Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Girl Who Cried Wolf: Barnard Throws Accusations of Racism Around

This past weekend someone went around Hewitt Hall (a residential dorm at Barnard) and drew, as the Bwog describes it, some "graffiti of a questionable nature." Outgoing Barnard president Judith Schapiro (she has said that this is her last year at the helm of the all-female institution) jumped on the racism bandwagon that thrust Columbia into the spotlight of American media sensationalism last semester.

So did the graffiti use the N-word or other racial slurs? Did it have a picture of a burning cross? No. A Spectator article describes the graffiti as consisting of a whiteboard drawing and an index card posted on a hallway bulletin board. The drawing on the whiteboard was of a woman being chainsawed in half and the index card had a picture of a woman burning a bra and the word "feminist" with the f consisting of a swastika.

Now the swastika, obviously a hateful symbol associated with the Holocaust, often causes alarm. I think that it is pretty clear that in this context it is being used to compare feminist thought with fascism. I'm sure that many people have heard of the term "feminazi," used to describe feminists who aggressively push their mantras on other people whether they are open to discussion about the subject or not.

Even the swastika by itself is not considered racist. It is anti-Semitic, but racist is a stretch. There is an ongoing debate about whether Judaism is a race, and I certainly do not think that Judith Schapiro and the Barnard trustees want to stake a claim in that department. To call this act racist undermines other acts of true racism.

There is nothing wrong with opposing feminism as free expression is a cornerstone of this country. I don't agree with this person's method of expressing his/her viewpoint, and the way that this person went about it was irresponsible and potentially offensive. Judith Schapiro's condemnation of the graffiti as "racist" was also irresponsible and potentially offensive. They should have just erased the sophomoric graffiti and threw away the index card and wrote a little note to the floor that it occurred on alerting them to the situation. Instead they sent out an e-mail incorrectly identifying the graffiti as racist and gave the situation exponentially more attention than it actually merited. Peace.

Photos - Barnard College (c00lmarie's flickr), Hewitt Hall on a snowy day (tina.gao's flickr)

No comments:

Post a Comment