The Last Emperor, a 1989 film, depicts the life of Puyi, Imperial China’s final Manchu leader. As a youth, he presided over a court peopled by thousands of servants, cooks, advisors, concubines, eunuchs, guards, and other attendants. He was abruptly deposed after World War II by the Communist Chinese and brainwashed for years in one of Mao’s notorious “re-education camps.” Puyi ended as a nondescript gardener babbling Maoist aphorisms, a symbol of China’s decadent past.
The ex-emperor would have difficulty adjusting to most of contemporary North America. But in Regina, Saskatchewan he would feel right at home. That’s the location of the University of Regina, one of Canada’s many institutions of higher learning. Yet Regina is no ordinary academic redoubt. It is about to host what it describes as a “Man Up Against Violence Initiative.” This will include a “Masculinity Confession Booth” as well as other workshops designed to portray the male homo sapiens as predator of women and destroyer of society.
With a surfeit of exclamation points and a dearth of biological or common sense, the university invites undergraduates to participate: “We have all reinforced hypermasculinity one way or another regardless of our gender!!. . . . Come and share your sins so we can begin to discuss how to identify and change our ways!!” The Masculinity Confession Booth will be supplemented by workshops dedicated to “Healthy Relationships and Healthy Masculinity” and a redefinition of the phrase “man up.” The usual laundry list will also be presented, so that attendees can “work together to bring light to the cause of all types of violence related to gender, race, social-economic status, ability level and beyond.”
The Initiative endorses several academic papers, among them “Manning Up: Threatened Men Compensate by Disavowing Feminine Preferences and Embracing Masculine Attributes,” “Thirty Years of Failed Presidential Leadership on Campus Rape,” and “Willfully Blinded: On Date Rape and Self-Deception.”
A video explaining the aims of the conference has just been produced. It catalogues the many ways in which males are responsible for war, violence, and sexual predation; why male undergraduates should be ashamed of themselves most if not all of the time; and what can be done about their current condition. The footage contains the quintessence of Maoism, expressed by a Regina football player. “We don’t have to continue to live in a misogynistic society,” he proclaims. The present status is nothing to quo about, and the task of alteration “falls on everyone and especially men because frankly we are the problem right now.” Other classmates earnestly fall in line.
In The Last Emperor, the castrated palace attendants were played by unknown Asian actors. At the University of Regina’s Initiative, there will be no trouble identifying the eunuchs.
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