The post-Vagina Monologues generation of women at Columbia University, which includes Barnard College, the venerable all-women school, recently displayed a talent for vulgarity that would once upon a time have stunned the sort of women who have the academic credentials to get into one of the nation’s top schools.
I wrote about this in an item headlined “Barnard: President’s Coming Visit Sparks War of (Really Vulgar) Words” that dealt with the things Columbia University women, jealous that the president, who has spurned requests to speak at Columbia, his alma mater, reached out to Barnard and asked to deliver this year’s commencement address, and their Barnard counterparts were saying about each other.
Before you dismiss me as somebody who is hopelessly out of date, please read William Tucker’s piece in today’s American Spectator. Headline: “Why Vulgarity Matters.” The vitriolic and sexualized language employed in the Barnard-Columbia war of women against women really should not be taken lightly.
To set the stage for the argument, Tucker quotes Charles Murray’s summary of English historian Arnold Tonybee’s famous A Study of History, which came out in the 1930s:
The growth phase of a civilization is led by a creative minority with a strong, self-confident sense of style, virtue and purpose. The uncreative minority follows along. Then, at some point in every civilization's journey, the creative minority degenerates into a dominant minority.
Its members still run the show but they are no longer confident and no longer set an example. Among other reactions are a "lapse into truancy" — a rejection of the obligations of citizenship — and "surrender to a sense of promiscuity" — vulgarization of manners, the arts, and language — that "are apt to appear first in the ranks of the proletariat and to spread from there to the ranks of the dominant minority, which usually succumbs to the sickness of proletariatization.
I don’t know if Murray or Tucker would agree with my particular example, but I regard the tenor of the Barnard-Columbia—er—dialogue as an example of people who should be the creative minority abandoning high standards and lapsing into truancy.
Why have the supposed cream of the crop become so lacking in decorum? Tucker offers an interesting theory on how this came about:
What happened was that upper middle-class people decided that they weren't tough enough or didn't sound black enough or hip enough and so the way to sound real and authentic was to adopt the vulgarity of people poorer than themselves.
And it was often people poorer than themselves who were embarrassed by all this, but nevertheless it has all now been done….
But does all this really make any difference? Is it really necessary to risk being prudish in order to restore American values? Does public vulgarity really have an impact in fostering the culture of welfarism and social irresponsibility?
Tucker argues that public vulgarity does, in fact, have profound consequences. In making this claim, he refers to the work of James Q. Wilson, the great political scientist, who died last week. Wilson famously advocated the “broken windows” theory of policing—i.e., that if small things, such as broken windows, were attended to before they became big problems, a tone conducive to public order was set.
So it is with public vulgarity and the constant open discussion of sex and pregnancy and abortion and what have you on soap operas and daytime television eventually leads young people to believe that there is nothing private about sex and no act of moral omission that can't be talked out with Dr. Phil or argued before Judge Judy. And so if you get your girlfriend pregnant and decide you don't want to marry her or she doesn't want to marry you, how does that differ from any of the tawdriness and indecencies that parade before you on the screen every afternoon and evening anyway?
So the women of Columbia arguably have contributed in their vicious and vulgar back and forth to a general tawdriness that is bad for society at large. But at least they aren't square!
Interestingly, Tucker relates the issue of vulgarity to the possible GOP candidacy of Mitt Romney. Romney, I think we can all agree, is square. He belongs to a Mormon subculture that, aside from its excursion into polygamy, is decidedly in favor of traditional values. Romney himself is one of those folks whose idea of being hip is more along the lines of wearing pressed jeans than swearing. This is going to lead to a lot of ridicule from the cool people in the press and at places like Columbia University.
As someone said on a blog the other day, "Mitt Romney doesn't preach traditional morality. He's lived it."
And that's going to be part of this election. Economics and gas prices are going to be an issue but moral values are going to play a part as well. Liberals will hate it. Janeane Garofalo will spew every known obscenity over the radio and produce positive proof that all Mormons are secret pederasts or libertines — just like us! It's going to be important not to stoop to their level. There's going to be a lot at stake.