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University President Puts Drag Shows On BLAST In Firey Denunciation Of ‘Demoralizing Misogyny’

It’s one of those interesting moments in history where a public figure posting private views on a personal blog can make a big splash.

Walter V. Wendler is the President of Texas A&M.

The blog itself has modest enough aims. On the about this site page one will read the following:

You will find on this site weekly articles that appear in newspapers in the Texas Panhandle and beyond. I began writing in 2007 and over 600 reflections are posted on this webpage. A few of them are fairly good, I will leave it to you to judge the rest. The early posts were written while on the architecture faculty at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The columns express ideas and views of the power of higher education and its impact on society. These are intended to comment on how universities work and the value they bring to individuals and the larger community – musings intended to cause reflective thought about our nation’s universities.

One can infer that scope of the blog concerns the University broadly as an institution. A lengthy quotation below the words cited above underscores that principle.

It would seem only natural if he saw something that might threaten to undermine the integrity of the institution itself, he would speak up about it.

When someone put up ads for a drag show on his campus as a fundraiser, he made a distinction between the cause they were raising money for and the event they would use to raise it.

The cause was an LGBT-affiliated group which — if taken at face value — has an emphasis on suicide prevention. Because the cause was suicide prevention, and he (as a Christian) believes in the intrinsic worth of each person, he spoke positively of the intent of saving lives.

It’s the WAY they wanted to raise money for the cause that he objected to. A drag show.

From his post entitled ‘A harmless drag show? No such thing’:

Does a drag show preserve a single thread of human dignity? I think not. As a performance exaggerating aspects of womanhood (sexuality, femininity, gender), drag shows stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood. Any event which diminishes an individual or group through such representation is wrong. I registered a similar concern on campus when individuals debased Latinas regarding a quinceañera celebration. Should I let rest misogynistic behavior portraying women as objects? While I am not a woman, my best friend I have been married to for over a half-century is. I am also blessed to have daughters-in-law and granddaughters. Demeaning any demeans all. This is not an intellectual abstraction but a stark reality.

WT endeavors to treat all people equally. Drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent. Such conduct runs counter to the purpose of WT. A person or group should not attempt to elevate itself or a cause by mocking another person or group. As a university president, I would not support “blackface” performances on our campus, even if told the performance is a form of free speech or intended as humor. It is wrong. I do not support any show, performance or artistic expression which denigrates others—in this case, women—for any reason. WT intends to provide fair opportunities to all based on academic performance. Ideas, not ideology, are the coin of our realm. A university campus, charged by the state of Texas to treat each individual fairly, should elevate students based on achievement and capability, performance in a word, without regard to group membership—an implacable and exacting standard based on educational mission and service to all, sanctioned by the legislature, the governor and numerous elected and appointed officials.

He builds further on the points he was making, emphasizing the near-universal do-no-harm principles embraced by cultures around the world, before landing the plane with his closing thoughts.

When humor becomes harassment, it has gone too far. Any reading of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s purpose, coupled with common sense, affirms that acts of prejudice in the workplace and our campus is a workplace, even when not criminal, are harmful and wholly inappropriate. No amount of fancy rhetorical footwork or legal wordsmithing eludes the fact that drag shows denigrate and demean women—noble goals notwithstanding.

A harmless drag show? Not possible. I will not appear to condone the diminishment of any group at the expense of impertinent gestures toward another group for any reason, even when the law of the land appears to require it. Supporting The Trevor Project is a good idea. My recommendation is to skip the show and send the dough.

The usual voices will scream ‘bigot’ and demand Wendler’s head on a plate for treason against the rainbow flag, or some such.

But when they do, pay close attention to whether they engage with his actual claims, or go straight to leveling the politics of personal destruction against a man they have deemed ‘the enemy’.

The rise of America came not because we all marched lockstep under a single idea, but because America was a great labratory in which all sorts of ideas were thrown into a mosh pit and the best ones survived long enough to come out the other side.

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Wes Walker is the author of "Blueprint For a Government that Doesn't Suck". He has been lighting up since its inception in July of 2012. Follow on twitter: @Republicanuck