Tressie McMillan Cottom is a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Her doctoral research is a comparative study of the expansion of for-profit colleges. You can follow her on twitter and at her blog, where this post originally appeared.
“The images are screenshots from Google Earth. They are glitches that occur when the 2d satellite imagery and 3d terrain don’t line up quite right, or structures such as bridges get projected down onto the terrain below, creating fabulous and unintentional distortions”- Clement Valla+
For-profit colleges and the conditions that feed them.
By Tressie McMillan Cottom
One of the better things about social media is that if you manage to curate social feeds with just the right balance of entertaining spirits and brilliant intellects, it delivers unto you amazing content you would have otherwise missed.
I woke up one of these days — Sunday? Monday? I’m dissertating — to find dozens of messages from social media comrades about John Oliver’s take-down of for-profit colleges. You can watch it above. It’s very satisfying.
It is particularly satisfying if you’ve experienced what education professor Kevin Kinser rightly points out is the oddly sporadic nature of public interest in a 100 year old institutional practice of selling education for profit. Oliver is one of the best in the entertainment-as-news genre. He reaches people that mainstream media does not. He makes difficult issues palatable for general, concerned audiences.
And if you think about debt, precarity, credentialism, and financial cronyism, like I do, it is gratifying to see someone like Oliver take on an issue most people could care less about until someone they care about borrows $50,000 for a veterinary assistant’s degree. Then they’re emailing you like the roof is on fire.
I do have a greater hope, though, than that something I study benefit from the spotlight of people like Oliver.
I wish we could talk about impoverished educations without ignoring impoverished conditions.
Here’s the thing, for-profit colleges have manipulated a system primed for manipulation. No doubt about that. But eliminating for-profit colleges does not eliminate the conditions that cause people to seek them out.
By and large, none of the people I have interviewed, observed or worked with is an idiot without agency. They have sometimes been lied to and led astray; occasionally they are bamboozled by sparkly advertising and aggressive sales tactics. They do sign documents they do not completely understand and they trust authority that has little incentive to counsel as opposed to sell. All of that is true.
But most students picked up the phone to “call today; start tomorrow” because they have been unemployed, underemployed, marginalized, and otherwise made vulnerable by socio-economic conditions.
So, by all means, crib Oliver’s letter. It’s a doozy.
But maybe keep in mind that moving inequality around isn’t exactly the same as addressing inequality.
Jon is a pretty smart cookie, and this is well said.
We’re in the third year of the New 52 and the second Man of Steel movie is coming down the pike, so this contemporary incarnation of Superman probably isn’t going away any time soon. It’s even beginning to show up in the merchandise and marketing, fighting for shelf-space with the classic Superman look. It’s still Red Pants on fruit snacks and party supplies, but Tin-Plated Tights is making headway with the toys and vidya games. If this were comics, they’d call this a “Clash of Titans” …
I didn’t expect it to bother me, to be honest, my interest in modern mainstream comics is nil and I’m not skint on older material which I can happily revisit if needed. A few months back, though, Target had a Justice League banner on display featuring the new52 incarnations of the characters and Superman in his molybdenum onesie, the first time I saw the new costume “in the wild”. It made my heart ache.
There’s an inarticulate and histrionic type in fandom who scream “my childhood has been raped!” every time their pre-adolescent idols are changed in the slightest (even if only cosmetically) but while they grate on my nerves with their constant sense of outrage and surprise, I also sympathize with them. They’re confronting an unfortunate mortal reality, possibly for the first time, that one day they will have to leave the room and their exit may go unnoticed.
It’s a reality of growing older – the next generation will have their own popular music, their own movies and books, ethics and culture. They’ll pave over our favorite stuff, cherry-picking a few things from the previous generation but mostly starting from scratch. All the perfect versions of important ideas which we carry around in our heads will be overwritten by the next generation’s perfect visions of important ideas, just like we did to the generation before us, and somewhere in there you confront the idea “Will anyone even miss me when I’m dead?”
Of course, this generation AND ours are being served by corporations, the only entity we “allow” to create the official canon of what we arguably ought to consider folk tales. This makes the changes all the more distinct and oftentimes shocking, because it’s in a corporation’s best interests to revamp whole franchises in a single go, to sidestep and disallow the evolution of an idea. There’s not a lot of looking back and saying “and in this way, Transformers became the story it is today,” but rather you can pinpoint a date on a calendar and say “And this is when the reboot was launched.”
For Superman, the point of the reboot was apparently to make him “cool” (as determined by a passel of middle-aged, middle-class mostly white men, no small percentage of whom keep showing up to publicity events wearing baseball caps, for God’s sake). They had to jettison all the uncool stuff – the red pants, the glasses, the spitcurl. Make him lean, get some alien armor on him, make everything darker, give him a wolf, wolves are cool, I’ve seen ‘em on tee-shirts.
The thing about Superman is I’m not sure he’s supposed to be cool. For all of his power, he stands for the everyman, he represents the underdog; Clark Kent is a working slob, a nine-to-fiver with a crush on the office hottie and still wearing the same sorts of clothes he wore when he was a teenager. He wears glasses, he grew up on a farm. If you want cool, go see Batman, that guy’s in charge of things, he represents authority. Batman’s old money, landed gentry, he’s combing pussy out of his bat-beard, he’s got a sweet ride, even his dog is badass. Batman can afford to be cool. Superman’s dog is a mutt who chases hot dog-shaped promotional blimps, cool isn’t in the cards.
The contemporary incarnation of Superman is familiar to me, even intimate. I remember him, he was the version my friends and I made up when we were in college, staying up til four in the morning to talk nonsense about dumb shit, drunk or high or self-impressed with our own intelligence. We were nineteen years old and embarrassed to like Superman, so we took it upon ourselves to make Superman cool. We got rid of the underpants, darkened his costume, diminished the Clark Kent role, lost the glasses. We made him bleak, decided he would shun human company. We spent hours justifying his super-powers, his flight was telekinetic and sometimes debris would fly alongside him. We tossed out his morality – if he had to kill, well, he had to kill. Lord, we even declared that his costume was Kryptonian armor.
I can prove it, I still have the drawings, only we stopped short of transforming Superdog into a Kryptonian War Hound. Well, sort of – we decided that Comet the Super Horse was now a Kryptonian War Horse. He grazed in the pastures of the Phantom Zone. That was one of mine.
I don’t regret any of those ideas, I’m not even embarrassed by them, but I do recognize that we were missing the point of the character – Superman’s not a shiny new Lamborghini, he’s a Mustang with a squeaky CV joint and leopard print seat covers. It makes him better to let him be imperfect, a little goony, ridiculous, uncool, unfashionable, awkward – like people are, basically, to make him more like us, so we can better imagine what it’s like to be more like him.
All of which is off the table for the foreseeable future, I suppose, if not forever. Superman’s getting Batmanned right now, and you can’t really blame his legal owners for trying to capitalize on the latter character’s success. I can’t think of the last time we went a year without a Batman cartoon on TV or a Batman movie in theaters, or with no line of Batman toys on the racks. Superman’s not been as lucky or persistent in the marketplace over the last three decades – personally, I like to imagine that’s because he’s more successful as an idea than a possession, but I have a feeling that’s one of those perfect concepts I have about the character which will disappear with me down into the dirt someday.
When you look at what constitutes ‘female privilege’ in the eyes of MRAs and MRAs-in-training, you see exactly how ignorant most of them are to real discrimination and fear. In the MRA handbook, female privilege is being able to speak to men without being considered predatory; it’s being able to decide whether or not to continue with a pregnancy (as opposed to having a child forced on you so that a scheming bitch can rob you blind for the next 18 years); it’s being able to have sex with a man and then later change your mind while accusing him of rape; it’s having the right to leave a marriage because the courts will favour you in a custody dispute; it’s receiving the ‘coveted status’ of being a rape survivor on a college campus and all the advantages that come with that.
With the exception of that last one, which is so despicably offensive that it’s almost impossible to believe it was not only printed in the Washington Post but that it was written by a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, all of these examples of ‘female privilege’ seem less indicative of a rising gynarchy poised to crush whimpering men with a gigantic, comfortably shod foot than they do just basic rights that women are entitled to have even though they prevent men from being able to behave exactly as they like.
Women don’t come to life the moment men approach us, and asking that men respect our space and not assume their presence is always or even ever welcome isn’t the equivalent of Stonewall. Similarly, until science can figure out how to make Ivan Reitman’s terrifying vision of the dystopian universe presented in seminal 90s movie ‘Junior’ a reality, it is not ‘female privilege’ for a woman to have the final say over whether or not she grows a fetus inside her for nine months before birthing it and then raising it. And while we’re at it, can we all agree that it’s a curious bit of cognitive dissonance to argue about paying for children you don’t want in one breath while ranting about how the legal system won’t give them to you in the other?
The idea that the fight for gender equality has swung ‘too far’ to the other side is simply ludicrous. One woman is still killed every week in Australia by her partner or ex-partner. The WHO estimates that 30 per cent of women worldwide who have been in a sexual relationship have experienced some form of violence within that partnership. The two issues most integral to that of women’s equality - that of reproductive autonomy and financial independence - are still not considered legally sacrosanct for the overwhelming majority of women in the world today.
And we’ve got men (and some women) complaining that feminism is subjugating men?
I’ll let you in on a little secret. The Feminist Mafia is trying to erode men’s rights, and we’ve had some success over the years. Like the right for a man to legally rape his wife. Destroyed that. Or the right of men to determine who rises to political leadership. We nailed that one too. Or how about the right that said women became the physical property of their husbands, husbands who then had the right to commit these women to mental asylums (and frequently did) as a means of securing a divorce, leaving him free to marry another (often younger) woman? Yep, got rid of that.
Peggy Orenstein’s 1994 text ‘Schoolgirls’ included an anecdote which observed that, for many men and boys, equality is perceived as a loss. And it technically is, because any time a disparate system of power is equalised, one side must surrender some privileges. Referring to ‘female privilege’ (particularly in a world where, in some places, it is considered a privilege that girls even be allowed to live) as some kind of nefarious threat to the psychic wellbeing of men isn’t just offensive, it’s also dangerous. It provides a focal point of blame for the frustrations of men who feel they’ve somehow been denied all that was promised to them, and it can have terrifying and often violent ramifications for the women in their lives.
Queen of the Frightbats, Clementine Ford, ‘A Lesson for Men’s Rights Activists on Real Oppression.’
I implore you to go and read the whole article.
purplespacecats asked: Yo, could you or any of your followers explain the difference between sexual and romantic attraction? I think the handful of crushes I've had in my life involved both, but maybe it was just romantic attraction? I'm just rather confused by the whole thing.
Ah yes, it can be quite confusing, especially since they sometimes occur at the same time. Here are some traits of each which help me figure it out.
- desire to hold hands, snuggle, or be “lovey-dovey”
- desire for romantic partnership
- physically feels like “butterflies” in stomach
- Disney stereotypes are exaggerated but somewhat accurate
- desire to develop emotional intimacy
- desire to see person be happy, do things to make them happy
- desire for exclusivity; feelings of jealousy
- can be rather irrational and/or obsessive
- very visceral, physical feeling of heat or “melted honey”
- feeling might manifest in stomach, genitals, etc.
- thoughts/fantasies of you & person in sexual situations
- desire to touch person sexually or have them touch you
- physical, magnetic pull towards person
- like sensual attraction on fire, with sense of urgency
- feels just like hunger for that person
- feels kind of primal/animalistic
The problem is that a lot of these describe strong attraction; the stronger an attraction is, the easier it is to identify, I think (which is probably why most allosexuals don’t often doubt their allosexuality—they feel sexual attraction strongly enough that it never comes into question.) Mild attractions are difficult to spot, but there’s a certain threshold where I think it’s negligible—if you can’t actually see yourself acting on it, or the thought of acting on it repulses you at all, you’re probably more ace than not. Hope that helps, and feel free to ask for clarification.
Note: Experiencing the above things does not mean you are attracted to someone; some of the romantic attraction things also apply to close platonic relationships.