Samstag, Mai 30, 2015

Feministinnen verärgert über Feministinnen, die Feministin der sexuellen Diskriminierung bezichtigen

Die Überschrift dieses Blogbeitrags klingt womöglich verwirrend. Ich versuche es, so einfach wie möglich zu machen:

Laura Kipnis ist eine bekannte feministische Professorin, die allerdings mit der an amerikanischen Unis grassierende Sexualhysterie ("Rape Culture", Trigger-Warnungen, "safe spaces") massive Probleme hat und diese Entwicklung in einem Aufsatz kritisierte. Diesem Aufsatz zufolge herrscht inzwischen an vielen Universitäten ein bedrückendes Klima der Angst. Wer dies hinterfrage, würde augenblicklich als "Antifeminist" oder Sexualverbrecher gebrandmarkt. Wie Genderama im März berichtete, gab es gegen diesen Aufsatz feministische Proteste.

Nun gibt es an amerikanischen Hochschulen seit 1972 ein mit Title IX bezeichnetes Gesetz, das vor sexueller Diskriminierung und sexuellen Übergriffen schützen soll.

Diese Vorschrift wird nun gegen Kipnis angewandt, wie diese im Chronicle of Higher Education berichtet:

When I first heard that students at my university had staged a protest over an essay I’d written in The Chronicle Review about sexual politics on campus — and that they were carrying mattresses and pillows — I was a bit nonplussed. For one thing, mattresses had become a symbol of student-on-student sexual-assault allegations, and I’d been writing about the new consensual-relations codes governing professor-student dating. Also, I’d been writing as a feminist. And I hadn’t sexually assaulted anyone. The whole thing seemed symbolically incoherent.

(...) I assumed that academic freedom would prevail. I also sensed the students weren’t going to come off well in the court of public opinion, which proved to be the case; mocking tweets were soon pouring in. Marching against a published article wasn’t a good optic — it smacked of book burning, something Americans generally oppose. Indeed, I was getting a lot of love on social media from all ends of the political spectrum, though one of the anti-PC brigade did suggest that, as a leftist, I should realize these students were my own evil spawn. (Yes, I was spending a lot more time online than I should have.)

(...) Things seemed less amusing when I received an email from my university’s Title IX coordinator informing me that two students had filed Title IX complaints against me on the basis of the essay and "subsequent public statements" (which turned out to be a tweet), and that the university would retain an outside investigator to handle the complaints.

I stared at the email, which was under-explanatory in the extreme. I was being charged with retaliation, it said, though it failed to explain how an essay that mentioned no one by name could be construed as retaliatory, or how a publication fell under the province of Title IX, which, as I understood it, dealt with sexual misconduct and gender discrimination.

(...) I wrote back to the Title IX coordinator asking for clarification: When would I learn the specifics of these complaints, which, I pointed out, appeared to violate my academic freedom? And what about my rights — was I entitled to a lawyer? I received a polite response with a link to another website. No, I could not have an attorney present during the investigation, unless I’d been charged with sexual violence. I was, however, allowed to have a "support person" from the university community there, though that person couldn’t speak. I wouldn’t be informed about the substance of the complaints until I met with the investigators.

Apparently the idea was that they’d tell me the charges, and then, while I was collecting my wits, interrogate me about them. The term "kangaroo court" came to mind. I wrote to ask for the charges in writing. The coordinator wrote back thanking me for my thoughtful questions.

(...) I made what sense I could of my wildly mistyped notes and emailed the investigators a summary, adding that I’d answer only questions related to the charges I’d been informed about. I wrote up a peevish statement asserting that the essay had been political speech, stemming from my belief, as a feminist, that women have spent the past century and a half demanding to be treated as consenting adults; now a cohort on campuses was demanding to relinquish those rights, which I believe is a disastrous move for feminism. I used the words "political" and "feminist" numerous times.

Kipnis kommt nun auf die generelle Situation an den Hochschulen zu sprechen:

As I understand it, any Title IX charge that’s filed has to be investigated, which effectively empowers anyone on campus to individually decide, and expand, what Title IX covers. Anyone with a grudge, a political agenda, or a desire for attention can quite easily leverage the system.

And there are a lot of grudges these days. The reality is that the more colleges devote themselves to creating "safe spaces" — that new watchword — for students, the more dangerous those campuses become for professors. It’s astounding how aggressive students’ assertions of vulnerability have gotten in the past few years. Emotional discomfort is regarded as equivalent to material injury, and all injuries have to be remediated.

Most academics I know — this includes feminists, progressives, minorities, and those who identify as gay or queer — now live in fear of some classroom incident spiraling into professional disaster. After the essay appeared, I was deluged with emails from professors applauding what I’d written because they were too frightened to say such things publicly themselves. My inbox became a clearinghouse for reports about student accusations and sensitivities, and the collective terror of sparking them, especially when it comes to the dreaded subject of trigger warnings, since pretty much anything might be a "trigger" to someone, given the new climate of emotional peril on campuses.

I learned that professors around the country now routinely avoid discussing subjects in classes that might raise hackles. A well-known sociologist wrote that he no longer lectures on abortion. Someone who’d written a book about incest in her own family described being confronted in class by a student furious with her for discussing the book. A tenured professor on my campus wrote about lying awake at night worrying that some stray remark of hers might lead to student complaints, social-media campaigns, eventual job loss, and her being unable to support her child. I’d thought she was exaggerating, but that was before I learned about the Title IX complaints against me.

Kipnis kehrt nach diesem Exkurs zu ihren eigenen Erfahrungen zurück:

That was our only face-to-face meeting, though there were numerous phone calls, emails, and requests for further substantiation, including copies of emails and tweets. I tried to guess what all this was costing — two lawyers flying back and forth to conduct interviews of the complainants, myself, and an expanding list of witnesses, review the sources for a 5,200-word article, adjudicate their findings, and compose a thorough report. I’m no expert on legal fees, but I was pretty sure the meter was ticking in $10,000 increments.

I’d been asked to keep the charges confidential, but this became moot when, shortly before my campus meeting with the investigators, a graduate student published an article on a well-trafficked site excoriating me and the essay, and announcing that two students had filed Title IX retaliation complaints against me. She didn’t identify her source for this information or specify her own relationship to the situation, though she seemed well versed on all the inside details; in fact, she knew more about the process than I did.

(...) She was also surprisingly unconcerned about how effectively her article demolished its own premises about the asymmetry of institutional power. If a graduate student can publicly blast her own university’s president, mock his ideas, and fear no repercussions, then clearly the retaliatory power that university employment confers on anyone — from professors to presidents — is nil. Nor had my own essay exactly had a chilling effect on anyone’s freedom of expression.

Warum muss ich hier an die Kindergarten-Stasi des deutschen Blogs Münkler-Watch denken, die von einigen ebenfalls als machtlose Guerilla-Kämpfer im Konflikt mit machtvollen Unterdrückern phantasiert werden?

Zuletzt kommt Kipnis auf die haarsträubende Situation zu sprechen, die damit verbunden ist, dass Title IX auch für "sexuelle Übergriffe" gelten soll:

Ambivalent sex becomes coerced sex, with charges brought months or even years after the events in question. Title IX officers now adjudicate an increasing range of murky situations involving mutual drunkenness, conflicting stories, and relationships gone wrong. They pronounce on the thorniest of philosophical and psychological issues: What is consent? What is power? Should power differentials between romantic partners be proscribed? Should eliminating power differences in relationships even be a social goal — wouldn’t that risk eliminating heterosexuality itself?

Nothing I say here is meant to suggest that sexual assault on campuses isn’t a problem. It is. My concern is that debatable and ultimately conservative notions about sex, gender, and power are becoming embedded in these procedures, without any public scrutiny or debate. But the climate on campuses is so accusatory and sanctimonious — so "chilling," in fact — that open conversations are practically impossible. It’s only when Title IX charges lead to lawsuits and the usual veil of secrecy is lifted that any of these assumptions become open for discussion — except that simply discussing one such lawsuit brought the sledgehammer of Title IX down on me, too.

When it comes to campus sexual politics, however, the group most constrained from speaking — even those with tenure — is men. No male academic in his right mind would write what I did. Men have been effectively muzzled, as any number of my male correspondents attested.

(...) A week or so earlier, the investigators had phoned to let me know that a "mediated resolution" was possible in my case if I wished to pursue that option. I asked what that meant — an image of me and the complainants in a conference room hugging came to mind. I didn’t like the visual. The students were willing to drop their complaints in exchange for a public apology from me, the investigators said. I tried to stifle a laugh. I asked if that was all. No, they also wanted me to agree not to write about the case.

I understand that by writing these sentences, I’m risking more retaliation complaints, though I’m unclear what penalties may be in store (I suspect it’s buried somewhere in those links). But I refuse to believe that students get to dictate what professors can or can’t write about, or what we’re allowed to discuss at our Faculty Senate meetings. I don’t believe discussing Title IX cases should be verboten in the first place — the secrecy of the process invites McCarthyist abuses and overreach.

Versuche, abweichende Stimmen zum Schweigen zu bringen, gehören bekanntlich auch in der deutschen Geschlechterdebatte längst zum Alltag: Thomas Gesterkamp, Michael Seemann sowie die Heinrich-Böll- und die Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung hängen sich hier dermaßen rein, als ob sie die totalitäre Gesellschaft überhaupt nicht mehr abwarten könnten. Was in den USA der Title IX ist, ist hierzulande der Vorwurf von Frauenfeindlichkeit und Rechtsextremismus. Das erzeugte Klima der Angst wird überdeutlich in den zahlreichen Leserzuschriften an Genderama, die alle ausdrücklich darum bitten, nicht namentlich genannt zu werden.

Bemerkenswert ist, dass der Irrsinn inzwischen so groß geworden ist, dass auch das feministische Flaggschiff Jezebel hier nicht mehr mitgehen kann. Während Jezebel gerne gegen Männerrechtler hetzt, wenn diese abweichende Meinungen vertreten, zieht man dort eine Linie, wenn eine feministische Verbündete getroffen wird:

For the rest of the insane and increasingly paradoxical twists to Kipnis’ ordeal (which is still ongoing), including the Title IX investigators asking Kipnis if she would like to file her own retaliation claim against the students, read her dispatch here. It is a stunning example of feminism devouring itself.

Genderama wünscht guten Appetit.

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