Fearing our Students Redux

Our director of University relations forwarded me a commentary by Gary Pavela from this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled “Fearing our Students Won’t Help Them.” This is a really excellent article from a disability studies perspective, as it cautions us  to focus on actual student conduct not stereotypes. Like Kathleen Jones did at AHA, he points out that campus shootings are almost always suicides as well — so suicide prevention should be the focus.

Some thoughts on the last two shooting incidents. Comments about Steven Kazmierczak at NIU have remarked at how “nice” and “normal” he was, unlike the “freak” at Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, discussions of Latina Williamshave disappeared, except at this site.

This is in sharp contrast to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Boys will be Boys, Girls will be Hounded by the Media.” The article observes, “Men who fall from grace are treated with gravity and distance, while women in similar circumstances are objects of derision, titillation and black comedy.”

I wonder — are the mental health problems of Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse more newsworthy because women are expected to be more “unstable?” Or do male celebrities like Owen Wilson have relatives who are better able to keep the press away and maintain privacy?

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3 Comments

  1. Good post. (But I think you mean to say in sentence two that “it cautions us to focus on actual student conduct?”, not “not to focus?”) I think the media (and our?) hyper-fascination with celebrity women’s private lives in general (not just the troubled ones–how many covers of magazines in your supermarket check-out lane have Angelina Jolie on the cover this week?) has to do with the lower or more permeable boundaries people percieve around women’s lives in general. Non-celebrity women’s behavior is held to higher scrutiny and more people feel free to offer their opionions than the same men’s behavior. (For example, the so-called “mommy wars” between women who work for money versus those who don’t. Meanwhile, there is nowhere near the same commentary on men’s family decisions.) Men are permitted to be individuals, whereas all women have to make the exact same “choices” or it’s terribly dangerous and threatening.

  2. You should do a post on your students’ reactions to the mommy wars stuff–it’s been a few years now since that dumb Lisa Belkin article in the NYT about how Yalie girls were all eager to dump their careers as soon as they have kiddies. (My guess is that many of your students, like my students, don’t have the luxury of seeing their education and careers as “optional.” But, you could surprise me.) Back in the 1980s when I was in college, we would have laughed at the notion that we’d jettison our careers for children–it’s not that we arrogantly thought we could “have it all” easily, but rather that it was a false “choice,” and moreover, one that men are never asked to make.

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