Thursday 24 September 2009

Seriously, what the fuck?

I'm sure by now most of you will have picked up Dr Kealey of Buckingham University's disgusting piece in the Times Higher Education supplement this week, in which he advises university lecturers to treat their female students as 'perks', and enjoy watching the little hussies 'flaunt their curves'. (KJB has a brilliant satire on the whole fiasco over at Get There Steppin'). Addressing his article to the only members of the academic profession who really count - straight, male ones - Kealey advises his chums to have fun flirting, because everyone knows that 'normal' young women are more interested in men than in their education:

"Normal girls – more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos – will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers, but nonetheless, most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays. What to do?

"Enjoy her! She's a perk.

"She doesn't yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the in Stringfellows, you should look but not touch."

Kealey has expressed his irritation that women have failed to 'get' the article, which was intended to be humorous, or semiotically playful, or both, or something:

"Because transgressional sex is inappropriate, the piece uses inappropriate and transgressional language to underscore the point - a conventional literary device. At a couple of places, the piece confounds expectations, another conventional literary device, by employing the good ol’ boy language of middle aged male collusion."

Anyway, the T.H.E editor says that it's the humourless feminists are to blame for denying Dr Kealey (with, Laura Woodhouse points out, his 45 peer-reviewed papers, 35 scientific articles and two books) his right to free speech. Of course, feminists haven't called for Kealey to have his tongue cut out of his fatuous head or, indeed, even asked for a retraction, they've merely called him out on his pathetic sexist jerkery,but even so:

"If we cannot have freedom of speech and robust debate in the academy where can we have it?"

...yep, that would be the same 'academy' which is still cutting funding from women's studies courses all over the country. Clearly some speech is freer than others.

This pile of festering bollocks has not deterred feminists across the country from taking a stand, with Feminist Fightback offering to treat Dr Kealey to a seminar on respect for women in education and the NUS leading a campaign against misogyny in higher education, with Women's Officer Olivia Bailey collecting stories of personal experience of sexism at university which will be published anonymously over the next few days (send yours to olivia.bailey[at]

But wait, there's more! Today, another male academic has been enjoying having a great big media-sponsored male privilege soapbox to shout from exercising his free speech over the evils of contraception in the Torygraph:

"The idea of fertility as a medicable condition, requiring powerful drugs or even surgical interventions to prevent a woman’s body from doing exactly what it does naturally, is basically and ultimately the idea that femaleness itself is such a condition. [The institutionalised sexism of the Saudi government]is arguably as bad, but I don’t see how they are actually worse than saying that a woman’s reproductive organs cannot feel pain, as must be the case if the preborn child is simultaneously a part of those organs and unable to feel pain. In fact, if such is held to be the case, that at the physical core of her femininity a woman is insentient, then it strikes me as no wonder that there is wife-beating, with stoning not far behind.

"No one did more work than the then Cardinal Ratzinger on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which magnificently presents the inseparability of the sanctity of life, sexual morality, social justice, and the pursuit of peace. When he comes here as Pope, let that be his theme.

"Today, condoms are practically thrown at children...and women must poison themselves in order to be available at all times for the sexual gratification of men."

This, from a commentator who claims to be a liberal voice, tiptoes merrily down misogyny lane into the steaming ditch of the completely sodding bonkers, but there it is, prominently placed in a national broadsheet. A woman's pure untainted fertile reproductive system is not only the core of her personhood, it is sentient, yes, sentient of its own accord, able to independently process subjective perceptual experiences. Well, I for one can't remember the last time I had a conversation with my uterus. It strikes me that David Lindsay, who is in his own special, mad Catholic way actually trying to speak on behalf of women, may have heard of the core feminist text 'The Vagina Monologues' and made some misplaced assumptions about the content.

Oh, and also, the contraceptive pill is a horrible poison that prevents women from doing 'what comes naturally', and the Pope should make it stop, because women don't enjoy sex anyway, they only use contraceptives to satisfy male desire like the manipulative little SLUTS they are. Jesus saves!

This matters. It matters that high-profile academics and commentators, who hold the keys to learning, to advancement and to power, hold these views and see it as their god-given right to express them no matter who they hurt. It matters, because these words do hurt. They hurt more than these men, who clearly find it exceptionally difficult to understand that women are people just like them, can possibly understand. It hurts, as a person who loves books and science and learning with a bone-crunchingly hard passion, to be told that my brain is merely incidental to my body, that what my teachers and superiors, most of whom are male, obviously, are interested in are my curves, my tits and my arse and my magical sentient uterus.

And they wonder why women fail to put themselves forward for top jobs after university. They wonder why only 30% of women science graduates, compared to 95% of men, go on to do research or get jobs in their field. They ask why so many women in higher education and beyond feel like frauds in academia, in business, in the arts, in science, why women lack confidence, why we fail to put ourselves forward for promotions and pay rises. This sort of thing is fucking why. And you may like to think it's all in good fun, but I'm not laughing. I'm not laughing at all.


  1. Liv Bailey also called for people to write letters of complaint to the Governing Council of Buckingham University (to be sent to qualityassurance[at] - I've written one and posted it here - - should any of your readers wish to leech any of it.

  2. Anyone who whinges about "freedom of seech" in these matters, I always remind them that they have the freedom to say what they want; I have the freedom to adjudge them an arsehole on the basis of what they say. And I have the freedom to point out to anyone who will listen that s/he is an arsehole for saying it.

    Other than that, just agreeing with everything you wrote.

  3. Is it wrong, then, that I read the Dr Kealey article as satire? I mean, yes if taken literally then it's awful but it makes one think about the way we treat each other...
    As for the sentient uterus, I'm still waiting for mine to respond to any conversation I've ever tried to strike up...

  4. Amen. What I found really weird about the Kealey thing was how many of the reactions to it seemed to focus on the relatively trivial question of whether it was appropriate for lecturers to have sexual thoughts about students and entirely ignored the horrendous sexism.

  5. The fact that the behavior he (satirically, of course) encourages exists in gross reality just sorta kept me from picking up on his satire, conventional literary devices, and confounding expectations. Silly me! All along I'd been thinking those jokes I heard about perpetrating hate crimes and terrorist acts were actual tastelessness too!

  6. I was going to say "don't worry about David Lindsay - he's a nobody"... until I found the following

    ...which indicate that not only is he a snide misogynist with a limited grasp of biology, but that's he's also manged to convince possibly the only remaining Eustonite Labour members in the Durham area that he's the front man for a anti-semetic, Vatican/Islamofascist conspiracy.

    In terms of a clash of stupid, this is on par with that Russian Hitler vs Stalin comic book that was doing the rounds a few years ago.

  7. "Today, condoms are practically thrown at children...and women must poison themselves in order to be available at all times for the sexual gratification of men."

    doncha just love being a fucking lab rat for these wankers?!!!! It makes me soooo mad...and did it never occur to the person writing the above that we perhaps gratify ourselves and that taking the poison is indeed shite especially given they can put men on the moon but not come up with a male equivalent of the pill. Fuck me, have we got anywhere d'a think....

    great post Penny

  8. Yeah, some people are stupid and do stupid things, apparantly.

    Terence Kealey has done much worse (like arguing that all science should be commercialized, which unlike this, was entirely serious, and with a Tory government might even get partially implemented.)

    David Lindsay - Who?

    You can do better than shooting fish in barrels, srsly.

  9. One of my friends had to sleep with her professor and perform oral sex on him in order to pass a course at university. After playing the whore to him all term he the had the gall to award her the lowest possible passing mark!

    Horrible old man.

  10. Just to fill in some of the backstory on David Lindsay .. he's not a 'high-profile academic', he's an unemployed graduate who does some part-time tutoring for one of the Durham colleges. Last year he founded his own political party, the British People's Alliance, which he claimed was going to put up a candidate for every seat at the next general election; it subsequently transpired that the only member of the British People's Alliance was David Lindsay himself.

    David will seize any opportunity to draw attention to himself, so it's best not to take any notice of him. The two websites which Edward Parsons mentions in his comment (above) were both set up by David himself in an attempt to attract visitors to his blog. He's spread himself very widely around the blogosphere, and is notorious for posting comments to his own blog, and other's people's, under a variety of different pseudonyms in order to give the impression of an army of supporters. I don't know why the Telegraph bothered to give him space on their website, but he's not a serious figure and it would be better and kinder to ignore him.

  11. If heterosexual professors don`t find 20 year old women attractive then there is something seriously wrong with them - their spirit has been crushed.

  12. A youngish professor of politics at Nottingham University is well known to receive sexual favours from undergraduates in exchange for higher grades.

  13. I am really looking forward to the day when condoms are 100% reliable, then people who object to contraception per se won't be able to use worries about the Pill to hide another agenda.

  14. What annoys me about Kealey's article is the emphasis on male scholar/female acolyte. As a teacher I occasionally lusted after my (adult) male students, and whilst I would never have acted on my feelings, I did enjoy the sexual frisson when the attraction was returned. It cuts both ways, Gentlemen.

    Also, at University one of my philosophy professors habitually graded my essays 'A', giving me an inflated sense of my capability for the subject. When I got a 'C' in the exam, I was thoroughly confused. It was only when the professor later made a pass at me that I realised what was really going on. One of the most demeaning experiences of my life, I'd say.

  15. Indiana Jones always had nubile students throwing themselves at him... and to the best of my knowledge he had the strength to say no!

  16. I read his comments and as an academic lecturer myself was disgusted by his comments and it does show such a misogynistic view still within academics such as found in the hallow corridors of Oxford - its something that makes me ashamed to be a man.

    Everyone deserves equal respect and this attitude is intolerable to the very core of what we stand for.

  17. i think i bit my mouse in half when i read the original artical. this sort of sexist bilge stinks up my (totaly functioning thank you) brain and makes me miserable- why are women still treated like extensions of the uterus?!
    of course now i know the answer its people like that berk.

    (apologies for my inarticulism-college applications have fried my brain and may continue to do so for many weeks)

  18. Happy Birthday, Penny! I mean Laurie!

  19. Some lecturer wrote:

    "treat their female students as 'perks', and enjoy watching the little hussies 'flaunt their curves'."

    Ok, so exactly what else should they be doing? There are plenty of reasons why a male hetro lecturer might feel a little frisky at 9.55am. Do you expect them to decide that looking would be a heinous thought crime? And if looking is so bad, why is showing it off not bad? I've been to uni. I recall the massive amount of cleavage and thigh shown off (no doubt belly too these days). It strikes me that the furore over this is about it being public, rather than quietly sitting in the corner. If this is so offensive, could you also ask those women to cover up, thanks.

    Good on Dr whatshisface for pointing out the obvious when it's shoved in your face on a daily basis.


  20. Bob is a rubbish anonymous name.

  21. The Catholic Church would be better off keeping its mouth shut on the whole topic of women until it admits it has been wrong about women priests/bishops/archbishops/cardinals/Popes.

  22. myshii asks "why are women still treated like extensions of the uterus?!"

    Because the man treating them as such is a total prick.


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