vassar college minicourse: "the language of ladies"

Last week, I heard from Mandy, a student at Vassar College. She informs us of an odd issue that recently flared up up at her school. Every spring semester, Vassar offers "minicourses." Non-credit, student-run courses that are open to the student body and approved by Vassar. One of the courses that recently popped up was entitled The Language of Ladies, led by student Daniel Abramson, and described as:
This course aims to take a critical look at dating across lingual/cultural barriers. Experts in each local will be brought in to the class for instructional purposes. Coming out of this class students should feel informed enough about different mating rituals to approach women of different national backgrounds.
Yeah. Sounds pretty awful. And from what I hear, the first class in the course pretty much ended up being what you'd expect. Here's an article in the school newspaper, The Miscellany News, written by an Asian American female student who attended the first session: Mini-course raises issues of sexism and racism. The title alone should tell you how that went:
The first class of The Language of Ladies was entitled "Orienting Yourself for Women of the Orient." This sparked some discussion of the word "Orient" and its degrading connotations. What it points to is an entire colonialist narrative that has made "Asian" women objects of lust and feminized "Asian" men. I say "Asian" because Orientalism applies not just to East Asians but to Indians, Iranians and South East Asians--any country that was colonized by another country has been subject to Orientalism.
It goes on to describe all sorts of racist and sexist stereotypes and misperceptions the class seemed content to perpetuate. You've got to be kidding me. I don't know what's worse -- the fact that that this course is being taught, or that there are folks who legitimately signed up for this class hoping to learn something.

Due to complaints from student groups and community members, the course has since been canceled. Those responsible for organizing and approving the minicourses were apparently under the impression that "The Language of Ladies" would not be what it actually turned out to be. Seriously? Big fat fail.

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