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Modesty Lecture Creates Controversy

By
April 4, 2008

The atmosphere of the full house that greeted Wendy Shalit’s discussion, “Modesty: An Alternative Lifestyle?” was nearly as giddy as that which had greeted Margaret Cho in the same room a month ago, though for very different reasons. Author of A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue and Girls Gone Mild, Shalit is a cultural critic of a stripe rarely seen in daylight at Swarthmore. The group of students sitting behind this reporter seemed to reflect the general attitude of the crowd when they suggested watching a pornographic film on a laptop during Shalit’s talk.

Ms. Shalit is a 1997 graduate of Williams College, where hall members vote at the beginning of the year on whether or not their hall’s bathrooms will be gendered or coed. Shalit’s hall voted for coed bathrooms, a decision that made her intensely uncomfortable. But when she talked to her Junior Advisors (Williams’ version of RAs) about her discomfort, they reassured her that she would come to be comfortable with her body and coed bathrooms. If not, she could talk to Psych Services. This experience propelled Shalit into the role she has now occupied of more than ten years, that of advocate for the extension of the “penumbra of tolerance to include modesty as a valid lifestyle”.

Shalit touched on many themes in her discussion, including the intense pressure both men and women feel to participate in the “hook-up culture”, the possibility of a generation gap between parents who grew up during the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s and their children, and the innateness of a desire for modesty. Shalit did not precisely define the buzzwords she used throughout, including “higher standards” and the “we” and “they” she referred to throughout. Several people raised this issue of language later on, during questions, but did not ultimately seem satisfied by the answers Shalit gave. The one definition that Shalit did provide, “Modesty is about setting boundaries and dignity” was greeted with skeptical, “huhs?” from the crowd.

The audience seemed unimpressed by Shalit’s evidence for her arguments from women’s magazines, such as Marie Claire and Elle, and excerpts from letters she has received. Zoe Lewicki, ‘11, said, “I thought that a lot of it [Shalit’s claims] was invalid because it seemed like she was getting most of her information from teen magazines and her impressions of current culture.” When asked by a student for evidence of her apparent claim that modesty is innate, Shalit pondered why children in sexual education classes would giggle. “If kids are giggling, maybe it’s because they know sex is significant,” she said.

The heteronormativity of Shalit’s focus was brought up during the questions by one student who inquired into “the queer community’s role” in her discussion of modesty. Shalit’s reply that her call for “the respect of boundaries applies to everyone” but that queerness wasn’t what she “was about” did little to satisfy the crowd, already riled up by a comment Shalit made earlier in the evening that many audience members felt was dismissive of queerness: a girl wrote to Shalit, sharing that her mother thought she was a lesbian because she had not had any boyfriends, which Shalit interpreted as indicative that we have become tolerant of homosexuality but not modesty.

The crowd grew increasingly restless with Shalit’s apparent evasion of questions during the question portion of the discussion. While Shalit attempted to answer the query about evidence for the innateness of modesty, a student yelled, “You know infants masturbate, don’t you?” Soon thereafter, Rachael Mansbach, ’11, stood up and asked the audience to return the dialogue to a “level that is polite” to warm applause.

Mansbach had read some of Girls Gone Mild previous to the evening’s discussion, and found Shalit’s ideas to be better articulated in the book than in her presentation. When asked what she thought could be the cause of the audience’s dissatisfaction with Shalit, Mansbach said, “Her choice of language was not as careful as a lot of people here are used to having. They would immediately jump on her use of language and not listen to what underlay the language.”

26 Responses to Modesty Lecture Creates Controversy

  1. Virginia

    April 4, 2008 at 9:32 am

    I was not at the lecture, but from the various articles I’ve read and from what I’ve overheard from those who did attend, I have to say that no matter what she was saying, the Swatties had no right to be so disrespectful during her talk. It doesn’t matter if you disagree, you have to let a speaker speak. If those who were asking the tough questions really wanted to hear her response, why be so aggressive? Do you think that she would become more articulate and better able to provide a thoughtful reply to a challenging question if you intimidate her and back her into a corner? I know that at least I wouldn’t. Now, I’m not saying that what she said was right, and I’m not interested in that right now. I’m just concerned about the behavior demonstrated by Swatties in victimizing a person they disagree with, which is spiteful and never deserved.

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  2. Alyssa

    April 4, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Thank you to Rachel for reminding the audience how to properly receive a guest at Swarthmore. I was ashamed that students who claim to be so liberal behaved so disrespectfully during the talk (from incessant murmurring to outright interruptions). I hope that the next time a controversial speaker comes to campus we can treat him or her with more respect.

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  3. Will

    April 4, 2008 at 10:46 am

    I add my voice to those thanking Rachael.

    That said, I think that Mrs. Shalit is a poor speaker and appeared to be unable to make a coherent point. She had no scientifically valid evidence (relying on anecdotes instead) and she had no control over the audience. Any college, or even high school student, knows that if given a microphone, you use it or you don’t, but you never switch back and forth. Furthermore, you never acknowledge latecomers, which merely embarrasses them and interrupts the flow.

    Finally, I was disappointed that Mrs. Shalit came to this institution, renowned for intellectualism, and proceeded to give a talk that was more “cute” than intellectual or believable. Swarthmore has a reputation, and I would expect any speaker arriving here to have done his or her homework.

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  4. Seth verde

    April 4, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I went to the speech but left before the Q&A because I found her somewhat boring. I am quite surprised that people got so pissed off at her ideas. They’re not that radical. Outside of the boundaries of Swarthmore, an emphasis on “modesty” as establishing boundaries of sexuality is pretty common.

    I think people brought their own prejudices into the speech and were never really listening to the alternative viewpoint. As best exemplified by the op-ed in the Phoenix this week – which quoted her as saying that sexual violence can be traced back to a society that doesn’t respect modesty, and then accusing her of blaming women for sexual violence (which is not in the quote at all) – people were going into the talk ready for combat, and so jumped on everything to be criticized. Whereas she was advocating for self-defined boundaries, people seemed to think that she was looking for a return to a Christian moral code which forces women to behave a certain way. That’s not what she was going for; she was instead arguing that today’s manifestations of patriarchy demand sexual promiscuity rather than chastity. It sounds like people were very disrespectful during the Q&A, and that’s disappointing.

    But it’s not really surprising. Every time people get really pissed off here about things that other people say, it reminds me that many students here either do not understand or do not agree with the project of liberalism as a theory of the right, and not of the good. People here seem to think that some conceptions of the good life are better than others and that society should place an emphasis on one over the other. It’s not all that different than that mom’s response to M’s column. I wish it were different.

    Also,I’m annoyed that so many people lament her for being insufficiently academic. Believe it or not there is a place to talk about sexuality and love outside of academia: for instance, relationships. She’s not a professor. She could still have something valuable to say. It’s true that I would have liked the speech to be more academic, but that is because I am a snob, and I also get bored reading the newspaper. Swarthmore doesn’t only have to host visiting academics to be respectable. That’s so elitist it’s embarrassing.

    And P.S. I think Rachael’s point about people jumping down her throat for less-sensitive language use is very insightful.

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  5. Seth verde

    April 4, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I meant not to say “surprsied” in the first paragraph, and I agree that she was unaware of how heteronormative the whole thing was. But I’m a heterosexual so it was pertinent to my life.

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  6. Will

    April 4, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    I think that had Wendy Shalit been clear in her point, I would have likely agreed with some of it. However, she advocated a return to an ideal of the “modesty” typically associated with the 1950s. The problem with such a return is that she believes in something that never existed- prostitution and infidelity were just as problematic at that time as they are now. I think most people will agree that the Bratz magazine is crude, demeaning, and unnecessary. That would have made an excellent point and excellent lecture. But that was not her topic. She skipped around and didn’t settle on a cohesive point, diminishing her overall effectiveness.

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  7. brianne

    April 4, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I agree with what most of you have said: I don’t think anyone should be completely writing Shalit off from the get-go without giving her a say. But I also think Shalit’s rhetoric contradicted the ethos of tolerance for which she claimed to be advocating.

    MOST IMPORTANTLY, I hope women’s voices are heard amid this whole conversation. I’m tired of people telling me–as a woman–what I should want, desire, feel and not feel, and so forth–and telling me than anything else is unhealthy, childish, or what have you.

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  8. brianne

    April 4, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    What’s more, though of course I value respect, I hope respect isn’t becoming synonymous with being “polite.” Sometimes, being polite needs to take a backseat to saying something important–especially if being polite requires me to disrespect myself and the people I represent.

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  9. Dennis

    April 4, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    I’m not sure how many commenters or readers actually attended the lecture, but having attended myself, I am thoroughly unscandalized by the reception that Ms. Shalit received here. I think that the majority of attendees went expecting to hear a well-articulated, if divergent viewpoint. What we got from Shalit, however, was anything but.

    While the article mentions in passing the offensive nature of some of Shalit’s remarks, it fails to convey the force with which Shalit’s ignorance and insensitivity made itself felt; from an offhand comment about a girl whose mother gives her twelve condoms when she goes away, “even when she goes to India”, to her response to a question about considering the queer community’s position in the debate she raises: “I think what we need to focus on is strengthening heterosexual marriage in America now”, Shalit proved that she considered her talk as directed at a very specific, noninclusive audience and worked within a very narrow intellectual framework.

    Shalit cited Havelock Ellis, a notoriously unscrupulous and academically debunked Victorian sociologist and sexologist whose main work centered on “constitutional differences between men and women” that rendered women unfit for participation in the public sphere, as having “discovered a tribe”. She repeatedly advocated a return to “the original feminism”, arguing that modesty was a tool used by “the first feminists” to achieve voting rights for women. Shalit, in taking this position, completely decontextualized the voting rights debate, and failed totally to take into account the white, middle-class, heteronormative and fundamentally exclusive nature of many early incarnations of the women’s rights movement.

    Shalit opened the lecture by discussing the marginalized position of those who choose to be modest in a hypersexualized, mass-mediated culture, noting that “we” all find discussion of transgender issues necessary and acceptable, but refuse to accord modesty the same respect. While modesty as a choice is definitely valid and deserves respect and discussion, Shalit’s broad generalization about the respect and acceptance transgendered people “now” find in society was as true as her equation of the intolerance that the transgendered community has experienced to the social marginalization of modesty as a sexual choice was respectful.

    As almost an afterthought, the talk itself was poorly given, rife with vaguely defined pseudophilosphical terms, and founded upon largely anecdotal evidence. An examination of the endnotes to Shalit’s book confirmed this impression: Girls Gone Mild cites many more personal emails, letters, or conversations than it does actual studies or academic sources.

    In sum, Wendy Shalit presented an unimpressive, regressive, and at many times, offensive talk on Wednesday. While she offered a valid critique of our hypsersexualized society and her point that modesty deserves respect as a valid choice was well taken, her offensive comments (“you might find that the person serving you coffee can ACTUALLY have more to teach you about leading a satisfying life than your professor!”) , establishment of a moral hierarchy for sexual behavior, unwillingness to dialogue with other perspectives, and inability to respond thoughtfully to students’ questions rendered her position unworthy of respectful engagement.

    To allow and conscience the expression of Shalit’s viewpoints as legitimate at Swarthmore, an institution that, before being academically prestigious or socially progressive, ought simply to create for its students an atmosphere of inclusion or acceptance, cannot be other than an accession to the social silencing of marginalized groups and heteronormative, Eurocentric social norms that have always dominated and constrained discussion of sexuality. I applaud all the students who attended the lecture and made their opposition heard, in any form.

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  10. Guess I still have to be in the closet

    April 4, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    OK guys, this is ridiculous. I happen to have overheard the students who were so rude and took over the Q&A period (and I assume, most of those who are commenting here) and I heard them talking before the speech about how they were planning to disrupt her, and people, no matter how many rude questions and how many distorted comments you post, you need to know that you do not represent all of Swarthmore.

    Shalit asked why modesty is not accepted as a legitimate lifestyle choice and your refusing to engage her statistics and argument, all the yelling and the saying that we can’t even “allow the expression of Shalit’s viewpoints”–you are all showing how intolerant you really are.

    I can’t even count how many times I have been called a “prude” on campus or assumptions have been made about my personal life, and no, I do not want to go back to the 1950s. I think what really gets you angry about Shalit is that you proved her point.

    (And by the way, as a latecomer I appreciated that she showed me where there was a seat because I could not find one!!!)

    What happened on Wednesday night is exactly why I’m thinking of transfering.

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  11. closeted

    April 4, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    p.s. The rumor on campus was that Shalit was going to be “homophobic” so I think listeners were taken aback when she said judging people who are gay was not what she was about, because they expected her to be more judgmental. She did not say as this article states, “queerness wasn’t what she ‘was about,’” but rather that judging others wasn’t what she was about.

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  12. The (Unintentionally) Belligerent One

    April 4, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    This article has misquoted me as saying “You know infants masturbate, don’t you?” when in fact I asked “Are you aware that infants masturbate?” This may seem like an insignificant difference, but it was intended to be a serious question and not some form of heckling. I will grant that the timing was largely a result of my reaction to some of her statements and implications that I found deeply offensive, but if there was any rudeness it was to other audience members who were more patient in waiting to express their reactions.

    Both before and after the lecture, I have defended the idea that there are portions of our society that are arguably hypersexualized, including the types of magazines Shalit spoke of. I found “Guess I still have to be in the closet’s” comment interesting because before I went to the lecture I was expecting an honest argument. I suspect my relative openness was because I hadn’t familiarized myself with her work beforehand. However, Shalit’s ahoddy research, her avoidance of answering the questions posed to her, and her offensive comments convinced me that she is a dishonest “researcher” hawking an agenda. This conclusion was formed entirely based on her lecture.

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  13. Unimpressed audience member

    April 5, 2008 at 2:18 am

    I attended the lecture, but left before the Q&A. I agree that heckling a speaker is disrespectful and impolite, and should not be endorsed. However, I think that Shalit received such an unwelcoming reception not because her ideas were disliked but because she did an extremely poor job of articulating them. Furthermore, as has been mentioned above, some of what she said was noticeably disrespectful on many fronts. In light of this information, the reaction of the audience seems not entirely unjustified. I believe that the hostility was a result more of the audience’s frustration with her attitude and her apparent inability to give a well-thought-out presentation than with the content per se. Thus, while I would probably not myself choose to be quite so vehement in my questioning, I do not fault others for letting loose.

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  14. Sophie

    April 5, 2008 at 9:57 am

    (Dennis — well put.)

    I’m disturbed by some reactions on this message board indicating that they trust Shalit when she claimed that her talk was really just about heterosexuality.

    Part of her rhetorical style is to tell a story that ALMOST implies something deeply offensive. Then, when she is challenged, she backs down and agrees with what her challenger is saying as much as she can. The trick is that since her anecdotes are just stories, none of her argument logically follows from any of them; take away the force of one anecdote, and her argument is still standing. In the end, the argument consists of unsupported statements and whatever emotional aura she can create by citing letters and stories. (As a fellow philosophy major, I’m pretty disappointed with her.)

    The story I found most offensive, aside from the “India” comment, was the one about the girl whose mother thought she was a lesbian because she had not yet had sex (with a man?). The emotional impact that story must have had at other venues must come from the subliminally homophobic tone in which Shalit presented the case. This is another of her tactics — tell a story that is only convincing if we fill in the details with our own homophobia or sexism. However, since Shalit never explicitly endorses any of these views, she is hard to argue against.

    Finally, while I agree that in general we should be a bit more respectful of speakers than we were of Shalit, I still think the college should not have sponsored her talk. There is a huge difference between allowing free speech and paying someone to be hateful. So many of Shalit’s points were valid and convincing — I think almost any student here could have made her points in a better written and less offensive speech, done better research, and even used anecdotes in a more honest and convincing way. (Maybe those skills are not the same skills you need to sell books.) I wish we could have found a speaker to make these points in a way that inspired thought, rather than anger.

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  15. Amy

    April 6, 2008 at 12:09 am

    I don’t see why that’s hateful to quote from a letter when a girl is complaining that her mother gave her so many condoms to go to India. I think you missed the point, not India but that she was feeling pressure from her mother. (Maybe I can relate more because I have felt similar pressure from my Mom on trips and it’s very annoying.) Anyway, I found Wendy Shalit’s lecture both entertaining and eye-opening. I thought that her ideas were very applicable to my current situation, her challenge to view love as seeking the benefit of the other person and the studies about hooking up, also modesty as the right to say no to the wrong people so you can say yes to the right one (I believe the reporter also misquoted that in her article). However I agree that the students’ questions were not especially terrible, although some people were rude in the manner in which they asked the questions by interrupting and not letting Ms. Shalit finish. But I did not find the questions themselves to be offensive. Some of the questions I thought were quite interesting. Although later on I did realize something odd, which is that none of them referenced Ms. Shalit’s actual lecture. I don’t know if anyone else noticed this but the questions about the naturalness of modesty and homosexuality were all coming out of nowhere and it does makes me wonder if the questions were prepared beforehand rather than in response to her lecture. And about the “cute” comment referenced above, isn’t it lookist to look down on a speaker because of his or her physical attractiveness?

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  16. Sophie

    April 6, 2008 at 8:11 am

    If Shalit meant that the girl felt pressure in general, why did she say “EVEN to India?” (My charitable interpretation is that she meant that AIDS is prevalent in India, so you shouldn’t have sex there. But that’s an even stronger argument to bring condoms.)

    And I think Will meant that her talk (her stories, her tone, her “wow, isn’t this crazy, don’t you agree” logic) was cute, not that she was.

    Also, some of the comments (like Jeremy’s, about the innateness of modesty) did rely on research done before the talk, but they weren’t totally off the wall. Shalit did reference innateness in her talk. She certainly talked about “higher standards,” which was another question someone asked; other questions about her treatment of queerness and class were not in response to what was in the talk, but what was noticeably missing from the talk. I did not get the impression that people had prepared questions beforehand (though I don’t see why that would be SO bad) — just that they had looked her up and thought about the kinds of problems her writing (her books, her blog, etc) tends to have.

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  17. about India

    April 6, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Perhaps she was referring to the fact that India is a very modest society:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/31/world/asia/31flirt.html?ex=1364616000&en=50fe4463696383b0&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    And the bit about being asked by your mom if you’re a lesbian:
    Well all of us might not attach a stigma to being a lesbian but some of our parents do, I can tell you, and who wants to be stigmatized by her parents?
    Maybe as a member of the white heterosexual culture I’m just not ready to see the disguised power structures that oppress minorities. But maybe people here are just not tolerant. And someone asserted earlier that the disappointment to her was because she spoke badly. That’s ridiculous; she still deserves respect, which she didn’t get.

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  18. Alyssa

    April 6, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    I don’t mean to cut off the discussion on Shalit’s mode of presentation, but has anyone else wanted to talk about the problem of our hypersexualized society? Is anyone else disturbed by the huge quantity of sex in the media to which most Americans are exposed on a daily basis?

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  19. Mark Kharas

    April 6, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Alyssa, I certainly would be interested in engaging that discussion. I should also preface my comments by saying that I wasn’t actually at the lecture (I had an honors seminar to go to, but I really wanted to be at the lecture). I think the problem that Shalit points out is indeed valid, but from what I’ve heard of her thoughts and writing, I must say that the way she goes about trying to address it, while appropriate for some, is not something that should be advocated for everyone. How to treat issues of gender and queer people is something that needs to be addressed, and from what I can gather she hasn’t addressed it in the views she expressed. And just as people shouldn’t be pressured to have sex, people shouldn’t be pressured *not* to have sex, and from what I heard that pressuring was certainly present in her talk. I don’t want to confuse this discussion with the discussion that we’ve been having regarding M’s column, but there is a lengthy comment I posted on that thread that addresses the problems of our hypersexual society and how addressing it in ways that emphasize silence on the subject of sex as such is bad. I suggest interested people read it, as I think it has a lot to add to this discussion.

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  20. D

    April 7, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Interesting to see such intolerance, elitism and immaturity at such a renowned “liberal” arts college. And you know what they say–when people get so emotionally defensive about another person’s opinions it usually means deep down they realize the other person is right. :)

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  21. Lucas Sanders

    April 7, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    I would also be interested in a discussion of our culture’s portrayal of sexuality, and particularly what we feel is an appropriate response to the problems therein. I did not attend Shalit’s lecture either — in my case, because I thought its promoters made some problematic decisions — but it seems that this lecture should have been a real opening for just this sort of discussion. Unfortunately, we seem to be fairly preoccupied with refuting Shalit’s personal argument than we are with presenting positive arguments of our own. And I also saw hints of avoiding this issue in the responses to M’s column, where Mark was one of a very few commenters to address this issue directly, even though I think it was the primary issue underlying that discussion for quite some time.

    Speaking of which, Mark, you referenced your well-written comment over in that other discussion. That comment, however, was written mostly for the purpose of refuting Chris. If you have the time, I think it would be very useful if you could expand further on your positive arguments for the open discussion of sexuality. I say this because I value your voice in these discussions, but if you need to focus on other commitments, please don’t let me pull you away from them.

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  22. Amy

    April 9, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    What problematic decisions did the promoters make?

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  23. Alexandra

    April 10, 2008 at 3:00 am

    Wow! You people are truly frightening. You fancy yourselves “intellectuals,” yet it is self-evident that not one of you understood what Ms. Shalit was talking about. I won’t try to explain it to you since you have clearly been indoctrinated with the PC “inclusion” agenda.

    I will give you a clue, though. The concept of having standards with respect to sexuality has nothing to do with homosexuality. The idea that refraining from including such lifestyles is somehow offensive, is unique to your generation who was taught the multi-cultural diversity agenda. (Your elders know that this is an agenda, and not truth itself.)

    And, assertions like this: “her offensive comments (‘you might find that the person serving you coffee can ACTUALLY have more to teach you about leading a satisfying life than your professor!’)” show how immature and spoiled you are.

    One of the most intelligent men I’ve ever met is a Service Manager at a heating oil company that services our institution. He never finished high school; and yet, he is a self-taught engineer. He has often been called in to assist on engineering projects when a team of “highly-qualified” engineers couldn’t solve a construction problem. He has managed to out-think the engineers nine times out of ten. Still, you are offended by the suggestion that your piece of paper (degree) from a prestigious school wouldn’t make you superior to someone who waits tables for a living. I fear for our future.

    By the way, Ms. Shalit has been asked to speak here (at Harvard) on April 11, 2008, as part of the Harvard University: “Legacy and Future of Feminism” Conference. She is one of 15 speakers who will discuss four topics in panels, as they relate to feminism. Other speakers include Camille Paglia and Katie Roiphe.

    How odd! You indignantly claim that Ms. Shalit isn’t good enough for Swarthmore (and “elitists” like yourselves), yet she is good enough for Harvard. I hope that when she arrives here, she will not be greeted by an unruly pack of wolves, waiting to pounce on anyone who challenges their PC “ideas.” Please learn to think critically.

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  24. Mark Kharas

    April 10, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Alexandra, you clearly didn’t understand the comment that you are yourself commenting on. I and other people found Shalit’s comment “you might find that the person serving you coffee can ACTUALLY have more to teach you about leading a satisfying life than your professor!’” to be offensive precisely because it seemed to support the idea that one would expect the individual serving you coffee to NOT be able to teach you anything about life. The flippant nature of Shalit’s comment (which was very common for her entire presentation from what I’ve heard) is inherently classist. I would agree with you that people who lack formal education can often know many incredibly useful practical skills and people skills that are worth learning from. I am therefore surprised that you didn’t notice that Shalit’s comment is in fact arguing against what you and I both espouse.

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  25. D.

    April 10, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    @Alexandra: Between the “your elders” comment, the typical Harvard pretension, and your complete misreading of the comment as noted by Mark, it seems like you’re the needlessly “elitist” one. As you yourself said: please learn to think critically.

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  26. Lucas Sanders

    April 11, 2008 at 10:06 am

    “What problematic decisions did the promoters make?”

    First of all, I didn’t say the decisions were problematic, but simply that I read them as such. I apologize for creating confusion.

    Since the lecture, I’ve re-read the reserved-students message that I was most strongly reacting to, and I don’t think it was as overwhelmingly problematic as I initially thought. (I’ve reprinted that advertisement at the end of my post.) It’s not so much that they said anything wrong, per se, as that their particular hype-filled language choices made it easy to interpret their actual statements in a much more troublesome way.

    Reading between the lines, I initially read their reserved-students advertisement as expressing hints of tokenism (hey, you who want a more physically modest culture — we got you a speaker for once! be grateful!) while also implicitly inviting those desiring a more physically liberated culture to attack Shalit in the Q&A. I don’t think this was the plain-sense reading of their advertisement, nor do I think it was the intended effect.

    Even so, it appears that others may have gotten similar ideas from the lecture’s advertising. I suggest that future sponsors of events on this campus might reconsider using such strongly emotional language in their future advertisements, especially when promoting a highly controversial speaker.

    [RESERVED-STUDENTS ANNOUNCEMENT:]

    Wendy Shalit
    Wednesday, April 2, 2008
    7:30 p.m.
    Lang Performing Arts Theater

    Sick of the “Girls Gone Wild” culture? If you agree that 8-year-old
    girls shouldn’t have to look “hot” and that there is more to life
    than hooking up, come to the Lang Performing Arts Theater to hear
    noted speaker Wendy Shalit this Wednesday evening.

    Wendy’s essays on literary and cultural topics have appeared in The
    Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Slate, and other
    publications. Her book, “A Return to Modesty: Discovering The Lost
    Virtue,” came out in 1999 when she was 23, and Wendy has defied
    categorization since–some people call her a “real feminist” and
    others, an anti-feminist. This Wednesday, you can decide for
    yourself! She loves to discuss ideas with those who disagree with her
    in open and honest dialogue.

    So whether you’re a fan of the “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”
    philosophy, or looking for an alternative, come and listen to this
    entertaining and thought-provoking speaker and engage her during the
    Q&A period.

    The author will also sign discounted books and (free) SUSHI will be
    served before the lecture at 7:30, so try to come early to get the
    goods.

    Sponsored by Forum for Free Speech, and Women’s Studies

    http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=9421994878

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