Question for the audience

Although I wouldn’t say you’ve been demonstrating an aching desire for interactive blog chatter (ahem), this might flush you out of the reeds.  Answer my friend’s question, in the style of those word games from The Atlantic:

Let’s say you are a male junior faculty member standing at a urinal in the small bathroom in your department. As you turn to wash your hands, a senior faculty member walks in to the bathroom and greets you. You say hi back as he goes into the stall and sits down. As you turn to leave, he strikes up a conversation from the toilet. Really, it’s a three way conversation with all of the noise coming from the toilet. Then the stench hits you (your colleague, apparently, feasts on roadkill and rotten cauliflower), but he’s still talking, so you can’t really leave. But you can’t really talk, either, because the thought of opening your mouth in this environment is so awful you fear that you would gag or vomit. After what seems like an eternity, you flee to your office, think happy thoughts while putting your face into a bag of fresh coffee grounds.

While I don’t really need to know what to do in such situations (I plan never to use the departmental bathroom), I would like to know if there is a name for this particular show of power and fecal privilege.



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11 responses to “Question for the audience

  1. I have no answer, but I do want to pause and enjoy the lovely phrase “show of power and fecal privilege”. Awesome.

  2. The same thing happened to me when I was a grad student. I pretended that I didn’t hear the faculty member and fled.

  3. Jenn Lena

    I am having trouble coming up with something funnier (or, you know, more florid) than “fecal privilege”, myself. But answers must be arrived at! Our questioner awaits…

  4. Peter

    Mandatory lavatory purgatory is my best off-the-cuff response. I am afraid to say that I need more time to think about it…

  5. The best I can do at the moment is the Weberian “fecal rational authority.” But I’m sure someone else can come up with something better (and by “someone” I mean Kieran if he notices your post). I assumed that the anecdote was hypothetical, but as Brayden’s comment shows, it can happen. I’ve read that LBJ was fond of this ploy. And it happened in our department once with a guy we were interviewing for a job. He continued a conversation as he entered the men’s room and then the stall. We hired someone else.

  6. It’s one form of Foucaultian biopower.

  7. Peter

    Of Lukes’ three dimensions of power, this is #2

  8. With apologies to Max Weber:

    “That polar night of icy darkness, the iron crap from which we long to be free.”

  9. Jenn Lena

    So no one wants to jump on “soft power”?

  10. Jonathan Neufeld

    Wouldn’t Bourdieu say that this is just a strategy of distinktion?

  11. The sad thing is, this is all still just petty vandalism in the scheme of workplace degradation and discrimination. In my diss., data was more like:

    as recounted in interviews:

    respondent, to boss: How about a raise?
    boss: How about a rise?


    3rd party: I tried to hire you to trade 3 years ago.
    respondent: I never heard anything. Why didn’t you?
    3rd party: Your boss wouldn’t let me.
    boss: Yeah, you’re mine. He can’t have you.
    (laughter all around)

    Or, in real time:

    me (to large, still-drunk-from-night-before man standing 6 inches in front of me): Holy shit, you need to go to the bathroom NOW. Or start chewing your food.
    man in front of me: yeah, I just ate a breakfast burrito and a leftover hamburger.
    me (suffocating, stepping away from carnage)
    my boss: I don’t care if he shits on you, you better fucking stand there and quote your customers.

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