Author: Toni Airaksinen

Tyranny of the Ethnography: How Lived Experience Corrupts the Social Sciences

When Arleen, a single mother of two, was evicted from her Milwaukee apartment, she had one option. It was January of 2008, one of the snowiest years on record. With no safety net, Arleen did the only thing she could. She took her sons — Jori was thirteen, Jafaris was five — to the local homeless shelter. According to Harvard Professor Matthew Desmond, evictions used to be extremely rare. Who dare cast a mother and her children to the streets? When they did occur, evictions caused outrage, riots. But now, when families are evicted, community outcry is nonexistent. Bags are packed. Possessions are scavenged. A family is uprooted. Millions of the American urban poor have faced eviction. In Milwaukee, where Desmond conducted his field research,  a staggering 1 in 8 residents faced formal or informal eviction between 2009 and 2011 alone. This doesn’t just happen in Wisconsin. As Desmond says: “This book is set in Milwaukee, but it tells an American story.” Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is an ethnography that was …

Why Colleges Should Stop Teaching “Toxic Masculinity”

On college campuses across the globe, young men are treated to lectures, workshops, and extracurricular activities that teach them their masculinity — an element at the very core of their identity — is dangerous, poisonous, and even toxic. Every week, another news article is published highlighting this fact. A few examples are particularly insightful. This semester, an incoming freshman and his peers at Gettysburg College were ordered to watch a film on toxic masculinity during student orientation. And at both Duke University and the University of North Carolina, seminars are now offered for men to deprogram themselves of their so-called “toxic masculinity.” For every article published highlighting a case of students being taught this ideology, there are dozens of other instances that aren’t covered by the news. As a college student myself, I find this emerging paradigm not just unhelpful, but terrifically harmful for both the young men and women exposed to this ideology. *** Unlike other terms in the feminist canon, “toxic masculinity” was never formally defined in scholarly literature. And this is confirmed …

Review: Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream — Sara Goldrick-Rab

A review of Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream, by Sara Goldrick-Rab. University of Chicago Press (September 13 2016) 368 pages.  Let’s say you’re a high-school student yearning to attend college. But nobody in your family has graduated high-school,  and your household income is only about $25,000. You have three siblings, money’s always tight, and you often skip meals to make sure your younger siblings have enough to eat. Your senior year of high-school you apply to college. You get in. Congratulations! But there’s one problem: How will you pay for college? And will the struggle to pay for college prevent you from completing it? This is where the book “Paying the Price” by Temple University sociology professor, Sara Goldrick-Rab comes in. Goldrick-Rab has long been a scholar in the field of higher education policy, and is perhaps the most well-known name in the field of college affordability. Paying the Price draws on an unprecedented study that tracked the educational outcomes of 3,000 young adults that entered college in Wisconsin …

What I Learned In My Women’s Studies Classes

When I first discovered women’s studies, I was lulled into a comforting sense that I had discovered the “truth.” It was as if my veil of ignorance had been yanked away, and I was blissfully seeing the world for what it really was. I have taken seven women’s studies classes; initially at a nondescript state university and later at a women’s college in Manhattan. After taking those classes, I realize that not only was I deluded, but I was led into an absurd intellectual alcove where objective truth is subordinate to academic theories used as political propaganda. Indeed, since knowledge itself is considered a patriarchal construct, feminist theories are the organizing principles of classes. The theoretical backbone of women’s studies is grounded in three main conjectures: that of the patriarchy, intersectional oppression, and social constructionism. None of these contentions can be proven or falsified. Yet, as a student, good grades are contingent on agreeing with them. So what do they actually represent? No theory is more fundamental to academic feminism than the theory of the …

Forget Microaggressions, Some Students Face Hunger and Homelessness

The rising tide of victimhood culture on campuses is dismaying. From perpetual requests for trigger warnings at my own school, to a roving squad of microaggression investigators on the other side of the coast, emotional trauma is the top concern of today’s college activists. Everyone who fails to completely kowtow to the leftist, nursery-school party line is subject to rebuke, including students who try to address more troubling concerns than microaggressions or the lack of gender diversity in STEM fields. Unfortunately, the superficial holy trinity of intersectional oppression—race, class and gender— is largely blind to the more pernicious issues that students actually face: hunger and homelessness. Many students teeter precariously between having just enough, and not having anything at all. There are many who go hungry or homeless. How can students prosper without food? Or without a safe place to sleep? For students, these problems result from a simple lack of resources — an imbalance between one’s social and financial capital, and the resources needed for rent and food. Thankfully, it is within all of …

Confessions of a Recovering Tumblr Feminist

When I was in middle-school, I discovered feminism. Always a voracious reader, I devoured every book on it that I could find — eagerly eating the words of feminists like Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan, and Naomi Wolf. When I was done with books, I turned my attention to the interwebs, where communities of social justice warriors congregate. Little did I know it, as a young teen, I tumbled headfirst into the rabbit hole of the social justice feminist orthodoxy — the perverse wonderland where up is down and everything is actually a manifestation of the patriarchy. Now, as a student at a women’s college, surrounded by this ideology, I’ve realized the naivety of my early eagerness. For me, feminism was an enticing religion. Raised in a home devoid of faith, I eagerly accepted its philosophy as my ticket to salvation. As I steeped myself in this type of feminism: the type that emanates from online Tumblr echo chambers and the ideological enclaves of Women’s studies departments, it taught me a number of ideas and values …

Where Are The Conservative Professors?

As a college student, progressive ideology pervades all aspects of my life. Everywhere I turn there’s always more people preaching the gospel of feminist theory, advocating for socialism, or talking about fossil fuel divestment. In this environment, it’s almost impossible to find anyone — students or professors — who admit they hold conservative views. To be public about those views could be equivalent to committing social or career suicide. Which I find strange.  Isn’t one of the hallmarks of the college experience learning and debating with people whom you don’t agree with? My college prides itself on diversity. Yet, our diversity statistics deftly conceal the fact that there is one type of diversity that we lack: political diversity. At colleges around the nation, the progressive ideology reigns supreme. If progressivism is queen, then colleges around the nation are its throne. And in this regime where progressive ideologies are vaunted—particularly socially liberal ideas — the monarchy cannot tolerate conservative dissenters. Heretic! Woman hater! Cis-heterosexist, racist homophobe! The henchmen snarl. This ideological homogenization of academe is extremely harmful …