The Flanagan Formula

My oh-so-favorite columnist Caitlin Flanagan has turned her (unwanted) attention and (overly) critical eye to fraternity houses nationwide. In her Wall Street Journal article “Shutter Fraternities for Young Women’s Good,” Flanagan argues:

The Greek system is dedicated to quelling young men’s anxiety about submitting themselves to four years of sissy-pants book learning by providing them with a variety of he-man activities: drinking, drugging, ESPN watching and the sexual mistreatment of women.”

It’s the classic Flanagan formula:

Step 1. Jump on the liberal bandwagon of an issue that is already being covered extensively, more accurately, and with greater nuance by other media outlets. Porn can degrading to women! Teenagers hook up indiscriminately! Sexual assault happens on college campus and fraternities are sometimes involved!

Step 2. Identify the easiest scapegoat, preferably someone or something that everybody already likes to hate, i.e. teenage sexuality or douchey frat boys.

Step 3. Find worst examples of behavior ever perpetrated by any members of the scapegoat group.

Step 4. Project uncontrollably. Add histrionics and drama. Fraternity houses are “at once august and moldering, they seemed sinister, to stand for male power at its most malevolent and institutionally condoned.” Mention blood if possible.

Flanagan is so infuriating because her melodramatic blanket blame games undermine real and necessary conversations about consequences and accountability. Some fraternities are problematic. Some of them should be shut down. But overreaching and fingerpointing don’t advance conversation towards real progress, and tossing around absolutes only weakens the cause.

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Related Post: I’ve tangled with the Flanagan Formula before, on Karen Owen and the Duke Fuck List.

Related Post: My second favorite Atlantic writer, Natasha Vargas-Cooper on “granting” sex and how porn ruins everything.

Related Post: The Wall Street Journal published another misguided attempt to explain teenage girls and revealing clothes. This one is a doozie.

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Filed under Education, Gender, Media, Sex

2 responses to “The Flanagan Formula

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  2. Pingback: “Don’t take my picture,” “Come on! You’re at the beach!” | rosiesaysblog

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