Obsessed With Oneself at Oberlin: The Latest Entry in the Annals of Gender Talk

As I poke around in the world of college newspapers so as to get a feeling for what editors are looking for from student contributors these days, I have come to one conclusion so far. To wit: self-pity, narcissism and tedious explorations of personal gender identity conflicts and resentments related thereto are big.

Here is an example from a once forlorn but now empowered fellow at Oberlin.

In a July 30, 2021 column entitled, “Finding Masculinities That Work For Me” we find the standard introductory account of angst detailing the writer’s adolescent struggles and tale of not fitting in. And then he came to Oberlin and voila! He learned that among the many ways to be a man is to act very much like a woman.

Oh, sorry—how to experiment (or “play” at) with what he thinks woman are like. Or how to present as a would-be woman. Or something like that. As an actual woman, I am never sure what this looks like in practice.

The writer tells us of his:

experience with different masculinities and experimenting with femme presentation and social modes as a cisgender man at Oberlin

I gather that would entail a man wearing makeup and generally acting out a sort of young man’s burlesque version of what he thinks being a woman consists of.

Yes, that is why elite private schools exist. So that men can caricature women. Great.

This young man seems not to spend a lot of time in logic classes. He seems to disapprove of “patriarchal power structures”—while endorsing a drag queen view of women. That is, women are basically all about sequins, big hair and garish amounts of cosmetics. Women are supposed to applaud these campus vaudeville gender-bending forms of “masculinities” because they are progressive and who wants to be a fuddy-duddy or a bigot? This is empowering.

For um, men. For many female Oberlin students, I would think this cavorting around by their male classmates in dresses and high heels would be distinctly creepy. But maybe these women knew what they were getting into when the applied to Oberlin. After all, opposing patriarchal power struggles is, of course, all about making men comfortable:

One thing that’s special about Oberlin is the acceptance of men exploring these different masculinities, femininities, and androgynes, and finding versions that work well for us.

And if that involves men dressing up and prancing about in a way inherently insulting to women, well lighten up ladies! This is Oberlin.

What strikes one about this column is how the writer is consumed with activities like shopping (and finding just the right skirt) and that it is filled with a good deal of talk about “masculinities” that do not seem to have much to do with masculinity per se and a large amount of enthusing about his personal wardrobe and the attire of sissified male classmates. There is a lot—a lot about himself, as if higher education is merely a platform for men to mock womanhood without realizing that they are doing so—or caring, anyway. It is all about him and the patriarchy part is just patched in to lend him woke street cred.

The conclusion to his paean to Oberlin’s openness to personal gender theater nicely encapsulates many such columns in college newspapers in 21stCentury America:

I’m still finding out what modes of presentation and what social roles work for me.

The boy’s major must be, “self-absorption.”

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