Quote of the Day: What constitutes coddling?

During our week-long break,  so many excellent year-end pieces were published across the internet. In particular, I loved Vassar professor Hua Hsu’s article at the New Yorker on “The Year of the Imaginary College Student.” Hsu seems, as few writers do, to actually see contemporary student organizing: its demands, its strengths, its mistakes, its context. Rather than ringing his hands at the imaginary college student for whom he titles his essay–the one that seems to only live within the pages of the Atlantic but causes endless anxiety in thought pieces across the political spectrum–Hsu grapples with inspiring, imperfect movements as they actually are.

He also refuses to consider campus organizing apart from the campus itself. In one passage I particularly loved, Hsu writes:

[T]he alarm about offense-seeking college students may say more about the critics of political correctness than it does about the actual state of affairs. Plenty of evidence suggests that policies regarding microaggressions and trigger warnings aren’t as pervasive as they might seem to those who are not on campus. This is not to say that such policies (or demands for such policies) do not exist, nor to discount the very real pressures they place on teachers who work with difficult material. Is that coddling? Maybe it is. But an educational system built on legacy admissions and de facto segregation, with traditions of grade inflation that perpetuate privilege, is also a form of coddling.

I’ll use this as an excuse to return again to Rebecca Solnit’s excellent essay from last month, “Men Explain Lolita to Me.” After finishing Hsu’s article, I reread this from Solnit:

A group of black college students doesn’t like something and they ask for something different in a fairly civil way and they’re accused of needing coddling as though it’s needing nuclear arms. A group of white male gamers doesn’t like what a woman cultural critic says about misogyny in gaming and they spend a year or so persecuting her with an unending torrent of rape threats, death threats, bomb threats, doxxing, and eventually a threat of a massacre that cites Marc LePine, the Montreal misogynist who murdered 14 women in 1989, as a role model. I’m speaking, of course, about the case of Anita Sarkeesian and Gamergate. You could call those guys coddled. We should.

You can read Hsu’s whole piece here, and Solnit’s here.


Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at

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