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Hogarth judge

December 2016

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Hogarth judge

Notes on Cant XXIV

When Women Become Men at Wellesley
One of those T-shirted helpers was a junior named Timothy Boatwright. Like every other matriculating student at Wellesley, which is just west of Boston, Timothy was raised a girl and checked “female” when he applied. Though he had told his high-school friends that he was transgender, he did not reveal that on his application, in part because his mother helped him with it, and he didn’t want her to know. Besides, he told me, “it seemed awkward to write an application essay for a women’s college on why you were not a woman.” Like many trans students, he chose a women’s college because it seemed safer physically and psychologically.

From the start, Timothy introduced himself as “masculine-of-center genderqueer.” He asked everyone at Wellesley to use male pronouns and the name Timothy, which he’d chosen for himself.

For the most part, everyone respected his request. After all, he wasn’t the only trans student on campus. Some two dozen other matriculating students at Wellesley don’t identify as women. Of those, a half-dozen or so were trans men, people born female who identified as men, some of whom had begun taking testosterone to change their bodies. The rest said they were transgender or genderqueer, rejecting the idea of gender entirely or identifying somewhere between female and male; many, like Timothy, called themselves transmasculine. Though his gender identity differed from that of most of his classmates, he generally felt comfortable at his new school.

Last spring, as a sophomore, Timothy decided to run for a seat on the student-government cabinet, the highest position that an openly trans student had ever sought at Wellesley. The post he sought was multicultural affairs coordinator, or “MAC,” responsible for promoting “a culture of diversity” among students and staff and faculty members. Along with Timothy, three women of color indicated their intent to run for the seat. But when they dropped out for various unrelated reasons before the race really began, he was alone on the ballot. 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.”
More proof, if any is needed, that the counting coup of "privilege" and related cant only serves a war of everybody versus everybody else. You can't build a better world using ideologies designed to focus and intensify grievances. And if "marginalization" is ultimately what your grievances are about, you're already plenty privileged in the real-world sense. More importantly, those kinds of grievances aren't the sort of problem that real-world politics can address.

Now, what the promoters of the "privilege" ideology aspire to accomplish might be worthwhile. It claims that it wants to allow the presentation of multiple points of view, at least until it starts screaming. But here is an example of how it tends to actually play out when sown into fallible human brains.

The ideology is tripping over its own shoelaces here. It's fun to watch, in a Schadenfreude sense. It's like a medieval debate about whether God can create a burrito so big he can't eat it. By being a FTM transgendered fellow, the candidate's pigeonholed himself as "white male." But at a women's college, in an academic setting where the ideological Kool-Aid flows freely, claiming that identity can only make him enemies.

There's a cruelty at the heart of that way of thinking that comes shining through in this example. Like all other endeavors for moral improvement, and despite its high-minded goals, this ideology also turns rancid when it touches corrupted human hearts. For the taint in human hearts is contagious.

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