The oppressor and victim is who and what now?

Linked with Quakers agree to same-sex marriages.

Published on Feministe.US, by blog-owner Jill, July 14, 2009.

Oh this story is so easy to critique. The summary is this: NYU Law, my alma mater, invited National University of Singapore professor Dr. Li-ann Thio to teach as a visiting professor. Dr. Thio is slated to teach “Human Rights in Asia,” and is certainly an accomplished academic and politician. However, Dr. Thio also has some, uh, questionable views on homosexuality and gay rights — she compared anal sex to “shoving a straw up your nose to drink,” for example, and in a speech supporting the continued criminalization of sex between men (which she called “acts of gross indecency”) let loose gems such as “You cannot make a human wrong a human right” and “Diversity is not a license for perversity.” 

Unsurprisingly, NYU’s OUTLaw (the LGBT organization on campus) sent out an email about Dr. Thio’s positions, “for LGBT students and allies to be aware of her views in order to make fully informed decisions regarding class registration.” I would hope that NYU students would refuse en masse to take Dr. Thio’s class as a show of solidarity for LGBT students and as an expression of support for human rights generally. NYU has attracted many of the best and brightest students because of its claimed commitment to diversity, public interest and the vigorous exchange of ideas. Dr. Thio does not embody those ideals.

But of course it doesn’t end there. Malik Graves-Pryor, an NYU student who also works in the law school’s IT department, sent out a very good email making the obvious argument that this isn’t about politics or a difference in political ideology — this is about fundamental human rights. He argues that NYU Law would never support the work of an academic who made similar comments about other traditionally marginalized groups, writing:

While I can understand your position and reasoning in displaying solidarity to the larger NYU School of Law community regarding Hauser Global’s decision to bring in Professor Li-Ann Thio … I must state my strong objection to her appointment and the official NYU Law defense of said appointment.
As an African-American man working in the LawITS department, and simultaneously a student at NYU, I could never imagine the day would come when NYU would allow the appointment of a legal scholar who held the opinion that African-Americans practice acts of “gross indecency”, that African-Americans who strive for diversity should be rebuffed because “diversity is not a license for perversity”, describing the private intimate acts between African-Americans as trying to “shove a straw up your nose to drink”, among other intellectually and morally shallow absurdities

Now here’s where it starts to get hairy: In response to Graves-Pryor’s email, Dr. Thio issued an 18-point rebuttal, which she sent to the entire NYU Law faculty. Her argument, basically, is that she is the victim here, and that oppressive and malicious homosexuals are slandering her and destroying her reputation. The fundamental disconnect is that Dr. Thio seems to think this is a purely political debate, and therefore calling her views “bigoted” or comparing them to racism is out of bounds. She hangs her hat on freedom of speech and diversity of political opinion, arguing that detractors are “bullying” and trying to silence her. Her supporters have centered their arguments on academic freedom and the importance of vigorously engaging ideas with which you disagree, and not attending school in an echo chamber, all of which are concepts that I entirely agree with — but the very fact that Dr. Thio created an 18-point document painting herself as a victim of the “homosexual agenda” in response to a student email doesn’t exactly indicate that she is up for having her own views challenged.

Let’s go through her missive: … (follows a huge long 18-point-homosex-debate).

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