[CONTENT NOTE: sexual harassment, assault and rape.]
The battle over Michigan State University’s women-only lounge began with a rival school’s male professor.
Mark Perry, who teaches economics at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus, had stumbled upon a news story about the 91-year-old room in MSU’s sprawling student union. “They’d written about what a great space this is for women,” Perry said. “They can go in and take a nap and not be worried about being bothered.”
So a d00d professor at a different college read about this great space for women at MSU, a place where they can relax and study without worry of being harassed by—let’s be clear here—men. And he said to himself, “Wow, I’m so glad for the women of MSU. I wonder how I can help institute the same thing here at University of Michigan?”
Hahaha. I’m just kidding.
He figured it couldn’t be legal. Banning men from a taxpayer-funded study area, Perry thought, could violate Title IX, a federal law meant to protect gender equality on college campuses. So he contacted the school. Nothing changed. He sent a complaint to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights in June, but the department would not accept it because Perry had not personally endured discrimination.
Professor Perry’s Civil Rights™ were totally being violated at a different university where he neither attended nor worked. Won’t someone think of the discrimination this man did not endure?
Then a writer for conservative news site The Daily Caller highlighted his grievance in a July 12 story.
His grievance, people. This poor man was aggrieved! And nobody cared…except for one heroic blogger at The Daily Commode.
Perry, who blogs about financial issues for the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think [sic] tank, followed up with a post of his own the next day: “Is it really legal for a public university to blatantly violate the civil rights of 50% of its student body?”
Next up from the nutty professor: “Is it really legal for a public university to blatantly violate the civil rights of 50% of its student body by prohibiting men in women’s locker rooms and showers?”
Two days later, MSU quietly shuttered the women-only lounge.
Female students promptly revolted.
Alyssa Maturen, 19, had just switched dormitories to live closer to the lounge, where she studied at least three times weekly. The sophomore marine biology major preferred the option to MSU’s gender-neutral places, where, she said, male students have interrupted work to ask her out.
She created a petition on July 18, writing, “Together we can take back our lounge.” By Wednesday, nearly 5,000 people had signed it.
“I’m signing because as a male, I’ve never felt threatened in a public space in my life, but every woman I know has,” one student commented on the Change.org petition. “I’ve never had to worry about people staring at me or coming up to me and forcing conversation on me while I’m trying to study, but every female college student I know has.”
“I myself have specifically used the women’s study lounge when initially going to the co-ed area to study, but then was harassed by a male student especially late in the evening, which continued even once I told him that I couldn’t talk and had to get my work done,” wrote another.
“I’m signing this because I use this space and it is one of the few areas that I feel safe,” wrote another.
WHAT?! Safe spaces are for “coddling students who can’t handle the real world.” If you find you need a safe space on a college campus, you need to “leave, go home, hug your teddy & suck your thumb until ready for university.” OBVIOUSLY.
Let’s just take a look at the “real world” at MSU, shall we?
Close to 25 percent of female undergraduate students at Michigan State University have been sexually assaulted and 12 percent have been victims of attempted or completed rape, according to a survey conducted by MSU and the Association of American Universities.
Of female students surveyed, 24.8 percent experienced completed or attempted nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching involving physical force or incapacitation…Of female MSU students raped through physical force, 71.9 percent did not report the incident.
Well golly. That’s ONE IN FOUR. But why would women not report their violent rapes? How can we
blame help victims if they won’t even do us the courtesy of coming forward?! Hmmm…
The U.S. Department of Education determined Michigan State University did not do enough to investigate two Title IX complaints and had a poor process for dealing with sexual assault accusations.
In a report released [in September 2015], federal investigators said MSU’s process for dealing with sexual assault complaints was not compliant with Title IX regulations. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex.
“Its failure to address complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence in a prompt and equitable manner caused and may have contributed to a continuation of a sexually hostile environment for numerous students and staff on campus during the years covered by [the Office of Civil Rights]’s investigation, 2009 to 2014,” the report stated.
Alyssa Maturen’s petition to reopen the women’s study lounge also notes that the “lounge was a space where sexual assault victims could go and feel safe, a space away from their attacker.” I mean, what kind of world do we live in where we can just violate the civil rights of harassers and rapists willy-nilly? All men must have access to every space, including—nay, especially!—those where women victims of sexual assault and harassment seek refuge. To ban men from a single room is the exact same thing as denying them access to educational opportunities on the basis of sex! This is nothing short of persecution at its most egregious, people. MISANDRY!!!11!!
Some faculty members don’t think Title IX belongs in the discussion.
“It’s disturbing and troubling to see Title IX invoked in this manner,” said Lisa Schwartzman, associate chair and graduate program director of MSU’s philosophy department. “The Women’s Lounge is the one women-only space on campus. The claim that its very existence denies men access to an equal education is absurd.”
Perry disagrees. The Flint professor notes that women now outpace men in college enrollment and degree attainment…You can make a case that men need more help than women on certain dimensions,” he said. “Men are the ones that have fallen behind on college campuses.”
Now I’m just spitballin’ here, but maybe if there weren’t so many entitled creeps among them, men as a group would have better academic outcomes? It seems like it would be kind of difficult to disturb, harass or sexually assault ONE IN FOUR women while simultaneously focusing on one’s coursework.
Title IX was passed in 1972, stating that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Still, Adaku Onyeka-Crawford, counsel for education at the National Women’s Law Center, said Title IX has allowed for single-sex housing and single-sex facilities.
Not to mention single-sex sports programs. I guess none of the colleges that receive federal funding has an all-male football team. Who knew? Hopefully someone will come along soon and mansplain to me how the existence of a women’s
locker room study lounge interferes in any way with the educational programs, activities or opportunities available to men at MSU. Well, except for the constitutionally guaranteed opportunity to harass women everywhere at all times. That’s the civil right that’s really important here. Not, say, a woman’s right (under Title IX or otherwise) to access educational programs, activities or opportunities at a university without being constantly preyed upon by entitled douchebros.
Of course, conservatives hate Title IX; they are uniformly opposed to equality in principle. Shutting down the women’s lounge is typical of their transparent and petty “gotcha!” game, wherein they pretend to care about gender equality while perfectly demonstrating that their views are exactly opposite. I doubt I need to remind anyone here that these are the same assholes who want to strictly segregate everyone based on their biological sex in public restrooms, FFS.
If we lived in a world where equality existed, women would not require separate spaces to avoid harm by men. But we do not live in that world. Here in the real world, safe spaces for women are needed to mitigate gender inequality. Not because women are weak (they are not) or need to be coddled (they do not) but because they can sometimes use, you know, a break from gendered harassment and abuse in order to fucking read a textbook.
Alyssa Maturen’s petition to reopen the women’s lounge is here if you’re inclined to sign and share it.
Here’s a suggestion: if men are such fragile incompetents that they simply cannot take advantage of all the educational opportunities and activities at a publicly funded college if they are denied access to the women’s study lounge, maybe they need to leave, go home, hug their teddies and suck their thumbs until ready for university.
Oh, and one more thing.
Michigan State was one of more than 100 schools being investigated for similar Title IX complaints. Among them was the University of Michigan; the report from that investigation has yet to be issued.
I’m sure with such exemplary professors as Mark Perry running around, the University of Michigan has absolutely nothing to worry about.