Showing posts from March, 2017

Free Speech Fundamentals FAIL: J.S. Mill

“A feminine philosopher” I have a love-hate relationship with J.S. Mill's On Liberty . I love that Mill describes the Middle Ages as a time when it was possible for an individual to be a “power in himself...if he had either great talents or a high social position.” Not so, according to Mill, in the present age: At present individuals are lost in the crowd. Mill was writing in 1859, but it could almost be now, don't you think? Does any of this sound familiar? In politics it is almost a triviality to say that public opinion now rules the world. The only power deserving the name is that of masses, and of governments while they make themselves the organ of the tendencies and instincts of masses. Mill blamed the “whole white population” in America for this state of affairs, while “in England” it was “chiefly the middle class.” Their thinking is done for them by men much like themselves, addressing them or speaking in their name, on the spur of the moment, through the n

The Jesus Story

Sixteen hundred years ago, a man asked a friend for advice. The man was anxious because he had gained a reputation as a teacher for speaking well, but when students were brought to him for instruction, he became tongue-tied. He was particularly upset because at times in the course of a long narration he found his speaking profitless and distasteful even to himself, and he was worried that his teaching was doing more harm than good. “Help me!” he begged his friend. “Tell me what to say!” His friend replied: "First and foremost, you need to enjoy what you are talking about." Actually, that is not quite what his friend said. It was somewhat more formal. But the gist was the same. "In reality," the man's friend replied, "we are listened to with much greater satisfaction...when we ourselves also have pleasure in the same work; for the thread of our address is affected by the very joy of which we ourselves are sensible, and it proceeds from us with greater ease

Boys with Tits

Title IX wants girls to be boys. Doubt me? Name a single originally female sport that high school, college, and university women play. No, not gymnastics, that was originally a guy thing. But it doesn't really matter. According to Wikipedia (my go-to source for what the Woman in the Street knows), at the collegiate level the five top women's varsity sports as of 2008 were 1) basketball, 2) volleyball, 3) soccer, 4) cross country, and 5) softball, while, as the article notes approvingly, "since 1972, women have also competed in the traditional male sports of wrestling, weightlifting, rugby, and boxing." Why on earth should women want to play rugby? Well, why do men? I was thinking about this question last night on my way to fencing practice. My audiobook for the drive these past several weeks has been Robert Tombs's  The English and Their History , and last night he was talking about Victorian manliness. Specifically, about the way in which "the Victorian

The Fear of the LORD

"Ecce, homo" Antonio Ciseri (ca. 1860-1880) Alan Levinovitz wants you to know that C.S. Lewis espoused poisonous ideas that should not be tolerated . In Levinovitz's words: The longtime best-selling book of Christian apologetics--C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity --calls for religious nationalism ("all economists and statesmen should be Christians") and argues that God wants men to be the head of the household. These are popular ideals, but they are poisonous and deserve fierce resistance, not complacent tolerance. My colleagues at the University of Chicago would seem, on the whole, to agree. One writes to me, in response to my Sightings article: As an adherent to the principle of free speech, I also adhere to the notion of a firewall between religious belief--as opposed to analysis of belief--and secular teaching. By my lights, secular, enlightenment reasoning is a very good thing. With the corollary, it would seem, that religious belief is, well,

Mirror, Mirror

Of the responses to my blogging for Milo that I have gotten from colleagues over the past few weeks, this exchange is perhaps the most interesting. It comes from a Facebook conversation screen-captured for me by a friend in academia. The three speakers are women. To judge from the photos that I have been able to find, they are all younger than I. I believe they are all in my own discipline of medieval studies. Certainly, they identify as feminists. And they have clearly seen photos of me, whence their conversation. I shared this conversation with Milo. His response? "This is what winning looks like." Which is to say: They're jealous. I have the handsomest boyfriend on campus, and the other girls can't stand it. Well, maybe not on my campus, since he has not yet brought his tour to the University of Chicago. But on college campuses across the country and, if the Glasgow students vote the right way tomorrow, even back in the U.K. Except, of course, many of

Seven with One Blow

I can hear my father: "Now, Rachel, don't be nasty." Aiming points Fiore dei Liberi, "Il Fior di battaglia" (ca. 1410) Getty Museum, MS Ludwig XV 13, fol. 32 Four weeks, a day, and a lifetime ago,  Sightings   published my article " Why Milo Scares Students, and Faculty Even More ." Two weeks and a day before that, Milo had planned to give the last of his talks on his Dangerous Faggot Tour, but had had to be evacuated by his security team when the protests on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, became too violent for the campus police to contain. By the beginning of February, I, of course, had been writing on this blog in support of Milo, his method , his message , and his fans for over four months, ever since the College deans at the University of Chicago sent out their now infamous "no safe spaces" letter to our incoming freshmen . As I know now, my blog had already been exciting comment on my own campus, so when