Could it possibly come as a surprise to the Crimson, to the student body, that the Harvard University Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention was not fond of all-male Final Clubs?
In a scathing report released Tuesday, the University’s Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention blasts historically male final clubs for “deeply misogynistic attitudes,” and calls on the College to formulate “a plan to address the problems presented by Final Clubs,” in what is one of the strongest University-sponsored condemnations of the clubs to date.
The clubs are private, which means Harvard can’t order them to be the clubs the Task Force wants them to be. But it can tell club members that they can’t also be Harvard students.
“Either don’t allow simultaneous membership in Final Clubs and College enrollment; or allow Clubs to transition to all-gender inclusion with equal gender membership and leadership,” the group recommended to the entire task force.
Are their concerns false?
The final report sharply condemns the clubs, emphasizing one data point in particular: 47 percent. This is the percentage of female College seniors “participating in the Final Clubs”—including women who attend male final club events and seniors who are members of female final clubs—who reported “experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact since entering college,” representing the highest figure among any student groups included in data from a University-wide sexual climate survey conducted last spring.
The final report, in no uncertain terms, castigates the male final clubs, which have for more than three decades effectively enjoyed independence from College oversight. The report describes final clubs as emblematic of “sexual entitlement,” troubling areas of potential alcohol abuse and sexual assault, and “vestige[s] of gender inequity” on campus.
The report offers two primary justifications for the condemnation of all-male clubs. The first is they throw wild parties, where women who attend are treated like sex objects. The second is they’re exclusive, both to women, in toto, and men who don’t make the cut. And within both of these justifications, power is the culprit.
“In our view, the very structure of the Clubs — men in positions of power engaging with women on unequal and too often on very sexual terms — speaks tellingly to the work ahead of us if we are to create an environment where all students, of all genders, can thrive,” the report states.
Of course, no one forces women to go to their parties to be treated as sex objects. And no one forces men to want to join, only to be rejected for not being “the right sort.” And there are all-female Final Clubs, but no one cares because no guy wants to join one and their parties suck anyway.
Is the Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention wrong? Of course not. What could be more exclusionary than a Harvard all-male final club? It’s boys club all the way. Hell, not merely boys club, but only the “right boys” club. At Harvard! Where selectivity is paramount. It’s almost impossible to conceive of any club more exclusive.
And it puts the screws to Harvard.
This unprecedented condemnation of sexual assault statistics, membership practices, and alleged aura of exclusivity associated with Harvard’s all-male final clubs is the latest in a series of escalating calls from administrators for the centuries-old institutions to change their ways. This time, though, the report calls for more than just rhetoric. The task force asks University President Drew G. Faust to mandate a targeted plan from the College to combat issues related to final clubs.
“The clear and powerful call for the University to address issues presented by final clubs relates not only to sexual assault but also to the implications of gender discrimination, gender assumptions, privilege, and exclusivity on our campus,” Faust wrote Tuesday in an email Harvard affiliates.
All of which begs the question: So what? The underlying given is that all this is wrong, an inherent evil that must be eradicated. Harvard President Faust buys it. The Task Force buys it. Many believe that any vestige of gender discrimination perpetuates a fundamental problem in society and demands a cure. And very few question the premise.
Here’s the question that nobody wants to ask. What’s wrong with males who choose to establish an association with other males with whom they prefer to hang out?
Sure, it excludes women. So? Plenty of women prefer to enjoy the company of other women for certain purposes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Men do too. Men can talk about guy things, like cars, football and women. Women can talk about whatever it is they talk about, which I suspect is their feelings, but how should I know? It’s not like I’m a member of their club.
And another tricky part of the equation is the attribution of “power” to these clubs. If they have “power” (and I suspect they do), they have gained it organically. There is nothing to stop all-women’s final clubs from having “power,” or genderless clubs for that matter. If you don’t like all-male clubs having power, have some power of your own.
Except power doesn’t work that way. You can’t have it because you say so, because it’s unfair that you don’t have it. Power happens. Power is organic. Power resides where it wants to reside. The reason you don’t have power, and they do, is that you don’t have power, and they do. You can try to take away their power, but you will never get it for yourself. And, sorry to say, you will never take power away from anyone who has it.
But what of the sexual assault part, even if the Task Force connected some distant dots to condemn male bastions of power? A curious comment to the Crimson’s story is that the final clubs’ parties are fun, and without them, Harvard would have no fun parties.
That, of course, would be just fine with the Task Force. Fun parties are the devil’s playground. Besides, if fun means treating women as sex objects, then fun is misogynistic and evil.
Except the same fun draws women to those nasty parties. If it didn’t, the boys would throw a shindig and be left all alone, playing with themselves. Women who go to these parties do so because they, too, find them to be fun. They aren’t there at gunpoint. The Task Force may have the authority to shut down these parties, but they will never be able to dictate what constitutes fun.
Harvard has a choice to make. Faust has a gun to
his her head, unlike the women who attend final club parties. And it’s high time we ask the question begged. Should males be neutered, in their interests and associations, to conform to the vision of those females, and their allies, of how future males should be? They want men to be more, you know, women. Are you good with that, Harvard guys? Are you ready to undergo the change? Is being male wrong? That’s the real question here.