Feminists Say The Darndest Things, Mike Adams, Sentinel, February 2008
Mike Adams, Professor of Criminology at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, is nothing if not a provocateur; few other impulses can explain a book entitled Feminists Say The Darndest Things. Adams, as the title amply demonstrates, has an eristic disposition massively ill-suited for the modern academy; this is why the average reader is fortunate that Adams perseveres in his profession, and writes about it. Feminists Say The Darndest Things is a selection of Adams’ correspondence to colleagues that furnishes an illuminating portrait of pious academic feminism that’s not merely thin-skinned but actively censorious and relentlessly proselytizing.
Adams writes a lot of letters, and given what goes on around him, you can understand why. He wrote to question the tolerance of a colleague who commented, about a faculty candidate: “This guy went to West Point. He may be too conservative to teach here.” He wrote another colleague who stormed out when he questioned allegations of sexual harassment leveled against his department chair. She declared, in response to his comment “I will not sit here and listen to a police interrogation.” He wrote a colleague who believed that a student who lodged a fake rape accusation (to get out of an exam) should suffer no punishment. And those are just the people with whom he works. Missives also go out to the Northern Kentucky University professor who encouraged her students to destroy an anti-abortion display on that campus, and the Duke Professor who resigned from her committee assignments in indignation at the re-admittance of the falsely-accused Duke Lacrosse players.
That’s just a sampling; there are 61 letters in the book (one, to Abigail Adams, presumably went unread). Most aren’t as consequential as the examples I noted above, but point out both a reflexive hostility to criticism on the part of their targets, and a relentless presumption that the academy should reflect their own values in even the most trivial cases. It’s good to see, gathered in one volume, stories from a professor canceling classes to protest the Iraq War and offering extra credit to her students to protest, to Adams’ removal from a faculty senate email list after he complained about political discrimination on the campus (see, Adams was completely wrong!). Stories about the political character of the academy are often dismissed as mere anecdotes; Adams’ dossier makes clear that they’re common responses from an entrenched academic community intensely jealous of any threats to the primacy of their worldview.
Adams’ wide range is the greatest strength of the book, offering a surfeit of evidence about campus lunacy; unfortunately, it also raises questions about Adams’ seriousness. Does it really build his case to suggest that a professor shouldn’t kiss her partner (a former student) in the university hallway? Or to include a letter criticizing a professor based upon RateMyProfessor.com indications that she talked about sex in class? Or a letter observing that some simpering females were slavish friends of gay males? Or the letter asking why a colleague thought that “marriage is a better deal for men than it is for women.” With so many ripe targets in evidence, it’s frustrating that Adams tarries on comparative distractions.
Regrettably, Adams’ tone cements the impression of a lack of discernment in his topic. Insouciance pervades the book from the first page, and generally all the better to puncture his humorless feminist targets (with chapter headlines such as “Not All Feminists Are Dogs”) but Adams’ tone slips beyond cheek into rash derision on a number of occasions. References to a student worker as “the one who never wears a bra to work” or other low-blow jabs about unshavencolleagues add nothing to the volume’s force. Other observations, however jestingly offered, seem questionable or tasteless; is the reason for the obsequious behavior of some females towards gay males really that “gays have a tendency to break down emotionally at the slightest hint of disapproval”? Is suggesting that a student’s advocacy of sex toys is a good thing because “playing with fake sex organs will impede [her] ability to spread sexually transmitted diseases to unsuspecting partners” any advance in improving the campus climate of thought? Is the repeated use of a dog symbol really useful in order to coyly use “[bitch]-slapped” as a chapter title? You can imagine what the cat symbol represents.
Given how vital much of what Adams has to relate is, and how worthily most of his subjects deserve exposure, it’s keenly disappointing to see the book’s energies dissipated in scattershot tangents and pointless aspersions. I’d recommend the book to anyone concerned about the state of the modern university, but I’d understand why many would put it down. Adams has written a book that seems destined to be read only by those convinced that he’s right; with some temperate changes, he could have offered a far more useful expose.