Supplemental: What Wendy McElroy said at Brown!


No wonder the students were frightened:
Uh-oh! The free-thinking students at Brown’s Janus Forum had scheduled a debate.

For background, see our previous post.

At the Brown Daily Herald, two reporters described the growing concern. They profiled the two debaters:
BRANDFIELD-HARVEY AND KELLY (11/17/14): A Janus Forum debate titled “How Should Colleges Handle Sexual Assault?” that will take place in Salomon 101 Tuesday has incited controversy among some students, prompting a community-wide email from President Christina Paxson this weekend and the creation of alternative events.

Some students have voiced opposition to the nature of the debate between visiting speakers Jessica Valenti and Wendy McElroy, whom Janus Forum fellows director Dana Schwartz ’15 said were chosen as representatives of conflicting viewpoints on campus sexual assault and rape culture.

Their opposition sparked the staging of two additional events—at the same time as the debate, a faculty member will present research on rape culture in the Building for Environmental Research and Teaching, and BWell Health Promotion will host a “safe space” for emotional support in Salomon.

Valenti founded in 2004 and has written five books, including “The Purity Myth” and “Full Frontal Feminism.” McElroy is a controversial author of several books, an editor of—an abbreviated moniker for “individualist feminist”—and the author of “The Big Lie of a ‘Rape Culture,’” an article for the Future of Freedom Foundation. McElroy’s viewpoints in particular have attracted condemnation from some students.
In that account, Valenti has written five books. McElroy is “controversial.” Fear of McElroy’s frightening views had set off a scramble for safety.

Moving quickly, President Paxson scheduled a simultaneous forum where students could hear a presidentially-sanctioned account of “the research.” Later in their news report, the Daily Herald scribes reported a solemn pledge:

“Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, wrote in an email to The Herald that both the Janus debate and Orchowski’s lecture will be taped and available for students to view later.”

We don’t know what happened. But assistant professor Orchowski’s lecture doesn’t seem to be available. Neither does Valenti’s part of the debate.

By way of contrast, the tape and transcript of McElroy’s 20-minute opening statement are both available. This is the way she began:
MCELROY (11/18/14): Thank you and good evening.

How many of you came tonight knowing exactly who I am and thinking you know exactly what I'm going to say?

I'm an individualist feminist which is a tradition within feminism that you may not be familiar with. It's also called libertarian feminism. I'm going to open in an unconventional manner by speaking about my personal background.

I've had a great deal of violence in my life. When I was 16 I ran away from home and lived on the street. I was raped, and brutally so. I did not blame society, I did not blame the culture. I blame the man who raped me. I've had reason in my life to blame other men. Due to a domestic violence incident years ago, I had a hemorrhage in the central line of vision of my right eye that left me legally blind. I did not blame society. I did not blame culture. I blame the man who put his fist in my face.

Every morning I wake up I know the pain and the importance of violence against women because I see only half of the world because of it.

I am bringing this up before I bring up arguments and the evidence because when a woman like me comes and disagrees with the feminist orthodoxy, what comes back are accusations. They claim I don't know what it means—the significance, the importance of violence against women. Or that I trivialize rape.

Let's put that behind us. Let's say I am a woman who knows intimately the pain of sexual violence, and that I disagree. Let's do the one thing that is most important on this issue, which is actually discuss the issues. Raise questions.

This evening I'll address two topics all too briefly. The rape culture, and how I think sexual assault accusations on campus should be treated.
To watch her presentation, click here.

We’re not sure why students needed an alternate forum to protect them from hearing that. As McElroy began discussing “rape culture,” she quoted last year’s statement by the (mainstream) Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), in which RAINN said this:

“There has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming the rape culture for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campus. While it is helpful for pointing out the systemic barriers towards dealing with the problem it is important not to lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions of a small fraction of a community to commit a violent crime. While that may seem an obvious point it has tended to get lost in recent debates.”

For ourselves, we don’t have a giant view on this matter. Does a “rape culture” exist in this country? As a general matter, this tends to strike us as a largely semantic question.

(Though it’s obvious that giant industries earn lots of money from selling the vicarious thrill of violence against women. People, we walked out of The Deep! In 1977!)

We’d like to watch the full debate. But only one side is available.

In this piece last year for Slate, Amanda Marcotte described RAINN as “one of the most active and important organizations in the country fighting sexual violence.” She went on to say that RAINN doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “rape culture.”

You can assess that as you like. We thought it was worth looking at the outlandish views which caused President Paxson to direct an assistant professor to create a forum where students would only be exposed to ideas of which their president approved.

In Sunday’s New York Times, Judith Shulevitz snarked fairly hard at several Brown students. We thought the actual problem here involved Brown’s adult authorities.

Was there some reason why the average Brown student had to be shielded from McElroy’s views? In that report from the Brown Daily Herald, the organizer of the debate was quoted making a striking statement:
BRANDFIELD-HARVEY AND KELLY: “Obviously we knew that any topic about sexual assault would be challenging to address, but we aim to be a non-partisan, non-biased organization,” [Dana Schwarz] said. “We brought two speakers, who have completely different viewpoints, one of which probably has a completely different viewpoint than most of campus, but we do that with the intent to spark debate and discussion.”

Schwartz said the Janus Forum has wanted to host an event focused on women’s issues and sexual assault since students raised concerns about the University’s sexual assault policies and disciplinary procedures last spring.

Janus Forum events “always try to reflect the climate of the campus,” Schwartz said. “We don’t shape it, we just respond to it.”

In response to students’ opposition to McElroy, Schwartz said hearing and dissecting opposing opinions is essential to strengthening one’s own viewpoint. “We have to be aware that people outside of Brown have opinions that we might find highly unpalatable, and I think instead of silencing opinions, by listening and understanding how to deconstruct and debate them effectively, that’s the best thing a Brown student can do.”
Schwarz seemed to think that McElroy “probably has a completely different viewpoint than most of campus.” We don’t know if that’s true.

That said, it didn’t seem to cross her mind that someone might learn something, or end up with a changed point of view, from hearing that different viewpoint. By listening to McElroy, students could only learn about the “highly unpalatable” opinions which obtain off campus, out in the rest of the world.

Schwarz did a lot of things right in the matter. But that strikes us as a remarkably blinkered view.

That said, Schwarz is an undergraduate; she’s a college student. With leadership from adult authorities like Paxson and Orchowski, it’s no wonder that terrific young people at Brown might hold such blinkered views.

Progressives can’t succeed in this know-it-all manner. But as Augustine thoughtfully said:

Dear lord! It just feels so good!


  1. The last few days have helped me get a better understanding of the issues at stake today in higher education and why there is a gap.

  2. "SATURDAY, MARCH 21, 2015

    It happens every fourth spring: On Monday, we’ll start our “spring training” preview of the coverage of the 2016 campaign.

    We’ll focus on the likely coverage of Hillary Clinton. We’ll consider the challenge this likely coverage will likely present to Democrats, progressives and liberals.


    Starting Monday, we'll discuss how liberals and Democrats should deal with the upcoming mess."

  3. Progressives have mastered the art of demonizing and punishing people who don't support their current agenda. Conservatives are used to this treatment, but it can be used against liberals who don't toe the line perfectly. E.g., Larry Summers was forced out as President of Harvard for making a non-PC comment.

    Brown President Christina Paxson deserves Bob's criticism, but failing to act might have risked being fired from her job.

    1. "Larry Summers was forced out as President of Harvard for making a non-PC comment."

      A quick trip to the Wikipedia and - voila! - another lie from Dinky, the partisan hack.

    2. Saint Nicholas has also come in for some punishment in recent weeks.

    3. Are you talking about the St. Nick who abuses elves or the St. Nick who drives Restaveks to tears?

      We really don't care, but our imaginary analysts are crying to find out.

    4. DinC,
      Damn liberals and their demonization. We never should have let them takeover AM Right-wing radio, Fox news, and the rest of the mainstream media just to demonize me for loving Saddam Hussein and hating America because I was against the Great Iraq Clusterfuck.
      We could have used you on the front lines fighting liberal demonization, DinC.

    5. DinC,
      Remind me about this, the next time you claim to be yet another conservative who criticized George W. Bush's spending. I'll remember to call bullshit on that nonsense.
      If you had criticized GWB's free-wheeling spending, you would have been totally demonized by the right and accused of having "Bush Derangement Syndrome". Then you wouldn't come here and make asinine claims, like "Progressives have mastered the art of demonizing and punishing people who don't support their current agenda."

      Like EVERY other conservative. You love big government, and you only have a problem with government spending when someone who isn't you, or your family and friends, benefits.


  4. @David in Cal
    don't you think conservatives have mastered this as well?

    1. Sure, conservatives also demonize and punish, to a degree. But, IMHO liberals use this approach more effectively and they may punish for less major infractions.

    2. Not nearly enough. You're still here.

  5. (Trigger warning): Excellent series on the increasingly insane progressive left. Thanks, Bob.

    1. "(Trigger warning)"

      From the Urban Dictionary:
      Trigger warnings are unnecessary 100% of the time due to the fact that people who are easily offended have no business randomly browsing the internet anyway. As a result of the phrase's irrelevance, most opinions that start out with this phrase tend to be simplistic and dull since they were made by people ridiculous enough to think that the internet is supposed to cater to people who can't take a joke.

  6. Well Bob, your Conversations to Nowhere has devolved to no conversation beyond your last standby, David in Cal and one new fan calling the progressive left insane.

    We'll leave with a question. Has anyone else noticed that the only females Bob has praised in a long, long time seem to be the age of the little girls Bob left in the classroom three decades ago?

    1. Another troll. Now Somerby is not only conservative but also sexist. You guys are the reason no commenter can participate in an actual discussion here. Who wants to read the daily troll abuse of someone most of us like.

    2. Perhaps Bob Somerby can provide a Safe Place for those who like him to discuss his work, free from ideas they find threatening.

    3. Trolls don't express any ideas. It is all about attacking the blogger, not his statements.

    4. Bobfans don't express any ideas. It's all about identifying "trolls" and whining. Tribalism at its worst.

    5. 10:28, Bob can always go back to the pre-2011 format without the combox. Then his fans can all marvel in privacy, safety and security about his genius without being so distraught over troubling opinions to the contract.

      I'm sure that a non-interactive blog worked so well for him, and he decided to add the combox out of the kindness and generosity of his heart.

    6. The problems Bob is always going on about how "us liberals" should engage conservatives in conversation, which he wrongly believes will sway their opinions.
      He's been challenged to show "us liberals" how it's done by engaging with cicero and DinC.
      Bob's reaction? Crickets.
      Probably because he knows it won't work, and if he tries (and inevitably fails), he'll have to come up with a new schtick, and decades old habits are hard to break.


  7. This subthread began with a question:

    "Has anyone else noticed that the only females Bob has praised in a long, long time seem to be the age of the little girls Bob left in the classroom three decades ago?"

    Not even Mr. Potatohead has ventured an answer.

    1. No one is counting and your silly feminist paranoia is unreliable.

    2. The trolls are winning.

  8. What Wendy McElroy Said at Brown is Somerby's title.

    For those of you who don't want to suffer through the 20 minute video Bob Somerby has linked, the essay which seems to have gotten here invited to Brown is short.

    The Big Lie of a "Rape Culture"

    Her first Subtitle is Finally, a good reason to use Hitler in a discussion

    For those of you in the herd who haven't had enough straw in your diet, I highly recommend it.

  9. Twenty five posts and only twenty nine comments.

    Wendy McElroy needs tips from Bob Somerby on comment generation.