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Tuesday, 09 February 2010

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Ahistoricality

I don't think you're quite striking at the heart of this yahoo yet, because not only does he see it as a god-given right, and as fun, he sees it as the right thing to do. Enacting this version of masculinity, and celebrating the versions of femininity that he does, is not just a personal aesthetic entertainment, but a deliberate attempt to influence the body politic in a reacculturation of traditional (and valued) gender roles.

The version of the uncomfortable female student with which you're empathizing is unfamiliar to him, except as an example of someone who is inadequately, or incorrectly, educated in the "realities" of the world and tragically alienated from her own "true" but distinctly feminine agency. The discomfort which you believe he imposes is a pedagogical stepping stone to his version of correct understanding. It's not an accident or an oversight: it's no different, in his mind, than your attempts to make students realize how bad their writing is at the beginning of a sememester.

Luther Blissett

Dunno. This guy sounds like a douche bag, but provided this is a private blog -- i.e., not one sanctioned by the institution and not one that's on his file as research or service -- he has as much right as anyone to recklessly eyeball models.

It's like saying that a guy who admits to liking *America's Next Top Model* at work is guilty of sexual harrassment.

Ahistoricality

Minor point: just because it's got naked women, doesn't mean that it's anti-feminist. I wonder if Douglas actually looked at the photoessay in question?

Martin Wisse

Ehh.

As long as the blog isn't course/work related (ie students have to look at it) what he does in the privacy of his own internet is his business. His students are free to judge him for it, but really can't complain of being harassed.

Ahistoricality

As Scott points out in comments over at lefarkins, Douglas recommends his site to his students without actually requiring it. In other words, they're not just stumbling across his private LJ/FB: he's pointing them in that direction and writing with the foreknowledge that some of his students might be reading at his behest. As legal liability goes, IANAL, but it seems to me that he's smack in the gray at that point. He's also running a risk with regard to female colleagues, by the way, especially if he serves on promotion/tenure committees.

Luther Blissett

If checking out pictures of bikini models were grounds for harrassment, every women at work with a copy of the Delias, Victoria's Secret, Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, etc. catalogues would be equally as guilty.

Being a lusty heterosexual male is not illegal, even if one is a teacher. Being a letch TO ONE'S STUDENTS is illegal, even if one is otherwise Puritanical.

Ahistoricality

illegal ≠ unprofessional

Vance Maverick

Ahistoricality, I think you're actually managing to land a few blows where Scott did not. And Luther, read in this context, your last comment looks like exculpation by obfuscation. In particular, if Douglas is suggesting his students read his blog, then he's coming very close to "being a letch to [his] students".

Rich Puchalsky

I agree, Ahist is on a roll on this one.

The only place where I'd disagree -- and yes, I know that I'm one of those annoying people whose first impulse when they read something that they mostly agree with is to argue with it -- is with the last-comment focus on "unprofessional". There are problems with treating academics as professionals, I think. If we accept that he's invited students to look at his blog as part of his course intro, this becomes a plain workplace-environment matter, which should be the same for everyone professional or not.

SEK

Ahistoricality:

Enacting this version of masculinity, and celebrating the versions of femininity that he does, is not just a personal aesthetic entertainment, but a deliberate attempt to influence the body politic in a reacculturation of traditional (and valued) gender roles.

Absolutely. However:

The discomfort which you believe he imposes is a pedagogical stepping stone to his version of correct understanding. It's not an accident or an oversight: it's no different, in his mind, than your attempts to make students realize how bad their writing is at the beginning of a semester.

This implies a form of self-awareness that all teachers should be required to have, but which Douglas clearly doesn't.

Minor point: just because it's got naked women, doesn't mean that it's anti-feminist.

But claiming you're opposed to feminism does; so, too, does objectifying women in the manner of a lusty eighth grader.

Luther and Martin:

He does recommend that students visit his site, and he can't have it both ways, i.e. it can't be a private, personal blog that he also recommends his students read in his professional capacity as their instructor. Moreover:

His students are free to judge him for it, but really can't complain of being harassed.

I didn't say he was harassing them, necessarily: you can be unethical and unprofessional without crossing the line. I've seen professors make a sport of toeing it.

P.T. Smith

I think it's necessary to keep in mind that a "recommendation" from a person who is in a position of power over you carries a lot more weight than a recommendation from someone else. Students are trained to key into things that professors recommend.

SEK

And these are the most vulnerable students: community college kids who will be needing letters of recommendation to transfer to 4-year institutions.

Ahistoricality

Me: Minor point: just because it's got naked women, doesn't mean that it's anti-feminist.

SEK: But claiming you're opposed to feminism does; so, too, does objectifying women in the manner of a lusty eighth grader.

I meant this as a criticism of Douglas' charge against Edroso: the VV photoessay actually strikes me as very much in line with what is sometimes called "pro-sex feminism" which valorizes physical realism and shared pleasure rather than the adolescent photoshopped wanking objectification Douglas traffics in (and gets traffic from, etc.)

I also don't agree that Douglas lacks intentionality and pedagogical purpose. He might not be self-aware enough to realize it, but he's openly and aggressivly participating in a cultural reeducation project. Itseems to me that he revels in the discomfort his habits engender, that he thinks it is a healthy dissonance with a potentially productive end. There are areas where he's clearly lacking in self-awareness, rhetorical skill, etc., but I'm not convinced this is one of them.

Rick: I know that I'm one of those annoying people whose first impulse when they read something that they mostly agree with is to argue with it

So am I, friend, so am I. In this case I think we each have half a point: it's entirely reasonable to treat the academic environment like any other workplace in many regards, but it's also true that we talk about specific professional obligations of teachers towards their students as being something distinct from other commercial interactions.

Luther Blissett

If he's asking students to check out his blog, and the blog makes it clear that he enjoys these pictures for sexual reasons (and not, say, aesthetic reasons), this is sexual harassment.

repsac3

UPDATE: In a new version of the argument, semi-nude hotties on his blog are a bulwark against political correctness and Marxist totalitarianism.

No, really.

SERIOUSLY.

American Power: Political Incorrectness

Protecting America from Stalinism, one barely legal topless chick in a thong at a time...

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