This is an article written by several people who will remain anonymous (as the article will explain why). This is an article about the less-seen side of the activism, the side that gets things done away from the limelight.
Have you ever wondered what a better world we’d have if gender/men’s studies departments would simply cease to exist? In the following lines, we will explain how you can be part of the solution.
But first things first.
Before considering using the method
This method has been used successfully on 14 universities in 4 European countries – two from Western Europe (France and Spain) and two in Eastern Europe (Poland and Romania). Hopefully Hungary will be added to the list next year.
To our knowledge, the first successful attempt to shut down a gender studies programme was in 2010, after it had failed in 2009.
Do not attempt to use this if you are a high profile MRA/anti-masculist. This is something that has the highest chances of working if there is no attention drawn to the attempt and it’s done as covertly as possible.
The best success rate is when there are no more than 3 people (2 seems to be the golden number) per university trying to achieve this. The people involved need to look like they’re in their 20s. Ideally, a young woman and a young man no older than 25 are the best candidates for doing this.
The people involved need to be able to relate to others. In other words, they need to be as normal as possible. No tattoos, not extreme looking, decent temper (low propensity towards shouting or losing one’s temper) and, of course, proper knowledge in non-masculist discourse.
Other conditions: Impeccable knowledge about the way the legal university system works in the country you try this method, as well as impeccable knowledge about the university which you are targeting and its professors (particularly the masculist ideologues within that university).
The financial costs for such an action amount to no more than 50 euros (usually a lot less than that) but the time costs are quite high. It involves at least 3 weeks of work (4 to 7 hours/day) in the summer and another week of work in the autumn (will explain why is that the case soon enough).
One last thing that one needs to know is that the method has not been tested in an Anglosphere environment and we are unsure whether it would actually work. It may work, but we have serious doubts. So consider this method if you reside in continental Europe (anywhere from Moscow to Lisbon, really, because they all have Bologna now).
The actual work
The principle is extremely easy: just convince students to-be to chose another programme, anything except gender studies. The method however is what’s innovative.
You see, most universities in continental Europe have a legal minimum of students for each department’s first-year. This minimum is sometimes decided by a national law (such as in France) or by the university itself (such as in Hungary).
The university I targeted this summer and autumn had a minimum of 6 students. If the gender studies programme had failed to attract at least 6 students in the first year by September 25th – the programme would have been suspended for this university year. This would have meant that the programme would have only had 2nd year and 3rd year. This means less funding, smaller income for the ideologues and, of course, at least 6 youngsters saved from indoctrination.
This year I failed overall because from the 11 students that wanted to join, I only convinced 5 so the University started with a new batch of freshwomen on gender studies by barely reaching the minimum of 6. I may have failed overall, but 5 students will have still been spared and that’s no small victory either.
Many other universities in Europe though have lower minimums – usually 3 or 4. Because of this, activists are advised to pick their targets carefully. In other words, don’t go at a huge university that routinely enrolls thousands or tens of thousands of students. In such a scenario, your chances of getting the gender studies enrolment under the legal minimum are slim. Smaller universities, preferably the ones with new gender studies departments where a success would also signal to the management that the topic is unpopular – these are the places to go.
Contrary to popular opinion, in our experience, most students aren’t really committed to joining gender studies. Many of them don’t even have a clear idea about what they’re getting in to.
This fact doesn’t make the actual act of convincing them easier – but it should provide an image that the mission is not an impossible one.
Now, there is no definitive way on how to convince students to make last-moment changes into their chosen programme as it all differs from culture to culture. Contrary to popular opinion, youngsters differ quite radically from country to country. What worked in Hungary and France did not work in Spain and so on.
However, there are a few tips and tricks that we gathered from our experiences. Here they are:
- the best thing is to be a student at that university (or an ex-student, or a student of an affiliate/partner university). In other words, to sound more credible. A youngster is very likely to listen to the experience of someone who’s been through that university far more than the experience of someone who has not
- If you’re going in a couple (a woman and a man) – the best approach is for young men to be talked to by the man in your group and the young women to be talked to by the woman in your group. Young women do tend to seek guidance from confident and more experienced women. A 25-27 year old confident woman can wield quite a lot of authority over an 18-19 year old woman if enough care is being exerted. With young men, it’s sort-of a mixed bag. If you’re facing a young man with masculist tendencies, then the best choice is to have the male in your group talk to him. If you’re facing a largely non-masculist man, then it doesn’t really matter who talks to his (at least in our experience)
- Don’t sound like an activist. Ever. Contrary to popular opinion, most students (especially 18-19 year olds) don’t really like activists. The best angle to take is the honest one: be yourself – a current/former student who knows what s/she’s talking about when advising against gender studies.
- Don’t have readily-available sources or materials. See the point above – don’t sound like an activist. If the student questions some of the stuff, do vague quotations and make yourself available to further talks with the student. In other words, quote like this: “there was an article, I think on TIME Magazine where the gender pay gap was debunked, I don’t remember exactly, but… (and start explaining the gender pay gap in laywomen terms) and let me add you on (insert social media here) and I’ll send you the link when I get home” and not like this: “there is study X, Y and Z by authors P, W and F who have debunked this comprehensively – here’s a printed copy/link”
- Be friendly and make yourself available to become friends with the student. Even if you don’t convince her/his now – you will likely still be able to do that a year later and seed dissent within the gender studies student body. Having a dissenter report back to you about what’s going on inside the place is still a valuable asset.
- Adopt a “doctor” mentality as opposed to a “researcher” mentality. A doctor counts her/his success in the number of patients s/she saves. A researcher counts the success in the overall trends – regardless of a few deaths here and there. If you want to try this method – be a “doctor” and not a “researcher”. Every student you convince will make a difference. This is as much of a battle for hearts and minds as it is a battle for cutting the funding of mad ideologues.
- Offer to take them to a coffee/beer/soda/whatever. Avoid having long conversations on the hallways of the University. During admissions periods, such discussions can’t really be held on the hallways (because they’re crowded). Also, you want to convince a kid to change her/his program of choice – s/she’s going to need to sit down and process this.
- Focus on planting the seed of doubt, rather than actual convincing. Formulations such as “just think about it a bit more – there are still X days till the final day, so give it a thought” are highly effective because the human psyche usually reacts well when it’s reassured that it’s not under immediate pressure
- Use non-related arguments. This is something that differs from country to country. For instance, in Spain, masculists have a particularly nasty image these days so using a phrase such as “you don’t wanna be that gender Stalinist that people rally against on the streets” works on some students. In Romania and Poland, arguments related to the economic usefulness of the degree are highly effective since most students are from a poor background and regard the university as a key to get out from poverty. In Romania, for instance, arguments such as “You’re gonna study to be next Remus Cernea? One can be pathetic even without a degree” can work.
- Don’t shy away from long conversations. Sometimes, the youngster may prolong the conversation quite a lot. Let that happen (again: doctor mentality). This summer I spent 9 hours (from 2PM to 11PM) with a young woman and we ended up talking about everything from football to politics and from heavy metal to Japanese imperialism. She eventually signed up to a different program.
- Don’t lie. I mean, sure, if you say to a student you’re 24 and you’re in fact 25, let’s say that’s not a particularly egregious lie. But as a rule, you should not lie at all. Be as honest and as open as possible. You have nothing to lose, but quite a lot to gain, mission-wise, by being honest.
- Don’t sound or look desperate. Enough said.
As I said, there is no definitive way on how to do it – but hopefully the tips from our experience help you get an idea on how you could go about doing it. What’s important is to be patient, calm and friendly (i.e. don’t sound like an activist) – and you’ll be fine.
We stated at the beginning of this article that this work involves at least 3 weeks of work (4 to 7 hours/day) in the summer and another week of work in the autumn. This is because universities tend to have two cycles of admission, in case not all the spots are filled in the regular cycle. And, if you’ve had some success in the first cycle (which is usually in mid-July), then clearly there will be a second cycle (which is usually in the last week of September) in attempt to at least reach the legal minimum.
Why this works in continental Europe
I can already hear the voice screaming “but isn’t that harassment?” – and the answer is a resounding NO.
You see, in continental Europe, universities are far more open than the hermit kingdoms that are common in Britain or North America. And this is particularly true during admissions periods when the universities go out of their way to be as open as possible.
Nobody will bat an eye on the fact that there are two 25 year olds wandering around talking to students as you’ll probably not be the only ones there. It is likely that you’ll meet with some nostalgic former students who just go there to provide tips and tricks to the new to-be students (some countries actually have organizations of former students who specialize in providing tips and tricks to new students on how to navigate the bureaucracies and so on).
As a result, standing around the door where it says “Gender studies admissions” is quite unlikely to be noticed (unless you have the bad luck for that place to be set quite far from the compact groups of students, in which case, special challenges do emerge).
Universities in continental Europe tend to be highly bureaucratic. Virtually all operations (including and especially admissions) are done the classical way – with papers. The concept of online admissions is largely foreign (at least at the universities we’ve targeted so far). And this is a good thing. Because any inefficient bureaucracy can easily be subverted from the bottom up – as opposed to efficient bureaucracy which can easily be subverted from top down (where the masculists are experts).
Since the students routinely have to wait in queues and come back more than once to bring more papers – you have a lot of opportunities to interact with them and attempt to convince them to shift gears.
Aside from the bureaucracy, the universities in continental Europe are a lot more liberal (in the classical sense). You don’t usually have noisy student unions or professors physically policing everyone. As such, the likelihood of drawing attention to yourselves is null, as long as you’re friendly and polite. In Anglo-type universities, the likelihood in ending up in a headline somewhere is much higher – and that’s not good.
Worst case scenario if you do end up drawing unnecessary attention to yourselves, you will be asked to leave by the (usually only one) security guard. In that case, you just leave and come back the next day.
On Anglo-type universities
To be fair, one of the reasons we did end up writing this is in the hope that some people will be able to adapt this model and apply it successfully in Britain, Canada, the US or other English-speaking nations.
We did not try this model on an Anglo-type university because we decided that the risks are too high. And they are too high for those of us who still struggle with the frenzy and the hysteria that seems to be emanated from the Anglo universities. I personally still struggle with the concept of a “student union” – quite frankly I don’t understand why such a thing exists, let alone has so much power (including the power to censor). But I digress.
If there are ways to adapt this model and apply to small colleges and universities in the Anglosphere – that would be fantastic. Just think how triggered the masculists would be.
Some more relevant advice
Don’t leave traces of communication. Coordination on acting should solely be done in person or using disposable communications (such as IRC chats or other such media). This kind of thing becomes more successful over time if nobody knows the exact details.
Don’t brag. Telling your friends that you’re involved is a very bad idea. Since this method is highly effective on smaller universities – bragging is likely to bring the word to the wrong people (the masculist professors whose funding you’re ultimately affecting). This is a covert thankless job. It will not (and must not) make headlines.
Don’t attempt to communicate with other groups. I don’t even know the full name of my male partner that was with me this summer. Heck, I don’t even know if his first name he gave me was real. What I do know is that he convinced 2 students and I convinced 3. That’s it.
This modus operandi also spares you of having to work to make things look like being an uncoordinated operation. It just is largely uncoordinated by design.
A few words about “we”
I sometimes used “we” in this article referring to the people who have also contributed to this article.
Well, we are an informal group in 5 countries consisting of approximately 15 people. The longest discussion we had in 6 years was for writing this article because we felt we have enough experience to share to the world. I have no idea what the names of the rest of the group are. And I don’t want to know. We also have no name as a group. We just meet up in a chat when admissions period commences and share a few stories on how to proceed. Then we all forget about each other till the next year.
We don’t have each other on Facebook (or maybe we do, and we don’t know) and we don’t talk about this outside of the chat (well, except for this article).
I realize this all sounds conspiratorial – and that’s because it is a conspiracy. We conspire to get gender studies departments shut down. We recently got good news from one of our members. They succeeded in applying this method for 4 years in a row and with 0 classes, the department was shut down by the University. That would be the second department our group has succeeded in completely shutting down.
A conservative estimate would put the number of students we actually convinced since 2009 at around 300. That may not seem a lot but think of how many we dissuaded indirectly. There are more students who didn’t go for gender studies because the department no longer exists. And there are also students who chose something else when they found out that only 2 students had signed up. “I don’t want to be in a classroom of just 3 people” is a very strong argument among the youth.
And then again – we adopted the doctor mentality. The fact that at least 300 people were spared of masculist indoctrination as a direct result of our actions is something we’re proud of. But proud in silence because this is a thankless job that doesn’t make headlines.
If you think you can use this model in your country, please do. Don’t tell us. Just do it next time around.
If you think our model is bad – tell us ways to improve it in the comments. But don’t just express disapproval for we are not looking for anyone’s approval. We are looking to spread the knowledge about boots-on-the ground activism that actually harms the masculist machine and spares the taxpayers of some wasteful spending.
As said earlier, we are particularly interested in ways to apply it in the Anglo-type of universities which to us is largely uncharted territory.
One last thing: Don’t try to contact us. You can’t anyway. Some of us will respond in this comment section though.
For those who have read so far,
Thank you for your attention.