Steven Salaita And The Feminist Professor Who Praised Valerie Solanas

Here is a story of a professor, whose tweets got her into trouble.

The professor in question is a feminist, Professor F–sometimes termed ‘radical’ by her friends, colleagues, and academic foes for her uncompromisingly feminist scholarship and her vigorous, no-nonsense rhetorical style, which is well-versed in the demolition of putative rebuttals to feminist theory and keenly honed by vigorous participation in political polemical debate. She has a distinguished record in scholarship, excellent teaching evaluations–from male and female students alike (though some unkind ones did call her “a typical nut-cracking feminazi”), and found, by dint of these accomplishments, a cohort of scholars and students who admire her work.

One day, after reading in the news about yet another atrocity committed on women–perhaps a gang-rape by fraternity or football team members who then broadcast their deeds on social media networks, perhaps an obnoxious radio host leading a cheerleading squad of listeners terming women who use contraceptives ‘sluts’, perhaps a story like the Rotherham child abuse case. Today she is fuming; she is tired and dispirited–all that scholarship, all that debate, and the world continues on its merry misogynistic ways; this is the worst of all possible Groundhog Days–the same abuse, the same mealy-mouthed exculpations, the same offensive, tone-deaf defenses.

She goes to her office, grabs her cup of coffee, and checks into Twitter. Her timeline is abuzz–her friends are talking about the latest case, posting links from journalists and bloggers, all weighing in with their considered opinions. Some even post links from clueless male politicians, offering their usual insensitive, sexist responses to the latest fiasco.

The outraged, intemperate tweets follow:

Days like this, I feel like re-installing Valerie Solanas as my hero. She would have known what to do. The time for just polemics is over.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to re-read the S.C.U.M manifesto all over again and take it way more seriously this time. She might have been right all along.

In case you are wondering: S.C.U.M = Society for Cutting Up Men. And geez, I could send in the subscription fees for that right about now.

“Overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex”? Yes sir, more please.

A few more tweets follow along the same lines.

Unfortunately, more is brewing than just the next cup of coffee in our professor’s office. She has applied for, and–thanks to her outstanding academic record–been accepted for a tenured professorship in the Women’s Studies department at  a prominent mid-western university .  A mere rubber-stamping of the hiring decision by the university’s trustees awaits; moving expenses and administrative details of the new appointment are already being worked out. Unfortunately, the chancellor of the university, having read these tweets, or rather having been pointed to them, and having been contacted by donors who find them ‘anti-male’, ‘demeaning’ and ‘abusive’ and thus, possibly offensive to the male students who might be in her classes (and maybe even to her colleagues), decides to rescind the job offer.  Pleas to reconsider this decision, grounded in defenses of academic freedom, and of the inappropriateness of using pronouncements on social media as being indicative of broader personal and professional commitments, fall on deaf ears.

Professor F and Steven Salaita both need our help. Only one of them is real, the latter. Read this post by Corey Robin, which details the latest developments in his case; in it you will find the email addresses of the Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois to whom you should write, urging the university to rescind its ‘de-hiring.’

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