Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I can't help myself

I try not to crib from James Taranto's "Best of the Web" too much, but some items are too juicy to pass up:

Last week we noted a bizarre op-ed piece from Kathy Rudy, a professor of "women's studies" at Duke, who described herself as a supporter of animal rights but proceeded to defend erstwhile NFL player Michael Vick's involvement in illegal dogfighting on the ground that he is black.

Many readers wrote to ask us or to tell us that Rudy was one of the infamous "Duke 88," a group of Duke faculty members who signed an ad that listed quotes, purporting to come from Duke students, about the rape allegation against lacrosse players, which turned out to be a hoax. The original ad seems to have disappeared form the Web, but a copy is here.

What's more, according to this page, Rudy was not among the 89 Duke faculty members (which included some who had been among the 88 and some who hadn't) who signed a "clarifying statement" which said the ad had not been intended to prejudge the rape case--not a terribly believable assertion, but at least an implicit acknowledgment of error.

Blogger KC Johnson--co-author of "Until Proven Innocent," which is reviewed today by Abigail Thernstrom and is available from the OpinionJournal bookstore--has more background on Rudy, a tenured associate professor:

Upon first coming to Durham, Rudy recalled that she "moved quickly into the lesbian community because there was a growing sentiment in feminist discourse that lesbianism was the most legitimate way to act out our politics." Within this "progressive" neighborhood in west Durham, "Many of us thought that by avoiding men and building a parallel, alternative culture, we were changing the world . . . I managed to live most of my daily life avoiding men all together, and spent most of my social time reading, dreaming, planning, talking, and writing about the beauty of a world run only by women, . . . free of [men's] patronizing dominance." Rudy and her fellow radical feminists oriented their activities around "the ideas that women were superior and that a new world could be built on that superiority."

But problems soon emerged.

Durham's radical feminists were white and middle-class, but Rudy's social group had two "Black women." The duo "began to use race as a category of political analysis, when they declared that they--as Black lesbian women--were more oppressed than the rest of us." The two women exposed an uncomfortable truth: "If one identity-based oppression was bad, two or three or more was worse."

Their action, Rudy reminisced, challenged the founding principle of radical lesbians in Durham and elsewhere: "That we--as women--were oppressed, so much so that identification as the oppressor then seemed impossible. For us at that point, the equation was simple; men dominated and oppressed women . . . Complexifying this equation to include race meant identifying ourselves as white oppressors; it meant, therefore that our politics were now less absolute, we ourselves less pure." This development produced uncomfortable questions, such as "Could we stand to see ourselves as oppressors and still exist in such an ideologically pure community? Could we purge ourselves of racism by loving Black women but not Black men?"

They say America has the world's finest system of higher education. If that is true, there are scores of other systems--perhaps as many as 200--that are worse than the one that produced Kathy Rudy. This is going to give us nightmares for a long time.

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