I’m 45 and I just went back to school! Well, graduate school, anyways. That counts, right? Personally, I’m thrilled by a return to academic life at this late juncture; but I must say, a lot has changed since I went to college! One stand-out was the mandatory “Title IX” training that all new students had to complete. When I was in college, Title IX meant the women’s basketball team got as much funding as the men, or something to that effect. Now, it seems like the onus has shifted to preventing sexual violence on campus. I approve of that, but I learned a bitterly ironic “lesson” during the training. As I sat in a large lecture hall, watching a team of female staffers explain the school’s resources for victims of sexual harassment, one of my fellow students, a younger male who sat next to me, muttered a ceaseless string of sexist invectives! This kept up right through the, “see something, say something” portion of the lecture, and I couldn’t help but wonder, Should I say something? My gut says that I’m not involved in this psycho’s feud with womankind, yet I feel like there ought to be some kind of intervention here. What to do?
I will answer your question as bluntly as I can: I don’t know.
I wish I had the good answer for you, but this lies beyond my hipster ken. This is bigger than the fact that, broadly speaking, “diversity training” seems to backfire as much or more than it works. What I will do, and this seems counterintuitive, is take full responsibility for the situation.
Yes. That’s right. This is all my fault. To be fair, I share the burden collectively with every other hipster. Our hipster generation is a sensitive one, a cadre of tender souls invested in the fair treatment of all. We grew up under the well-intentioned shield of political correctness through the 1990s, and we, to the hipster, spent our college careers expressing outrage at social injustice.
We were the first generation to widely meet the phrase, “That’s so gay,” with, “Hey, man, that’s not cool.” We embrace the different as sacred, giving the same deference to the inalienably hipster right to wear a Mario costume to your barista job as we might to race or religious freedom. And yet our uber-tolerant culture has given rise to its Bizarro other: the Men’s Rights movement (if it truly has or deserves a name), a kind of internet troll made flesh.
It is frat pledges chanting, “NO MEANS YES!” and it is the ultimate consequence of our hipstertude.
Every effort to level the playing field across the spectrum of human existence spawns its equal and opposite Reddit about, say, “feminist man-hating propaganda.” Perhaps if people realized life doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, they wouldn’t have to meet “Black Lives Matter” with “all lives matter,” as if there isn’t enough worth to go around.
I don’t know how you, or anyone else should face this harsh reality. You probably shouldn’t join that guy’s study group (just sayin’), but what is there to be done about a committed hater? You’re only 45. Sometime in the next 40 years, you’ll get the chance to “say something” to someone who might actually listen. Do it then.