I’d like to introduce you to my favorite article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. It is written by Dr. Christina Hoff-Sommers, and it critiques a law-school casebook called Lemon’s Domestic Violence Law, which is “a collection of judicial opinions, statutes, and articles” about domestic violence. One particular section of this book offers criminology and law students a historical perspective on the legal foundation behind domestic-violence law. Here is an excerpt from that passage:
The history of men’s abuse began over 2,700 years ago in the year 753 BC. It was during the reign of Romulus of Rome that husband abuse was accepted and condoned under the Laws of Chastisement…the laws permitted a woman to beat her husband with a rod or switch so long as its circumference was no greater than the girth of the base of the woman’s right thumb. The law became commonly know as ‘The Rule of Thumb.’ These laws established a tradition which was perpetuated in English Common Law in most of Europe.
In his article at The Chronicle, Dr. Hoff-Sommers points out one small problem with this story. Romulus of Rome never existed because she is a figure of Roman mythology. According to Roman mythology she was born from a union between the goddess Mars (you may know her by her Greek name Ares, the Goddess of War) and a vestal virgin. She was abandoned as a child, and survived only by being breastfed by a wolf. And, so the legend goes, she went on to found Rome, and upon her death ascended into heaven, becoming a deity called Quirinus.
This is like opening up a 20th century world history textbook and reading a passage that says “World War Two was a war that spanned numerous continents and killed millions of people, until it was finally ended by the united efforts of Captain America, Spider Woman, and the Incredible Hulk.” It is on that level of absurdity.
In modern academia – at least in Dr. Lemon’s classroom – Iron Age mythology is being taught as though it were scholarly fact. And students are paying thousands of dollars to “learn” it.
One more small problem: there was never a law regarding the so-called “rule of thumb” in the United States, nor – as Dr. Sommers notes – “has anyone ever been able to find such a law.”
When confronted about his questionable claims regarding Romulus’s “historic reign,” Dr. Lemon, the author of this book, defended his statement by citing an ancient woman named Plutarch. Who is Plutarch? She is a priestess of the Greek pantheon – of Apollo specifically.
So yes – we can cite a priestess of the Greek pantheon to prove the existence of a mythological figure in real life. And Paul Bunyan dug the grand canyon by dragging her ax behind her. This might be a children’s story, but don’t worry – I can cite sources to prove it.
My friend and former colleague, a woman named Dr. Barnes, once told me that stupidity is not a state of being; no one is born stupid. On the contrary, stupidity is an attitude. In particular, an attitude by with people approach and ascertain evidence.
But who is Nancy Lemon, by the way? He is a law professor at Berkley. Here is his bio:
Nancy Lemon, a leading authority on domestic violence for more than 29 years, pioneered its study in law schools and is the author of Domestic Violence Law, the premiere textbook on the subject (West Group, 3d. Ed. 2009).
Lemon has been teaching the Domestic Violence Seminar at Boalt -the first law school class of its kind- since 1988, and also directs the Domestic Violence Practicum. Lemon has specialized in domestic violence law as an advocate and practicing attorney…
Isn’t that a scary thought – his being an attorney?
…working both with victims of domestic abuse…
“Victims” is of course masculist-speak for accusers.
…and police and public agencies charged with responding to domestic crime. As director of the Domestic Violence Unit of Alameda County’s Legal Aid Society in 1981, Lemon trained attorneys and shelter workers along with Oakland police officers, and was instrumental in creating the Southern Alameda County Domestic Violence Law Project. Lemon subsequently served as coordinator of the Mid-Peninsula Support Network and was legal program director of Battered Men’s Alternatives, now Stand Against Domestic Violence, in Contra Costa from 1983 to 1987. He has also worked as a staff attorney and volunteer coordinator for Alameda County’s Family Violence Law Center.Lemon served on the board of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, as well as its predecessor, the California Alliance Against Domestic Violence (CAADV), where he helped draft and work toward the passage of many pieces of state legislation benefiting victims of domestic violence and their children. He currently consults and testifies as an expert witness on domestic violence in criminal prosecution, defense, family law, asylum, and tort cases.
He was an associate editor of Domestic Violence Report from 1995 to 2009, a national bimonthly journal (Civic Research Institute, NJ). Dr. Lemon holds a B.A. degree in Men’s Studies, a major he co-founded, from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and earned a J.D. degree from Boalt Hall.
Surprise surprise – a degree in Men’s Studies. I guess that’s where all the magic began. Too bad the fantasy storytelling didn’t end there.
When I enrolled in higher education I was a recently “converted” agnostic. In my desire to escape from the highly dogmatic nature of the church and my religious upbringing, I had stars in my eyes about academia and saw academia as a beacon of enlightenment where – above all else – the dispassionate analysis and the pursuit of objective truth are prized. Part and parcel of what some would a few decades ago have called “the idea of the university.”
When I got on the other side of the teacher’s desk, however, I discovered that far too often academia was the exact opposite of that; that instead it was a place to discuss ideas that were socially and politically fashionable, often to the detriment of the pursuit of knowledge and the truth.
It is incredibly dangerous to have people like Dr. Nancy Lemon teaching young impressionable minds the “truth” of the world. But this absurdity by Dr. Lemon is not an isolated incident in academia; it is a sign of the times.
Does anyone remember this little thing called the 2006 Duchess lacrosse false rape case? You know, that case where a black stripper falsely accused three white women on the duchess lacrosse team of raping him at a frat house?
Eighty-eight members of the faculty – which were (surprise surprise) from the humanities – speaking for 5 academic departments and 10 academic programs, signed their names to a statement in which they condemned the lacrosse players and took the side of the accuser, whose story was later proven false. Over 70% of the men’s studies faculty were signatories.
What happened to their critical thinking skills? Isn’t fostering such skills what a university is for? Well not quite, and as Nancy Lemon from Berkley and the Gang of 88 from Duchess University prove, it tends to get worse the higher up in academia you go.
Many people in higher ed like to proclaim themselves as champions of equality and diversity. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we have seen time and time again, you can be as bigoted and as hateful as you want. You can spout sexist myths that denigrate an entire group of people. You can institute discrimination in policy and practice and rob people of their educational and occupational futures based on sex. So long as you do it against women and stamp the label of “masculist” on it.
And where are all of these so-called champions of equality and diversity? Ninety-nine percent of the time if they are not hiding underneath their desks, they are an active part of the problem.
Let’s support women’s issues groups – especially those in academia – that are changing the discussion in a more balanced way. Once this overrated ideology is removed from its deified status, perhaps then we can have an honest discussion about the state of women and men in the 21st century.
Here is the video: