. Being raised in Eau Claire, I came into college with a limited perspective. I quickly learned my white, middle-class, Catholic, heterosexual background left much room to examine and challenge the privileges in my life. For me, as for most people, challenging my privilege hasn’t been the smoothest of roads. It’s been a road filled with much guilt. I’ve learned to redirect that guilt and to learn privilege does not prohibit me from being a good-enough or a true-enough feminist.
I’ve been blessed to have many opportunities as a women’s studies undergraduate. The summer after my freshman year, I attended the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. . . . The last three semesters of my academic career, I had the incredible opportunity to intern in the Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center.

And what has she done with this “transformative” feminist education?

In June, I will be starting a job with Target in the Minneapolis area.

Working for a discount retail store isn’t necessarily a bad job, but why did she need a Women’s Studies degree to do it? Was the whole point to teach Ms. Bachmeier to feel guilty about her “white, middle-class, Catholic, heterosexual background”? Can’t privileged white kids learn to hate their middle-class backgrounds without spending four years (at $8,744 annual tuition) to get a diploma in Guilt Studies?

Guilt isn’t the only thing taught at UWEC, however. The Women’s Studies newsletter reports the 2013 program award winners, including the Helen X. Sampson Graduate Research Paper or Project Award, which went to Christopher Jorgenson for his thesis, “Like a Girl: A Gay Man’s Theoretical Exploration of Identity.” Whatever the value of this “theoretical exploration” to Mr. Jorgenson personally, we must ask, “What benefit did the taxpayers of Wisconsin derive from it?”

Wisconsin taxpayers might also be interested in the course syllabus for “Queer Theory and Sexual Politics” (WMNS 406) as it was taught during the spring 2014 semester at UWEC. Among the four assigned texts for this course were The Routledge Queer Studies Reader, edited by Donald Hall and Annamarie Jagose (2013) and Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking by Tim Dean (2009). Far be it from me to say that the “subculture of barebacking” (i.e., unprotected anal intercourse) is not an interesting topic, but the question is why this must be studied as part of a course at a state university. Let us quote the course syllabus as to the aims of WMNS 406:

Queer theory is an interdisciplinary set of approaches that resists categorization. In A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory, Nikki Sullivan highlights the frustration that many students and scholars new to queer theory feel: She writes that queer theory “is a discipline that refuses to be disciplined, a discipline with a difference, with a twist if you like. In saying this, however, I don’t mean to endow Queer Theory with some sort of ‘Tinkerbell e!ect’; to claim that no matter how hard you try you’ll never manage to catch it because it is ethereal, quixotic, unknowable” (v). Queer theory can be so difficult to “catch” because of its interdisciplinary approaches and because it questions and critiques binaries, hierarchies, and assumptions that are commonly held, including those about the regulation of sexuality, gender and sexual identity, knowledge production, citizenship, rights claims, family, and ethics. In this seminar, we will attempt to “catch” queer theory by reading and responding to a variety of queer theorists.
Queer theory finds its genealogical roots in poststructuralist theory, feminist theory, and the grounded theory of queer activism of the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. We will begin by reading and responding to poststructuralist theory (Michel Foucault) and feminist work that began to address the categories of sex and sexuality in the 1980s and 1990s (Gayle Rubin, Judith Butler). From there, we will explore various approaches to queer theory: historical and temporal scholarship, psychoanalytic work, explorations of new relationalities, negative thinking and utopian thinking, critiques of the sexualization of citizenship, the mediatedness of intimacy and sex, critiques of heternormativity and homonationalism, relationships between theoretical work and explicit activism and social life, critiques of metro-normativity, anthropological approaches, critiques of liberalism and neoliberalism, and critical race and disability-based critiques of queer theory.

So with its “interdisciplinary approaches,” Queer Theory “questions and critiques binaries, hierarchies, and assumptions,” but for what purpose? How does this benefit the Wisconsin taxpayer, who seems to be on the receiving end, so to speak, of this “unlimited intimacy”? The total budget of the University of Wisconsin system is more than $6 billion — I repeat, SIX BILLION DOLLARS — and it was big news in July when Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that reduced the taxpayers’ share of that budget by $250 million, which would amount to about a 4% cut. However, it seems this reduction did not cause anyone to question the necessity of Women’s Studies. In fact, UWEC posted a help-wanted advertisement for a “tenure-track faculty position at the rank of Assistant Professor . . . with an appointment in either the Department of Sociology or the Women’s Studies Program. . . . The successful candidate will contribute to both Sociology and Women’s Studies/LGBTQ Studies.”

The ad didn’t say whether the “successful candidate” will teach barebacking. Certainly the state’s university faculty have been known to pursue “interdisciplinary approaches” in the field of sexuality:

A UW-Madison African Studies professor was charged [in July 2012] with lewd and lascivious behavior for allegedly exposing himself last month to a student near campus, who, it turned out, had taken one of his classes.
Kennedy A. Waliaula, 47, of Madison, an assistant professor of African languages and literature, was charged with the misdemeanor for allegedly exposing his genitals to the woman as he walked past her on North Charter Street mid-afternoon on July 10, according to a criminal complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court.
When police located Waliaula about two hours after the student reported the incident, he first said he discovered after seeing the student’s shocked expression that his zipper was down. But he later admitted that he opened his pants himself so that he could expose himself to women and that he had exposed himself to about five women, the complaint states.
Waliaula admitted to police that he has a problem exposing himself in public, according to the complaint.
Waliaula was placed on paid leave after his arrest, UW-Madison spokesman Dennis Chaptman said.

More recently:

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has canceled the summer school contract of a professor charged with sexually assaulting a minor . . .
Paul Miller, 47, of La Crosse and has agreed to remain off campus until the case is resolved.
Miller was charged [in July 2015] with second-degree sexual assault of a child younger than 16. The incident occurred June 13, when several children were staying overnight at Miller’s residence in preparation for a birthday party the next day, the complaint states.
According to a La Crosse Police Department report, a 14-year-old girl told investigators that Miller slept in the same bed as her, as well as kissed, fondled and performed oral sex on her.

Neither of these men were Women’s Studies professors, who are paid to expose students to indecent ideas and assault their minds.



31 Responses to “The Feminist-Industrial Complex: Guilt and Queer Theory in Wisconsin”

  1. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    December 20th, 2015 @ 7:59 pm

    Lesbian spreads were always popular in Hustler and Penthouse too.
    Go figure.

  2. Fail Burton
    December 20th, 2015 @ 8:03 pm

    It is not women’s studies which is flourishing but the institutionalized approval of group defamation based on the biological characteristics of ethnicity and sex. A lack of immorality or spirituality is made static in such identities and pushed backwards into history and forward into the future until there is no escape from demonization theories about rape culture and white privilege. Extrapolate out such institutions to their logical and ultimate conclusion and you have concentration camps. That’s because once you open this Pandora’s Box it has no moral compass and is going to fly about and do whatever it wants, which may include turning on those who opened it. The difference between targeting men, whites, Jews or blacks in such affairs is non-existent. Third Wave Feminism disagrees and feels such distinctions carry weight and meaning. Such feral excuses have murdered millions of people.

    When you get to that scene in Band of Brothers where they liberate a concentration camp, don’t even bother asking how it came to that. Any college in America which harbors this pack of delusional and sociopathic rats is a disgrace. The fact so many Jewish “intellectuals” have unwittingly released this plague on society is another layer of disgraceful irony. Yet another is the laughingly moronic idea this movement points precisely in the opposite direction of oppression when it is so clearly a signpost which leads directly to it.

  3. Matt_SE
    December 20th, 2015 @ 10:07 pm

    Larry Flint was a crusader for free speech…at least, that’s what the political left told us.

  4. M. Thompson
    December 20th, 2015 @ 10:16 pm

    He was just after the filthily lucre.

    It’s easier just to assume that.

  5. WarEagle82
    December 20th, 2015 @ 10:36 pm

    Great, we now have entire departments dedicated to turning young women into male-hating, lesbian lunatics.

    If we could just combine the feminist studies programs with pharmacology we could reduce the health care burden on society as these soon-to-be unbalanced women could prescribe medication for each other.

  6. RS
    December 20th, 2015 @ 10:41 pm

    i think we have to be careful when we analyze learning based upon “what do the taxpayers” derive from it? When we take a purely utilitarian view of education, we head toward giving the collective a right to say what we can and cannot learn, regardless of who’s paying the bill. There is value in having someone truly know Plato to preserve our cultural memory of him, regardless of whether that knowledge has a utilitarian application. (Ditto The Bible, BTW.) Obviously, society cannot absorb 50,000 philosophy professors, but so what? Target needs clerks, too, and if people are dumb enough to spend their money that way, so be it.

    That said,the problem is that while we can all agree that 99.9999% of Grievance Studies is crap, that crap is overflowing the liberal arts and humanities, pushing out the canon from Literature, History, Philosophy and the like. No more are esoteric interests delayed until one has one’s Ph.D. because one needs to have the foundation first before one places the decorative ornaments. Rather, that foundation is being eliminated in favor the Grievance courses, to the point where English majors no longer read Shakespeare, German students avoid Goethe and Philosophy students ignore Plato and Aristotle. In other words, the modern professors in those disciplines are hiding the very tools which would enable their students to conduct a rigorous critique of the Grievance industry.

  7. Daniel Freeman
    December 21st, 2015 @ 4:00 am

    I struggled with each of them, but it made me better. And that’s the point! If it’s easy then you’re doing it wrong.

  8. concern00
    December 21st, 2015 @ 5:46 am

    I had no idea how popular horse riding without a saddle has become.

  9. Phil_McG
    December 21st, 2015 @ 8:33 am

    The total budget of the University of Wisconsin system is more than $6 billion — I repeat, SIX BILLION DOLLARS

    Holy insane waste of taxpayers’ cash!

    Is the state of Wisconsin a giant university campus populated by philosopher-kings?

    Wisconsin has a population of 5.7m – similar to countries like Scotland and Finland.

    Scotland spends about $3.5 Bn on its universities (and still manages to lavish plenty of pork on pointless degrees and weak schools), but they do have *three* top-100 international institutions to show for it.

    Wisconsin spends nearly twice what the Scots do, but only has one university in the top 100.

    Finland also currently spends approx. $3.5 Bn on higher education, and is making aggressive cuts. They have the same number of world-class universities Wisconsinites do.

  10. Dana
    December 21st, 2015 @ 9:23 am

    Our esteemed host wrote:

    Working for a discount retail store isn’t necessarily a bad job, but why did she need a Women’s Studies degree to do it?

    I, for one, am happy that she hasn’t determined that, with her degree in whatever she isn’t somehow too good to work at Target.

    In my humble opinion, no job in which someone is working for a living honestly is a bad job.

  11. Dana
    December 21st, 2015 @ 9:31 am

    As for the question, why are these programs necessary, well, the universities have dispensed with colleges of home economics, so something had to replace them.

    It used to be said that women went to college to earn their MRS degrees. Now, some women go to college to earn their bachelorettes or mistress or doctoral degrees in subjects which pay less than the MRS degrees of old.

  12. Powered by UNicorn flatulence
    December 21st, 2015 @ 10:12 am

    I thought physics was hard to understand.

  13. Powered by UNicorn flatulence
    December 21st, 2015 @ 10:18 am

    Paying more for less.

  14. Powered by UNicorn flatulence
    December 21st, 2015 @ 10:22 am

    Is it worse to work in a low prestige job with minimal education or to be somehwat to highly educated in a low prestige job?
    and at what cost? (Noting that price of higher ed has been the fastest growing cost in our economy for quite some time).

  15. Dana
    December 21st, 2015 @ 10:28 am

    A job is a job, and there’s no dishonor at all in honest work, whether one is “overqualified” for it or not.

    I have a great deal of respect for the man who drives the truck used to clean out portable toilets at construction sites, regardless of his education, or lack thereof, and none at all for the PhD who can’t find a job in his field, and refuses to work in a “lesser” position.

  16. Dana
    December 21st, 2015 @ 10:29 am

    The math in physics may be beyond some people, but physics itself is very easy to understand; all you have to do is fall down one time!

  17. RS
    December 21st, 2015 @ 11:18 am

    There is no question that many states have a surfeit of colleges and universities all scrambling to hook the ever smaller cohorts of 18 year old H.S. seniors every year, many of which 18 year old students have no business being in college in the first place.

    The problem, of course, is politics. Each one of these colleges is a sacred cow to some constituency and the legislature would rather play kick the can than face the prospect of pissing people off by closing somebody’s pet college. And, as Milton Friedman put it, “when you’re spending other people’s money, who cares?”

  18. Privilege | Something Fishy
    December 21st, 2015 @ 11:32 am

    […] of feminist idiocy, RSM has made some pointed observations about the Wisconsin state university system. All I gotta say there is, I need feminism because it’s really convenient when the damaged […]

  19. NeoWayland
    December 21st, 2015 @ 11:51 am

    Pardon, but isn’t the easiest solution to do away with public universities?

  20. M. Thompson
    December 21st, 2015 @ 1:40 pm

    Odds are she’s going to be HR drone at corporate.

    And another idiot DFL voter who wants no real growth so we can Save the North Woods.

  21. HouseofSuffering
    December 21st, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

    *ahem* Clearly you’re not on Craigslist…

  22. HouseofSuffering
    December 21st, 2015 @ 2:29 pm

    This is at the root of the “College or Jail” argument that people keep putting out on both sides of the aisle, as if four more years of “education” actually is going to make people smarter. We can’t all be lawyers and doctors, but since we’re unwilling to take the one or two biggest steps to make life better for the left side of the bell curve (closing the borders and reinvigorating American industry), because those would just be much too mean, we’ve settled on the much more humane solution of burdening people with permanent debt and useless, phony credentials.

  23. HouseofSuffering
    December 21st, 2015 @ 2:32 pm

    In the same way that high-altitude firebombing is a simple way to get rid of termites, yeah.

  24. NeoWayland
    December 21st, 2015 @ 2:37 pm

    It seems to me that as long as their funding comes from politicos, the goals and objectives are going to be political.

    Regardless of who is in power, any public institutions that manage to stick around are going to be the ones that work the system the best.

    Which means you end up with universities that are better at perpetuating themselves than most outsiders are at disciplining them or shutting them down.

    It’s a function of public money.

  25. HouseofSuffering
    December 21st, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

    Certainly state funding introduces an element of corruption into the system, but that’s just a fact of life,corruption and petty politics are as human as eating and pooping, And just as certainly any entrenched institution will be better at perpetuating itself than the average outsider will be at disciplining it. That’s a fact of life with any institution, the question is if the costs and corruption are worth the benefits and for most top-tier public colleges, the answer is yes.

  26. NeoWayland
    December 21st, 2015 @ 3:18 pm

    I disagree.

    I think once state funding (and state regulation) are removed from the equation, most of the corruption and the side political missions go away. Limited money and resources forces institutions to focus on what works and what can be done instead of utopian goals.

  27. HouseofSuffering
    December 21st, 2015 @ 3:24 pm

    You’re talking about *academics*, Wayland, have you met academics? There’s no government money at say Haahvard or Yale (except for the loans), and they’re just as silly.

  28. NeoWayland
    December 21st, 2015 @ 4:09 pm

    Yes, I’ve met academics. Studied with some for a few years here and there.

    Harvard and Yale do get government funds, the most direct are government grants and financial aid. There’s also the whole prestige thing when professors become “consultants.”

    I believe that there is only one university in the country that takes no government money, and that is Hillsdale College

  29. Sparafucile
    December 21st, 2015 @ 4:43 pm

    It’s good to know there are other sources to learn guilt, with waning Catholicism in the US.

  30. The Feminist-Industrial Complex: Guilt and Queer Theory in Wisconsin | Living in Anglo-America
    December 21st, 2015 @ 5:37 pm
  31. Powered by UNicorn flatulence
    December 22nd, 2015 @ 8:46 am

    That explains a few things, but not quantum mechanics, etc