Published: May 1, 1999 By

[1]   In 1994, the University of Delaware's student newspaper, The Review, printed the first in a month-long series of articles and editorials celebrating the arrival of what Esquire writer Tad Friend recently had dubbed "Do-Me" feminism. Trumpeting Friend's discovery, the lead article opened: "'Do-Me' quickens pulses," and went on to proclaim that this "new" brand of feminism would liberate women from so-called second-wave feminism's "oppressiveness" and "dogmatism," allowing women to "really be themselves." Disturbingly, though, the reporter in this article located "Do-Me" feminism's liberatory force primarily in its ability to free women to "lie down to take a stand." For all the world, The Review series looked like clear evidence that mass culture antifeminism had found a safe haven on college campuses. As a result, most of us who teach on campus merely rolled our eyes and walked away, seeing this series as little more than a kind of ideological "dress-up" where our students try on and try out the cultural conservatism of their elders. After all, Friend's adolescent fascination with Naomi Wolf's appropriation of stereotypic male sexual aggression: "Do you want to make love? Do you want to fuck? Do you want me to go down on you?" hardly offered anything remotely like the kind of trenchant critique that might demand academic feminists' serious attention.1

[2]   Despite our awareness of its critical insufficiencies, Friend's gleeful insistence that the "purposeful hammering spreading across the land, bedroom by bedroom, is the sound of young [feminists] beating their swords into bustiers" has proved vastly more appealing to significant constituencies of college-age women, outstripping the allure of both Rebecca Walker's transformational "Third Wave" feminism and Christina Hoff Sommers conservatively domestic "equity feminism." But why? What is it about Esquire's (hetero)sexed-up feminism that prompted our students to treat it like a political windfall? It was easy for those of us teaching at Delaware when the series first appeared to dismiss The Review series as the predictable effect of the 1990s culture wars and a more public expression of the resistance we'd repeatedly encountered in our classrooms. It's tempting now to deflect the question and the hard work it invites us to undertake once again. But our silence then was a mistake. Among other things, our response five years ago suggested that we see our students as having a naive and transparent relationship to mass culture; it was a condescension we could ill-afford then, and one we most certainly cannot afford now if feminism is to remain sincerely committed to a transformational social praxis. Despite nearly two decades of antipathy, college-age women and academic feminists may well be one another's last best hope for ensuring a more equitable society.2

[3]   Hopeful as this future may be, most of us would readily admit that we have a long way to go before we do see each other as participants in a larger endeavor. Opening up this future coalitional ground between academic feminists and our students depends, as Teresa Ebert has argued, "for a revolutionary reunderstanding and engagement with historical materialism." And in terms of understanding the significance of our students' fascination with "Do-Me" feminism, that engagement means grasping public education's long-standing and complicated relationship to working-class women. For when The Review directed student attention to Friend's proclamations, it reenacted a very nineteenth-century set of assumptions that equate political activism with sexual decadence and impropriety–activism for which public education was supposed to provide the antidote. Congress intended the American system of public research universities to wrest control of the country's economic production and wealth from the "industrial classes" by emancipating male workers from what was rapidly becoming the feminized social milieu of laboring poor and working-class democratic activism. Public higher education, consequently, positioned women as its working-class outside. In the face of the recessionary 1980s and early 1990s it's not at all surprising that women students symptomatically aligned themselves with this working-class outside as they expressed their frustration with the university's dismissal of their role within the academy.3

[4]   The explanation I'm suggesting for what would otherwise remain simply a bizarre episode in the annals of public education clearly runs counter to the conventional wisdom. It demands that we retool our understanding of public education from the antidote to class struggle and oppression to a major enabler of oppressive class relationships and the feminization of poverty. It's not a retooling we're likely to accept easily since we traditionally have seen public education as a means of economic emancipation. But recent work on the contemporary academy by Ellen Messer-Davidow and others has painstakingly documented conservatives' recent cooptations of higher education. What we need now is a better sense of public education's historical relation to conservative social agendas. Indeed, if only because our elision of public education's history feeds the smug certainty of Francis Fukiyama and others that history died when the Berlin wall crumbled and as it went so did our hopes for social and economic equity, history must be an integral part of the struggle to keep higher education available to progressive social politics.4

[5]   When Congress passed the Morrill Land-grant College Act in 1862, the United States was in the midst of a protracted period of class hostility and conflict. From the 1830s on, the northeast had experienced active and escalating labor organization that had been exacerbated by the scarcity of work during periodic economic slumps. In 1835, Philadelphia workers successfully struck for a ten-hour work day. Between 1835 and 1836, the eastern states experienced 140 strikes. Two years later, New York City experienced the flour riots brought on because 30% (50,000) of the city's working-class were without jobs. In 1860, Lynn Massachusetts hosted a gathering of striking regional shoe-workers that numbered 10,000. Even during the Civil War, repeated labor uprisings prompted the federal government to deploy Union troops, further taxing already thin resources, against striking workers whose stoppages gravely threatened the flow of supplies to those fighting the Confederacy. Northern industrial workers made little secret that they resented the war effort. Fearing that emancipated slaves would further burden an already glutted labor market, workers worried that the federalist interest in emancipating slaves without attending to the working conditions of industrial laborers only emphasized a general disregard for the working poor. But, in addition to marking an upswing in labor unrest, the decades between 1835 and 1875 also intensified the intersections of gender and class as working-class paternalism came under heavy assault both from the bourgeois right–managers, mill owners, and clerics–and from a more militant working-class left composed predominantly of women.5

[6]   Curiously, neither the Land-grant College Act nor the preceding Congressional debate has much to say about either the three decades of labor uprisings that preceded the Civil War, or those that hampered the Union efforts, much less women's contributions to the unrest. Rather, in his arguments before Congress, the Act's author Justin Morrill shifted his colleagues' attention from the surrounding socio-economic conflicts about fair wages and the availability of work to a gendered division of labor rooted in nationalist self-identification. Personal responsibility and a misty-eyed sanctification of the home replaced the realities of collective strike action. Among his most compelling arguments for educating the industrial classes, was Morrill's somber warning that "Home manufactures, in 1850, amounted to $27,486,219, but in 1860 they declined to $24,326,744." Women's slackening industry he argued was the main culprit for the home's decline as a source of national profit:

women, in this branch of industry so intimately related to agriculture, not withstanding the 4,000,000 more of women, are really toiling and spinning less than ten years ago, and but little more than they appear to have done according to the statistical information recorded in the days of King Solomon.

At one level Morrill's argument simply displaced the responsibility for America's dwindling economic power from the unmanageable and rebellious working classes to women who nineteenth-century culture viewed as tractable. However, as his statistics suggest, there is some truth to Morrill's argument that the "proportion of population of the United States engaged in agriculture" had precipitously declined in the decade between 1840 and 1850, falling from 77.4% to 44.69%. Women were not working in the home as much as they had in earlier decades, though largely because they were working in the mill towns where they often found a more lucrative living and greater independence than the family farm offered. Morrill's silence on this point is telling as it suggests that he was less concerned about women's rate of work than he was concerned about their place of work.6

[7]   From the perspective of the Land-grant College Act, the milltowns were a dangerous place, although as Mary Blewett's research suggests the country feared the corruption of male respectability at women's hands more than they feared women's corruption. Many of the textile mill towns rural women travelled to were dominated English laborers from Lancashire, heavily recruited by American millowners and managers for highly skilled spinning. The New England millowners had either ignored or failed to recognize that their highly prized Lancashire employees had brought with them a highly developed sense of class identity and a significant tradition of collective action. In the 1830s and 1840s, Lancashire spinners, "had joined with short-time reformers to define [English] working-class male respectability through skill and the family wage and female respectability through domesticity and sexual propriety." But in trying to "make their political experience in Lancashire the basis for a new labor politics in New England," the spinners made an egregious error. Neither the men's deferential homosociality nor the women's "domesticity and sexual propriety" translated neatly to an American context. Instead, American capitalists treated the "doffed caps" and "politeness" that the Lancashire men habitually practiced as public signifiers of their reason and rationality–signs that they knew their place within England's calcified class structure–with open contempt and as signifiers of "unmanly servility." The Lancashire women increasingly abandoned the domesticity that had formerly defined their respectability and became more and more involved in mill work themselves.7

[8]   As Blewett illustrates, the gendered paradigm of working-class respectability broke down ever further under the pressure of strike actions. "Determined to prevent any association of male unionists with acts of violence against strikebreakers that might justify the employers' refusal to negotiate," the male spinners "assign[ed] responsibility for tough confrontation in the streets" to "women and children." The spinners hoped these threatening mobs would persuade the mill owners of their error in refusing to negotiate with the more reasonable men. The strategy backfired badly. The mill owners remained unpersuaded and merely amplified their divisive tactics to include public imputations of the spinners' masculinity, pointing out that in other mill towns "'girls run [spinning] mules easily and successfully'." To the mill owners, it was clear that their male workers had been overrun by mobs of "babbling Amazons."8

[9]   By the 1870s the spinners' strategy of terrorizing millowners into negotiations reached a crisis when the Lancashire women themselves initiated a strike. Traditionally excluded from the "language of paternalism and the family wage," working-class women had no investment in the dialogue of deference used by the spinners. Well-attuned to the historically hostile relationship between labor and capital, the women weavers proclaimed themselves

Dissatisfied with the dilatory, shilly-shally and cowardly action of many of the chief conductors of our late meetings, we the female operatives have decided to meet together and speak and act for ourselves, as we and our children are as much interested in, and are as great sufferers by, this late movement of the manufacturers.

So frustrated were the Lancashire women with the spinners that they too maligned their own husbands, fathers, and brothers accusing them of cowardice in the hope of prying the spinners away from archaic, obsolete concepts of labor activism. In fact, the women weavers seized control of the labor movement and instigated both the 1875 strikes and bread riots in Fall River Massachusetts. When these collective actions failed to win workers a higher wage, the women found themselves permanently locked out of the unionist movement. At the feet of their "emotional, public displays of anger and dependency", millowners and spinners alike lay the responsibility for the emasculation of American labor.9

[10]   Resituated within this charged and gendered field of class conflict, Justin Morrill's motives for expanding the economic franchise to the "sons of toil" are both less benevolent and more misogynist than we have historically acknowledged. Morrill's alarm that the "heritage [of the Western territories] may be so heedlessly overrun as to be soon wasted" by these feminized "industrial classes," leaving only the "estate of a prodigal" quite clearly illustrates Theresa Ebert's contention that "it is not simply labor, in and of itself, that produces value, but rather labor performed within specific social relations of production." The set of social relations at stake in the Land-grant College Act are decisively patriarchal, clearly intended to remasculinize American labor. The public higher education system was chartered with the intent of bolstering capitalism by reintegrating "the industrial classes of young men" into a system of patriarchal property exchange. For "A tract of land, to a man who knows how to make it a real homestead" Congress conceded, is a "blessing."10

[11]   Given land-grant universities' historical conceptualization of education as an instrument of patrimony, it would be surprising, indeed, if Delaware's student body didn't inflict upon itself the University's formal commitment to bourgeois family ideology. Certainly, the land-grant university system's underlying "hearth and home" thematic raises further questions about women's precise relationship to public higher education as its charter legislation arguably placed women workers in economic and social double jeopardy. Not only were women not given access to the capital of the vast western territories as were their industrial brethren, the legislation effectively aligned women with a cially, The Review's series on "Do-Me" feminism echoes these pervasive economic and social anxieties. The lead article is thus largely devoted to sketching out conceptual ground that would realign feminism with American culture's dominant fictions of individualism through which the possibilities of social mobility and class ascendancy traditionally have been articulated. "New Brand of Feminism Raises Eyebrows," emphasizes that "Do-Me" feminism is "more real" and "allows" women "to be themselves rather than [conforming to] some feminist ideal." For "Do-Me" feminism, the article claims, focuses "on the sexual rather than the political side of being a woman." Not surprisingly, the subsequent editorials and articles proffered similarly strident visions of individual action. Articles entitled: "A Man's View on Women's Studies and Sexism," railed against the author's exclusionary experience in a woman's studies course and indicted academic feminism for a political double-standard that "institutionalized sexism," silencing men and quashing individualism. Likewise the article "Leaving Behind Feminism and Going It as An Individual," advocated abandoning the feminist label all together and argued that group identity thwarts individual assertiveness: "It's about time we got out of group therapy and learned to say I." The putatively anti-activist stance and hard-line individualism in these early articles was moderated only slightly in subsequent pieces like "Let's Talk About Sex, Love, and Do Me Feminism," which conceded that collective action has earned women important political gains but followed up that concession by suggesting that maybe collectivity should proceed at a comfortable, slower pace. Finishing up the series was the report on Christina Hoff Sommers' campus visit, "Speaker Bashes Male-Bashing," which diluted Hoff Sommers' dismissiveness and demagoguery into her most palatable observation that feminism ought not to be the same as misanthropy.13

[16]   Although conservative feminists like Sommers pander to women's desires for autonomy, they really seek to undercut women's independence. But even in the midst of celebrating "Do-Me" feminism's individualist ideology these articles astutely resist "conservative" feminism's insistence that individual freedom for women means the freedom to be wives and mothers. Part of "conservative feminists'" strategy has been to undermine what they often characterize as academic feminism's unwarranted monopoly on feminist discourse making progressive feminism seem like it belongs only to a lunatic fringe, bizarrely and militantly committed to the destruction of heteronormative familial bonds. The Review articles seem tellingly disinclined to take the conservative bait. Melissa Tyrell, for instance, puzzled over the fact that the heteronormative standard which holds that "men take sex and women give it," "is still so ridiculously pervasive." Certainly, The Review's ritualistic disavowals of "politics" and the recognition that much work remains to be done in terms of women's political identities and general access to power make for strange bedfellows. But among other things, the complex combination of these often conflicting ideological positions suggests a remarkably high interest in feminist activism if not feminist politics per se and an operative awareness that the institutional history of public universities makes the erotic synonymous with women's advocacy for the value of their labor. It's an impressive insight for a generation generally excoriated as recalcitrantly quietistic.14

[17]   Indeed, the student redactions of "Do-Me" feminism's eroticized feminist body not only resisted conservatism's anxieties, they inverted the political valences typically assigned to contemporary renegotiations of individualism shaped by prevailing anti-federalist sentiments. Most recent efforts to retrench civil rights have advanced narratives of entrepreneurial individualism in which the putative "special protection" afforded minority groups against historical inequities inhibit expressions of individual desire and ambition. The contention that women and minorities, far from being helped by affirmative action, have actually been inhibited by its programs and principles leaves American culture's dominant narrative of class ascendancy conveniently in tact. But more importantly the "merit argument" also deflects what would doubtlessly be uncomfortable scrutiny away from the social failures of institutions, like public universities, ostensibly designed to further such equity. In 1994, for instance, California conservatives successfully characterized the abolition of affirmative action in the University of California system as a back-to-basics argument that "felicitously" absolved the regents of any responsibility for delineating the institution's role in achieving and sustaining social equity. Capitalizing on largely populist sentiments, state governments have embraced these narratives as an opportunity to differentiate their authority and sovereignty from Washington's, relocating civic reason and rationality to state capitols. It makes sense, from this perspective, that a state institution of higher education would both foster and proliferate symmetrical narratives of individualism. But one of things that I find most compellingly suggestive about The Review series and its apparent rejection of collective action is that these articles do not vent middle-class anxieties about declining economic fortunes and increasingly elusive myths of entrepreneurial individualism on "out-of-control" federalism or "uppity" minorities demanding more than they "deserve." On the contrary, these articles aim their frustration at the university itself–the very institution, if we were to follow the larger cultural narrative's plot consistently, that should emerge as a line of defense against the federal government's "crypto-Communist" desire to efface the individual from the majoritarian state. Nor is this focus on the public university dismissable as a simple failure on the students' part to differentiate between distinct sources of governmental authority. Their critiques, if symptomatic, are nonetheless shrewdly aimed at a specific vision of academic management–what Christopher Newfield has elsewhere characterized as the liberal university's "managerial democracy"–explicitly designed to circumscribe and mitigate political activism. It is precisely The Review series' resistance to the liberal university's abatement of activism that most strongly suggests that the students' fascination with "Do-Me" feminism may be considerably more than an essentialist fantasy about liberating women's personal desire.15

[18]   Moreover, lest my interpretation of these articles seem strained, we should remember that statistical trends indicate that college-age women, historically, have been more interested in feminism during periods of economic recession, and these articles appeared at the tail end of the 1990s recession when women were in midst of an extraordinarily competitive labor market. Since the mid 1970s, sociologists have documented not a slackening of feminist sentiment, but rather a heightening of it as women, particularly college-age women, come to expect equal political economic and political enfranchisement as the bare minimum to which they are entitled. Early studies of college women's relationship to feminism indicated that they tended to respond inversely to conservative cultural rhetoric in times of economic crisis and low job availability. That is, while economic recession and increased competition for jobs traditionally has precipitated a backlash against women and minorities–a theme that Pat Buchanan exploited in his failed bid to win the 1996 Republican presidential nomination–such pressure has tended to make women vociferous self-advocates.16

[19]   Despite The Review's promising resistance to the public university's endemic centrism, we cannot loose sight of the fact that the students in this series are largely ignorant of the way nineteenth-century capitalism has shaped their resistance to the university. Nor should we forget that this interest in feminist activism displays little knowledge of the way public education's historical antagonism to working-class identity has affected the value of women's labor on campus. Delaware's record on female faculty employment and promotion is little better than its record on female matriculation. In their 1989-90 report, Delaware's Commission on the Status of Women, an executive committee established in 1972, reported to the President that "Women faculty . . . are also not being promoted at the same rate as their female counterparts in 30 out of 48 comparable northeastern institutions." Five years later, the University of Delaware's ranking had improved slightly but partly because it was now being compared to schools in the smaller mid-atlantic region rather than the entire northeast. In their 1994-95 report the commission noted that Delaware was now ranked only slightly below the regional median–13 out of 23 schools–and had increased the number of women at the level of full professor from 10% to 12%. But perhaps the most striking characteristic of the most recent set of statistics released by the Commission is that Delaware's relationship to its female professorate falls in with the majority of land-grant institutions in the region, higher than Penn State and Virginia Tech, but below Rutgers and the University of Maryland. Obviously, this particular statistic is not definitive of an institution's relationship to women, but it is significant because so much of what academics do, particularly at research institutions, is mentor and model for both their undergraduate and graduate students. And while academic rank does not solely determine mentoring effectiveness, the American professorate is so rooted in tradition and invested in credentials, that professional status counts both psychologically and materially. Moreover, the clumping of land-grant institutions at the bottom of this statistical grouping registers the extent to which women have been granted at best limited professional access to public education's expansive social vision and the extent to which land-grant institutions have habitually degraded the value of women's labor.17

[20]   Delaware's continuing struggles with its female students and faculty suggest quite strongly that the Morrill Act was never really interested in securing the "education of the industrial classes." The advent of land-grant universities did not raise the daughters of toil as it had the "sons of toil." But it is precisely because the national commitment to working-class equity seemed tenable inasmuch as it promised to reinstate traditional gender roles that it's worth rehearsing for a moment the current state of academic feminism. For we must also understand our own blindness to public education's treatment of working-class women as its eroticized outside.

[21]   Wrestling with a conflicted range of investments, American feminism, to borrow the title of one recent collection, has been very much beside itself since the early 1980s when it became anxious about the political implications of its academic institutionalization. American "feminism's most elaborate and contentious conversations," as Diane Elam and Robyn Wiegman have observed, "seem now to be about its own political and philosophical assumptions, omissions, and oppressive complicities." Perhaps an early memory of higher education's vexed relationship to women, academic feminism's often discomfiting self-scrutiny, nevertheless, tacitly acknowledges that the advent of Women's Studies programs and a fuller integration of feminism itself into general education requirements have not necessarily changed the academy's ideological investments. But without the continued self-scrutiny, which Elam and Wiegman point out has long been one of feminism's strengths, academic feminism runs the very real risk of becoming complicit with the institutions that have superficially fostered its coming of age, despite the fact that those same institutions continue to promote women at a slower rate than their male colleagues, and most importantly, only perfunctorily integrate women students into universities' intellectual and social lives. Despite the fact that "None of us just woke up one day to discover that she had a Ph. D. . . . We don't," Jane Gallop observes, "seem very able to theorize about how we speak as feminists wanting social change, from within our positions within the academy," primarily, I would add, because we often don't theorize about public education's material relationship to women.18

[22]   After winning the early battles for coeducation and including women as members of faculty, we have had to spend a good deal of time holding the line against the erosion of those victories. Subsequently, we have been forced to engage with public higher education either over equity issues like tenure, promotion, and hiring or over the inclusion of feminism as a coequal partner in the production of knowledge. Small wonder that Elam and Weigman ask: "Has feminism now become the tenured (re)productive wife, too caught up in institutional homesteading to reprise her renegade part?" The emergence of a feminist backlash during the 1980s obviously didn't help matters any. But as we struggle with the wider implications of this backlash, our students, who once comprised one of feminism's most important and "natural" constituencies have become the opposition. We alternately characterize them as rebellious daughters taking for granted or repudiating their mothers' feminism, as Jane Gallop and Rayna Rapp have suggested, or agents of conservative discipline whose somatic and symptomatic fixation on the feminist body, as Dale Bauer argues, functions as a disciplinary tool "with which to contain [feminism's] intellectual difference." But our students are not, indeed, cannot be our enemies. This dangerously short-sighted critique is far more likely to concretize feminism's cultural isolation than recarve its political niche.19

[23]   There was certainly ample evidence of this likelihood on Delaware's campus when the institutional pressure on faculty to avoid such self-scrutiny became manifest in The Review's series. When reporters sought terminological clarification on how academics define feminism from the University's Office of Women's Affairs, they received a rather chilling brush-off.

Most recently, a colleague asked the head matron . . . what she thought of Esquire Magazine's "Do Me" feminism, some hullabaloo about women now wanting to focus on sex more than politics. All she got in response (her interviewee actually did have a meeting to go to) was a definition of what feminism "really is."

The exchange here is troubling not only because of the Director's response but also because it reveals a deep oppositional relationship between women students and the university. Most students are simply unaware that an Office of Women's Affairs even exists let alone that it is empowered to advocate for them, particularly in harassment matters. Those students who are aware, resent the Office, seeing it as part of a cloistered society created by women faculty. Regrettably, the Office of Women's Affairs unwittingly contributes to this image as it includes undergraduate women on its influential Committee on the Status of Women through a tacit system of patronage, not democratic elections. The Review writer presciently reads in the Office of Women's Affairs' power structure a pseudofamilial relationship between "matron" administrator and student. What she doesn't see though is that the land-grant university system was set up in such a way that it could do little else than exact this pseudo-familial relationship as the price of women's academic enfranchisement. Unfortunately, the Director's dismissive engagement with the student journalist over feminism obviously reinforced for that student a sense that women faculty and administrators have achieved this enfranchisement by keeping women students out of important conversations and devaluing their intellectual work.20

[24]   It might reasonably be objected that what happened on Delaware's campus may not be generalizable to other campuses around the country or even be generalizable within the narrower academic milieu of land-grant universities. Variables like class, ethnicity, region, and institutional histories surely will modify the implications of similar interests in politicizing women's physical desire on other campuses. But whether the University of Delaware's institutional dynamics accurately describe campus culture at other institutions or not, the contextualization of specific, local institutional practices within wider relationships of national and cultural production is not only eminently transplantable to other institutional settings, it is utterly necessary to a socially transformative praxis.

[25]   If that was not reason enough, we must also be aware that systematic, institutional analyses are precisely what is most antithetical to conservatism's contemporary incarnation. Dinesh D'Souza's alarmist claims that American higher education was being systematically overrun by left-wing radicals (would it were so) remain, in the end, merely an unwieldy collection of anecdotes and bitter invective. Not surprisingly, so-called "conservative feminists" deploy precisely the same strategy in their assaults on academic feminism as, for instance, Christina Hoff Sommers' "covert" infiltration of feminist conferences where the workshops and panels she personally attends, by logical sleight of hand, become representative of the vast body of feminist knowledge. Progressive feminists have at our disposal a powerful critical tool capable of challenging the "red scare" produced by conservative methodology and a tool capable of making institutions of higher education more fully available to progressive activism. And it is this later effect that interests me most. For if conservatives and progressives agree on one thing, that thing is that liberalism is on its way out. And in the most immediate terms possible, whether feminism works to replace liberalism's emphasis on individual achievement and opportunity with political practices more supply sensitive to American culture's richly textured social fabric and tenaciously resistant to patriarchy and capitalism depends very much on our willingness to pursue rigorous critiques of liberal institutions like land-grant universities.21

[26]   We simply cannot afford to be ignorant of the institutional histories of the places in which we work. To do so is to close the door on vital opportunities for coalition building. Given the land-grant universities' historical foreclosure of feminized and eroticized working-class activism, campus culture's celebration of the eroticized feminist body, though wrong-headed might well be right-minded. There is in The Review articles a reawakened interest in the progressive possibilities of democratic, perhaps even working-class activism, a call to revitalize conversations about public education's relationship to social and economic equity–a call from our students to us. We should listen.




  1. Maggie Hughes, "New Brand of Feminism Raises Eyebrows,"The Review 8 March 1994, A5. For more on academic manifestations of antifeminism see Antifeminism in the Academy, eds. Veve Clark, Shirley Nelson Garner, Margaret Aiggonnet and Ketu H. Katrak (New York: Routledge, 1996). Tad Friend, "Yes.",Esquire Magazine for Men 121 (2): 48-57, 48. back
  2. Friend, 50. For more on third-wave feminism and the backlash against academic feminism, see To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism, ed. Rebecca Walker (New York: Anchor Books, 1995) and Christina Hoff Sommers, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994). For more on college students' resistance to feminism, see Dale Bauer, "The Other 'F' Word,"College English, 52.4 (1990): 385-96 and "The Meanings and Metaphors of Student Resistance," Styles of Cultural Activism: From Theory and Pedagogy to Women, Indians, and Communism, ed. Philip Goldstein (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994), 64-76. back
  3. Ludic Feminism and After: Postmodernism, Desire, and Labor in Late Capitalism (Ann Arbor: Michigan UP, 1996), xi. back
  4. Ellen Messer-Davidow, "Manufacturing the Attack on Liberalized Higher Education," in After Political Correctness: The Humanities and Society in the 1990s, eds. Christopher Newfield and Ronald Strickland (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995), 38-78. back
  5. Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), 206-247; 228-29. back
  6. "Speech of Hon. J. S. Morrill, of Vermont, In the House of Representatives, June 6, 1862," Appendix to the Congressional Globe, 37 Cong. 2 sess.: 256-259, 257. back
  7. Mary Blewett, "Deference and Defiance: Labor Politics and the meanings of Masculinity in the Mid-Nineteenth Century New England Textile Industry," Gender and History 5 no. 3 (1993): 400. back
  8. Ibid., 401; 405. back
  9. Ibid., 404; 409. back
  10. "Speech of Hon. J. S. Morrill," 257. Ebert, 102. "Speech of Hon. J. S. Morrill," 257. back
  11. For more on this shift see Geraldine Joncich Clifford, "Introduction," Lone Voyagers: Academic Women in Coeducation Universities, 1870-1937, ed. Geraldine Joncich Clifford (New York: The Feminist Press, 1989), 1-46. Carol E. Hoeffeker, Beneath They Guiding Hand: A History of Women at the University of Delaware (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994), 3. back
  12. Facts and Figures, 1995-96, Office of Institutional Research and Planning, University of Delaware, 11. In 1996, The Philadelphia Inquirer began featuring periodic op ed pieces by Lisa Levenson, editorial page editor of the Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn's student newspaper. In one editorial, Levenson complained, "Twentysomethings like me know we'll search harder for rewarding, well-paying jobs than did our older siblings and we'll work longer hours for fewer dollars (relatively speaking) than did our parents when they finished college." "Tuning Out Political Conventions," The Philadelphia Inquirer 1 August 1996. back
  13. Hughes, A5. Jason Nathaniel Smith, "A Man's View on Women's Studies and Sexism," The Review 4 March 1994: A10. Tyrell, "Let's Talk about Sex, Love and Do Me Feminism," The Review 15 March 1998: A13. Michelle Besso, "Speaker Bashes Male-Bashing: Christina Hoff Sommers Defines Feminism and Women's Issues." The Review 25 March 1994: A5. back
  14. "Let's Talk about Sex." back
  15. Among the most chilling manifestations of the tendency to blame minorities for the middle-class economic downturn was California's decision to dismantle affirmative action in the UC system. On July 20, 1995, California's Board of Regents adopted the following statement: "Because individual members of all of California's diverse races have the intelligence and capacity to succeed at the University of California, this policy will achieve a UC population that reflects this state's diversity through the preparation and empowerment of all students in this state to succeed rather than through a system of artificial preferences." (33) Assemblywoman Barbara Lee challenged, "that [the Board's suggestion] that the removal of affirmative action will do nothing more than provide equality was insulting, because they know that the proposals will send a message to the state and nation that California's leaders are desperate to return to a society that limits access to a select few." (5) The Regents of the University of California Meeting, 20 July 1995. In "What was Political Correctness? Race, the Right, and Managerial Democracy in the Humanities," Newfield describes managerial democracy as "a remarkably stable type of university governance," in which "major decisions affecting one level of the institution are made by levels above it, but usually with at least formal rights of consultation and participation. The functioning of the system is thought to depend equally on the consent of the governed and the authority of management." Critical Inquiry 19.2 (1993): 308-336, 310. back
  16. See, for instance, Pearl Green, "The Feminist Consciousness,"The Sociological Quarterly 20(1979): 359-74; Marsha Jacobson, "You Say Potato and I say Potahto: Attitudes Toward Feminism As a Function of Its Subject-Selected Label," Sex Roles 7.4 (1981): 349-54; Clinton Jesser, "A Dim Light on the Way to Damascus: Selective Feminism Among College Women," Youth and Society6.1 (1974): 49-62; Laurie Davidson Cummings, "Value Stretch in Definitions of Career Among College Women: Horatia Alger as Feminist Model," Social Problems 25.1 (1977): 65-74; Gloria Cowan, Monja Mestlin, and Julie Masek, "Predictors of Feminist Self-Labeling," Sex Roles 27.7-8 (1992): 321-30; Claire M. Renzetti, "New Wave or Second Stage? Attitudes of College Women Toward Feminism," Sex Roles 16.5-6 (1987): 265-77. back
  17. Commission on the Status of Women, Report to the President, 1989-90 (Newark: University of Delaware), 21. These statistics survey twenty-three category I, or Ph.D. granting institutions in the midatlantic region, which includes the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Virginia. They are in order of % of women at the rank of full professor: George Mason University, 21%; Georgetown University, 20%; American University, 19%; Temple University, 18%; Rutgers State University.–New Brunswick, 16%; University of Maryland–College Park, 16%; University of Maryland–Baltimore Co., 15%; George Washington University, 14%; Johns Hopkins University, 14%; University of Pittsburgh–Main, 13%; Virginia Commonwealth University, 13%; University of Pennsylvania, 13%; University of Delaware, 12%; Catholic University, 12%; Princeton University, 12%; Drexel University, 11%; Penn State University–Main Campus, 10%; University of Virginia, 9%; Carnegie Mellon University, 8%; College of William and Mary, 8%; Old Dominion University, 8%; Lehigh University, 6%; Virginia Tech. and State University, 5%. Commission on the Status of Women, Report to the President, 1994-95 (Newark: University of Delaware), 39. back
  18. Feminism Beside Itself, eds. Diane Elam and Robyn Wiegman (New York: Routledge, 1995), 2. Jane Gallop, Around 1981: Academic Feminist Literary Theory (New York: Routledge, 1992), 4. back
  19. Elam and Weigman, 5. Bauer, 64-76. As Rayna Rapp has argued, "Surely, we must take the sobering weight of cultural individualism in response to fragmenting political and economic circumstances very seriously. But just as surely, we must never wallow in the mistaken and nostalgic view that if certain aspects of organized second wave feminism are declining, all forms of activism which will enhance women's interests are dead." "Is the Legacy of Second Wave Feminism Postfeminism?" Socialist Review 18.1 (1988): 31-37. back
  20. Melissa Tyrell, "Leaving Behind Feminism." To some degree the Commission's dubious effectiveness as an democratic advocacy group is not surprising. Modeled on the federal Commission first established by President Kennedy, the University Commission like its federal counterpart has generally worked to mitigate conflict rather than advocate change. For more on the breakdown of the federal Commission particularly as it relates the conservative backlash against women, see Zillah Eisenstein,Feminism and Sexual Equality, 24-25. back
  21. See Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (New York: Free Press, 1991). For an incisive expose of the way D'Souza masks his own institutional allegiances, see Messer-Davidow. Hoff Sommers, 50-73. For more on the demise of liberalism, see David Dyssegaard Kallick, "Left Turn Ahead: Up From Liberalism: The Emerging Contours of a New Progressivism," The Nation 263.15: 22-24. back