What do I mean by “against students”? By using this expression I am trying to describe a series of speech acts, which consistently position students, or at least specific kinds of students, as a threat to education, to free speech, to civilisation: we might even say, to life itself. In speaking against students, these speech acts also speak for more or less explicitly articulated sets of values: freedom, reason, education, democracy. These values are identified as requiring the reproduction of norms of conduct that students are themselves failing to reproduce. Even if that failure is explained as a result of ideological shifts that students are not held responsible for – whether it be neoliberalism, managerialism or a new sexual puritanism – it is in the bodies of students that the failure is located.
The entire article is well worth reading. Related: I want to think about sexual assault policies again.
In somewhat related news I have become fascinated by the series Call the Midwife which is, for one thing, feminist and for another, a fascinating document on the advent of the National Health and the transformation it brought. Electricity, running water, a bathroom in each apartment, and birth control as well as safe abortion are such new things, and they have so changed the contours of life for those with access to them.
When I lived in Europe in the seventies — not the thirties, the seventies — there were still many apartment buildings with toilets on the landings (only) and showers in the courtyards (only). But it was the social democracy that had changed the lives of the majority. “There were so many ugly girls,” I was told of life before the war; after the war better nutrition had made many beautiful. (I saw echoes of that, of course, later on in the third and fourth worlds, realizing that in fairy stories the princesses are always beautiful not for some symbolic reason but because they have had literally had the chance to grow straight bones.)