The case against entitlement

You will reap from life what you sow. You will be a professor if you work diligently to understand what that means and requires. You will be a doctor for the same reason.

Obtaining a degree does not entitle you to a job. It does not entitle you to status or money or wealth. It does not entitle you to anything.

I come to you after reading One Case Against Removing The Liberal Arts From Universities, an article that was particularly motivating.

The basis of this article was to refute claims that the Liberal Arts are an irrelevant part of the University. This is a hilarious sentiment. Universities were founded on the basis of teaching specialized areas of knowledge, most notably to the clergy and officers of the government. You were educated if you had status and a job the required you to be educated.

The perception is most often that the liberal arts are an ancient tradition of hoo-haw that spoils our brains and doesn’t promote practical thinking. It isn’t as valuable as math or science.

And yes, math and science are what men of the first universities would have learned. They needed to be able to calculate measurements and formulate opinions based on those calculations. This would have been more accurately considered as learning new technology than learning math and science.

Scholars also would have been taught philosophy, as philosophy of more than a hundred years wasn’t such seemingly a frivolous pursuit. It was considered the same as today’s psychologists speculating behavioral problems or meteorologists predicting the weather. The difference is, we understand these concepts better. We understand them differently, and therefor they become archaic.

Truthfully, literature is a relatively new concept compared to mathematics. We measured before we wrote. We needed writing to record those measurements. Writing of language begins in many cultures as a means of recording labor and quantity. Literature as we know it doesn’t emerge until much later, after its inception. The oldest manuscript in our possession is Beowulf, but between the writing of Beowulf and the fifteenth century, surviving manuscripts can be more rare than a white Bengal tiger walking an American beach. It is from the 15th century on that the invention of the printing press and the resurgence of classical thought form the body of work we study today.

I can talk about this until my face turns blue. So I’ll stop.

The reality is that my experience at a university is only relevant because of the amount of work I put in and the opportunities I took to gain experience. What mattered wasn’t my A in 20th Century British Literature. My experiences with organizations on campus mattered.

Therefor without my humanities degree, I might not be anyone special. I might not have any valuable skills.

Celie’s Button and the Perversion of Homosexual Desire in The Color Purple

To say that Celie in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is not a homosexual suggests that her love and sexual liberation is invalid. A fellow student in one of my classes recently stated that he believed that Celie is a victim of homosocial desire rather than identifying her as a homosexual.

I had already planned on presenting to my classmates the idea that Celie was homosexual. It just seemed so obvious as I read. I was curious how they would react. Although homosexuality is tolerated amongst my peers, there is still discomfort when they must face it.

My professor, Dr. Tiffany M. B. Anderson, was aligned with my own personal analysis of Celie’s sexuality, as she had never before heard anyone disagree. But the majority of my class seemed opposed. They preferred the less challenging argument of homosocial desire. Because at a basic level, it makes sense.

Homosocial is a relatively new term to the literary community, and it refers to the relationships between men in classical literature. There are times, such as in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice when characters appear to be much more affectionate and loyal toward the same sex. To a modern mind, this appears as homosexuality. Clearly these two men are gay if they are this affectionate toward one another. And anyone who reads Shakespeare knows that you really have to read between the lines to understand his innuendo. In 1985, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick popularized the term with her book Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. She presented the literary community with a solid explanation of these unusual relationships between men to the modern reader. Homosocial by itself simply means social interactions between people of the same sex. Homosocial desire as a complete term signifies the desire for the power and comradery of the same sex.

Now, before I go on to say that the homosocial argument is invalid, I’d like to explain why it can actually work. Celie is a submissive woman. She is abused by men and victimized by women. She is incapable of gaining her own control or power as a human being let alone as a woman. The presentation of Shug Avery provides Celie with a model of feminine power and how to achieve it. Shug is also the object of her sexual desire. But the power that Shug holds over men and other people in general is intoxicating to Celie. It allows her to become a sexual being rather than a victim of male desire. In this sense, Celie has homosocial desire for Shug Avery. There is no denying that.

However, I’d like to define what homosexuality is. The concept is foreign territory and tends to elude those faced with it. If you are not homosexual, you may not have a very solid foundation of what it means. Let’s just be honest, it is confusing. But the term homosexual just means people of the same sex. That’s it. That’s all homo (person) and sexual (of, relating to, or involving sex – most often just meaning biological reproductive capabilities that define gender). The term has come to define the romantic desire for and sexual intercourse with a person of the same sex. More accurately, Celie is a lesbian.

I’d love to agree that Walker presents us with a simple case of homosocial desire. It would be easy to create this as an argument. It would be easy to agree with, if it weren’t for the textual evidence that Celie is a lesbian – or at least has lesbian tendencies. This evidence includes her biological/natural desire for Shug. She feels a tingling that a woman might feel for a man when she first realizes her own bodily desire. But in addition to that, Celie is jealous of Shug’s love for Mr. And in addition to even that, Celie loves Shug. She has emotional desire for a woman. All of these contribute to the message that Celie is a lesbian. Now, does that mean she is solely a lesbian? No. But there is further evidence. She continues to have sex with Mr., this time altered by Shug’s interference, where she and Mr. attempt to have more pleasurable sex, and Celie doesn’t enjoy it. The evidence that Walker gives us points to a single conclusion. Celie is a homosexual.

Yes, she has homosocial desires. I would argue that these align more with her relationship to Sofia than her relationship to Shug. But in terms of Celie’s desire for Shug, it clearly crosses over the line of social to sexual. As Sedgwick asks us not to pervert the classical relationships between men by simply categorizing them as homosexual, I ask that we not pervert Celie’s lesbianism by simply saying that her desire is only homosocial.