When I first heard that my university administrators tried to force students and professors to sacrifice a weekend for some collective cemetery cleaning, I experienced a strong feeling of deja vu. I knew that I’d seen this before somewhere.

And then I realized: this was one of the favorite “educational” activities of Soviet bureaucrats. Soviet academics and students were routinely forced to pick cucumbers, stomp on rotten cabbage (as a way of getting it to pickle), cleaning the streets, etc. They were forced to do it on weekends and even instead of classes.

Now, in the USSR this was done in order to humiliate intellectuals (who were considered the greatest enemy of the proletarian state) and lower the prestige of education.

Today, American college administrators are adopting one Soviet practice after another. I have started sounding like a broken record because whenever I get an email outlining a new university policy, I always exclaim, “This feels just like home!” This isn’t a happy exclamation, you understand, since home was a pretty nasty place.

What do you think the final goal of this Sovietization of American academia is?


Among all of the mystifying things that baffle me, one has the pride of place. If there is a person who can answer this question for me, I will be eternally grateful.

After the “keep an aspirin between your knees” joke, after rape-by-government legislation, after a collective refusal by the Republicans to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, after all-male hearings on birth control, after sincere discussions of “what women are for“, I really have to ask:

What motivates women who still vote Republican? 

What is it that they hold so much more important than not being treated like a herd of cattle? What is it that Republican politicians offer them that trumps being an object of such dehumanizing and degrading attitudes?

One can have a gazillion of ideological disagreements with the Liberals (like I do), but there has to be a pyramid of priorities, right? Being treated like you are subhuman on the basis of your physiology has got to matter more than pretty much anything else.

These are not rhetorical questions. I’m honestly baffled by this. Women form more than 50% of the population of this country. This means that in order to make this climate of daily degradation of women by politicians (and during a Presidential elections campaign, at that!) possible, there needs to be a significant consensus among women that this is all completely acceptable. This, in turn, must mean that women who vote Republican are getting something quite major out of the bargain where they accept to be treated this way in return for their political support.

And as hard as I try, I can’t see what that something is.

Everybody is welcome to answer, but it would be especially great to hear from such women.

P.S. I know that people will immediately start telling me about the preference for the Republican economic policies. This, of course, must mean that all these Republican-voting women are hardcore Marxists because only a Marxist believes that economic interests trump all other concerns. Are you sure you are ready to maintain that all Republican-voting women are crypto-Marxists?

What Makes a Marriage?

I don’t know what’s happening but I’m reading one appalling article after another today:

The reason Schiavo hurt Republicans was probably not so much because the public agreed with the husband (though they did), but because they wondered why the Republican Congress was hot-dogging the issue.

Huh? As far as I remember, nobody was on the side of this so-called husband. The entire issue had nothing to do with the right to die, euthanasia, religion, or anything of the kind. This was all about a jerkwad who was living with a woman and procreating with her as a crazed bunny but who still believed he had the right to decide whether the woman who used to be married to him should be taken off life support. If he’d had a shred of decency, he would have removed himself from the equation legally, just like he had done in every respect that mattered.

There is this guy who can have any number of wives (which he demonstrated in practice) and there are the parents who can’t dump a child in a coma and pick up a fresh one. So who should get to decide whether she should remain on life support? For the husband, she is obviously dispensable. For the parents, she is obviously not.

I was appalled by this horrible case when I first heard about it because, to me, the idea that a man could just kill off a woman because he wanted to marry somebody else was completely shocking. I fully support the right to die and euthanasia. But I don’t support this completely mechanistic and formulaic definition of marriage that considers people “married” when one of them is popping out kids with somebody else.

Loving gay couples – who have actual, living marriages – cannot get their relationships legally recognized. Yet the Schiavos of this world get to kill the women who have started to bore them because, as it turns out, marriage is nothing but a formality, an empty piece of paper.

I keep hearing how gay marriage will devalue the concept of marriage. I find the argument egregiously offensive. I also find it shocking that while this entire Schiavo debacle was going on, nobody pointed out that the real damage to marriage as an institution had been done at the point where it started being defined in terms of a meaningless piece of paper that had little to do with the actual relationship between people.