I’ve been a bit agog (or is it aghast?) about last week’s events at Yale. Here’s why: When I went to college for the first time in the late ’60s, the first wave of feminism was in full flower. And while the bloom may have fallen off the rose shortly thereafter with the advent of identity politics — some might even call it a runaway train of political correctness — the crap that went down on campus of late is, at least to my mind, boggling.
I’m straight, pushing 60, and married with children who are old enough to be on campuses themselves. As a freshman in 1969 I had just turned 18, and was the product of what was then called a “broken home,” raised by my mother and surrounded by girls — two sisters, a grandmother and three surviving aunts (my mom was one of five). I had no choice but to figure out what it took to get along in life with women.
That’s not to say I wasn’t young, randy and ready, willing and able to follow my member wherever it was inclined to go. (Jeez, I hope my wife and kids don’t read this.) Boys are preternaturally programmed, in my view, to push against restraints in whatever form they take. Sometimes this makes them stupid and tone deaf, and more often than not — unless they’re sociopaths — regret will invariably set in. And then they atone. This is most often done in private, as it’s not considered terribly manly to bare one’s soul in public, lest other men poke fun at your exposed behind.
Which, almost, brings me to my point. What the DKE-heads did last week was just plain dumb. Whoever thought it up and sold it to the pledges needs to be carefully monitored by his friends and associates. Moreover, for it to happen in 2010 on the campus of a world-class university, one that I proudly attend as an Eli Whitney student, is almost unbelievable. We certainly wouldn’t have tried to get away with this 40 years ago at either of the colleges I attended — one of which was all-male, I might add. For one, the women I knew were powerful and the boys knew better than to think they could try this kind of crap and live.
In the seventh grade, I got my foot trod on and nearly broken by a girl named Rosie for calling her an epithet I won’t again repeat. (She later married my ex-brother-in-law, but that’s another story.) It hurt her and, I can tell you, my foot was damn sore as well. That same year I decided to enroll as the only boy in a home economics class; not so much to make a point, but rather, because I’d figured out that if I wanted to eat well at home — my mother was working at night — I’d better obtain some kitchen skills. I aced the class, learned to iron along the way, and to this day I’m a demon in the laundry room. And I learned to bake well. This endeared me to my aunt Zina, a woman who created about as mean a chocolate chip cookie as has ever existed.
So screw the DKEs, I say. Some of the rest of us have formed our own elite club here on campus and we’re interested in tapping a few good males to join us: the Yale Men’s Baking Team is open for business. Currently, it’s just a two-man outfit, but I can assure you that my partner — an Army Intelligence and law enforcement guy — could kick butt ten ways ’til Sunday. And, if the DKE brothers ever tasted his Oreo Cookie Cake we’d see who’d be shouting, “no means yes,” let me tell you.
There are rules and regs for the Yale Men’s Baking Team just like any upstanding campus organization. You bake on your own, follow whatever recipe speaks to you, and, at the end, you have to share with others and take their feedback — a bit like life, if I may be so bold as to suggest. And kind of like Yale: selective, tasty, open to criticism and improvement, and intelligent enough to realize that no one else has the right to malign you, impugn your dignity, or tell you what you should shout in the middle of the night in public.
When I came back to college last fall as an Eli Whitney student — after a hiatus twice as long as the lifetime of those frat boys — I shopped “First Order Logic,” taught by professor Kenneth Winkler. As I was leaving the hall at the end of the lecture the most beautiful boy, tall and thin, got up from his seat and turned around. He was wearing a t-shirt that read: Yale Feminist. I just smiled. I left, found the Yale Women’s Center and bought three of them. This Wednesday I’m going back to the Center, this time to buy more shirts for the Yale Men’s Baking Team. Watch out, you could be tapped — but only if you’re man enough.