#CancelColbert and Taking Offense

This is my rule about taking offense:

You do not get to decide whether I should be offended by something you do or say; you only get to decide whether you care.

I wrote about in the context of the Washington NFL obscenities, as well as Barilla’s homophobic comments, the ethicist Chuck Klosterman’s use of the word “retard,” as well as Richard Cohen’s attempt to make himself the victim because people got mad at his racism. It was a good blog post and a useful rule, I thought.

A caveat might apply as follows. If you think someone has fundamentally misunderstood, it’s important to explain. For example, you might tell me that you actually were just saying ritardo, an Italian musical notation signifying a slowing down of the tempo (often at the end of a piece or a musical figure). But in general, my rule applies. If someone is offended, they are offended. You don’t get to tell them not to be offended. All you get to do is decide whether you care.

I write this because I see far too many people reacting to offense – disability, gender, race, ethnicity, etc. – by claiming that the offended person is wrong to be offended. Then the apologies that follow are expressions that “I am sorry you were angry,” not, “Forgive me, I did wrong.” My own struggles in this arena tend to be around the use of words like retard, triso, and mong. But the general principle applies more broadly.

I am writing this today in the context of the #CancelColbert issue that emerged over the end of last week. Colbert’s official account tweeted something offensive about Asians as a way of satirizing the Washington NFL team, its racist name, and the insensitivity of the owner.  Colbert himself said it on his show live, but it was more offensive in the permanent space of the twittersphere, it seems.

My first reaction was dismissive. “Satire,” I told myself, “and damn effective satire at that.” But then I thought – what if he had said the Mongoloid Foundation for the Improvement of Disabled Americans, or something, I’d be pretty outraged. I have, in fact, gotten outraged when comedians have used people with Down syndrome and the intellectually disabled as a tool in their comedy.

Here’s a thoughtful piece (more focused on hashtag activism) on the issue from The New Yorker:

I called Park on Friday to ask her about how #CancelColbert got started. She said she saw the offending tweet while eating dinner Thursday night and decided to respond to it. Despite her online profile—and the forceful, yet sometimes decidedly academic, tone of her advocacy—Park does not consider herself a “full-time” activist and claims that she does not particularly enjoy hustling along a hashtag. Her degree of involvement in a hashtagged cause, she said, depends on how much “free time” she has at the moment, and whether a particular issue piques her interest. “It’s not like I enjoy missing ‘Scandal’ to tweet about ‘The Colbert Report,’” she said.

But really I just want to make this point.

If someone is offended by Colbert’s remark, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t get the joke. It means they were offended. You don’t get to decide whether or not they should be offended. You only get to decide whether you care.

Sunday Roundup

I was out of town this weekend, so here’s a late Sunday roundup.

Kind of a grim week: 

From the academic side:

I looked at faculty vs admin discourse, said I didn’t like it, then employed it by talking about the use of disability waivers for UCLA Deans to spend millions of dollars on first-class living. It irks me. I also talked about the cult of compliance at UVA. I also looked at some recent work in Queen Victoria and the reason I study history and memory, in Queen Victoria: Working Mom. Finally, the angry medievalist in me noted that anti-vaxxers are not medieval savages, but terribly modern.

On the crime and “justice” side, two grim stories:

The shooting of a mentally-ill homeless man was well-covered by blogs and major media, but I wanted to note it in the context of the cult of compliance and disability.

But the worst, and least covered, story that I wrote about this week is about the intersection and rape culture and disability in New Jersey. A woman with MS was allegedly raped, and she has accused the police of both slut shaming/victim blaming and not pursuing the culprits. So if you don’t mind, share this story on your social media feeds and help me raise the profile.

Living with the past

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting Andrea Tarnowski, a professor of medieval French literature and a some-time public writer. I am at a conference all day today (on medieval French things), so I’ll just offer you her thoughtful piece on how we engage with the past, from Huffington Post.

Forging a resolution — on New Year’s Day or any other — requires knowing history, understanding context, and keeping both close. But our favorite phrases of the moment — “I’m moving on” and “I’m done” — suggest we haven’t learned that lesson.

We use these ubiquitous expressions as stand-alone nuggets of intent. Embroiled in difficulties at work that require time and attention to sort out? Declare “I’m moving on.” Overwhelmed by tangled emotions in your love life? Just move on! Any problem or conflict will resolve itself, we think, if only we apply the magic moving-on formula. Even more dismissive and less engaged is the close-faced announcement “I’m done.” “I’m done” creates a void. It cares for nothing but itself.

 She then moves through some of the ways this attitude operates in our culture, suggesting its limitations, interrogating language – closure, done, and so forth, before finishing.

To be sure, the cultural horizon has room for every attitude and its opposite. To all the language that values motion, we can oppose two other expressions currently in vogue: “We are where we are,” and its close cousin, “It is what it is.” Both evoke stasis, or at least pause; you might think they invited reflection on a challenge, or assessment of a difficulty. Not so. They are circular expressions, which, like “I’m done,” point to nothing beyond themselves. They are lazy. Like “moving on,” they allow those who use them to skirt discussion. They foreclose dialogue or participation. They recall Gertrude Stein’s more poetic “a rose is a rose is a rose,” but lead listeners to conclude about the speaker that, as Stein also once said, “there’s no there there.”

For the new year, let’s recognize what is there, and take it with us into 2013. Let detachment become engagement, and dispersion meet focus. Let surface skimming give way to exploration, and the urge to dismiss be replaced by the will to persevere. Perception and memory bring us to a sense of fullness; “moving on” maintains us in a blank. Our resolutions won’t definitively resolve things, and we will never, in fact, be done — but neither should we desire to be. We can do better than that.

Happy weekend, and let’s do better than that!

Cult of Compliance – University of Virginia Edition

Not a case of beer

The blog Police State USA does a fantastic job of tracking and writing up incidents of police brutality, overreach, abuse, and other nefarious conduct. I continue to focus on the cult of compliance. This story is from the summer of 2013:

  • Three female college students went to the grocery story and bought bottled water.
  • Two plainclothes police on beer patrol (for the ABC – Alcoholic Beverage Control) thought the water might be beer, so came at the car. Demanding the women stop and open the car windows.
  • The women panicked and tried to get away, alleging they didn’t know the armed men were police. And in order to open the windows they would have to start the car, and one the driver started to start the car, the officers got aggressive, jumping on the hood, banging on the windows, and calling lots of backup very quickly.
  • The women drove away, calling 9-1-1, only to learn that their assailants were actually police. 
  • The police charged  the driver with felonies (since withdrawn), and the driver had to spend the night in jail.
  • Public outcry has followed.
You can read the post at Police State or the original UVA newspaper article here. Jonathan Turley, another of my favorite bloggers, hosted a piece on it here.
I want to focus on the explanation of what happened that ABC posted to their Facebook page (my emphasis):

Agents were working in the area, concentrating on underage possession enforcement. An agent observed what appeared to be an underage person in possession of what appeared to be a case of beer, and approached her to investigate. The agent identified herself as a police officer and was displaying her badge. Other agents did not join the incident until the subject refused to cooperate. Rather than comply with the officers’ requests, the subject drove off, striking two officers. She was not arrested for possessing bottled water, but for running from police and striking two of them with a vehicle. 

The agents were acting upon reasonable suspicion and this whole unfortunate incident could have been avoided had the occupants complied with law enforcement requests. We take all citizen complaints seriously and the matter is currently under review by the ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement.

That’s the line, folks. None of this would have happened if the occupants had just complied. Frankly, the women are lucky no one fired at them.
That’s the cult of compliance.

Queen Victoria – Working Mom

Last May, I began an essay on gender norms and my daughter this way:

When the rocket scientist Yvonne Brill died in March, The New York Times celebrated her as the maker of a “mean beef stroganoff” and “the world’s best mother.” When my 4-year-old daughter, Ellie, a wildly creative and interesting girl, finished a year of preschool last week, her teachers gave her an award for being the best dressed.

I am interested in the ways that women have a hard time escaping gender labels so that no matter their accomplishments, “mom” or “wife” or “daughter” have to provide the lede or at least the qualifier – especially mom. The modern entangling of identities for women, and the challenges for men who’d to entangle (or perhaps integrate) their domestic and professional identities, remain a significant issue in contemporary discourse.

As a historian, of course, I like seeing ways in which some of these issues also functioned in the past. Here’s a  recent op-ed on Queen Victoria and the mangling of historical memory so that her maternal nature was first diminished and later maligned.

Julia Baird writes in the NYT:

We interrogate powerful and successful women about their families, and are swift to judge, evident in headlines like “Margaret Thatcher: ‘A Great Prime Minister But an Awful Mother”’ and “Golda Meir: Mother of a Nation, But Not Much of a Mother.”
The Germans call them “Rabenmütter”: a pejorative term for mothers who act like ravens, abandoning their young in nests while they flitter off to work.

She then turns to Queen Victoria, on whom she is currently writing a biography:

In the 113 years since her death, a powerful myth has taken root: that Queen Victoria disliked her children — even, some say, all children…

Now a remarkable and clever new book, “Censoring Queen Victoria: How Two Gentlemen Edited a Queen and Created an Icon,” by Yvonne M. Ward, documents how the historical record was warped by the two men who edited Victoria’s official letters and defined her as subordinate queen — in the words of her biographer Lytton Strachey, a “mere accessory” to the men who surrounded her…

The man given the task was Viscount Esher, an adviser to King Edward VII; he hired the Eton housemaster Arthur Benson to edit it. Both were gay. Both found the editing experience overwhelming and onerous.

Both also, crucially, viewed Victoria as ancillary to the men around her. They wrote in their introduction: “Confident, in a sense, as she was, she had the feminine instinct strongly developed of dependence upon some manly adviser.”

Only 40 percent of the letters in the volumes of her letters are actually hers: Most of the others are written to her by prominent men, and the correspondence with female relatives and friends is scant.

“The small number of women’s letters in the published volumes,” writes Ms. Ward, “cannot be attributed to the editor’s ignorance of their existence.”

There’s more and it sounds like Ward’s book is one I should read. Here’s a review from The Guardian that is worth a read. The reviewer writes:

This isn’t just biographical gossip, says Yvonne Ward, it actually matters. It is her contention that Benson and Esher’s shared attachment to a particular kind of male pedagogy had a striking effect on how they fashioned the young Victoria for readers. In their selection of her letters from accession in 1837 until marriage in 1841, they turn the plump, plain Miss into a lovely young boy in need of tutelage from an older man. Step forward her prime minister, Lord Melbourne (yet another Etonian), whom, by diligent editing, they turn into a sort of sexy housemaster. “I am so glad that you like Lord M. I adore him,” trilled Benson to Esher early in the project as they set about making their man-crush the most important person in Victoria’s life.

Before reading these reviews, my image of Victoria was of a stern, unamused, un-maternal, and distant queen. I should have known that the mother vs worker dichotomy is a false one, imposed by a patriarchal society that pushes women into the domestic sphere and de-feminizes the women who choose other paths.

And it’s not that Benson and Esher set out to reinforce patriarchy intentionally, but that’s the result on historical memory of their predilections, biases, boredoms, and infatuations.

And that’s why I study the shaping of historical memory. Because it distorts and it matters.

Mindless Anti-Medieval Mythography; Anti-Vaxers are not medieval – they are dangerously modern.

I am perpetually fascinated by the way that “medieval” is code for barbaric, backwards, savage, and the like. The phrase “get medieval” seems to have originated (or at least moved into widespread use) as a result of Pulp Fiction, in which Ving Rhames’ character, after being freed by Bruce Willis’ character, tells his rapist that he’s going to “get medieval on [his] ass.” From there, the phrase moved comfortably into mainstream use.

For example, here’s a St. Louis football writer criticizing the Rams for not getting involved in Free Agency. He describes free agency as:

This was the NFL’s version of Black Friday, when roaming gangs of
berserk shoppers invade department stores to dive on laptops, have MMA
brawls over the trendiest toys, blitz the video-game aisle, and go
over the dwindling supply of flat-screen TVs.

I like to point out that the twentieth-century was, by far, the most brutal era for human-on-human violence in the history of our species. Medieval people tortured, but were not more inventive about torture than we are now, especially given the clever things we can do with modern tools and electricity. Medieval people were not more savage than the ancient Greeks and Romans (look up the real meaning of the word “decimate,” or follow through on all the massacres in Thucydides). And yet, the myth persists. It’s useful.

Here’s an example that genuinely upset me. I am an anti-anti-vaxer. Which is to say I have critiqued the anti-vax movement for The Atlantic and CNN and I write about it on the blog. I am particularly interested in the ways in which the anti-vax movement reveals attitudes about disability, as well as more general questions of epistemological processing behind fear-based parenting. So I like this essay, “The Vaccine Battle Is Not Part of the Mommy Wars,” because it’s trying to push conversation about vaccines away from parenting philosophies and into the world of public health policy. But then I came upon this paragraph (emphasis mine):

We cannot place the blame for the anti-vaccination nonsense solely at
the feet of “crunchy” or “natural” parents, though there are many in
that community who delay or completely withhold vaccinations. Being a
somewhat crunchy parent myself (natural birth, cloth diapers,
exclusively breastfeeding, cosleeping, etc.), I encounter the sentiment
“I feed my kids only organic and non-GMO foods, so I feel safe not
vaccinating them” quite frequently. These parents seem to believe that
several hundred years ago, before GMOs or pesticides existed, there were
no communicable diseases. Other groups of parents, like ultra-religious
Jews in Brooklyn, also withhold vaccinations, as well as some
Christians. And then there are the former MTV stars like Jenny McCarthy
and Kristin Cavallari, who have been public about their fears over
vaccines causing everything from autism to asthma to allergies. This
diverse group of parents has one thing in common: they are all putting
us at risk for a return to the Middle Ages.

No. They’re not.

Medieval people were, overall, relatively savvy about healthy given the context of the era. They didn’t have germ theory. Neither did the Renaissance. Neither did the 17th century. Neither did antiquity.

Anti-vaxxers are rejecting an effective, well-tested, well-explained, set of preventative treatments. The knowledge is there for them, but in this rejection of science, they are deliberately rejecting the best available information.

This is not medieval. It’s also not classical, baroque, renaissance, or furturistic.

It’s dangerous. And very, very, modern.

Rape Culture and Disability – New Jersey Edition

According to a report from NBC New York (also covered in Jezebel, and thanks to my friend K. for the story tip), a woman with Multiple Sclerosis was gang raped in a warehouse in New Jersey. 

She fell asleep on the bus (she is on a narcotic for pain), woke up in Trenton, left the bus, got disoriented, and was gang raped. The details of the assault are upsetting. Her medical care was allegedly sub-standard. And as happens far too often, things got worse when she went to the police.

She told [the police] that she was a multiple sclerosis patient on a medical pain patch prescribed by her doctor in part for a spine injury she suffered from an MS-related seizure. Her longtime doctor confirmed to NBC 4 New York he’d prescribed a narcotics patch, Fentanyl, due to the injury.

Kris says she gave a detailed account of what she remembered about the rape, but says the detectives began a hostile form of questioning and that they treated it like “it was a big joke and a waste of time.”

“When he asked his partner if there was one question they would like to ask, the one and only question he could come up with, out of everything in the book, was: ‘Did you voluntarily pull down the man’s pants before he raped you?’” said Kris.

“They tag-teamed,” said Kris. “‘Was I out there soliciting? Was I out there buying drugs? Why did I get off the bus at that spot?'”

Kris’s mom said the detectives kept pressing her about her daughter’s illness.

“’You sure about her MS?’ That’s all they kept asking me,” said Kris’ mother. “‘Are you sure she didn’t fall and this isn’t MS?’ They wanted to turn everything around, make her the victim all over again, and it was crap. Plain and simple crap. They didn’t want to do their job.”
Records show Kris has no criminal history for drugs or prostitution. She had one past shoplifting case where charges were later dismissed.

Let’s parse this. First, of course this is only the victim’s side of the story. I find it credible because it falls into the same patterns of experience as so many other women. The police feel that they have to work hard to make sure that the victim isn’t to blame for her assault, and then they are reasonably likely to eventually process the evidence and try and find the rapists, although rape kits often sit in evidence lockers, ignored, as serial rapists continue their crimes.

Rape culture is, among other things, police who start with the assumption of doubt in rape cases, despite at least 50% of all rapes going unreported, and false rape claims falling between 1%-6% of all reported cases.

But here’s my real point – this case is only news because of the victim’s disability. Because she has MS, the media has a neatly packaged explanation for why her story is credible and why she’s likely to be sympathetic to their readers. It’s the same kind of story as my piece for CNN on Jane, a woman with Down syndrome who was raped. I wrote (and commented on this quote here, pointing out people with disabilities DO have sexual agency):

And here is where disability comes back into play. Because of her Down syndrome, Jane is relatively immune to the kinds of victim-blaming endured by other women who are assaulted or abused. 

We know she wasn’t asking for it. We can’t blame her for staying in the house while Dumas got drunk. We know she didn’t encourage him, then change her mind the next day. All of the myths about false reporting of rape don’t apply to Jane because of her disability, and for that at least we can be thankful. Jane’s experience points to the offensive way women’s behaviors are interrogated when they seek justice.

But as the next trial unfolds, do not focus on Jane because she is a woman with Down syndrome. Focus on Jane because she is a woman who says that she was raped. Focus on Jane because she’s joined the ranks of other women, women of all races, classes, sexual orientations, and levels of ability who have said that they were raped and then had their testimony disregarded by a judge on the basis of not acting enough like a victim.

The same goes for Kris. She needs justice. The forensic evidence needs to be processed and the rapists arrested. But deserves justice because she was raped, not because she was a woman with a disability who was raped.

The story here is about rape culture. Disability intensifies the story and provides a tool with which to cut aside the usual excuses, defenses, and denials that rape culture generates, because Kris’ experience with the police gets played again and again in police stations across the country.

Cult of Compliance – Albuquerque Cops Shoot Mentally Ill Homeless Man

This is my 200th post on the blog. It’s not a happy one.

As long-time readers know, my work on the Ethan Saylor case led me to coin the phrase the “cult of compliance.” This phrase allows me to link diverse moments in which authority figures respond to non-compliance with egregious acts of violence and place them against the backdrop of normalized veneration of compliance in our culture.

Flash-bang grenade at Abq park

We only get the stories that make the news, often when a person with disability (which excuses the non-compliance in our eyes) gets hurt. These events are serious, often tragic, and deserve media attention, but the bigger picture of the non-news matters just as much, because recognizing the disease, over the symptom, is critical to effect change. Individual authority figures, whether police officers or principals, need to be held accountable for their actions, but we also need the broader context to understand why the stories keep occurring. Hence, the cult of compliance.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, police shot and killed a mentally-ill homeless man named James Boyd. Here’s the story:

A week ago, APD officers found a 38-year-old man camping in the foothills. A man in mental crisis, he first threatened officers. Then he agreed to surrender, gathered his things and began to walk towards officers as instructed.
That’s when an officer shouts “Do it!” and officers targeted him with a flash-bang grenade normally used in SWAT assaults. He drops his things, steps back from the blast and pulls out two small knives he previously put away at officers’ request.
Then he turns away and they open fire with live rounds and a police dog. He later died.

So the man complies, they throw a grenade, he panics and reaches for knives, but is retreating. Again, he is retreating (follow the link and you can watch the video. I choose not to re-post it here).

We have videos like this because of lapel cameras and car cameras. A fair criticism of the concept of the cult of compliance is that it’s nothing new, that it’s not linked to the militarization of police or any other cultural shift – it’s the way human nature mixes with authority – only now we have video to prove it.  I think technology has played a role in raising awareness about this kind of abuse, and surely specific populations have long been subjected to mandatory compliance. African-Americans call it “the talk,” a conversation in which they tell their children to obey police instantly and completely in order to keep them from being shot.

I think the cult of compliance is spreading, not retreating, not even in the face of greater access to police video and the near-universal presence of cell-phone cameras in most situations. And maybe as it becomes a white suburban problem, white suburban Americans will take notice and push to effect change that can help protect those minority families and people with disabilities (my specific topic) that are so endangered by the cult.

But not so far in Albuquerque. ProgressNow reports that the Albuquerque police have, since 2010, shot more people than the NYPD, despite the relative size differential between the two cities. The DOJ is investigating.

Meanwhile, the local police chief has ruled on the killing. “Justified.”

UCLA Deans Spend 2 Million $ on First-Class Living; Cite Disability

Emirates Airlines First Class Cabin

I don’t like falling into the admin vs faculty dialectic. My administration may not share the perspective of an individual faculty member, but that’s by design. I trust them. I have a brother who has been the chair of a big department at a big public university and is currently an acting Dean. In graduate school, one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever met was a Dean at the time and later went on to direct a major center. The admin vs faculty dialectic does not, I think, serve to further discussion of how to fix the challenges that we do all face.

But there are problems. I’ve cited this study before, but it’s worth noting again that the increase in money spend on administration is among the factors leading to a rise in tuition.

You can’t blame faculty salaries for the rise in tuition. Faculty salaries were “essentially flat” from 2000 to 2012, the report says. And “we didn’t see the savings that we would have expected from the shift to part-time faculty,” said Donna M. Desrochers, an author of the report.
The rise in tuition was probably driven more by the cost of benefits, the addition of nonfaculty positions, and, of course, declines in state support. [emphasis mine]

Now why have the numbers and costs associated with administration risen? Some of this is regulatory – the federal government demanding new assessment regimes, for example. Other positions are discretionary, loosely covered by the citation of “best practices,” a term derided by Ginsburg in the Fall of the Faculty, the most thorough book of which I am aware about the managerial takeover of the university. One elite-university administrator adds some new officers and administrative divisions and new titles, other admins copy, then less elite universities look up to the big shots and say, “oh, these are best practices!” So they copy too.

With this in mind, I’d like to raise your outrage about practices at UCLA. This story is from last August, but it made social media rounds yesterday (I believe because it was linked to in this piece about a strike of graduate student workers which was then called off), and it raised a few issues that I thought were worth exploring.

From the Center for Investigative Reporting:

Thirteen years ago, the University of California changed its ban on flying business or first class on the university’s dime, adding a special exception for employees with a medical need.
What followed at UCLA was an acute outbreak of medical need.
Over the past several years, six of 17 academic deans at the Westwood campus routinely have submitted doctors’ notes stating they have a medical need to fly in a class other than economy, costing the university $234,000 more than it would have for coach-class flights, expense records show.

The article details all the flights and hundreds of thousands of other expenses which the deans have linked to “need.” Here are a few examples:

  • With a medical waiver granted by UCLA, however, [Dean Judy Olian] has an expense account that regularly includes business-class travel. She spends more on airfare and other travel expenses per year than any other UCLA dean or the chancellor, and she also far outpaces her counterpart at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
  • For all six deans with medical exemptions, UCLA spent $486,000 on 130 business- or first-class airfares from 2008 to mid-2012, university records show. UCLA could have saved at least $234,000 by purchasing economy-class tickets based on an analysis of typical fares from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the Airline Tariff Publishing Co., which provides fare data.
  • Unredacted travel records obtained by CIR said “medically diagnosed back issues” made it impossible for Teri Schwartz, dean of the university’s School of Theater, Film and Television, to fly coach.
  • In all, UCLA paid $45,000 to book or reimburse business- and first-class flights for Schwartz from July 2009, when she started the job, to May 2012. She also used the medical note to justify flying first class on shorter flights, such as an hourlong hop from Los Angeles to Las Vegas that cost $543.
  • UCLA has paid $75,000 for premium flights for School of Nursing Dean Courtney Lyder since his tenure began in August 2008. Lyder used a doctor’s note – redacted by UCLA – to justify nearly half of these trips. Other times, he skirted the restriction because he said he needed extra rest on the plane before a busy schedule of meetings.
  • For most of those flights, Rosenstock used a doctor’s note that allowed first-class travel for flights of more than two hours.
  • After Rosenstock stepped down, her successor, Dr. Jody Heymann, quickly obtained her own medical note justifying premium flights. She has used it at least once since she took the reins in January to fly business class to London for meetings.
  • Franklin D. Gilliam Jr., dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, has billed UCLA for roughly $17,000 in premium airfares since September 2008, when he started the job. His doctor’s note cites a medical disability that requires business-class accommodations for extended travel – including trips to the East Coast, Midwest and Australia.
  • Gilliam also has used the note to justify using a car service. An expense report for 2009 limousine rides between Gilliam’s home and the airport said that “because of Dean Gilliam’s disability, it is recommended that he travel with business class arrangements to allow change of positions.”
It just goes on and on.
I have a close friend with fibromyalgia who travels for business. She frequently spends the extra $70 or so to get some extra legroom to keep her legs from being sore, and who would gainsay her that. I know many academics with back issues, a chronic hazard for those of us who sit too much and hunch over our keyboards (I’m leaning back right now!). There are jobs for which extensive plane travel is necessary and physically painful. I believe in reasonable accommodations for disability. I am sure some of these extra expenses are reasonable.
But I am skeptical. I am, in fact, propelled rapidly into that admin vs faculty dialectic that I find unproductive. I view these Deans as management – as executives – not as people who administer FOR the faculty but who MANAGE their instructional labor pool, cutting costs, letting wages stagnate, killing tenure-track lines, and hiring contingent faculty just below a level that might require paying benefits. THESE ARE MY OPINIONS. I could be wrong. Each one of these medical issues might in fact require business class, first class, limousine, spending the night in posh hotels rather than going home 20 miles at the end of a day, and more. 
But I am skeptical.
Moreover, the kind of abuses that I suspect are taking place here make it harder for people experiencing workplace hardship as a result of their job to receive their reasonable accomodations. Will the person who tries to just get the $70 extra legroom be denied because a Dean has been busted for flying first class? 
And so I plunge into a kind of class-war dialectic in which the academic 1% sip champagne in first class as we drink … well, I drink water most likely. Maybe coffee. My university no longer allows us to expense alcohol while on business travel as a cost-saving measure.

Sunday Roundup

Happy Sunday! Last night I played a fun show at the Irish American Heritage Center in north Chicago, and this morning I have homemade quiche for breakfast a nice cup of coffee. Life is good. Let’s review the week.

A lot of the talk this week focused on my essay in the Chronicle and the reaction piece I posted here. I’m going to have to stop engaging in comments, which makes me sad, as I like debate and discussion – but anonymous comment threads just lead to trolling. It’s clear that the university does include transactional relationships, but after a week of discussion, I remain convinced that we emphasize them at our peril.

The most read piece this week – especially gratifying because it was a Friday (and the stats support the “Friday News Dump” concept) – was my essay on the limitations of cute in the representations of people with Down syndrome. We can be more than “happy.” It seems to have touched a nerve with some, but for many (in the self-selected group who read it) articulated a concern that other parents have too. Next week, I will write about the way that the abortion issue drives the DS community towards “cute” and “happy.” So that will be uplifting!

I also wrote about a jumbled post about Nazis in Minnesota (re-enactors), with the conclusion that these people mostly view Nazis like cartoon or comic-book badguys, so dressing up is a form of cosplay, and that’s terrible. Other posts considered history and famine in Ireland and the power of celebrity in changing attitudes (for better or worse) about public health.

If you haven’t, though, here’s the piece I would like you to read and, if you’re willing, share or RT on twitter. I wrote about all the hate mail I have received for writing about rape culture for CNN. I didn’t know that by the end of the week TIME would run an opinion piece by a right-wing group trying to take-down the whole notion of rape culture (I guess because they would rather have unchallenged patriarchy?), so I think my CNN essay that demonstrates the consequences of rape culture as clearly as I can possibly write is important in that context. But this post is about gender and online discourse and makes a point that I think men mostly don’t get. It’s hard for us to hear the dogs that don’t bark.

As always, thanks for reading a commenting.