While sifting through emails from numerous college clubs desperately trying to bribe students with free food from off-campus restaurants (take a hint Bon Appetite), I was delighted to find the latest “demands” from Hamilton College’s “The Movement.” (For those familiar with my bathroom habits, I am a member of the Irregular Movement.)
I’m aware that many of you mindlessly delete or do not check your inboxes regularly. The Movement’s latest crusade demands that Hamilton College install one gender-neutral bathroom for every one male and female gendered bathroom in college buildings. As I have stated in past articles, I sincerely empathize and, to the best a cis-gendered White male can, understand the various concerns and issues faced by the transgender community. I firmly believe the college should, to the extent it’s possible, make Hamilton College a welcoming community for all of its members.
However, there are legitimate intellectual and logistical concerns when trying to meet these demands.
For one, and perhaps most obviously, a number of Hamilton buildings simply do not have the capacity to create new restrooms, which means older bathrooms have to be converted. Perhaps ironically, progressive government building mandates have codified the number of gendered bathrooms for many establishments. Usually, there must be a roughly 3:1 female to male bathroom ratio because women use restrooms more often than men. Taking away gendered bathrooms for gender-neutral bathrooms, it seems to me, would be a fundamental violation of female toiletry rights.
More broadly, The Movement’s behavior speaks to a fundamental cultural shift in the West where an individual’s comfort trumps reason, practicality, and frankly, enjoying life.
My favorite source for political theory and philosophizing, Buzzfeed.com, recently published an article about a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor named Hazed and Confused. (Before I go any further, I should give a trigger warning to the brothers of Chi Psi.) The parents of Harrison Kowiak lost their son after a botched “Hell Week” portion of a fraternity initiation program. They were “shocked” by Ben and Jerry’s choice of wording when describing their frozen treat. Needless to say, the Vermont-based fascist (and perhaps worst of all, Colgate University alumni) owners did not change the name of the flavor.
Along those lines, a friend of mine received a set of guidelines given by Hamilton College in regards to fraternity party themes that are deemed offensive by the Hamilton administration. While the list of “Offensive Party Themes” does provide a few good examples of themes that ought to be avoided, many on the list seem completely harmless or entirely arbitrary. For example, any parties involving “skimpy lingerie” ought to be avoided (the puritanical streak in the left’s rhetoric has always been alarming, how dare we allow women to dress the way they want?), but beach themed parties are considered entirely appropriate. The list even warns against having parties that “get women to wear as little as possible,” (isn’t that the ultimate point of all college parties?) but what if women are the hosts of the party? Other examples of bad party ideas include titles like “Gnarly on a Harley” (Is Hamilton College really afraid of offending the Hell’s Angels?), “Porn Stars and Directors” (I apologize in advance if my bloated gut and mustache oppress you), “White Parties” (Sorry Babbitt 19, Dean Bonham would like to chat regarding last week’s inadvertently homogenous shindig) and many others.
And to answer the final question on the party pamphet about whether I would be “wiling to send photos of your event to your parents, your national office, the campus newspaper, or campus administration,” most of my weekend nights consist of me sitting in my underwear in my common room chewing tobacco, spitting, and shopping for exotic animal pelts, all of which would offend those different groups for very different reasons.
The legacy of oppression and discrimination carries a heavy and legitimate burden for all members of the College community and American society as a whole. However, those constantly complaining about alleged discrimination ought to hold their breath and count to 10 before unleashing any new demands. The fight to end contemporary racism and prejudices cannot be won with scatter shot directed at any possible set of parties, ideas, lecturers, or conservative campus writers that might, maybe, just possibly, hypothetically, offend one or a group of individuals.