Yes, it is time once again to check in with your pal and mine, newspaper-killing poet of the rape culture Chris Surette.
Oh, sure, you knew that Chris Surette wrote a spectacularly gross essay about how the ladies he hooks up with are “victims” and humiliating them is awesome and cool but also you should use a condom because they might be ugly. And sure, you might think that is kind of sexist! But did you know that Chris Surette cannot possibly be a sexist because he attended a feminist literature class once?????
Well, yes, you did, probably. Because we have discussed it in the comments! But I think we need to discuss it again. For, in his Oct. 6 “apology,” which is available on the website but is also buried under the many installments of the regular column Chris Surette has been allowed to continue publishing (ugh), we can find this startling assertion:
I would like to make clear that even though my language has been derogatory against women, I truly do not feel this way about them. For those of you who do not know, last semester I was the only guy in a feminism literature class called “The Women Question.”
Ah. I SEE.
“But Sady,” you are saying. “This is so old! Why must we read about it now?” Simple: because it is an excuse to premiere my groundbreaking one-act historical fiction play, “CHRIS SURETTE ANSWERS THE WOMEN QUESTION.” Behold!
[THE SCENE: A college classroom. There are a bunch of ladies there, and also a professor, and also Chris Surette.]
PROFESSOR: So, as we can see, in A Room of One’s Own, Woolf frames intellectual and creative achievement as inextricably bound to social context, and specifically to privilege, in that…
(CHRIS SURETTE rolls eyes, sighs, shifts loudly in his seat.)
PROFESSOR: In that financial autonomy allows one the opportunity to develop one’s…
(CHRIS SURETTE drums fingers on table, belches.)
(CHRIS SURETTE sends text message, eats entire sandwich.)
PROFESSOR: Chris, what was your take on the reading?
CHRIS SURETTE: Well, yeah, I mean, this is really interesting. And, you know, Woolf seems, like, smart. I’d have to, you know. I didn’t bring my book, so I can’t look back on it to quote you anything. But, like, you haven’t answered the Women Question yet?
PROFESSOR: Which question would that be, Chris?
CHRIS SURETTE: Which order they want me to TOTALLY DO THEM IN! Because they do! Want me to do them! ALL of them! Ha ha, a hilarious joke for you there. It may interest you to know that I am a humor writer!
CHRIS SURETTE (loudly):Naiiiiiiiiiiiiiled itttttttttttttt.
Men can, of course, take Women’s Studies courses. I myself have taken Women’s Studies courses! With men! And they can be passionate, engaged, open to discussion, and insightful! But there is always THAT ONE GUY. The guy who very clearly does not care, does not want to be there, and blocks the discussion at every turn. (“That’s not true! Not all men do that! Aren’t you just sort of generalizing from personal experience here? Etcetera!”) Why do these guys take the courses? I have no idea. Maybe they think they can personally steer all us young fillies away from the evils of feminism by constructively showing up in our classes and being rude jerks who haven’t done the reading. Or maybe they are just going so that, later, when people point out their sexism, they can defend themselves by saying they took a Women’s Studies course once! THERE. SEXISM DISPROVED. BLAMMO.
I am not all that interested in the psychology of These Guys, actually. What I am interested in is how they can be of use to you, the feminist educator. Because it is true: you showed up to teach people. And you probably did not show up to have your confidence undermined by someone really, aggressively, continually blocking and disrespecting and eating sandwiches during your attempts to teach. These Guys: they are annoying! And probably a bit demoralizing! But… maybe they are worth more than you think?
Because, seriously, sometimes it is hard to teach people about feminism. Sometimes the theories you are trying to convey are so huge and threatening that people will reflexively choose not to believe or engage with them. Sometimes people have just been extremely lucky with their lives, and haven’t had many chances to get their stuff all disrespected in subtle or overt ways by some misogynist and thereby prove to themselves misogyny’s existence! Or sometimes they are scared to engage, because engaging critically in the class means engaging critically in life and that means that whatever tenuous go-along-to-get-along deal they’ve struck will have to be altered, and that could involve some negative consequences.
But I tell you this: there is no tool more effective for convincing people that feminists are onto something than showing them how hugely upset and defensive and gross some people can get about feminism. Oh, sure! The points themselves are solid! But when paired with the edge of revulsion and irritation That Guy alone can provide, they are oh, so much more convincing! I myself, a former student of feminism, can verify that nothing strengthens a lady’s commitment, or bonds her to her fellow students, like a few rounds of sparring with That Guy in class. For many of your students, it may be their first chance to confront and challenge sexism in a safe, controlled, supportive environment. (YOUR safe, controlled, supportive environment, Feminist Educator!) And That Guy makes it all possible, simply by flat-out fucking refusing to learn a damn thing.
Yes, you and That Guy are, in fact, a team. You will be making the points. And he, in his sandwich-eating text-messaging point-avoiding fashion, will be steadily proving you right. Every single day.