Honey Badger Ethics

I am not sorry that this blog post is late. I don’t give a shit. I had things to do this weekend. I was hungry so I ate, jumping the line and stealing syrup at the IHOP. I needed pillows, so I went to Ikea, pushing those stiletto baby mamas outta the way to attack giant bins of animal shaped cookie cutters. Only $3.99? Me want! Me suddenly require! Why snail? 

One of these things is not like the others. 

Oh, this outfit is not skimpy enough for you? Tough crap. Go buy some porn, you cheapskates. Now I insist that you vote for me at www.cdnba.wordpress.com. I think that I have the best humour blog, if pissy clever humour is your thing. Possibly also the best feminist blog even if it is not always conventionally feminist. I mean, sometimes I decry sexism with a stink-eye look on my face, but mostly I live feminism, I embody it, I try to keep it real. Real sexy, that is. Plus I am now bigger and all my cute dresses are too tight through the back. I can thus literally kick the asses of those fucking old obsessed bearded guys who want to control the bodies of young women. During the Renaissance, we called such zealots ‘witch hunters.’ And I should know, because I was there. Well, in my dreams. Yes, like a D & D nerd turned gamer—shout out to RenMan!—I fantasize about time travel. And what is my most vivid experience of the streets of sixteenth-century Paris? Stench and more stench. Alongside bugs and worms and the elusive sweating sickness. But the rest is magical. Especially the unicorns. Back to the present and to the topic at hand: honey badger ethics. I have been thinking about my ethical obligations for weeks on end now. Not meta-ethics per se; rather, the more normative kind, as in ‘how can I determine a course of moral action for my life?’ Or I should say lives, for I am a professor, a friend, a revs instructor, an oven cleaner, a partner, a lover, a baker, an annoying fuckhead, an accidental tormenter, and so forth. I have been pondering this question because an anonymous student complained to the university administration that my blog—yes this very blog that you are now reading!—made him and/or her ‘uncomfortable.’ At first I was non-plussed. Who the fuck would do that? After all, this blog has no connection wth any of my courses and I never discuss it. I never promote it. I wondered: ‘Am I a bad, selfish professor? A bad person in general?’ About ten minutes later, I realized: Fuck fuck no. I have done nothing wrong and I will not be censored. Particularly not by someone who thinks that professors should not have private lives. What I mean is, private lives made glaringly public. With vibrators. Or that professors should not make them uncomfortable. Well, excuse me oh-blessedly-vulnerable-one, but I now realize that making people uncomfortable is in fact the best thing I have to offer the world. It’s called education, stupid. I always say this to students when they bitch and whine that an article or an idea is ‘too hard.’ ‘Well, that’s good,’ I declare, puffing up my defined and impressive chest in a pompous manner. ‘Because if something is easy, if it is obvious, it means that it already fits neatly into your epistemological categories, into your standard ways of thinking. If you can think a new concept with masterful ease, then you have wasted your time and have in fact learned nothing. If you demand to hear only comfortable things that already make perfect sense, I invite you to get the fuck out of my classroom. There’s the door. Feel free to drop out of university entirely while you are at it because you are a waste of time and space. And likely also a neo-con. Wait, there’s more. If you don’t like my blog, I have a brainwave suggestion for you: stop reading it. I am not your mother. I am not your grade two teacher named Mrs Cobbold, wearing flowered dresses with large pockets. I am not your psychologist. Nor am I a snuggle pillow. I did not go to university for ten years and write 3 1/2 books in order to service you with a smile. Fuck you and fuck the therapeutic university model that is for some reason in your head. Ah yeah. There. That is almost out of my system now. In some ways it is good that the FFG project has forced me to think about ethics. For instance, I had to comply with the ethics protocol at my university before undertaking participant observation at the gym, yoga studio, and during my competition. That unwieldy process was something of an eye opener because the regulations are clearly designed for those conducting medical or scientific experiments which position the researchers as superior knowledge-generating beings who can potentially harm others. Transfering those necessary protections of the weak and vulnerable patient or subject to the arts is a little silly, but potentially necessary. Are bodybuilders at the gym really at risk from me? I doubt it. In any case, I live my life trying not to exploit others, so I did not resist this intrusion into and scrutiny of my project. It is more interesting, however, to consider the ethical outcomes of my performances both as a professor and as a revs instructor. First, as a professor I work very hard to bring the latest, most interesting scholarship to students and to demolish all of their false presuppositions about visual culture, art, and artists. But when I consider my professional identity I do not include students. Instead, I think about writing books and articles, promoting contemporary artists, and making the rounds at conferences. I identify with my career as a publishing academic, but not with my job as a professor who has administrative and teaching duties. As an administrator, I get things done, faster than most people. I wrote the PhD Program for my department in record time, mostly while on trains, planes, or in automobiles. Just don’t expect me to sit through meetings nodding and grinning. I will be checking my phone for texts from PDDs and planning my chest workout instead. Along the same lines, teaching is an important part of my job, and something that I do well. I should qualify. I am great in the classroom: 100% present, engaged, swift of mind, well informed. But when I leave the classroom, I am not a teacher anymore and might not even recognize my own students when I pass them in the hallway. This Dexteresque divide allows me to be productive and to focus, though I think that unlike Dexter I might have emotions. So if students want advice about applying to graduate school or about how to stop writing run-on sentences, they should come and see me during office hours. Otherwise, I don’t have much to offer. I am not a role model. Plus I’m freakin’ busy. I am not like those lonely creepy professor men who force students to come to their 9-5 offices, inviting them out for drinks later to ‘continue the discussion.’ These old useless guys delusionally believe that glowing young students admire them, and in the end use students to prop up their unstable egos and flesh out—please note my careful word choice—their empty lives. That is not how I roll. I do not think about students outside of the classroom, and had assumed that they did not think about me either. Hence my surprise at the complaint.  But what about my role as a leader in the fitness industry? Har de har. That was a joke. I teach maybe one or two revs classes at my gym a week. I do care about these classes, and spend quite a bit of time changing up the music—can I get a hell yeah for Lords of the New Church?—and planning the drills. In fact, when I ran into a professor from the Drama Department in the subway the other day, he asked me: ‘So what are you teaching right now?’ I answered: ‘Oh I am leading spin classes at my gym. You know, I shout at people as they ride stationary bikes.’ He looked puzzled: ‘No, I mean, what are you offering this semester at the university?’ ‘Oh who cares,’ I said in an offhand and unusually honest way. Because I have taught those courses before and know what to do, they are no longer intellectually challenging for me. According to researcher Pirkko Markula, fitness instructors have ethical obligations. They can, for instance, offer a model of self-care that actively increases their students’ understanding of themselves as ethical beings, instead of merely complying with dominant discourses. In other words, group ex leaders could encourage participants to question the naturalness of identity instead of simply assuming that they are there to lose weight. I think I promote something like an ethical intervention when I insist that people taking my revs classes work hard and sweat, declaring that my fitness goal is to get bigger and stronger, not smaller. I respect effort and dedication to improvement, not skinniness. I think delicate young ladies are sometimes surprised by my pissy revs persona. Tiny butts do not interest me. Pounding quads do. I never talk about doing revs to look better or to be able to ‘eat that brownie later,’ like some other instructors. For me a revs class is about feeling better, having more energy, being more present, taking up more room. Fuck yeah. Honey badgers rule.