Never heard of Allen J Frantzen? Don’t worry, unless you are into Anglo Saxon literature there is little likelihood of you stumbling across the professor. Yet, within the world of medieval studies he was, until January of this year, a highly respected figure. To most of us books with titles such as Food, Eating and Identity in Early Medieval England don’t make the pulse quicken, but amongst medievalists Frantzen was an important academic. In 2013 he won the Medieval Academy of America’s Teaching Excellence Award.
Then he made a mistake. After nearly 40 years in academia Frantzen retired from Loyola University in 2014. Since then he has devoted his time to writing projects, including his blog. His blog postings consist mostly of photographs of Frantzen at home with his partner George, recipes they have made and gardens visited, with a sideline on their cats. One would think that he was a fully paid up member of the progressive intellectual elite. Then he wrote a post How to fight your way out of the feminist fog.
Frantzen is concerned about what it means to be masculine. In pursuing this he argues that it is difficult for men to dissent from the goals of modern feminism. In the prevailing cultural atmosphere he thinks that many men are afraid of the consequences of questioning feminism, or of being masculine.
‘The feminist believes she cannot be disagreed with by a reasonable person. How can you disagree with me? I’m a woman (black, gay, Hispanic). You will now have shown that you can disagree with a self-proclaimed victim without sounding prejudiced.’
The post nestled in obscurity for months until unearthed recently. Cue immediate outrage from his onetime admiring colleagues; to them any man who could write that ‘wimpishness is not sexy’ is clearly a sexist misogynist who has a deep hatred for women. It’s obvious, isn’t it? At least it was obvious to Frantzen’s academic critics.
The immediate reaction from some in the academic community was that Frantzen as a male academic who fails to subscribe to feminism is a dangerous heretic, and thus must be exposed and shamed, and if he doesn’t recant he must be driven from the field.
One hysterical colleague described the post as ‘verbal violence against women’. Another took the opposite tack and described it as an attempt to ‘police what it means to be a man’, as though presenting an alternative viewpoint was the same as demanding enforced conformity.
We quickly reached a situation where academics holding posts in universities and tasked with teaching students how to engage with critical thinking were actually demanding that Frantzen’s works be removed from prescribed reading lists. Clearly his thoughts on mediaeval kitchen utensils which were valued and promoted last year are to be prescribed this year because he supposedly hates women and thinks them educationally inferior.
As one critic said, ‘Knowing that all the while, this respected man who has had so much to contribute to the world of scholarship has never viewed women as capable of the same contribution is immensely sad.’ There is no record of Frantzen ever saying that women are incapable of being medieval scholars; but then actual facts are ever a weakness of progressives.
We all know just how off-the-wall-crazy progressive social justice warriors can be. This, however, indicates something much more serious than their usual lunacy. These reactions don’t come from the usual suspects posturing in the student union. These reactions come from respected academics who, when confronted by an unpopular or dissenting opinion, cannot debate, cannot counter the arguments or rationally defend their own position. Instead they automatically respond with demands for censorship and removal from the curriculum.
Clearly for progresives there are matters which are beyond debate. One academic wrote: Patriarchy does oppress men, if not in the same way as it does women, and the only way out of that is through taking apart the patriarchy, feminism’s avowed goal. I’m glad that’s settled.
Frantzen is clearly correct when he writes: ‘Feminism has become compulsory. Any other way of looking at things is assumed to be inherently unjust’.
For the progressive there is no room for dissent or debate; as far as they are concerned the matter, whatever the matter may be, is settled, and they are right.
Frantzen has repeatedly asserted that his post wasn’t meant to put women down or claim men are superior, but to build men up and say they should be comfortable enough to develop a critical attitude about feminism. However, ‘Anytime you challenge any aspect of feminism… you’re going to hear that you hate women,’ he said. ‘I think this is the standard response to anyone that wanders off the reservation… I don’t think they are doing a really great job at responding to my ideas’.
For a man to openly question feminism is not only heresy, but will also be construed as an outright attack against women. Telling men to stop being wimps is not seen as directed at men but is seen as an attack aimed at women. Unless a man is dorky enough to wear a T-shirt proclaiming ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ he is considered a servant of the patriarchy. For the progressive conformity is all.
Rejecting the works of an author who was, until very recently greatly admired, because of his opinion on modern social issues, is an emotional reaction that makes little logical sense. Nevertheless, Frantzen’s scholarship concerning subjects such as ‘The Literature of Penance in Anglo-Saxon England’ is clearly suspect for some because he thinks men should act like men. It is bizarre to think that Frantzen’s academic works are somehow tainted because of a recent and unrelated controversial opinion that he holds. But logic is in short supply amongst progressives generally, that it is in short supply amongst leading scholars is frightening.