A few notes before you begin:
(1) Wendy McElroy, the feminist rape survivor mentioned in the UBC Manifesto, has put a copy of the Manifesto on her site. I highly encourage you to listen to her talk at Brown University on her experiences and the rape culture (also available in the Manifesto); it's very powerful.
Wendy McElroy at Brown University, talk on Rape Culture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3_ty5jKkX0 http://wendymcelroy.com/print.php?news.8309 www.ubcmanifesto.com
This 'rape culture letter' to President Santa J. Ono has also been posted (not by me!) on ifeminists.com, edited by the same feminist rape survivor, Wendy McElroy: http://www.ifeminists.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.1420
This rape culture letter has also been posted by Wendy on her personal site: http://wendymcelroy.com/comment.php?comment.news.8338
Here is more about Wendy McElroy from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendy_McElroy
(2) I am convinced I represent the truly progressive voice on this issue; unless we can have honest, comprehensive, research-based discussions of the causes of rape/sexual assault, then I don't think we can comprehensively and progressively solve the problem. I want UBC students, including my sister, to be safe. (3) Many people, including many women, were initially apparently shocked when I was collecting signatures that I was critiquing the common form of the rape culture narrative. However, once I had explained myself and was understood, the great majority signed my nomination forms. I needed 50 signatures total; I received over 100 signatures in one day. The great majority of people I approached in person ended up signing to nominate me.
As promised in: https://www.reddit.com/UBC/comments/6zrvhx/reddit_reconciliation_franz_kurtzke_for_vp/
This letter is long, but it’s significant too. Catch you next on the 15th (tomorrow), with the original Viewpoint Diversity Letter, also to President Ono.
*** For now, please consider spreading the message of the candidacy on Facebook, Twitter, etc. The details of my campaign have been added to www.ubcmanifesto.com
until the end of the campaign. Send UBC students in your networks there. Remind them to vote Sept 18-22. Send them this info: "Franz Kurtzke for VP Academic. If you are a current UBC Student, put a reminder in your calendar to vote: + VOTING DAYS: Sept 18th till 22nd at 4PM + VOTING LOCATION: https://amsvoting.as.it.ubc.ca
Franz Kurtzke aka Franzpostings
Addition to Viewpoint Diversity Letter of April 16, 2017; Topic: Censorship Incident at 'Ubyssey' Student Newspaper Dear President Ono,
(I am again bringing a paper and audio copy of this letter to your office for reference and records. Also as before, although the letter is not short I am convinced it is worth your attention, and that it is not a waste of your time. Please read this at your convenience; I am aware you have a very busy schedule. Thank you.)
I know that our formal introductory meeting on August 4th is only 30 minutes long, so I want to provide you with some more background which I think is important to share with you before then, so there is time then to address other topics (ideally, briefly any thoughts you may have on the Chicago Principles, non-obstruction of protests policy, viewpoint diversity, and of course the main topic of UBC 101). I would like to give you one example of something that has happened to me at UBC involving lack of viewpoint diversity. I don't believe in trigger warnings, as you know, so I won't offer one here, but do know that this is going to get controversial quite quickly.
When I had the initial meeting with [name removed] (June 6) about my proposal for UBC 101, I told her about the censorship incident at the Ubyssey which I referred to briefly in my original letter to you (page 7 of the letter, "[I was] censored actively [by the paper] for introducing a research-based proposal for an article questioning a tenet of popular liberal campus ideology"); this incident had in part inspired my desire for more viewpoint diversity on campus. Here are the details of the incident, a story which I think is part of what inspired [name removed] to act so difficult/hostile toward me (though I absolutely still maintain that her behaviour was not appropriate especially given her non-partisan administrative role, and she should have tried to hear me out more sincerely, since I have thoughtful and careful points, even if they are complex and involved). This story is just the most dramatic of activist-type events I've experienced at UBC, though there have been others:
I took a UBC course on human sexual psychology. I scored an A+ in this challenging upper-level course. As part of the curriculum, we discussed theories of rape, for example the courtship disorder theory, which views paraphilic rape as an extreme failure in courtship development (where for example voyeurism can represent a failure to locate a sexual partner appropriately, and frotteurism can represent a failure to make physical contact appropriately). This is my memory of the theory, anyways. It's been a while. I think we might also have touched upon sociobiological theory (what I think of as being 'rape as an evil evolutionary adaptation'), though I'm not sure.
I noticed that the psychology course never spoke of 'rape culture', among the theories, though rape culture is the only theory of rape I ever heard publicly on campus. At one point, my sister moved to UBC and joined me here as a student; she is training as a scientist in a neuroscience PhD program. She was concerned about sexual assault and safety due to past incident(s) at UBC publicized in the media. Somewhere around this time I was also in communication with an editor at the Ubyssey about writing some philosophy articles for the paper. (I had walked into the paper to complain that it had the feel of a small town sanitized paper, and that I wanted it to be more challenging and interesting; I was offered the chance to write for the paper.) I considered bringing my ideas together in an article.
In the Ubyssey office I informally pitched an article based on research, to explore the questions of the theories of rape I learned in my course, how these relate to the common rape culture narrative on campus, and what the research says about the relative causal contributions etc. (There are even more theories and possibilities than those mentioned in my course; for example, criminal psychopaths might rape people for their own criminal psychopathic reasons). As well, I wanted to find definitions of rape culture, since I was not entirely sure what it meant, and I said as much at the paper. Basically, I wanted to take a kind of analytic, philosophical approach to the question, and to the question of campus sexual assault safety policy related to this, to use the philosophy and psychology I've learned on campus to engage with a common/loud/relevant narrative in campus culture.
I was mobbed.
I was surrounded by an increasingly large group of students in the Ubyssey office, especially young women, angry that I was questioning the rape culture narrative at all. Even though I explained about my psychology course, and that I'd scored an A+ and why I felt there was more to say about this topic, that I had genuine questions and was not simply denying the concept of rape culture, for about an hour I endured being ganged up on by a group of people trying to shame me into abandoning the topic, and spouting off about ideology. I was told certain things I've come to recognize as part of a standard campus narrative. This narrative is that we live in a patriarchal society, where sexual violence is widespread to the point it is normalized, where women are oppressed with a 20-some percent wage gap simply on account of their being women, and rape is simply about power dynamics and is an outgrowth of this system of oppression. Also, that because I am a man, I cannot understand related topics enough to discuss these with credibility.
I am someone who enjoys controversial topics, so some part of me knows that people are likely to find some topics upsetting. My professor of the human sexuality course, whom I consider a wonderful and accommodating person, said once that he thinks my autistic tendencies are in some ways a kind of 'superpower' in that I don't get as upset or offended engaging with some of these controversial issues as other people do. I also realize this puts me in danger sometimes, and I try to manage it (mostly by avoiding people, and avoiding controversial topics, much as I love them). I enjoy controversial issues because to my mind they are 'the highest mountains to climb' when it comes to philosophy; this is where I can use my verbal talents to tackle socially relevant challenges of the greatest kind.
Yet, what concerned me most about the incident at the Ubyssey was that there really was absolutely no reasoning or having dialogue with these students, and it did not present as a discussion so much as a group of people attempting to 'thought shame' me into silence. I was treated as if I was crazy and evil, not simply controversial and coming from a different knowledge background worth considering. I was basically attacked repeatedly by people in a group repeating the same narrative points over and over again. Ultimately, I was socially pressured out of the paper, and when the editor I was working with brought my concerns about censorship to a coordinating editor, my concerns were dismissed and the censorship stood.
My viewpoint had been completely silenced.
It is not just that I disagree with the people who silenced me. After doing related research, I see many issues worth discussing: what is 'the patriarchy', and how do we know this is not some kind of conspiracy theory? what is it we are talking about exactly?; I am extremely skeptical that rape and sexual violence are considered normal or are normalized in our society, and in fact my impression is quite the opposite from essentially every discussion I've ever had on this subject (rape is considered a very serious crime, and even unproven rape accusations can ruin men's lives); there are plenty of issues with the 20-some percent wage gap claim, not just based on logical issues in how this number has been reached generally, but also the more direct economic argument that if employers could hire equally qualified workers for equal jobs at a 20+ percent discount, if I were an employer, I'd simply hire all women, and soon I suppose the discount would disappear from the market; further, my course in sexual psychology and my interest in evolutionary psychology made me very skeptical that rape is only about abstract power relations, and can never just be about sex. These are all intellectual concerns that arose when I thought about having being bullied into submission at the Ubyssey.
I thought what happened at the Ubyssey was wrong, and I planned to go to the Senate with my concerns, thinking this might be a reasonable route. I went back to my sex psychology professor, and he confirmed my suspicion that there are indeed alternative theories to rape culture, and there is still controversy in this area that could be explored fruitfully. However, I was then advised by my mentor (a philosophy professor and former president of the UBC AMS) that I should not pursue this topic publicly on campus, as the radical feminists will publicly slander me and call me a 'rape apologist' (let alone that this term, while very ugly, is basically ridiculous if it were applied to my desire to research and discuss this topic). He advised me that I should wait at least until I have an undergraduate degree to publicly get involved with this kind of topic, because essentially the feminist activists and related activists will publicly mob me even worse than what I got at the Ubyssey, even for trying to rationally discuss the questions, even coming from a good-hearted and sincerely thoughtful place. For this reason, his advice that I was not safe to pursue this topic on campus, I did not proceed.
Let me add here a very important point. Part of my logic for wanting to write on rape culture is that UBC has limited resources to deal with campus sexual assault. If people are insisting that 'rape culture' is the one and only cause of rape, and that we simply have to educate the public to stop rape, to 'teach boys not to rape', then we might actually have a real problem if rape culture is not the only cause, and these methods are not a comprehensive solution. If other reasons are at play, throwing all resources into fighting 'rape culture' actually may not be the most progressive or intelligent (economical?) approach to the issue. I thought that I am actually the truly progressive person in this argument at the Ubyssey, since I want to research evidence based interventions and policies. Also, it is not that rape culture is a taboo topic at the Ubyssey; far from it. It is very easy with a Google search to find multiple Ubyssey articles about rape culture, but not a critical one based on research as I had proposed! (See for example the article "Our activism on rape culture is meaningful", Laura Fukumoto, Ubyssey, Nov. 6, 2013) I was forced out for trying to introduce a different viewpoint, based on research. This relates directly to my concerns about viewpoint diversity at UBC.
However, the activist-minded young people at the newspaper had no real interest in dialogue. I was actually told during the meeting "How can you think you are right when all of us are disagreeing with you?" There was no understanding of the dangers of group think, or of intellectual history, which shows paradigms repeatedly being overthrown. I knew from reading about people like Socrates and Spinoza that the lone individual can absolutely be more correct than a passionate mob, and frequently is. My philosophy training had taught me about how to have dialogue, but these other students seemed to lack the understanding of how to have dialogue about this relevant campus cultural issue, how to handle viewpoint diversity.
All of this comes together to make me realize (along with other related but less extreme things I've experienced at UBC) that there is a campus issue involving viewpoint diversity, and an individual cannot fix it alone. I am making no claim, I will emphasize, about the existence or non-existence of rape culture, as I am not even sure what it means or what its dynamics are. I am defending the need for universities to be a safe space to discuss dangerous ideas. Because, if there should be any place to discuss challenging ideas soberly and in a civilized manner, it should be a top university. If we scholars are not going to study the hard ideas, then I suspect nobody will, and then society is walking blind.
I have some final points, a bit rougher so please excuse the roughness. I am trying hard to understand, and some of these points are more impressionistic than I'd like, but I am open to any feedback or education:
- I am concerned that feminist intersectionality and standpoint theory (what I have gathered about them from my research, attempts to understand what is going on), while fine when taken as a hypothesis for further research or to consider different views, these are in practice being interpreted quite rigidly and used as an excuse for new and creative forms of bigotry and shutting down dialogue. In philosophy, we are taught that ad hominem arguments are fallacious; however, ad hominems are now being justified using some of these ideas, it seems (e.g. you are a straight white male, and are not qualified to speak about people outside your group or issues that affect them, even if you are attempting to logically understand things sincerely using research)
- I have great difficulty making sense of the campus activist culture, but the most coherent explanations I've found so far explain it at least in part as a transformation of Marxist thought, where instead of focusing primarily on class struggle the focus changes to group identity politics, labelling people by their group (race, sex, sexual orientation, etc) and claiming intergroup struggle, oppression and victimization; some analyses I've heard of these politics suggest that the worldview may include that dialogue and logic are oppressive forms of violence, because the only truth about life is the power struggle between the groups, and so there is an underlying disrespect for the very concept of dialogue and search for truth on which the university is traditionally built. At any rate, there is a startling lack of individualism; it is like a form of group think.
- I reached out to a professor from GRSJ (recommended by a contact in the sociology department) with a polite detailed email to ask about how to learn more or to meet with her to better understand trends I am seeing and consider GRSJ courses to learn more, and she did not offer useful advice or to meet. I felt marginalized. As a white male I actually don't feel safe to register in GRSJ courses, and I have doubts about registering in some other disciplines; I have to be very careful, I feel, about avoiding environments where I will face hostility on account of the colour of my skin and my birth sex. I have had other males tell me the same. I also am not convinced that some disciplines are committed to open and critical dialogue, for reasons I have already mentioned (ideological priorities etc, insisting reality fit theories rather than testing the theories against reality) Another issue I've had is dealing with jargon coming from some of these areas I am talking about; I feel as if the ideas are quite difficult to engage with because of the language barrier, let's say.
- I also went into a social justice group meeting chaired by a handful of GRSJ professors, and I was treated very disrespectfully when I suggested that leftist language policing is backfiring, paradoxically undermining progressive goals/ideals and contributing to the rise of some right wing politics. I expressed this from a position of frustration as a liberal sort of person myself!
- students (and professors, I suspect, from things I have read and seen) are scared of being labelled by activists as racist, transphobic, homophobic, sexist, Islamophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic etc etc and/or being dragged through university equity procedures on exaggerated or unfair charges, and so there are huge areas of discussion that are basically blocked off to intellectual inquiry. It seems to me that these above types of terms are in some cases being used as kinds of rhetorical tools (?) to stifle dialogue.
- I am a ballroom and blues dancer (have been years in UBC Dance Club) and dance with several trans people. One of them has even come to me, and she has asked what I think about the social justice and radical feminist activist trends. When I shared all my criticism, she said she agreed and thinks they are actually making things worse for her by using her as a political pawn, essentially. I know this is anecdotal, and this letter is not about trans issues, but it was meaningful to me, and I think it shows some part of my spirit in approaching life, and where I am coming from.
Because I don't feel safe attending GRSJ courses (whether accurately or not), since I don't want to subject myself to discrimination which I would be paying tuition for, and also, because in my opinion analytic philosophy (the kind generally taught in English speaking post-secondary schools) has basically ceded too much traditional philosophical territory on social and political issues to activists rooted in different kinds of philosophical thinking, even as a philosophy major I feel unable to handle or respond to this situation, or to fully understand it. I imagine people without philosophical training find it that much more difficult or impossible to understand and manage what is going on.
This is why UBC 101, and/or orientation, need to have a component to teach students in how to have civilized and open critical dialogue, and avoid e.g. groupthink and bullying (however well-meaning). If we can train the grassroots in their rights and obligations toward one another as UBC students and scholars in training, they can be more courageous. Also, if we can support free speech with e.g. the Chicago Principles adoption (or whatever in this area) as well as a policy of protest non-obstruction, I am confident that the student body will do their part to reinvigorate dialogue. Basically, we empower the students to feel confident to think critically and speak openly, while at the same time signalling from the administrative level that the university is oriented toward truth as its guiding light, its telos.
I know this is a long, detailed letter, and I hope it doesn't reflect badly on me. I am somewhat terrified to discuss these topics after my experience at the Ubyssey and the disastrous meeting with [name removed], but I have come too far now to give up, and I really care about these issues. I have tried hard to remain sincere and thoughtful, to maintain my integrity, even when I am sure many others would have given up.
Sincerely, Franz Kurtzke
P.S. Although questioning rape culture as the main or only narrative on this serious social problem is taboo here on campus, it's actually been featured as a question critically in many boring(?) mainstream publications read by the general public, and my position of analysis and criticism is technically justified. In fact you'll note I took a much softer position than some others do. I will include links just to show examples of how I am not at all alone in this line of thinking, in terms of society at large. But for the activist types, this was too sacred a narrative to question on campus. My argument is that we should not have topics too sacred to question at university.
P.P.S. At one point in my research I found online a recorded public talk by a UBC philosophy professor about rape culture. He did not mention the alternative psychological theories of rape in this 20+ minute lecture. I believe this was part of the Social Justice Centre's "Re-Taking the University" conference on student activism, 2014. I contacted the professor about the alternative psychological theories I'd read in my psychology class, and very much to his credit, he admitted he'd never heard of these alternative or complementary psychological theories. This is another unfortunate consequence, perhaps, of an environment in which people are not talking to each other across disciplines and sharing ideas openly and freely? This video clip is still hosted on the UBC Social Justice Centre channel of YouTube. The professor (who I think deserves great respect for being honest about only finding out about the psychological theories from my contacting him) teaches the Sex, Gender and Philosophy course (PHIL 334) at UBC.
[VIDEO AND NAME OF PROFESSOR REMOVED OUT OF RESPECT; I ASK THAT YOU RESPECT HIM TOO AND JUST CONTINUE READING]
THE MAINSTREAM PUBLICATION CRITICAL ARTICLES AS MENTIONED ABOVE:
TIME: "It's Time to End 'Rape Culture' Hysteria" (Caroline Kitchens, Mar 20, 2014) http://time.com/30545/its-time-to-end-rape-culture-hysteria/
It's Time to End 'Rape Culture' Hysteria time.com On college campuses, obsession with eliminating “rape culture” has led to censorship and hysteria. At Boston University, student activists launched a petition ... USA TODAY: "The 'Factual Feminist' debunks stats about sexual assault and the wage gap" (Toni Airaksinen, Feb 22, 2017) http://college.usatoday.com/2017/02/22/the-factual-feminist-debunks-stats-about-sexual-assault-and-the-wage-gap/
The 'Factual Feminist' debunks stats about sexual assault and the wage gap college.usatoday.com “As a feminist and an academic, I felt the need to set things right.” U.S. News: "The Rape 'Epidemic' Doesn't Actually Exist: Statistics don't support the contention that 'rape culture' is pervasive." (Caroline Kitchens, Oct. 24, 2013) https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/economic-intelligence/2013/10/24/statistics-dont-back-up-claims-about-rape-culture
Statistics Don't Back Up Claims About 'Rape Culture ... www.usnews.com
A group of 100 protesters – including many topless women – recently marched the streets of Athens, Ohio chanting, "Blame the system, not the victim" and "Two ...
TIME: Rape Culture is a 'Panic Where Paranoia, Censorship, and False Accusations Flourish' (Christina Hoff Sommers, May 15, 2014) http://time.com/100091/campus-sexual-assault-christina-hoff-sommers/
Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a TIME contributor, and author of several books, including The War Against Boys.
AS WITH PREVIOUS POST(S), PLEASE ONLY ONE QUESTION AT A TIME, AND I DO NOT CONSIDER MYSELF OBLIGATED TO ANSWER QUESTIONS FROM PEOPLE WHO SEEM TOTALLY CLUELESS, ESPECIALLY AS IF THEY HAVEN'T READ THE LETTER, OR SEEM LIKE SJWS WASTING MY TIME.