Widgets Magazine


A break from social justice

Stanford, it’s been a long year.

Our campus has been torn apart in the last nine months by student activism that has brought the ugliness of the outside world onto Stanford’s pristine campus. And, after a spring quarter completely ruined by the death and subjugation of marginalized communities across the world, police brutality and systemic violence and the ceaseless exploitation of marginalized communities by those in power, it seems more obvious than ever that Stanford students need a break.

Hardly a day goes by without an unwanted reminder that the world is unjust, or seeing uncomfortable news stories that take effort to explain away. Black Lives Matter has made its way into classrooms, and the shadow of the Palestinian occupation looms over Hoover Tower. It’s the social justice warriors who have ruined it for everyone. Issues of injustice simply don’t belong on Stanford’s campus –- otherwise, the next generation of leaders might be influenced by unduly radical ideas, like “don’t shoot black people,” or “sexual assault is wrong.” Stanford students today seem more and more taken by dangerous ideals, and driven to march, rally and protest -– much to the chagrin of those rational others who see the real picture. Won’t these activists think about the future of others? What about the futures of us level-headed intellectuals if we miss a problem set due to distraction?

Luckily, there are important lessons to take away from the events that have transpired this year. Most important of these is this: The university is on our side. Students across campus have been inspired by the way the university has used its institutional power to oppose student activism, and sent the clear message that all issues –- whether Stanford is harboring war criminals, suppressing its queer and trans students or supporting a history of racism -– deserve equal-opportunity erasure. However, the sobering truth is that the real damage of activism has already been done: Students have been made uncomfortable. Where was Stanford when its students were forced to acknowledge police brutality? How about when Stanford students were bullied by trans people into using the “pronouns” (whatever those are) of their choice? How about when issues of divestment forced students to confront the idea that the Israeli state could, in fact, be fallible?

Luckily, Stanford students, this summer will be a much-needed time to recharge for most people as we head home. Nowhere else is it so easy to hear people with the same ideas as us and regain our faith in the ability of people with privilege to generate fantastical alternatives for reality.

Of course, this summer won’t be without its difficulties. We’ll have our hands full with our older relatives, trying to convince them that the racist, sexist, homophobic, islamophobic and transmisogynstic slurs they like to shout are inappropriate for the dinner table, and that the proper way to be prejudiced is far more subtle. We’ll most likely settle on teaching them how to misuse free speech, and save our lecture on how usually a brief acknowledgment of injustice that happened a few centuries ago exempts us from having to think critically about how people continue to be oppressed today for another time. Over Thanksgiving break, perhaps. Most importantly, this summer will be an opportunity for self-reflection as we share with our families stories about our good grades and thriving social lives, and the fact that we haven’t said the n-word more than two or three times all year.

Next year will be a fresh start. And, while it may be intimidating to think that in just three months we’ll be coming back to a new year of denying that privilege exists, smiling and nodding when marginalized students on campus speak about their pain, and uncritically supporting oppressive institutions, there is no better reason to enjoy our summers. Relax! It’ll be three glorious months before we have to hold our hands over our ears again.

Contact Lily Zheng at lilyz8 ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

About Lily Zheng

Lily Zheng '17, is a weekly columnist for The Stanford Daily, a Social Psychology major and co-president of the student group Kardinal Kink. Her weekly column revolves around consent culture, queer and trans identity, social justice and activism. In her spare time, she enjoys wearing too much black clothing, accidentally sleeping in her makeup and spending quality time with her partners. Contact her at lilyz8 'at' stanford.edu – she loves messages!
  • absolutelyfabulous
  • montana

    left wing hate

  • ThankGodIm15

    Haven’t seen the “Stanford 68” brought up on Fundamental Standard charges yet. ResEd has sent out campus-wide emails supporting the protesters. Expulsion is now the presumed punishment for the campus kangaroo tribunals. ResEd has told all staffers that the bathrooms are de facto gender neutral- and they are not to discourage people from using the facilities of their choosing, even though dorms already have gender neutral, single use bathrooms for people to use. Catherine Criswell is now going after the band with her typical opacity. ad nauseum.

    I get it, the belief that the powers that be at Stanford are against you energizes your base- it makes you kids seem subversive and cool, but maybe, just maybe, you aren’t nearly as victimized on this campus as you think, and the university has many interests to balance on all these complex issues.

  • Very angry person

    Those horrible activists! They’ve influenced the university more than I thought. Good thing rational people like you and I see straight through their bs. Things got marginally better for them! Can’t they just stop complaining?

  • Recent Alum

    I enjoy watching this activist movement eat itself in much that same way you can’t take your eyes off a horrific car crash.

  • eating ourselves = chill


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  • Brianne Huntsman

    This is satire. Le duh.

  • Mario

    Oh yes. Please continue believing that the reason the activist community is facing pushback from the rest of Stanford is because everyone’s too apathetic or privileged or evil, and not that activists have done some really stupid, ineffective, bizarre things this year to get attention with the conviction that outraging and offending people is the same thing as progress. I was initially on board with many of the things people were doing and became gradually disillusioned. I’m not the only one. But keep convincing yourself that you’re always in the right, and if anyone doesn’t like what you’re doing it’s because they’re just standing with teh oppressor.

  • Bob

    When a dude says he “identifies as a woman” what he really means is, “I demand you ignore the objective reality that I’m actually a dude and play along with my fetishized construct of womanhood.” I don’t “identify” as a man. I am a man. So are you. So is Bruce Jenner. In America, you’re free to pretend to be whatever you want and it’s my obligation to tolerate your behavior in a respectful manner. But what makes the rest of us “uncomfortable”, as you call it, is your and other SJW’s insistence that the 99% must ignore objective reality to fully support and comply with the public roleplaying of your fetish.

    Again, out of respect, I’m willing to accommodate a dude roleplaying a woman to a point. I won’t call you out. Use whatever bathroom you want. And I would never go out of my way to be hostile or rude. I’ll even refer to you as she/her/hers. But that’s it. If you tell me your preferred pronouns are anything but she/her/hers…I’m out. Xe/xer/? does not and will never compute. Neither will any of the other ridiculous pronouns special snowflakes want to claim to prove their special uniqueness.

    Until science proves (not just suggests) that a man can be a woman, you should temper the demands you place on society because most of us don’t believe we’re obligated to be extras in the “movie” playing in your head.

  • Collin237

    Science cannot call a man a woman. However, science can objectify a mental state, for the purpose of ruling out fakes, by finding a highly correlated physical attribute and redefining the state as such. And science has done this with gender dysphoria, which can now be diagnosed 100% psych-free in terms of only mechanically measured properties of the brain.

    A man who “identifies as a woman” might actually have gender dysphoria, or he might be putting on an act to mock people with gender dysphoria. The fashion of denying this distinction is a typical right-wing marginalization technique, despite it being set by so-called leftists. Anyone claiming to “identify” as the opposite gender should have to take the brain test in order to be taken seriously, under the condition that if they test positive they shall actually be taken seriously as someone with gender dysphoria. This does not mean they “are” the other gender, or that they’re entitled to a pronoun, or that they can use a bathroom that doesn’t match their anatomy. It simply means they’re different in some mysterious way that nobody understands — probably not even themselves.

    Gender pronouns are a means of perpetuating transphobia, not getting rid of it.

  • Rogerina

    I really wanted to like your article, but I was triggered by your very aggressive undertones. Please, label your content beforehand with the relevant trigger warning, and keep fighting the good fight!

  • Moral Max

    you should temper the demands you place on society because most of us don’t believe we’re obligated to be extras in the “movie” playing in your head.Casquette Superman

  • rationalstudent

    “However, the sobering truth is that the real damage of activism has already been done: Students have been made uncomfortable.”

    The irony here is unbelievable. How can you say people resist your brand of activism because it makes them uncomfortable? Your “activism” is all about making sure no one is ever made uncomfortable!

    You champion “safe spaces” , “trigger warnings”, and hypersensitive language. These things don’t encourage dialogue, they suppress it. They disregard any notion of objective reality or objective morality, instead allowing everyone to define their own truth. You can’t dismiss their truth because it is a product of their own personal experiences and journey that you know nothing of. And because you haven’t shared their experiences and will never understand, and you have no right to the conversation and anything you say is dismissed.

    Your brand of activism is exclusionary, hypocritical, and ineffective. I encourage you to contemplate your positions.

    “In Defense of Safe Spaces” – Lily Zheng

    “Provosts and purple prose: Critiquing Dialogue” – Lily Zheng http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/04/21/provosts-and-purple-prose-critiquing-dialogue/

  • mrthecoolguy

    Student activism has achieved nothing since the South African divestment movement, and even that’s debatable. This has nothing to do with institutional resistance.

  • George Gagner

    Ms. Zheng,

    Be sure to save this column are read it in about 15 or 20 years. I predict one of two reactions and realities for you. Either (i) you will laugh at the contents for the attempted ironic drivel that it is, and be engaged in a productive endeavor, contributing out our society as a whole, or (ii) you will still hold the same viewpoints and be a member of the Former Stanford Daily Columnist Lives Matter movement, unemployed, self-marginalized and whining to the effect of “I am smart, why am I not rich??”.

    In the meantime, please write an open letter to the founders, administrators and economic benefactors of the university, thanking them for creating and maintaining such a wonderful safe place for you to indulge in your naive, narcissistic ruminations. Also, here is a trigger warning. If you don’t like the use of force, then don’t watch while we pave large swaths of the Middle East, which we now unfortunately must do. If we fail to do so, then even your safe place may not be so safe. I am sure that many will protest that we are once again exploiting the marginalized, in this case the patriots of Islam, but it is, like many things in life, a zero sum game, and you will not like the world that results if we lose. You might try on a berka or two for size, just to prepare.

    P.S. Here is some mentoring advice–Glibness does not equal useful, practical, problem-solving ability. See, for example, our current President.

  • panda-lily

    I realize that this is many months late, and I apologize beforehand, but this article is just satire. I know it can be hard to tell sometimes with Poe’s Law and all, but Lily has admitted it herself.

    Anyways, I’d like to take the liberty to try to clear up some misconceptions I feel you have. First of all, being transgender is not a fetish because transgender people do not get sexually excited or aroused simply by wearing cross-gender clothing. That would be a transvestic fetishist, defined as a paraphilia in the DSM-V and completely separate from being transsexual or transgender.

    Now if being transgender was really a mental illness and delusional, then why would medical transitioning be supported by the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association? Transitioning -is- treatment. Hormones and sex reassignment surgery aren’t just handed out willy-nilly. One must be under the supervision and care of a therapist and/or psychiatrist to ensure mental stability and their approval is required in order to be seen by an endocrinologist or surgeon.

    Now for the objective science. There are quite a few studies that show a neurobiological basis in cross-sex gender identity. Scans of dissected brains of both heterosexual and homosexual men and women and male-to-female transsexuals reveal number of neurons in the limbic nucleus far closer to natal females in MtF than males, both gay and straight. The number of neurons in and the size of the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus show MtFs to be well in the female control range, and FtMs in the male control range. The same applies to white matter and grey matter microstructure and morphology. How this happened is most likely due to a hormonal or signaling “abnormality” in the development of the embryonic brain, which is separate from the pre-natal body’s development. I’ll link just a few of the research studies and papers, all of which were published in reputable journals:








    Now while the brain itself is not a sexually dimorphic organ as a whole (meaning no definition of a strictly male or female brain), as you can see there is enough variation between males and females in many areas for there to be a neural spectrum of “maleness” and “femaleness”, and trans folks will find themselves falling onto the scale close to the range of their identified gender.

    I remember also reading somewhere about longer repetitions of the androgen receptor gene correlating with male-to-female transsexualism, though I’m not really well-versed in molecular biology at the moment so I’ll leave it at that. Nonetheless, this hints at it being already embedded in one’s DNA.

    By the way, gender dysphoria, the condition in the DSM-V, results from living or having a body that doesn’t match one’s identity, not the state of being transgender itself. A condition like body integrity disorder reacts well to therapy, but worsens when a body part is removed. Gender dysphoria on the other hand, does not respond to therapeutic attempts to treat it, but decreases and stabilizes significantly after transitioning socially and medically. A sex reassignment operation is as much “mutilation” as surgically correcting a cleft lip is.

    Chromosomes do not determine gender, but genotypical sex only. A woman born with swyer syndrome or XY gonadal dysgenesis, for example, may have XY sex chromosomes and testes, but she is still mentally, socially, and culturally a woman. Same goes for transgender people.

    One might even argue that after medically transitioning, a trans person’s phenotype is altered through acquired traits in the permanent changes to the hormones, blood, secondary sex characteristics, and bone structure. If one tested a trans woman’s blood, for example, the endocrinology might, for example, reveal a female during the latter stage of her monthly cycle. Her breasts grown “naturally” through estrogen and external vulva are all female sex characteristics. While her body may not be 100% biologically female, it would be very inaccurate to say she is 0%.

    I hope that I’ve been somewhat informative. Please have a nice day.