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Vassar Feminist Prof under student fire for allegedly using improper Transgender pronouns

Vassar Feminist Prof under student fire for allegedly using improper Transgender pronouns

Student Social Justice Warriors start to eat their own.

“Social justice” activism at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, is becoming self-parody, and not in a good way.

We have covered extensively the anti-Israel activism that has led to anti-Semitic incidents in 2014 and 2016. Among other things, in 2014 Jewish students who stood up at a campus-wide forum were mocked and jeered by a raucous crowd of students and faculty, a class was picketed and a professor forced to cross a picket line of ululating students because the course involved a trip to Israel (and the West Bank), Students for Justice in Palestine posted a Nazi cartoon on social media, and pro-Israel displays were vandalized.

Just recently, a Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution campaign kick-off by SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace, followed by a faculty-sponsored event at which Israel was accused of engaging in an experiment to “stunt” Palestinian bodies, led to anti-Semitic messages on campus Yik-Yak.

As if that were not bad enough, the social justice warriors at Vassar now have turned their sights on a feminist professor who allegedly did not use proper pronouns for transgender students.

I stumbled upon the story while researching the BDS activity on campus. The student newspaper, The Miscellany News, reported, Letter criticizes LGBTQ, Women’s Centers’ faculty fellow:

On Jan. 31, the VSA [Vassar Student Association Council] endorsed a letter that marked a week’s worth of campus criticism. Days earlier, Dean of Campus Life and Diversi­ty Ed Pittman announced that the LGBTQ and Women’s Centers would host a faculty fellow after the departure of the Centers’ former direc­tor, Judy Jarvis ’07. Pittman named Professor and Chair of the Drama Department Denise Walen as the new face of these community resources until the College finds a new director. Despite the Ad­ministration’s optimism, many students reacted to the news with serious concern. The charged response to this announcement stemmed from many students’ assertion that Walen has a prob­lematic record dealing with transgender students….

One student, M McKee ’17, was dismayed by the announcement of Walen’s appointment. Re­flecting on the two courses they took with Walen, they wrote in an emailed statement, “I (along with at least two other trans drama majors) was dis­turbed when I heard Professor Walen had been appointed to this position…Throughout the whole semester, she used the wrong pronouns for me, even when corrected by other students.” ….

McKee’s views echoed these frustrations. They explained an especially excruciating moment during which Walen led a discussion of McKee’s performance as a female character in a play. In their eyes, Walen’s words became invalidating when she emphasized her opinion that the play’s production “boldly put a male body in a dress” despite the fact that McKee had openly explained that they did not identify as male. As McKee re­called, “Her comments struck me as deeply trans­misogynistic, and I reached a point where I felt neither respected nor safe in her classroom.”

Walen’s only comment for this article was an emailed statement that read, “I’m looking forward to working with students this semester.”

The Open Letter containing the the list of complaints appears at the student-run Boilerplate magazine. The Open Letter was written mostly by JD Nichols, a transgender student, and focuses on alleged “repeated misgendering.” It is signed by numerous student organizations:

Vassar Boilerplate Open Letter Denise Walen

Vassar Boilerplate Open Letter Denise Walen signatures

Vassar student Sam Blanchard, who is active in the anti-Israel BDS activities on campus and refers to Israel as “the fascist regime that has stolen historic Palestine,” helped draft the Open Letter.

Prof. Walen seems like an unlikely candidate for scorn. Obviously, she was selected by the administration to be a faculty fellow because she checked all the right social justice boxes. Her faculty bio reads:

Denise A. Walen is a Professor in the Department of Drama at Vassar College where she has taught since 1996.  She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Theater from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis with a minor in Feminist Studies from the Center for Advanced Feminist Studies and concentrates her areas of teaching and research on dramatic literature and theory, theater history, and women’s studies. Dr. Walen focuses on early modern drama and has directed Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and Aphra Behn’sThe Feigned Courtesans, along with several other productions for the department. She is the author of articles and reviews in Theatre History Studies, Theatre Survey, Theatre Journal, and Shakespeare Quarterly as well as chapters in Women and Playwriting in Nineteenth Century Britain (Cambridge University Press, 1999) and Passing Performances: Queer Readings of Leading Players in American Theatre History (University of Michigan Press, 1998). Dr. Walen also served for several years as Performance Review editor for Theatre Journal and is currently on the editorial board of TRM. She is the author ofConstructions of Female Homoeroticism in Early Modern Drama (Palgrave 2005).

The abstract of her article Constructions of Female Homoerotics in Early Modern Drama reads, in part:

In this essay, I demonstrate the connection between dramatic literature and other literary material by examining Robert Wilson’s play The Three Ladies of London through the lens of Pietro Aretino’s Ragionamenti. Aretino’s non-dramatic text provides graphic images of female homosexual activity that open Wilson’s play to an analysis of its homoerotic content. I then explore some of the textual evidence that illustrates an awareness of female-female desire and sexual activity available in early modern England. The knowledge that women enjoyed one another sexually and found avenues for same-sex encounters existed in a variety of literary material. The main section of the essay investigates how the cross-dressed female character evokes homoerotic images in a number of plays, both prominent texts such as Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and John Lyly’s Gallathea, as well as lesser-known works like Robert Greene’s James IV, and Love’s Riddle by the popular poet Abraham Cowley. Early modern drama abounds with erotic imagery, and homoerotic constructions add to the complex and evocative nature of these plays. This essay works to reveal how compositional structures are developed that might otherwise be dismissed, ignored, or misinterpreted in these works.

Expanding on Douglas Bruster’s concept of the “sexually imaginable,” I suggest that female homoerotic desire in early modern drama is encoded in the imaginative realm of a spectator’s psyche, created when textual events, situations, or relationships are filtered through the existing…

Walen also signed onto a faculty letter objecting to some of Donald Trump’s comments about Muslim’s.

The Miscellany News reports that the administration is standing behind Prof. Walen:

While cognizant of this student backlash, [Dean of Campus Life and Diversi­ty Ed] Pit­tman’s response suggests that the administration will be cautious to embrace radical changes to their decision. As Pittman wrote, “There are cer­tain opportunities for student input, but person­nel decisions are made by administrators. When this decision was made we utilized available input and considered the benefits of Professor Walen’s experience as a faculty member and Class Ad­visor among other factors…I have confidence in Walen’s ability to support all students who see the centers as welcoming and inclusive spaces.” ….

Pittman notes that although there are certain limits to student involvement in administrative decisions, everyone may voice concern. As he explained, “I have invited students to meet with me and ultimately with Professor Walen to under­stand any concerns that exist…My hope is that we can create bridges for dialogue and open conver­sations where students concerns can be heard.”

Neither Dean Pittman nor Prof. Walen responded to my requests for comment. But having covered student activism at Vassar for the past two years, I am more than willing to assume she did nothing wrong. Certainly, the administration is standing by her.

Commenting on the anti-Israel movement, a Vassar alum commented in the student newspaper:

Who in his right mind would send their children to an institution mired in such horrors?

That question would seem applicable to faculty teaching at Vassar. No matter how progressive or politically correct, they are one microaggression or hypersensitive grievance away from being on the receiving end of social justice war. Just ask the professor who had to cross the anti-Israel picket line, or Prof. Walen.

Because at Vassar, the social justice warriors are eating their own.

[Featured Image – Vassar LGBTQ Center via Vassar Website]


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Selective exclusion cast a penumbra over the rainbow.

The females chauvinists thought that with resumption of abortion rites they had become equivalent to the Matriarch, Mother Nature. The sought alliance with the transgender, minorities, etc. in order to secure their position in the mortal realm.

Once again, the pro-choice doctrine reveals its weakness through an inability to establish principles that are internally, externally, and mutually consistent. And, in fact, exposes the progressive corruption and dysfunction inherent to this quasi-religion.

Good. Let it burn. The whole damned coven.

Char Char Binks | February 14, 2016 at 8:06 pm

This could jeopardize zir chance at winning the Nobel.

Eating their own…

They’ll deserve the bad aftertaste and heartburn.

This is wonderful. Keep it up Kiddies. AAMOF, please increase this lunacy.

All Bernie supporters I am sure. Bernie has promised them a free education, paid for by us, for this kind of brilliant and erudite commentary.

The abstract of her article Constructions of Female Homoerotics in Early Modern Drama reads, in part: *snip*

I read through that. I think I lost about ten points off my IQ.

I’m glad it wasn’t the whole thing, I’d be barking & licking my own balls.

These pronouns need to simplified. Any person with a base XY genetic code who wants to be labeled as some kind of weird derivative should be referred to as a ding-dong. Those with an XX base can best be referred to as a weirdo.

That’ll fix the confusion once and for all. You’re welcome!

Bless zir heart. <3

What pronoun do I use for a transgender person?: Huh?

Any school and any peoples who embrace LGBTQ and/or BDS deserve what they get.

These two pronoun acronyms stand not for truth-seeking but for “me first” thinking. Such thinking is not conducive to a healthy and honest environment.

LGBTQ and BDS are two black holes locked in a death spiral.

Trans gender students playing a cross dressing role? No room for confusion there. Perhaps they could help sort things out by wearing an identifying pin or button. Good luck in the real world kids.

“trans­misogynistic” is not a word. I’m just pointing this out.

I go back to the example I always use: Ask the student “You are in a terrible accident and are in the Emergency Room. The doctor has to give you an injection to save your life. The drug is different for male and female – if the drug for a male is given to a female, it will kill the person immediately, but if the correct drug is given, it will save the person’s life. Which drug should we give you?”

*That* is the way to find the appropriate pronoun.

ugottabekiddinme | February 15, 2016 at 12:17 pm


Count me in.

This stuff is SO boring. But I did get as far as “trans­misogynistic” and had a good laugh.

I see this as a legitimacy tactic of the SJW movement. This is their “proof” that they aren’t selectively targeting one political and ideological camp through their passive aggressive shenanigans.

Don’t take the bait.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch. Go to it guys. It’s Thunderdome time.

Good Lord. I am Vassar alum (Class of 1991) and this nonsense was almost unbearable even then. I cannot imagine the Cultural Revolution-style policing of people word choice that is going on there.

Count me in as one of those trans-something-or-other feminists that the children are so angry about because we are pushing back against their madness. Someone has to, or else where does it end?

Look, just because gender roles are largely socially formed doesn’t mean that they are completely – there is still male and female, in nature as well as our own species, and it something born not made. To be a woman is to be connected, in some way no matter how distant, with the creation of life. You can’t simply throw on a wig and be like, “ME too!”.

The other thing that really annoys us older feminists is how totally retrograde this all is. Whenever a man is asked why he ‘knows’ he is really a woman, he responds with a string of stereotypes – he’s like, “Oh I love wearing makeup and dresses and doing my hair…” Huh? What?? What on earth does that have to do with being a woman? Right now I am wearing yoga pants, no makeup, and my hair is back in a ponytail. Um, am I really no longer female??? Or do these little decorative things have nothing to do with actually being a woman.

It’s like being back in Fifties – if you are a woman who wants to wear pants, or a man who wants to wear a dress, you’re not supposed to just go for it and live your life how you want. People are acting like you have to get surgery so that your genitals will ‘match’ some totally invented list of gender-based activities! It’s beyond absurd and getting into mental illness, but you can’t point that out because it only riles the nutcases even more and they come after your job.

Thank God the administration is standing behind this professor.

Want a good pronoun for these people ???
“freak “….works for me !