Features, Social Science

Kimmel and Conflict Theory: Sociology Turns Its Lens onto One of Its Own

Michael Kimmel is a Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at SUNY Stony Brook who has recently been embroiled in a controversy regarding sexual harassment complaints. He is well-known in disciplinary subfields as a researcher on masculinity who has written several books, including Guyland and Manhood: A Cultural History. Only very recently has he been accused of sexual harassment and professional misconduct — charges that are currently under investigation by the American Sociological Association. A desire to sort out the charges being levied, which are based on language as opposed to physical contact, prompted Kimmel to request a six-month delay of his receipt of the Jessie Bernard award from the American Sociological Association.

The first coverage of the charges against Kimmel was published on August 1 in the Chronicle of Higher Education, through which anonymous complaints about his professional conduct were made public. Then came the August 10 Inside Higher Ed piece, which was based on named complainant Bethany Coston’s medium.com account of her interactions with Kimmel when she was a graduate student. Coston is now an Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

I should preface the rest of this piece by saying that I have never met Professor Kimmel (I have also never met Professor Coston) nor do I know any students who have worked with him — a fact that should not be surprising since none of my work has focused on gender dynamics, gender equity, or masculinity. Further, recent events (unrelated to Coston’s charges) indicate that Kimmel himself has been criticized for a lack of charitability that’s strikingly similar to that of which he is now on the receiving end. However, we can still learn from his situation.

Bethany Coston, Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at VCU. Source: Twitter

As my understanding of Coston’s allegations is untainted by professional or personal familiarity, it is based exclusively on her medium.com essay. This puts me in a position to evaluate the evidence against Kimmel based solely on, what I understand to be, the most damning account currently available. I have no investment in the outcome and thus no incentive to side one way or another on the handling of claims — other than, of course, a preference that real predators be held accountable and that proportional justice is served. Last, sexual harassment is real and it can have lasting and damaging effects. That reality requires a judicious use of its invocation, lest the term itself become meaningless.

As I went through Coston’s claims, and I have no reason to doubt their veracity, three troublesome themes emerge — each of which can be traced back to the lens of conflict theory. Each interaction and each event is viewed as an instance of labor exploitation, class struggle, or of Kimmel’s perceived resistance to rising class consciousness. My strategy in what follows is to highlight the influence of conflict theory by presenting alternative plausible explanations that do not use that perspective.

Conflict Theory

Conflict theory has, since the 1960s, been one of the three most powerful perspectives that sociologists use to make sense of the world. It’s difficult to overstate its influence as it has served as the foundation for critical theory, queer theory, postmodern theory, and others. With its roots in Marxism, conflict theory holds that the uneven distribution of power and resources between the working-class majority and the power-holding minority creates an unequal social order resulting in the development of a working-class consciousness and, ultimately, an uprising or a revolt — it is a way to view the world as a series of struggles between oppressor and oppressed that are situated within tyrannical hierarchies. To give a sense of its pervasiveness within sociology, C. Wright Mills is one of the sociological theorists most strongly associated with modern conflict theory; Mills is also responsible for developing the concept of “the sociological imagination”, which is taught in introductory textbooks and encourages students to think about the applications of sociological thinking in everyday life. The union between the popularity of modern conflict theory and the widespread teaching of “the sociological imagination” provides a hint at the dominance of the former in the discipline broadly and in how students are taught specifically. Notably, for sociology graduate students especially, this worldview is sometimes why they self-select into sociology in the first place — that and an interest in pursuing an activist career either through research or in an applied manner — and it is continually reinforced in the classroom. It goes without saying that tyranny and oppression exist; however when students are encouraged to believe that this is the only way to see the world, all possibilities for nuance, an evaluation of competing factors, and an openness to a complex series of causes are lost. The recent case of Michael Kimmel can be understood as a real-life manifestation of the ham-handed, universal application of a conflict theory perspective.

Labor Exploitation

It’s worth mentioning that, without a conflict theory lens, Coston’s claims about the misuse of graduate student labor should be qualitatively distinct from an argument that forms the basis for allegations of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment. However, she includes them all in her essay, perhaps precisely because of this lens that unifies all of her examples.

In these examples, the powerless graduate students are workers being exploited by the more powerful faculty adviser. For example, Coston reports that Kimmel asked his graduate students to collect his mail in Long Island and transport it two hours to Brooklyn. Other examples from Coston include answering “ridiculous emails”, “finding new data on a particular topic”, “making charts and tables because he ‘didn’t know’ how”, “printing hard copies of new reports”, and “just generally supporting his ability to be profitable and prolific”. She views these tasks as exploitative and, depending on the context and their frequency, they may indeed constitute an overstepping of the expectations of graduate students. However, as occasional requests, they might simply fall under the broad category of research assistance. With the exception of the mail, there’s nothing among her examples that doesn’t have a minimal research component to it, leaving it open to interpretation. The fact that Coston apparently thinks that additional detail isn’t necessary to make her case is precisely because of the conflict theory lens in place.

Consider the following example where Coston refers to Kimmel’s unwillingness to include an update in his book on what she considers to be outdated information on the sexual practices of same-sex female relationships. Coston writes: “I all but begged him, in my empirical comments, to update the studies he used (including the one about monogamy, which had been updated and found little to no differences between straight and not-straight people).” She views this as evidence of Kimmel’s devaluation of her contribution and of his investment in maintaining power and perpetuating sexual stereotypes. However, again, there is more than one possible reason why he might have neglected to update his citations. Kimmel might have questioned the validity of the work that was being put forth or simply not found it convincing — a possibility that’s far from remote given the broader issues that limit much interdisciplinary work.

Class Struggle

Coston views disparities as resulting from class struggles and as rooted in discriminatory practices against marginalized groups, a hallmark of the conflict theory view. For instance, she writes “[Kimmel] sent men graduate students to conferences — all expenses paid — even expensive trips to conferences in other countries, while expecting women and non-binary students to stay back and continue being glorified secretaries.” There is more than one reason why this could occur — where only one of those possible explanations smacks of discrimination. One might reasonably ask, is it the case that each student was comparably productive and competent? Were they producing work of like quality? These factors would and should matter when an adviser is considering how and where to allocate limited resources. So while it could be that discrimination was at work here, more information is needed to persuasively adjudicate this. However, under conflict theory’s expectation of equal outcomes, anything less is seen as de facto injustice.

Rising Class Consciousness

Some of the most frequent accusations against Kimmel come from a perspective of rising class consciousness and, in these instances, an insatiable need for inclusive language, as defined by Coston. It appears that Coston sees Kimmel’s efforts to meet this need as unsatisfactory, which can be viewed as further evidence of the class struggle against oppression. For instance, Coston writes, “I find Michael and his perspectives to be securely rooted in a benevolent sexist, second-wave feminist, trans-exclusionary frame of reference, which relies so heavily on stereotypical understandings of the gender binary that it also necessitates a homophobic understanding of sexuality” — clearly believing this to be fairly incriminating.

As an example, Coston writes that Kimmel refers to trans men as “almost men”, in a letter he wrote to the Chronicle in 2014 concerning the ultimate title of his book, Guyland. Supposedly more damning given that it’s presented with extra incredulity, Coston writes: “He even once said that “‘TUGS’ are the new ‘LUGS’,” LUGS meaning “lesbian until graduation,” and TUGS meaning “trans until graduation”.’ She goes on, “Even more troublingly, he writes that trans folx “are the quintessential social constructionists”. He doesn’t know how to spell genderqueer and he thinks that “gender-queer people seek to inhabit an intermediate zone, not unlike Pat on SNL or intersexuals.’” Or that “Michael told me he could understand why I’d find that [being in a relationship with a woman] more appealing (“you know, more caring and nurturing I’d bet”).” These examples represent precisely the kind of semantic and linguistic authoritarianism that have made people such as Jordan Peterson famous (for resisting it). The reality is that there is no broad social consensus at this point on how to approach and understand these linguistic issues.

One of Coston’s claims regards explicit sexual talk in the classroom and with graduate students. We can probably assume that, as she’s trying to make a case for herself, the most egregious and offensive examples of Kimmel’s behavior are included in the essay — including talking explicitly about one’s sex life in the classroom, telling attractive women they’ll have to work harder to be taken seriously, and saying he didn’t think porn is bad. Most of us would grant that these comments are probably in poor taste. Although it is worth asking whether these rise to the level of a hostile work environment. Maybe they do. Although, as with most things, the devil is in the details — how often were the comments made, did anyone ever raise the issue with Kimmel directly, what was the context of the conversation, did students reciprocate with stories of their own sexual escapades in a way that sent a confusing message? That last part is not to pass blame — it is simply to understand the context and be mindful of the goal of eliminating the undesirable behavior. However, when seen through the lens of conflict theory, the case seems open and shut.

The Future of Sociology

James Damore once tweeted the question of whether we should have insensitivity training in addition to sensitivity training in the workplace and on campus. The idea is that we would all be better off if people did not immediately impugn the intentions or motives of others. I can imagine an argument, based on some of Coston’s remarks, that sociology should be pilot testing such a program. A conflict theory lens is at its strongest when accompanied, as it usually is, by an unwillingness to allow for a more charitable interpretation or for the complexity of multiple competing factors.

In this case, although she doesn’t use these words, Coston appears to conceptualize many of the examples she provided as microaggressions associated with oppression, where their accumulation has a long-term harming effect. Notably, Scott Lilienfeld, John McWhorter, Bradley Campbell, and Jason Manning have all raised concerns, with respect to the claims of the harm of microaggressions. There’s variation in their concerns to be sure: some are based on the lack of dignity in focusing so heavily on these incidents, some are based on the prevalence of victimhood culture and its implications, and some are based on an analytic question of whether the people who feel harmed in this manner differ psychologically in a way that is consistent with a heightened sensitivity to certain types of comments.

In the end, the indignation seen in Coston’s essay stems from an expectation of a degree of progressive consciousness and a focus on equality of outcome that sit at the center not just of conflict theory, but also of claims of a free speech and viewpoint diversity crisis on campus. The Kimmel case shows us that the response to a lack of meeting these expectations has now risen to the level of exhortation and, apparently, public humiliation. Without a conflict theory lens, there’s nothing in Coston’s piece suggesting that, in terms of the work environment he created, he’s done anything other than make a few off-color, crudely thought-through remarks and that he may have performed poorly as a mentor. However, under the belief that conflict theory completely describes the nature of today’s society, outrage seems a fitting response.

Kimmel might well be a cad. As I said, I’ve never met him. Based on Coston’s description, perhaps he grew too comfortable in his role as arbiter of all things masculine and, over time, the line between personal life and thoughts and professional conduct blurred. This strikes me as something that could be solved with a serious sit-down conversation between Kimmel and his department head after complaints had been made internally — that it is not necessarily worthy of a reputation-destroying outing, certainly not as part of a first attempt. Last, and this is worth saying out loud, referring to people exposed to this type of talk as “survivors” is a gross overapplication of the term.

There is clearly a wide range of online reactions to Coston’s claims. This is seen in the few comments that are present at the end of her medium piece. There’s the incredulous:

“Not exactly a great catalogue of crime is it?”

and the sarcastic:

And “Wow. So brave………?”

But, there’s also:

“Thanks for posting. Tough stuff to come forward with. Tough stuff to read. I’m tired of the bullying culture in academia that makes abusive behaviours from treating grad students as free labout [sic] to enhance one’s own career through to the sexual abuse you detail above. We need to find ways to fight it. Getting it documented is one of the first steps so good on you. I’ll be writing to the ASA (I’m a sociologist in Australia) asking that they address this fully and remove the reward.”

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the people who have come forward saying that they were made uncomfortable by Kimmel. But sociology has encouraged students to see the world in this manner and to see themselves as victims.With the dominance of conflict theory and its offshoots, the discipline has taught and reinforced the belief that society and interactions can be thought of as a series of small battlefields between oppressor and oppressed, and has moved students to tackle problems accordingly. They have been trained to be indignant and to out any situation in which the circumstances might possibly fit into this framework — even if it would be better understood, and therefore solved, with a different, more nuanced and complex understanding. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that sociologists should erase all traces of conflict theory from their instructional material. It should be taught as one of many ways to see the world and society, just not as the only one.

 

Ilana R. Akresh is an Associate Professor in the Sociology department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. You can find links to more of her writing on the importance of viewpoint diversity and free speech here and you can follow her on Twitter @irakresh

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72 Comments

  1. The most important sentence in the article is this: “They have been trained to be indignant and to out any situation in which the circumstances might possibly fit into this framework — even if it would be better understood, and therefore solved, with a different, more nuanced and complex understanding.”

    See, that’s the thing, though — that “nuanced” approach would require critical THINKING, not critical THEORY. Sociologists and all that other human dead weight taking up space in the various university “studies” programs are really good at the latter, but have very little experience with or interest in the former.

    • Peter from Oz says

      A New Radical Centrism (@a_centrism),

      Well said. Society seems to have produced oodles of useless people who are dying to conform to some evangelical truth. Social justice is a tailor-made creed for them.

    • Lincoln Dunstan says

      A New Radical Centrism (@a_centrism)…..Amen!!!

    • neg_entropy says

      Read “The Mother Hive” by Rudyard Kipling. The oddities reign in the liberal arts.

    • Sociology is one of the worst offenders in this regard. They have so politicized their field it’s hard to tell their research interests from you standard political science class. Even the field of political science is less politicized than sociology, psychology and anthropology. It’s quite amusing.

      Student: humans just want to belong and are guided by altruism as the most basic drive.

      Me: ok, that’s one theory. Another way to think about it is to consider the fact that 80% of everything that happens in the world is done by people just trying to pay their mortgage.

      Student: huh, I never thought of that.

      Me: did you take anthropology last semester?

      Student: yeah, how did you know?

      Me: just a lucky guess.

  2. Mark says

    All right, so I admittedly skim-read both this article and Medium article. I don’t believe anonymous complaints, and I saw nothing in the Medium article that I’d consider poor behaviour. In fact, he was trying to help the young lady. The young lady came off as ungrateful, which I believe many women are nowadays in their orientation toward men. Thanks, cultural Marxism for integrating feminism in every interaction between men and women.

    If Kimmel’s done something wrong, take it to the police.

    The Medium article only showed me how far gone the universities (minus the sciences?) are. If I sent that article to my mum, she wouldn’t be able to understand it. Not because she isn’t intelligent, but because the Medium article is so far removed from reality. Cishet? Only radical leftists use such words. (And me when I’m taking the piss out of them.)

    I’m relatively experienced in my industry (IT security). I give the odd talk here and there, run the odd workshop/meetup/conference. I get a few people asking me for advice, asking me to collaborate.

    Recently I was asked by a young woman to collaborate on a piece of work. I declined. I’ve followed the accusations that arose from the #MeToo Movement, and I judge it’s simply not worth the risk professionally to mentor young women in the current climate. I have a career to look after. I have mortgages. My industry is small, particularly in Melbourne… the SJW capital of Australia.

    What a great shame. I’ll end up offering a young man the opportunity to collaborate. I’ve spoken to a few men about this, and most of us agreed.

    • Nick Ender says

      This is what every man in every profession is doing right now. Working more closely than you have to with women under any circumstance is a risk.

      Personally, I’ve had three sexual harassment allegations against me in the past two years working at a university. Two of them completely false, and the third so detached from circumstance it was all but false. All three complaints were levied after I reported the individuals for insubordination and professional misconduct. These sexual harassment complaints were used to obfuscate the truth of their unprofessional behavior. And predictable, HR swallowed these stories whole. One more complaint will see my termination. I’m still a “supervisor” but I do not give direction to any female subordinate anymore—under any circumstance. I just sit back and watch them fuck up their jobs now. It’s a loose, loose, loose situation for the female employees, the university, and myself, but better to be labeled an incompetent supervisor than fired for sexual harassment. I’m out the door in 2021 anyway.

      Believe what you want about my story, but be warned, you may be next.

    • Saturn Black says

      Good stuff mate. It’s not a shame to work exclusively with men – it’s a return to the natural pre-feminism order of things. Once they’re no longer getting jobs some of these women will start waking up and realising that starting a family and taking care of some kids is a much more fulfilling option. The hyper-feminists will wipe themselves out because nobody would want to start a family with that – just imagine how brutal she would be to your kids. They either have some tough life lessons ahead of them or a lifetime of loneliness and misery.

      Once you find a conservative woman who has been red pilled I think you’re relatively safe. It’s near impossible to go back after you’ve seen through all the lies. Also there are some women out there who are just naturally immune to it all. So I wouldn’t write them off completely – just look at Claire Lehmann (founder of Quillette) and some of these other young conservative female stars. It’s very impressive what they are doing. As J B Peterson said, the solution to feminism must come from their less-embittered sisters, not us men.

  3. Steve Phillips says

    Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.
    Good!

  4. Just Me says

    “for sociology graduate students especially, this worldview is sometimes why they self-select into sociology in the first place — that and an interest in pursuing an activist career either through research or in an applied manner .”

    This is key, and very true. Someone who doesn’t fit that mold will find the climate hard to take, and likely self-select out, no matter how originally interested in understanding how society works…I did.

    • Saturn Black says

      Yeah and I think this is the biggest factor behind men dropping out of tertiary studies at an unprecedented rate. You really need to be tough as nails to survive in there.

  5. Lincoln Dunstan says

    I guess there will always be some opportunist will donate sperm for these types of people, otherwise I’m not sure how they will ever have children!!! Maybe one millenium they may morph into a dual sex amoeba. It seems the more strident a “man” hater you are the more the SJW’s like you!! I think Farris (above) is right on the money!!

  6. Daniel says

    This is so messed up it beggars description. It’s like seeing a gentle octogenarian experience a psychotic break and disrobe and start howling at the moon. In that situation, one’s immediate reaction is to cover the indignity up — maybe physically, with a blanket; maybe figuratively, by herding any spectators away.
    I find myself having the same response to Coston’s rhetoric. This is a human being, worthy of basically limitless respect and nobility, but doing and saying things that are stupid, selfish, grasping, base — everything possible to prove that respect and nobility are not, in fact, deserved. It is embarrassing to witness, and there’s a natural response to want to cover it up — close the tab, close the computer, change the subject.

    This baffling display of ugliness is disturbing for one important reason: it comes from a re-definition of what it means to be human. The human condition Coston is describing bears almost no resemblance to the human beings we encounter daily. I’m assuming she gets away with it because the academic community around her constantly, ceaselessly reinforces this worldview. Is the academy only filled with the blind? Is this even possible?

    And what is to be done? Is there any chance that Coston will go on to experience a series of healthy, fulfilling relationships? Would you want Coston for a friend? Or an employee?

    Consider having Coston for a boss!

  7. D.B. Cooper says

    If nothing else, I appreciate the author’s, Ilana Akresh, sober detachment, despite having her own preoccupations with the discipline. This is the first and only article of hers I’ve read, but if it is any indication of her social science scholarship, in general; I’m reasonably certain I’d take her and Jordan Peterson in a trade for Michael Kimmel, Bethany Coston, C. Wright Mills, and ten conflict theorist pimps to be named later.

    The interpersonal dynamics that characterize Kimmel and Coston’s – or any of his other grad students – relationship is of little interest to me. Maybe the conditions and circumstances that Coston chronicled were as inherently repressive and malevolent as she believes them to be, but it is difficult to describe her sentiments as being objectively true; when her own grasp on reality appears to be tenuous at best. Coston writes, “I find Michael and his perspectives to be securely rooted in a benevolent sexist, second-wave feminist, trans-exclusionary frame of reference, which relies so heavily on stereotypical understandings of the gender binary that it also necessitates a homophobic understanding of sexuality.” Just imagine what it took to string together that muddled labyrinth of weasel speak.

    In any regard, I have serious doubts about the utility of litigating the anecdotal provocations of a charlatan to his perfidious sycophants; so, I won’t. What is of interest to me, however, is general worldview of the charlatan and his apostates. According to Akresh, “Coston views disparities as resulting from class struggles and as rooted in discriminatory practices against marginalized groups, a hallmark of the conflict theory view… under conflict theory’s expectation of equal outcomes, anything less is seen as de facto injustice.

    The contemporary discourse in sociology – specifically, gender and ethnic studies – has evolved into an indulgently vindictive philosophy that masquerades as enlighten self-interests. That’s not to say that everything that gender and ethnic studies claim falls into the category of ‘not even wrong’. A lot of it is simply just wrong. But as the above quote indicates, the central endorsement of gender and ethnic philosophy – or conflict theorists, in general – views the world as being fixed, in that the traditional socio-economic paradigm keeps or prevents the historically marginalized from reaching parity with the oppressor class; which is a euphemism for white males and also Jewish males when they’re of the conservative sort. The taxonomy of politics is crucially important when disparaging Jews for obvious reasons.

    This view, however, is mistaken. It is never born in the mind of conflict theorists that theirs may be an intractable problem; more, specifically, that the mechanisms which produce the disparities may not, in fact, be rooted in discriminatory practices. A provocative statement, I know. While reasonable can acknowledge the tension between personal freedom (equality of opportunity) and a moral economy (social justice), the fact remains, statistical disparities are outcomes, not explanations. As I’ve said before – and no, I’m not above quoting myself – presupposing the validity of your suppositions is less social science than it is banal sophistry.

    It may be imprudent to break into essentialist talks, but the motivated reasoning of conflict theorists has failed to consider the validity of an alternative hypothesis. Namely, “the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership” (James Damore, Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber memo). And since my heat-to-light ratio has already hit supernova, let me further posit that the same reasoning could, and very likely does, explain some percentage of the statistical disparities that we see between different ethnic groups.

  8. chrisb says

    It’s time to turn conflict theory on academia and ask whether academia is a parasitic subsector of the ruling class that exploits the remainder of society.

    The number of students paying to go to university and therefore the income for academia is inflated in two ways. Firstly, a system of soft loans or grants pays for many people who would not otherwise go. Secondly, many jobs require graduate status when it is not necessary. The overestimation of the value of any degree is the means by which one group – graduates – exploits another – non-graduates. Given that the likelihood of going to university is higher for the children of graduates than for the children of non-graduates, this is an important means by which social mobility is limited, in short how privilege is entrenched in society. Most insidious is the number of positions in quangoes, think tanks, the charity sector and education authorities dependent on subscribing to the ‘correct’ set of views. Essentially, an investment in taking a sociology or similar degree is rewarded with life long employment and decent remuneration courtesy of the taxpayer.

    Many privileged groups use a system of ‘initiation ceremonies’ or ‘fagging’. The ceremonies involve humiliation undertaken to prove loyalty and a desire to join the privileged group. ‘Fagging’ is where those joining the group at a low level undergo a period of subservience to those higher up. A proof of adherence to the principle of hierarchy. A career in academia has always involved a period of ‘fagging’. Junior staff have poorly paid and insecure employment. They have to do the menial or annoying tasks that more senior members of staff can’t be bothered to do. And why? Because they are seeking the privilege of tenure.

    • Bill says

      If only I were an undergrad in this day and age. I would start each lecture demanding the Professor check zer Academic-privilege and demand Academic Justice!

      • Saturn Black says

        The issue I’ve found is that the academic staff who should be challenged – i.e. the feminists and postmodernists who come across like they are either trying to brainwash you or are running a kindergarten class because students aren’t supposed to be able to think for themselves or do anything without being told how – are often so authoritarian and intimidating that students quickly become too scared to say anything that would be interpreted as a challenge to that academic’s position of power.

        It’s good that some academics are aware of this climate and critical of it, but based on my experience, I would say that most of them still underestimate just how terrifying this environment is for undergrads. The authoritarian academics flaunt their power from day one and if you’re not fully aware of the problem before you go in, it feels more and more difficult to challenge them as the term progresses. They rely on students thinking that it’s just easier to go along with it all and say nothing.

        I would urge anyone who knows an undergrad student to talk to them about their experiences at university and encourage them towards material that is critical of this authoritarian atmosphere. One way to counter it is if more students begin to realise just how deep this runs and how wrong it is before they reach their second and third years and become either completely entrenched, brainwashed, or indifferent.

  9. Saturn Black says

    Great article, thanks.

    I particularly liked the contrast between that picture of her and the text covering her actions. If they can’t suffocate and brainwash you with their flowery cheerfulness and idealistic visions, they’ll just try to destroy you the old fashioned way. Theirs is not an ideology that tolerates differences of opinion.

    • BHO to Gitmo says

      The picture’s background quotes Hussein Obama’s official portrait.

  10. And of course the take away is that junior/intern/beginning/fellow employees/students should start at the top. The boss should get the coffee/take minutes/do the Google searches, and the nube should run the meeting.

    • The dictatorship of the academic proletarian bright young things who know nothing is very Marxist.

      Certainly, the only sociology worth reading these days is socio-biology.

  11. I have met the charlatan Kimmel. He’s smarmy and unctuous and exudes dishonesty. His crackpot misandric theories are, in his mind, the ticket to big bucks and the approval of women. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t put a quarter in his cup. But he’s going to have to be living in a cardboard box under a bridge before he gets that support from me. Put this antisocial ass-kissing hoaxer out of business.

    • What you say about Kimmel may well be true. Or not. I wouldn’t know; I never met the man (given that he’s a feminist, you’re likely right). But if you’re going to oust someone, using flimsy reasons and bad reasoning isn’t the way to do it.

      Still, there’s a pleasure in seeing people getting bitten by the same snakes they throw at the rest of us.

      • Saturn Black says

        I read a couple of articles from The Guardian (including an interview with him) and he certainly doesn’t come across as a feminist. Some of his ideas sounded left-wing (like his belief that the left is not currently in power nor can they censor free speech), though his focus on research into masculinity would tend to suggest otherwise. One article painted him as alt-right – though when you work with neo-Nazis, it seems likely that modern journalists on the left will associate your political stance with them, so it could just be more of their typical hyperbole.

        I don’t feel any sympathy for anyone who aligns themselves with the left, and agree that you get what you deserve if they decide to turn on you. I guess that even hiring someone like Coston is, in the current climate, a statement of political allegiance (to the left). That is also why I agree with the above commenters and other small business owners who no longer hire women due to the risks they pose. Insulating yourself is a smart choice.

  12. Cerastes says

    Getting someone’s mail and doing lit reviews is a huge imposition and inappropriate? Sociology grad students are freaking pansies. Go to any real science department and you’ll find grad students working 18 hour days, nights, and weekends, working with explosive, toxic, and/or carcinogenic compounds, working with dangerous animals, or out on fieldwork in remote or dangerous locales. Shit, go to any herpetology conference and count the number of folks who no longer have 10 fingers – I personally know several grad students who’ve had life-threatening bites (one from a species with no antivenom).

    But please, tell us about how a four hour round trip in a major city is some sort of great burden.

  13. Bubblecar says

    I can’t see much reason to care about these particular storms and teacups. Much of the supposedly “sociological” and “political” focus of these conflicts is really just concerned with the personal sex obsessions of privileged middle-class time wasters.

    I’d imagine that these dramas are all the more intense in the US, given the American propensity for endless “verbal interaction” and endless over-analysis of imagined slights, combined with excessive conversational intimacy with complete strangers. In a supposedly “academic” environment fixated on sexuality and gender, all kinds of trivial personal neuroses easily replace anything of intellectual substance, to become the main focus of “research and debate”.

    That this then all boils over into accusations and counter-accusations of professional (sic) misconduct, “harrassment” etc should not surprise us but shouldn’t unduly concern us either – it’s very unlikely that anything of value is going on in these places.

  14. Read about what’s been done to medievalist historian Rachel Fulton Brown (petition in her defense here; anyone is invited to sign). The thrust of the problem: Medieval studies are too “white,” and some of the handful of white supremacists out there use medieval imagery. Ergo, any white medievalist is suspect and needs to explicitly disavow racism and go on about it all in class. Or else! Dr. Brown didn’t want to play that game and is being duly punished.

    The rot has to be cut out of academia. At least from the outside, it seems that the average university more resembles Bellevue than an institution of higher education.

    • Bubblecar says

      “Fulton Brown’s conservative beliefs in the value of ‘Western civilization’”

      Interesting. But is she really a conservative defender of “Western civilization”, or a conservative defender of essentially Middle Eastern religion (Christianity), which swamped European civilization during the Middle Ages?

      I’m somewhat suspicious of “defenders of the West” who are actually champions of pre-Enlightenment religion, and its role in societies which bear a much stronger resemblance to today’s most backward theocracies than to modern Western society.

      • “Pre-Enlightenment religion”? You mean Catholicism? Catholics need not apply? Really? (The “city of God” and “the city of man” have always been seen as two different spheres in Catholic thought, BTW).

        Dr. Brown happens to be Catholic, but that has nothing at all to do with her being slandered and libeled by academics possessed by critical theory.

        • Bubblecar says

          It might perhaps then be more honest to describe her as a “Catholic apologist” rather than someone with “conservative beliefs in the value of ‘Western civilization’”, as she is described on that petition page.

      • Steve says

        “a conservative defender of essentially Middle Eastern religion (Christianity), which swamped European civilization during the Middle Ages?”

        Prize for the most intellectually obtuse remark of the summer.

        Seriously man, do you actually think that way?

        • Bubblecar says

          Do I think in terms of historical reality? Normally, yes.

          The historical reality is that Christianity originated in the Middle East and then spread north and west to replace the many indigenous religions of Europe.

          • There’s a reason Peter (the first Pope) and Paul went to Rome. And those indigenous religions you seem nostalgic about were hard on women, engaged in human sacrifices, exposed unwanted newborn babies, etc. Thank God Christianity developed as it did, with its emphasis on reason along with faith, stress on the dignity of the individual, and assertions that the universe is knowable and follows laws, giving rise to science (the method for which having been invented by a Francsican friar, Roger Bacon).

          • Bubblecar says

            @ roccocannoli

            I’m not at all nostalgic for indigenous religions. I’m merely pointing out that apologists for Christianity are not “defenders of Western civilization”.

            Although a Christian phase is part of Western history, Christianity itself is certainly not definitively “Western” – as one of the Abrahamic creeds it is an offshoot of Judaism, as is Islam.

            If one seeks definitively Western contributions to our own (and global) civilization, they are to be found in the philosophical, political and technological developments of the post-Enlightenment era, when science and associated forms of rational thought came to replace religion as the most legitimate source of intellectual authority.

            Without which, we’d still be literally “stuck in the Middle Ages”.

    • It’s amazing that only whites/western culture is bad to some people who are the beneficiaries (their USA “privilege”) of it all. Please explain which country/culture is the correct one so we can know what sort of tyranny or fantasy you enjoy.

      • Bubblecar says

        Who are you talking to? I’m a staunch defender of post-Enlightenment Western civilization.

        But I don’t confuse it with pre-Enlightenment Christian Europe, which was more akin to today’s Islamic theocracies.

        • No, pre-Enlightenment Europe was not more akin to Islamic theocracies. Not sure where you’re getting your information, but you’ve been misinformed.

          • Bubblecar says

            @roccocannoli

            Granted, medieval Europe was worse than today’s Islamic theocracies in many respects. Nostalgia for those dark times is not endearing, but each to their own.

            But if we regard “defending Western civilization” as an important project, surely we should be defending those aspects that are really worth defending: liberal democracy, secular humanism, individual freedom combined with a growing respect for universal human rights, and the liberation of the intellect via science and reason…

            There’s a long list of very worthwhile cultural developments which, while not necessarily unique to the West, have fused to create the most liberal, prosperous, educated and ethically advanced civilization yet to emerge, and we need to take more care of this legacy.

        • Caligula says

          Medieval European society might be said to have consisted of three classes: those who pray (clergy), those who fight (aristocracy) and those who farm (peasants and serfdom, mostly). With authority mostly vested in the first two (although there were a few peasant revolts, especially in the later middle ages).

          Medeival European history can not be understood without understanding conflicts btween church and state, as most obviously expressed in the conflicts over investiture.

          Medeival Islamic culture may be better or worse, but it surely was very different. At a minimum, there is nothing even remotely comparable to Henry IV at Canossa for in medeival Islam there can be no such conflict as church and state are always one and the same.

          Nor was there anything like the multiplicity of principalities and other forms of secular authority found throughout medeival Europe where, until the early modern age at least, secular authority was fractured and contentious as contrasted with the far more centralized authority found in Islamic societies.

          And, yes, it’s true that one can’t understand either without some understanding of the religions which motivated those who lived within them.

          And, finally, if there’s a curse in the contemporary academy it is the curse of presentism, in the assumption that “of course we’re better than those old fools!” and (even worse) the apparently irresistable temptation to judge all the past by the standards of the present.

          Those who lived in the past were not cartoon characters, they were as fully human as we. And although we are incomparably richer and freeer than they, we might at least consider that they would consider us to be incomparably more wicked, if not deluded.

          I’d surely prefer to live in the here-and-now than in any medeival society (as, I suppose, would practically all of us). Nonetheless, an honest and insightful medieval scholarship cannot be premised on a rigid present-ism that remains unable and unwilling to examine these societies on their own terms.

  15. Glitter Afresh says

    I think this article is tedious. I’m not convinced that Coston has some kind of slam-dunk case against the professor, but the energy it takes to sit and deconstruct her argument in this incredibly biased way would be better spent shaving one’s toes or picking the blueberries out of a muffin. What both sides never seem to be able to realize is a fundamental and obvious observation: in certain instances, one or both or none of these theses are true. Or, that there’s a double-snowflake situation going on here.

    I just want to address this concept of microaggressions. Most of the time, a microaggression is something someone who is clueless says because they haven’t taken enough time to realize it’s not the 1950s anymore and the world has changed for white America. I do it all the time — I say to the cab driver with the accent — where are you from? And it took me several months to realize that the answer is “New York City, you fucking idiot” — and that no one asks me where I’m “from” in a sense that they would expect me to reply — “why I’m 98 percent North European, with 58 percent origins from the Britain & Ireland.” The professor is out of line to call women “nurturing” in this day and age and yes — using outdated language and stereotypes to assume characteristics of group members is for the rabble in the districts — not for people who are in academia — whose job it is, as Quillette’s ilk has mistaken, NOT to create an airtight case for biological supremacy, but to actually foment an intellectual approach to the various disciplines that leads to the expansion of egalitarianism. The narrow definition of which the “classical liberal” set defines as legally mechanistic — but anyone with 1/360th of a brainstem knows is far more germane to societal mores, economic power, public space, and psychological peace — a major component of freedom.

    Those willing to defend “offense” at the expense of learning not to be an ignorant jub betray their allegiances at every turn. The microaggression, which they attempt to desperately downplay is the first officer in enforcing power — the microaggression reminds you that you are not normal, you do not belong here, you are X, Y or Z in any situation that I label you and if it just so happens to connect up with a worldview in which I come out on top every time — so be it.

    A person truly concerned about liberty — and a decent person, at that — would seek to free people from this psychological weight — while at the same time decrying government power to compel speech or thought — as in the case of Jordan Peterson’s crusade. Why can both not be true at the same time? What is it about being able to lob the ejecta of your lazy and outdated id into the world as “truth” with no pushback that gets you so exercised? Is it your pride, or is it your position? I think it’s both, along with the refusal to be held accountable for something. And that “accounting” is usually what — being asked to reconsider your position in regard to the person you’ve offhandedly disparaged? What persecution!!

    Notwithstanding, a microaggression is the sublimated twin of identity politics. It just reinforces someone else’s identity — the culture of supremacy, in whatever society it appears. How do people who claim to be so smart not realize these things? My thesis is that it is just refusal. This whole exercise of this magazine and this “movement,” which led to the vomitus of this article, are predicated upon the same emotional and reactionary discomfort they accuse of their opponents.

    The professor seems unable to understand that he needs to be more open minded to a changing world. Just like most people. I agree that this does not warrant a gigantic controversy — but the author of the piece and I agree — a conversation with his superiors and his honest intent to be more inclusive in his worldview is an appropriate first step. Along with a fair investigation into the accusations about paying men more and giving them more opportunities. Perhaps you will err on the side of more men are competent than women. I will err on the side that it is unlikely that a pattern like this would establish itself when viewing the competencies of a group of individuals, without some bias being asserted.

    • “[P]eople who are in … academia — whose job it is… to actually foment an intellectual approach to the various disciplines that leads to the expansion of egalitarianism.” Egalitarianism is now the purpose of academia? LOL We’d do better to focus on the transcendentals, STEM, and sound social sciences, forgetting about political goals — especially when they conflict with each other. One can’t have egalitarianism and liberty at the same time, for ex.

      • Bubblecar says

        On the contrary, liberty without an effective degree of egalitarianism is just liberty for a privileged few.

        The concept of universal human rights attempts to establish a level of equality that enables each individual to freely pursue the life of their choice, within reasonable constraints.

        Of course there’s much debate about how much equality is required and how this should be achieved, how much liberty is required and how this should be achieved.

        But none of this has much connection with the complaints against this sociologist, which seem to have little to do with meaningful concepts of equality.

        It’s just a ragbag of moaning about a self-absorbed boss, with some dogmatic sex-politics jargon added to try to build an improbable charge of “sexual harrassment”.

        • There’s a difference between equality before the law, and equality of opportunity, on the one hand, and “egalitarianism” on the other. And we already have the former stuff in the West.

    • Peter from Oz says

      ”…it’s not the 1950s anymore and the world has changed for white America.”
      And the world may change again. So your whole long diatribe is moot, my dear.
      The only good thing that came out of it was the idea that all good conservatives hold already, that one should behave with kindness to all people as individuals, but not suffer the government to impel such behaviour.

    • Mark says

      Glitter, it’s great what you posted. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and what you wrote is utter rubbish. Complete tosh.

      I ask people where they are from all the time, and I will never stop because a few radical leftists think they can control my language. If someone has an accent, then — shock! horror! — he isn’t from wherever you are. I use it as a conversation starter all the time, because I enjoy talking with people from different places. I often wish I’d meet more people from Iceland or other interesting parts of the world. You don’t know why I say things, and don’t pretend that you do. You do not know me.

      Women are more nurturing. They must be in order to raise children. This is so blatantly obvious I’m surprised I need to explain it to you. There are temperamental differences in women and men, as described by the Big 5. Biological supremacy? I assume you mean science?

      God, more cultural Marxist rubbish. You see the world as oppressors and the oppressed, a gross over simplification.

      One can never police “offense”. Offense is taken, not given, and what is offensive to one person may not be offensive to the next person. You don’t get to define what is offensive for everyone; we don’t need or want your moral judgement on what we say. We do not care.

      You raise a point about compelled speech whilst attempting to do the exact same, a cultural cry of the far leftist.It’s Fine When We Do It.

      We can’t we both be “true” at the same time? Postmodern nonsense. One is either for or against compelled speech. There is no in between.

      Held accountable? By radical leftists trying to police language? No thanks. I’ve read 1984, and I know what you’re trying to do: Enforce your view of the world upon the rest of us by restricting language.

      Deluded. Every sentence of yours.

    • Saturn Black says

      I agree with Mark.

      “The professor… needs to be more open minded to a changing world.”

      Nope. He’s free to be as closed minded as he likes – it’s called being a conservative. And you have no authority to tell anyone what they “need” to be, especially when it’s all about conforming to some radically progressive ideology. When it comes to the left, I am completely closed minded, because they are trying to exploit open-mindedness for ideological gains.

      Stop trying to create a utopia where everyone gets along. It will end in bloodshed – just like it did in the 20th century – and your frail little snowflake allies will just end up getting massacred by the people with all the guns and all the physical strength.

    • ccscientist says

      Did it occur to you that perhaps most of the time “microaggressions” are imagined, not real? Like when feminists get upset that a man holds the door for them? Or a white person likes tacos or wears cornrows? That no one is going around “oppressing” anyone.

  16. AC Harper says

    Look for something hard enough and you will almost certainly find it – even though it might not exist. If you must use Critical Theory as an analytical tool then perhaps you should also use a contrary tool to make sure your analysis of events is balanced?

    It seems to me that (overly broad brush warning) Sociology fits events to a particular theory rather than working out which of many hypotheses might best fit events. If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

  17. david of Kirkland says

    This is too ironic coming from sociologists who should understand society, culture and that no people tend to be another’s ideal. How academics can’t think or are so overly bothered when they encounter something that doesn’t meet their preference is so childish and weak. Yes, cads are out there, as are the female counterparts (per my own biologically based bias).
    I hope that they at least discussed these issues before making such public accusations.

  18. itzik Basman says

    This is a sharp, well argued and judicious piece showing how the uncompromising lens provided by a particular and blinkered theoretical view of the nature of human behaviour can distort reality and turn relative molehills into reified mountains. As to the complaints as presented here, it’s amazing to me that an investigation into them is underway.

  19. Sean says

    There is no such thing as a “rising of class consciousness”. This a fantasy of various elite semi-intellectuals who fantasize that the working class shall rise up and do what the elites think they should do.

    • Saturn Black says

      Yes it’s quite a clever lie to sell to disempowered people in order to manipulate and control them. Just substitute the 20th century proletariat for our 21st century refugees and it’s the same thing all over again. What they fail to realise is that once the refugees have all the power, they aren’t going to listen to left wing elites. They will be butchering everyone with white skin no matter what their political allegiance, and these frail little snowflake academics will capitulate without so much as a squeak.

  20. That day you wake up and realize the place you once pursued a meaningful career in honest intellectual inquiry has become a re-education camp redirected to serve an increasingly authoritarian SJW political agenda. Hope to see you all on the other side, as for myself, “I have become comfortably numb,” as the song goes.

  21. I can’t imagine a worse hell than being a male feminist. Every time the #metoo crowd accuse another male feminist you have to join right in with the lynch mob. At the same time you know that sooner or later, that same lynch mob is coming for you. It matters not if the accusation is false, because even you promote the listen and believe standard.

    • Saturn Black says

      They don’t understand what they’re doing though. If you see through the lies of feminism it’s not possible to go along with them in good conscience. There’s no going back once you’ve been red pilled.

      The male feminists are subservient, they like having a woman in charge. I’m sure they grew up with no male role model and an authoritarian single mother who convinced them that women deserve to be respected no matter how much they hate men. They are a living example of this since these mothers are probably single because they hate men, and children have the innate disposition to listen to whatever their parents say. Thus they’re being brainwashed from an early age.

      It’s then quite natural for young feminist women to step in and mobilise these guys to defend them against the “creeps” and “bad guys” – basically anyone who isn’t willing to capitulate. They don’t realise that one day their own head could be on the chopping block because they always do what a woman tells them and will never step out of line.

  22. C.Laing says

    That this sociologist is probably quite brave for writing this tells you pretty much all you need to know about the current climate.

  23. Gregory Bogosian says

    I hate that we use these allegations of sexual harassment to talk about tangential issues. Both the medium essay accusing Kimmel of making his grad students do his job for him. And this essay accusing sociology in general of inculcating a worldview that creates conflict where there would not be conflict otherwise. I mean, these are worthwhile issues. But that doesn’t excuse a bait and switch.

  24. Phil says

    Daphne Patai, wrote in Heterophobia

    But the most controversial aspect of Heterophobia will surely be Patai’s contention that the SHI is an intentional and extremely successful gambit employed by prominent feminists, such as Catharine MacKinnon, who wish to bring men “to heel.” Patai persuasively argues that the main objective of “sex regulators…is the dismantling of heterosexuality altogether.”
    in
    She also pointed out the use of “emotive analogies” such at the beginning of a sentence using Sexual Harassment and then equating it to the same level as rape.

    “While all accounts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, violence, and exploitation are horrific,”
    Bethany Coston

    I should note at the beginning of her spiel, she sets the stage using a very common script

    “I sat in silence” typically a comment associated with DV of SHI

    “for all these years for many reasons.” again a very familiar script of rationalisation

    “I was originally dependent —” playing the victim

    “ or so I thought” 

    “feared the potential retaliation” again a very common theme of powerlessness

    “very influential scholar” again more about the perceived power dynamics

    “not unlike other survivors of abuse” and here having set the stage with emotion hooks, she wants her audience to see her as being a victim,

    She maybe experiencing a strong case of projection or transference (I get these mixed up)

  25. ccscientist says

    My graduate advisor was an equal opportunity exploiter. I had to confront him right at the beginning that I would not be doing errands irrelevant to my thesis work. I had to risk getting fired. But because I was head and shoulders above the other students, I pulled it off. The idea that all students are equal in talent, that a prof must obey his “woke” female students, etc is just childish. That profs exploit their grad students is hardly news.

  26. Tony Criswell says

    Ms. Coston (I hope that title doesn’t offend you; I won’t dignify you with the term “Professor”): People like you will always find someone to hate. As others have said, that hate can easily be turned back on you. May you always have someone to blame your sad state of unhappiness on. You will certainly never have real happiness. You wouldn’t know what to do with it if you did.

  27. Andy says

    Sociology departments attract the worst people. The issues describes in the article pale to some of the things i’ve seen.

  28. I read this article and wondered “where is the sexual harassment”. Apparently, there was none between Coston and Kimmel (from the Medium essay: “Honestly, it’s bewildering to me that Michael seems only worried about rumors of sexual harassment. To be clear, he should be worried about those; in the #MeToo era, it was only a matter of time — given all we’ve borne witness to — -that he’d be exposed. While I was lucky enough to never be targeted by Michael for that kind of academic grooming, I’ve heard from multiple people in person and through the whisper network who were.”).

    While I have no truck with Coston’s leftist linguistic jujitsu, I also think this Quillette essay was poorly framed (as it’s hook was all about sexual harassment), and I’m not sure what the take away is supposed to be… Schadenfreude… a deeper understanding of the left… what else? All I came away with thoughts of how I could have otherwise spent my time.

  29. markbul says

    At some point, if you’re not a vicitm, you’re not doin’ it right.

    The best thing we could do for these people – all of them – would be to fire them all and make them get real jobs. It would do wonders for them.

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