Australian universities appear to have completely capitulated to the virulently anti-male propaganda of radical feminists. Feminists increasingly control what is taught in our faculty departments, even influencing faculty recruitment, where preference is given to women and minority groups. Faculties are presently lowering academic standards in hiring in order to be politically correct. This necessarily lowers the quality of education offered to students and the standards of scholarly publication. The point is not merely that white males have been subject to systematic discrimination in higher education, though that is clearly unacceptable. Free speech is also under serious threat at Australian universities. ‘Speech codes’ and ‘sensitivity training’ severely limit what can be said on campus. And fines are imposed on many campuses for causing ‘offence’.
The feminists haven’t just done a great harm to academic freedom and the intellectual function of our universities. Their insistence that women are the victims of male harassment has made our campuses particularly unsafe places for male students and academic staff, who are regularly subject to all forms of harassment and increasing demands that they toe the feminist line. Male faculty also feel the oppression of such ideology. They are required to use ‘sensitive’ language in the classroom and any ‘insensitive’ remark will result in formal complaints followed by an internal hearing notable for its lack of due process, and then academic suspension or a requirement to attend ‘sensitivity training’. Refusing to accept such a humiliation can bring dismissal, with further university employment unlikely.
Far more serious are the accusations of rape by female students who consented and later changed their minds. Consider the following scenario: A female student comes to a male student’s home planning to stay the night with him. The next morning she is seen having a peaceful breakfast with him at a cafeteria on campus. Later she changes her mind, accusing him of raping her. Of course, no jury would convict on such facts. And yet, universities have dealt with a number of such complaints where the accusers might not be genuine rape victims and their stories haven’t been tested in court. They are ‘she-said, he-said’ stories revolving around sexual consent that would not usually result in jury conviction without compelling evidence beyond all reasonable doubt.
American universities have their own utterly flawed and inquisitorial investigation system. Look up the case of Emma Sulkowicz, Columbia’s ‘mattress girl’ who falsely accused a fellow student of rape. He successfully sued the university. For such situations, nearly every US campus applies the lowest possible legal standard of proof and dispenses with protections for the accused such as the right to confront witnesses. Recently, Harvard law professors protested that ‘Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required by… law or regulation.’
Ironically, this disturbing reality in the US appears to have motivated our universities to initiate their own campaign against sexual assault and harassment on campus. Having accepted $1 million from ‘Universities Australia’, the Australian Human Rights Commission ‘worked very hard’ to find data that conformed to the ‘university rape culture’ narrative of the radical feminists, doing everything they could to provide evidence of ‘endemic rape culture’. No doubt to their disappointment, the survey found that only 1.6 per cent of students reported having been sexually assaulted in a university setting in 2015-16. According to Bettina Arndt, one of the nation’s leading sexual therapists and clinical psychologists: ‘The researchers did everything they could to produce evidence of the “rape epidemic”… Even the loose definition of assault didn’t do the trick: “a person forced, coerced or tricked into sexual acts against their will or without their consent, including when they have withdrawn consent”. And the report acknowledged the response rate of 9.7 per cent represents people “who are motivated to respond”. All of this plus years of publicity promoting the rape scare campaign and still such tiny numbers reporting sexual assault.’
Arndt also says that our universities were given these results ahead of time, ‘yet vice-chancellors… indulged in virtue-signalling exercises proving they’re willing to respond to the [alleged] rape crises’. In other words, they have entirely capitulated to the radical feminist agenda. As a result, Australian universities are developing rape-prevention and sexual harassment awareness campaigns and policies that make young men increasingly unsafe and uncertain about their relationship with women. Perhaps for their own self-protection (or because they have been brainwashed) some men will take the ‘women’s side’. Yet they may still find themselves answering accusations of sexual assault or harassment. According to Arndt, ‘feminists want these men convicted and are browbeating universities to sidestep the criminal justice system to ensure more men are punished’.
Sexual harassment, of course, is a very serious problem and the concerns of feminists are not groundless. In early cases female plaintiffs were able to challenge unwanted sexual overtures in the workplace by using the common law remedies of tort and contract. However, feminist scholars have rejected this approach on grounds of ‘the conceptual inadequacy of traditional legal theories to the social reality of men’s sexual treatment of women’. Their primary objection to a tort remedy is that it treats harassment as a personal affront. They prefer to approach the issue in terms of the ideological feminist claim concerning the ‘systematic persecution’ of women as a gender in our western democracies.
According to Catherine MacKinnon, a feminist legal scholar, ‘by treating incidents as if they are outrages particular to an individual woman rather than integral to her social status as a woman worker, the personal approach… fails to analyse the relevant dimensions of the problem.’ Thus MacKinnon argues that merely labelling harassment a breach of contract is subjecting women to male standards of behaviour that limit the scope of the law. Rather, she wants the courts to classify instances of ‘verbal insensitivity’ or ‘speech offence’ as equally valid forms of sexual harassment; a crime that is already prohibited in the United Sates under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Initial attempts to adopt MacKinnon’s theory were rejected by the courts. However, in 1986 the US Supreme Court held that a woman can successfully sue her male employer for sexual harassment not only because of clear sexual overtures but also because of a ‘hostile work environment’. In contrast to earlier cases where employers could be sued for pressuring their employees to exchange sexual favours, in Maritor Savings Bank v Vinson the Supreme Court decided that, in order for an accusation of sexual harassment to be valid, there’s no need for employers to make any sexual demand. Instead, the court adopted feminist theories whereby not only an ‘abusive’ work environment constitutes a form of ‘sexual harassment’, but also ‘voluntariness in the sense of consent’ cannot be used as a defence to charges of sexual assault or harassment.
Another fatal blow to the common law construction of sexual harassment came in the 1991 case of Ellison v Brady. There the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California famously ruled that even a well-intentioned compliment is sufficient to bring a successful lawsuit if a woman subjectively finds such a compliment by a fellow co-worker to be ‘offensive’. This goes in line with the broad definition of the leading feminist organisation in the UN, the National Organisation for Women, which declares that sexual harassment must be more creatively construed in order to comprise ‘any discriminatory remarks that cause the recipient discomfort’. Such a definition by this powerful feminist body draws on radical ideology which assumes that inequality and coercion are ‘frequently associated’ with gender interaction in the workplace. Hence, the mere ‘appearance’ of harassment is labelled ‘an anguishing experience’; punishable by the law. Writing on this, Michael Weiss of Houston Law School and Cathy Young argue that such vagueness is comparable to replacing speed limits with a law under which one could be fined for driving through a neighbourhood at any speed which made residents uncomfortable.
As one may expect, to adopt personal feelings of ‘discomfort’ as the ultimate test for sexual harassment can be extremely dangerous. Because such a test is highly subjective, it naturally and rather seriously undermines numerous forms of previously protected legal speech. Nevertheless, feminist scholars appear to take delight in producing such undesirable outcomes. In the words of two leading US feminist scholars, Susan Strauss and Pamela Espeland, ‘whether harassment has occurred is truly in the eye of the beholder – or the ear… The deciding factor is the feelings a particular phrase, gesture, or behavior evokes in the individual on the receiving end’.
Given such a remarkable definition of ‘harassment’ it is no wonder that feminist scholars often claim that 85 per cent of all American women have been sexually harassed in the workforce at some point in their lives. While nobody should ever diminish the seriousness of workplace harassment – a serious matter deserving the attention of the law and our public authorities – innocent lives can be destroyed under the present conditions since the current approach creates an environment of undeniable fear and intimidation that is potentially hostile to traditional rules of cordiality and civilised behaviour. Indeed, on the basis of such subjective criteria even an innocent and polite gesture to a workmate may be construed as ‘sexual harassment’.
It would not be unfair to say that today’s feminist theory goes far beyond the original and widely supported goal of promoting equal rights and treatment for both genders. Inspired by postmodernist philosophy, feminist jurisprudence has caused a major impact on many areas of the law, including rape, self-defence, domestic violence, and sexual harassment. According to Weiss and Young, the pressure of feminist legal scholars has already ‘resulted in increasingly loose and subjective definitions of harassment and rape, dangerous moves to eviscerate the presumption of innocence in sexual assault cases, and a broad concept of self-defence in cases of battered wives that sometimes amounts to a license to kill an allegedly abusive spouse’.
Unfortunately, however, our universities have completely capitulated to the demands of feminist ideology, allowing it to create a profoundly anti-male environment on our campuses. There are now far more female than male uni students, and women are entering the academic profession in much larger numbers. For the reasons explained above, this is hardly surprising, nor that so many young and talented men are now reluctant to initiate tertiary education that puts them at considerable risk. With women already comprising more than 60 per cent of graduates, many are concerned that males will be further discouraged from entering university. Yet such valid concerns seem only to fuel the rage of radical feminists who appear to believe that any improvement of men’s social condition is something to be avoided at all costs.