Monday, September 18, 2006
Over the weekend
When I heard that a prominent conservative blogger had gone after a young feminist blogger because she had dared to have breasts in the vicinity of former President Clinton in the course of a meeting between Clinton and liberal bloggers (“she wears a tight knit top that draws attention to her breasts and stands right in front of him and positions herself to make her breasts as obvious as possible”), I thought, “well, what do you expect from these Dorito-flecked guys typing in their mothers’ basements—they literally have nothing better to do.”
But when I learned that the blogger in question was not a Dorito-flecked guy typing in his mother’s basement but a tenured law professor, I thought, “wow, that’s remarkably pathetic. That might be one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever seen on the Internets.”
And when I saw that the tenured law professor was a woman who was chastising the young liberal blogger in the name of feminism, while writing, “Jessica should have worn a beret. Blue dress would have been good too” and “Jessica looks like Paula Jones,” I thought, “good lord, that’s more disingenuous and gratuitously vile than I can say. I’m so sorry this professor was asked by the Chronicle of Higher Education to participate in the same forum on academic blogging in which I appeared back in July.”
And then when I discovered that the tenured law professor was replying to people who’d pointed out that there was nothing exceptional about Jessica’s clothing or the photo in which she appeared by telling them to face reality, and replying to Jessica directly (who’d pointed out that the professor was attacking her for her appearance) by telling her not to flatter herself, I thought, “heaven help us, that’s positively delusional.”
And then when I got word that the tenured law professor had upped the ante by insisting that the young feminist’s blog was “one of those blogs that are all about using breasts for extra attention,” I thought, “good grief, wait until the poor clueless dear hears about the talented young feminist writers who work at Bust magazine. She’s liable to blow a gasket, she is.”
And then when I realized that the tenured law professor had unleashed hundreds of nasty comments about interns and Monicarama on her own blog (none of which she bothered to check or moderate) as well as sparking far more disgusting attacks on the young feminist by truly unhinged right-wing bloggers, I thought, “my stars, what truly despicable aggression-by-proxy this tenured law professor is engaging in. I suppose some people don’t have anything else to blog about, though—it’s not as if they can write lovely things about all our successes in Iraq or all the wonderful work their leader has done in New Orleans. I suppose it makes sense, in a sad and twisted kind of way, that they wallow in their little fantasies about Monica, especially since that pusillanimous Senate refused to treat them to the spectacle of having Monica re-enact her “encounters” with Clinton on the Senate floor, which is what they really wanted all along. It’s their version of partying like it’s 1999, and for some of them, it’s all they have left.”
But then, finally, when I found out that the tenured law professor who’d started all this pettiness and viciousness was now complaining self-pityingly about her critics’ unpleasantness and partisanship and incivility, I knew what we were dealing with.
Because when I became the director of a humanities center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1997, I was required to attend an “administrator orientation.” To my surprise, “administrator orientation” consisted of two days’ worth of learning how to deal with unfair and/or unbalanced professors and staff, who, we were told, would make our lives hell at the very first opportunity. (And you know what? Even though my center had no permanent faculty and only two staff members, the orientation leaders were entirely right about this.) And one remark from that orientation has stayed with me for almost ten years.
A bully, we were told, is someone who knocks you down and takes your lunch money.
An academic bully is someone who runs into you, falls backward, claims injury, and sues you for your lunch money.
So, Jessica, I’m so sorry you’ve been run into by one of our academic bullies. We’ll do what we can on our end to shun them, and we hope it’ll help.
Note for commenters: this blog does not tolerate comments about anybody’s physical appearance, unless of course you want to point out in passing that U. No. looks a little bit like Zod.