… read and learn. This is the way ambitious university women are cut down to size – pretty much, in this case, the minute they get to campus – by powerful, institutionally inept men and their, er, micro-aggressions.

UD imagines almost every woman who has gotten anywhere in this country has dealt – verbally or in writing – with this particular condescending Big-Man-to-Small-Girl thing.

In this case, the president of one of America’s shabbiest, most ill-run universities received a letter of complaint from a student. No biggie: She just didn’t have anywhere to liveno housing, because Howard University boasts a long history of global administrative incompetence paired with surly treatment of desperate unhoused students. In response to her reasoned letter, Howard’s president wrote this:

Your tone and tenor is inappropriate.


After which, in a final snippy and princely sentence, he told her he’d copy her letter to the ‘appropriate’ offices at Howard.

So… you’re nineteen years old, just arrived at an expensive college you and your parents can barely afford, and the highest representative of that college has just told your roofless self to fuck off and learn how to address the boss man. How to worry not about a place to live, but that you’ve been insufficiently cringing in your approach to a rich, powerful man’s university-destroying greatness.

What can I say, girlies? Rather than scrutinize pathetically your pathetic humiliated female self, the thing to do is EXACTLY what this woman did: Put your letter and Mr Big’s letter side by side on social media, and watch it all go beautifully viral. Brava.

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6 Responses to “In honor of International Women’s Day…”

  1. David Foster Says:

    How much of this is Male vs Female arrogance as opposed to Lordly Administrator vs Everyone Else arrogance?

    I have seen, and even received, extremely arrogant letters from university administrators to people of the male gender.

    There is also the famous Valdosta State case, in which the then-president of that university was so offended by a (male) student’s critique of his parking-deck decision that he had the kid *expelled*. (In this case, a court decided that the president’s action was so egregious that he was *personally* liable for damages.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    David: Yes – you’re right that arrogance is often gender-blind. A recent example on this blog of something similar to the example you give is various exchanges between male higher-ups and male econ profs at Auburn U. about the athletic department budget. But I think women – for all kinds of reasons that are as much familial as they are social – often have particular problems knowing how to deal with condescending shits.

  3. Stephen Karlson Says:

    “Condescending shits.” Years ago, I heard Fred Kahn (of the Civil Aeronautics Board) having fun with people who used “inappropriate.” Let’s say he wasn’t impressed.

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Stephen: The word “inappropriate” is really disgusting. I’ve almost never heard or read it in a non-disgusting context. (It is constantly used to intimidate women, who are raised to worry about appropriateness.) Unless, of course, I’m reading The Onion or The Importance of Being Earnest and they’re using it to be hilarious.

  5. Anon Says:

    It’s not just that women don’t always know how to deal with it, it’s that we get it from all sides all the time. When I started my TT job, I got scolded multiple times by lecturers and a grad student (who had been around forever) on just the most ridiculous shit. I quickly learned how to shut it down, but still amazes me how (mostly) men feel its their duty to school women.

  6. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Anon: Mansplaining is one of the few new words I really like.

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