POLITICAL Correctness had a banner year in 1991. A batch of new "isms" was announced, many new oppressions were discovered, and opponents were soundly thwacked and occasionally gagged so that a kinder, gentler campus might emerge. Here are some highlights:
HOW MANY RACISTS CAN DANCE ON A PIN? A knotty problem in PC theology arose at the University of Cincinnati when a group of Arab students were taunted during a Gulf War rally. The Student Senate condemned the offenders for racism, but that criticism could not apply to the sole black student spotted in the crowd because the official administration handbook says that only whites can be racist. What to call a black who shouts "Arab, go home"? An Egyptian student, Khalid El-Shazly, had the answer: Just call him a "European-influenced African." Theological problem solved.
DEAD PAINTER HARASSES PROF. Nancy Stumhofer, professor of English at Penn State's Schuykill campus, has been sexually harassed by Goya's famous painting, "Naked Maja." Any picture of a nude female, she argued, "encourages males to make remarks about body parts." The offending picture had hung on the same classroom wall for 10 years before it began harassing Stumhofer. It has been exiled to a student center, where it is presumably on probation.
EXCITING YEAR AT BINGHAMTON. The little-known State University of New York-Binghamton had a big-league PC year, comparable to a few weeks at Stanford or Oberlin. At Binghamton:
-- A student was charged with lewd and indecent behavior for posting two Penthouse centerfolds on his dormitory door. (A student panel found him guilty but the administration later dropped the charges.)
-- As part of freshman orientation, new students were divided up into a "wheel of oppression" to show how minorities are held down in America.
-- Pipe Dream, the university newspaper, reported that one example of sexual harassment in the economics department was this compliment: "She's so smart, and pretty too."
-- A mob of 200 students, apparently under the impression that a white supremacy rally was going on, invaded a lecture hall, brandishing sticks and canes. They harassed the speaker, calling him a "white dork devil," breaking a framed picture he was showing to the crowd and punching a student outside the hall. Actually the speech, sponsored by the non-PC group the National Association of Scholars, was on conditions in Berlin.
THERE GOES "MAN AND SUPERMAN." It's "weeding," not "censoring," when books are permanently removed from the shelves of the Mildred Magowan School Library in Edgewater Park, N.J. "Read About the Policeman" was weeded because it should have said "police officer." "The Negro in America" was pulled because it should have said "black" or "African American." "I don't want you to think we are censoring books," said librarian Martha Palmieri, adding that many books have to go "due to racial, ethnic and sex bias." The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that "weeding" is taking place across New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
WORDS AND OTHER OFFENSES:
-- The Asian American Journalists Association issued a pamphlet saying that reporters should never use the word "industrious" to describe workers or students of Asian-Pacific heritage. Other dangerously stereotypical and off-limits words for Asian-Americans included "reserved," "quiet," "philosophical," "serene" and "smiling."
-- At the College of William & Mary, guidelines to non-sexist language said that the new term for "unwed mother" is "mother." "Kingpin" becomes "key person," "Truman's widow" becomes "Bess Truman" and the phrase "male chauvinist," apparently redundant, is now simply "chauvinist."
INDIANS JUST DON'T GET IT. At the College of William & Mary, a movement to change the nickname of sports teams from "the Tribe" to something less offensive ran into a problem: an enterprising reporter for The Remnant, a conservative campus newspaper, interviewed all the chiefs of Virginia's resident Indian communities and found that every one of them liked "the Tribe" and wanted to keep it.
AND THE MINKS OF MY WIFE'S COAT ALL COMMITTED SUICIDE. The Eddie Bauer catalog offers pitch-saturated kindling wood "felled by lightning or other natural causes."
ARIZONA BATTLES NERD OPPRESSION. The Diversity Action Plan of the University of Arizona concerns discrimination against students because of "age, color, ethnicity, gender, national origin, physical and mental ability, race, religion, sexual orientation, Vietnam Era veteran status, socioeconomic background and individual style." Understandably, the general idea is to get behind everybody who is not a straight white male, but wait - what is "individual style" doing on this list of victimizations? In response to a telephone query, "diversity specialist" Connie Gajewski explained that this category would include nerds and people who dress differently. "We didn't want to leave anybody out," she said.
ONLY WHITE GUYS CAN READ THIS ITEM, SINCE IT WAS TYPED BY ONE. Ms magazine has a new rule: Articles about lesbians must be written by lesbians.
FREE AND OPEN DEBATE, PC-STYLE. The highly correct University of Michigan sponsored a three-day debate on PC. Taking no chances, the sponsors invited 21 speakers who either favor PC or deny it exists and three speakers who oppose PC, then labeled the conference "The PC Frame-Up: What's Behind the Attack?"
POSSIBLE NEW NAMES FOR INCORRECT FOOTBALL TEAMS:
Washington Redskins - Washington Native Americans.
Dallas Cowboys - Dallas Bovine Persons.
New York Giants - N.Y. Spatially Challenged Individuals.
-- The city of Berkeley, Calif., has canceled Columbus Day and will celebrate Oct. 12 as Indigenous Peoples Day.
-- Myths about Columbus may not be studied or discussed at the University of Cincinnati. Its Student Senate has declared the university "A Columbus-myth-free campus."
WITCHES IN THE NEWS.
-- Not one witch was named to the committee planning the 300th anniversary commemoration of Salem's infamous witch trials. Laurie Cabot, the official state witch of Massachusetts, called this shocking snub "a hate crime."
-- Feminist Witch Margot Adler, dressed in orange and black for Halloween, said New York City has telephone covens, made up of stay-at-home witches who do magic over the phone. Ms. Adler works as a cultural and political correspondent for National Public Radio.
-- The University of Wisconsin-Madison's center in Sellery Hall for non-whites, formerly the multicultural center, is now the Center for Cultural Enrichment.
-- At the University of Michigan, doling out jobs by race and gender is known as "enhancement." ("Too often in recent years we have seen faculty searches that are literally `replacement' searches rather than `enhancement searches' " - from "The Michigan Mandate," campus bible of diversity-speak.)
-- The new term for politicized teaching is "the scholarship of advocacy."
WHY THE FIRST AMENDMENT MAY BE DOOMED. "My essential point is that the First Amendment does more for men than it does for women by protecting speech that supports patriarchy." - Law Professor Mary Becker, University of Chicago Law School.
A MILESTONE IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT. Richard Hummel, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Toronto, said his sexual harassment case cost him and his university more than $200,000 in costs and fees. Hummel was convicted in 1989 of "prolonged and intense staring" while swimming in a university pool. Maclean's columnist Barbara Amiel called the case "the utter debasement of the genuinely serious nature of sexual harassment."
AND WE THOUGHT IT WAS ABOUT WATER! At the Smithsonian's first genuinely PC art exhibit, a painting of cowboys defending a water hole was said, in a press release, to reflect "the plight of an embattled Anglo industrial elite in an era of strikes and widespread immigration."
CAN IT BE HIS EQUIPMENT? Jan Kerkhoven, a male feminist and a doctoral student at Stanford's School of Education, was barred from a class in feminist studies. As the Stanford Review reports it, the department said that Feminist Studies 203B was oversubscribed. Nonsense, Kerkhoven said, "Nineteen students enrolled and I was the only one excluded." Kerkhoven acknowledges the pervasiveness of male dominance and the savage oppression of women. That is the correct view, but he also wanted to take a wider "humanist" perspective and discuss the dehumanization of society (i.e., males and females). That was incorrect. He quoted the class lecturer, Susan Krieger, as saying that he "didn't have the right commitment to a gendered outlook."
NEW WORD ALERT. "Phallocentrism," a feminist term, has been merged with the PC/Deconstruction epithet "logocentrism," to form the new jawbreaking word for overmacho, overrational white males known as "phallogocentrism." Coming next year: phallologoeurocentrism.
(Copyright, 1992, Universal Press Syndicate)