Jon Branfman, author of the children’s book You Be You! Explaining Gender, Love & Family and a graduate student at the Ohio State University, is under fire by alt-right media outlets for the topic of his class.
Branfman teaches gender studies at the Ohio State University. This semester, he is teaching a class titled ‘Be a Man! Masculinities, Race and Nation.’ The course explores different types of masculinity and how certain varieties of it (known as toxic masculinity) can be harmful to men, women, and those in between.
‘This course analyzes cultural ideas about masculinity, and how they relate to ideas about race, sexuality, and citizenship. Because we will emphasize how masculine expectations vary between cultures, places, and eras, we will use the plural term masculinities. The class introduces students to foundational feminist and queer analytical tools about masculinities, and especially the field known as men’s studies or feminist masculinity studies,’ the course syllabus reads.
Some required reading for the class includes Masculinity as Homophobia by Michael Kimmel, Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity by Jackson Katz, Dude Sex: Dudes Who Have Sex with Dudes by Jane Ward, Looking for My Penis by Richard Fung, Sodomy in the New World by Jonathan Goldberg, and Teaching Men’s Anal Pleasure by Susan Stiritz.
Alt-right media outlets including Brietbart, Stormfront, and Fox are furious about this course, and have been quite vocal about it.
The backlash first began on The College Fix, a right-wing site focused on higher education. To them, this course ‘reprimands white heterosexual masculinity.’
Right-wing blog Zero Hedge stated, ‘For Identity Politics the only acceptable white heterosexual males are those who admit their gender and sexual preference guilt and accept their punishment for being the victimizers of women, blacks, and homosexuals.’
And what would bashing a feminist college course be without Milo Yiannopoulos? The controversial gay conservative commentator mentioned the class during his YouTube preview of The Milo Show.
‘If you go to Ohio State, your school is trying to turn you gay,’ Yiannopoulos states.
‘This is not academia,’ Yiannopoulos says after going over the course description. ‘This is therapy.’
Branfman, who is Jewish, found that his ethno-religious identity played a role in this conservative backlash as well. For instance, the Zero Hedge blog piece also said, ‘Americans – especially white people who are the target of the deadly ideology of Identity Politics and are placed by the ideology in the same position as Jews in Nazi Germany and capitalists in Soviet Russia – are unaware of the extent to which Identity Politics is now the dominant force in American culture.’
By comparing white people in America to the plight of Jews during Nazi Germany, and comparing identity politics to genocide, the commentary took an anti-Semitic twist.
‘Anti-semitism is a potent animating factor in white supremacist beliefs,’ says 27-year-old Lauren Post, a friend of Branfman’s from Ohio State. ‘Many white supremacists believe that Jews are the reason that marginalized groups demand equal rights in the first place. In their eyes, the success of the civil rights movements, the LGBTQ+ push for equality, and feminism in its various forms is only made possible by a shadowy secret cabal – the Jews.’
‘It’s unfortunate, but not surprising they’re targeting a person whose identity happens to offend many of their worst sensibilities,’ Post said, referring to Branfman’s gay, Jewish, and feminist identities.
‘This backlash against the class and children’s book just shows how important feminist, queer, and anti-racist education remains in 2018,’ Branfman tells GSN.