Open Thread and Link Farm, Cartoon Physics Edition

  1. Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship – Areo
    This trio of writers wrote twenty deliberately bad hoax papers to submit to prestigious “grievance studies” journals, and were able to get seven papers published, or accepted for publication, before questions were being asked and they felt they had to fess up. I want to wait and see what more knowledgeable people’s takes on this are (eta: see here, for example), but my initial reaction is that – even though the authors are obvious ideologues – this is rightly embarrassing for women’s studies, fat studies, etc., and indicates that work needs to be done to make their peer-review process more skeptical. That said, I also note that the hoaxers lack any control group; that is, they didn’t bother testing to see if similar hoax papers were publishable in journals outside the fields they targeted.
  2. Unlearning the myth of American innocence | US news | The Guardian
    How people in Turkey see the US. Thanks to Grace for the link!
  3. Twelve years ago, Amber Wyatt reported her rape. Few believed her. Her hometown turned against her. – Washington Post
    A well-written, enraging long-form article.
  4. Science Says Toxic Masculinity — More Than Alcohol — Leads To Sexual Assault | FiveThirtyEight
  5. If you’re shocked that Brighton University is offering advice on sex work at freshers’ week, you need a reality check | The Independent
    A sex-worker-safety group sets up a table with pamphlets at the new students’ fair, and some people – including, alas, some feminists – lost their shit. I clicked through to the Sun article to see which feminists are angry about this, and was not surprised to see that both feminists the Sun quoted are TERFs. I don’t know why being anti-trans and anti-sex-worker are linked, but in practice they usually are.
  6. London’s Super-Recognizer Police Force | The New Yorker
    I have prosopagnosia, or “face blindness.” So it was interesting to read about people from the opposite end of the face-recognition spectrum. I was amused to read that, like prosopagnosiacs pretending to vaguely know everyone they meet (to avoid offending actual acquaintances), super-recognizers often lie and pretend not to have met people before (because saying “oh no, we chatted in line to a movie four years ago” creeps people out).
  7. Why Dallas Authorities Are Desperate to Attack Botham Jean’s Character – Rewire.News
  8. Critique of Just Love, Part Two | Thing of Things
    This blog post discusses the differences between “no means no consent,” “enthusiastic consent,” “verbal consent,” and “affirmative consent.” Like me, Ozy comes to the conclusion that “affirmative consent” is the position that makes the most sense.
  9. Trump Administration to Deny Visas to Same-Sex Partners of Diplomats, U.N. Officials – Foreign Policy
    It’s just so fucking petty. I guess this is what conservatives want – or at the least, what they vote for.
  10. The truth about false rape accusations — Quartz
    False rape reports, and the people who make them up, have a pattern. “… it’s radically unlikely — and in practice does not happen — that a false accuser would invent a story where the issue of consent could seem ambiguous.”
  11. ‘Designing Women’ Creator on Les Moonves: Not All Harassment Is Sexual [Exclusive] | Hollywood Reporter
  12. How Hungary’s Viktor Orbán destroyed democracy, and what it means for America – Vox
  13. Wodaabe Wife-Swapping Rituals | Sex in a Strange World
    “The Male Beauty Pageant Where Female Judges Sleep with the Winners”
  14. 10 Questions We Need Radical Feminists to Answer Pronto, Answered | Thing of Things
    Answering questions from a right-wing website. (They don’t mean “radical” the way we do.)
  15. FACT CHECK: The Unsolvable Math Problem – Snopes
    A urban-myth-sounding story, about a math student mistaking an “unsolvable” proof for homework and then successfully completing the proof (two, actually), is more-or-less true.
  16. “Through an online advertisement, we found 67 people who had never been on a 10-meter (about 33 feet) diving tower before, and had never jumped from that high. We paid each of them the equivalent of about $30 to participate — which meant climbing up to the diving board and walking to its edge. We were as interested in the people who decided to climb back down as the ones jumping. We filmed it all with six cameras and several microphones.”
    I found this short film strangely enthralling. Here’s an alternative link if the Times doesn’t let you in.
  17. FYPhysics! – The Moving Sofa Problem
  18. Critique of Just Love, Part One | Thing of Things
    As in “love that follows principles of justice,” not as in “only love.”
  19. Seven endangered species that could (almost) fit in a single train carriage | Environment | The Guardian
  20. What Julia Salazar’s Win Means About Our Changing Tribe – The Forward
    The “our” in this case refers to us Jews. “…young Jews and Jews of Color are increasingly moving to a model of Jewish identity that involves choice rather than ethnic purity or religious affiliation. And they are rejecting exactly the kind of truth-finding missions that Salazar has been subjected to.”
  21. Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong – The Huffington Post
    I don’t think much here will be new to most “Alas” readers, but it gathers a lot of stuff together, and I like the interviews and photographs.
  22. Researchers “Translate” Bat Talk. Turns Out, They Argue—A Lot | Smart News | Smithsonian
  23. This city banned cars and no one seemed to mind | DriveTribe
  24. How Money Affects Elections | FiveThirtyEight
    It matters a LOT less than we think (at least, for the question of who wins). Except during primaries.
  25. The Spider-Man Proposal Easter Egg has a Darker Side | Houston Press
    Like more than a few stories about gaming, this one ends “…has deleted her her social media accounts due to harassment.”
  26. Rihanna’s beauty is subversive – Cheryl Lynn Eaton
  27. I Know Brett Kavanaugh, but I Wouldn’t Confirm Him – The Atlantic
  28. 11 Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation Into Trump’s Wealth – The New York Times
  29. Alternate link.

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153 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm, Cartoon Physics Edition

  1. 1
    Gracchus says:

    “That said, I also note that the hoaxers lack any control group; that is, they didn’t bother testing to see if similar hoax papers were publishable in journals outside the fields they targeted.”

    These kinds of studies have been done before and they often succeed.

    So it seems that this is a wider problem with peer-reviewed publishing; which isn’t to say that publishers of fat studies, women’s studies editors etc shouldn’t be concerned, even less so that the publishers and editors of these specific journals shouldn’t take heed. But it doesn’t necessarily show any particular weakness in this particular “corner” of the academic publishing world, let alone the disciplines that underly it – it just seems to show that this area of studies is not immune to a generalised weakness. I don’t think anybody has ever claimed that fat studies or women’s studies journals are, by definition, -more- rigorous than, say, civil engineering journals or archaeology journals.

  2. 2
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    I guess this is what conservatives want – or at the least, what they vote for.

    You are essentializing.

    Imagine that you have a perfectly representative democracy, so politicians do whatever a majority of their voters prefer. Imagine that 51% of Democrats support A, but ‘only’ 49% of Republicans prefer A. Then the Democratic politician will support A, while the Republican politician will oppose it. However, it would be absurd to characterize all Democratic voters as supporting A and all Republican voters of opposing it. In reality, the level of support is nearly equal.

    Of course, in reality democracy is not perfectly representative, so it is quite possible that politicians go against a majority of their voters on an issue. Many voters choose the least-bad candidate anyway and often don’t feel that their representative is actually representative of their own beliefs.

    The truth about false rape accusations — Quartz

    The article actually uses a very limited definition for false accusations. They limit it to intentional false accusations. Many people who worry about it use a broader definition, which includes all accusations that are not true (and thus false).

    So right away this potentially eliminates most of the actual cases from their analysis. However, an accused person can end up behind bars or with immense reputation damage by any incorrect accusation, not just those with hostile intent.

    This also means that their analysis of the what false accusations looks like, ignores the non-hostile ones.

  3. 3
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    The Spider-Man Proposal Easter Egg has a Darker Side | Houston Press

    This story is extremely biased and seems like pure outgroup bashing/hatred. What I see in the story is two different accounts, where the claims by one side are taken as gospel and their behavior interpreted in the best light, while the claims by the other side are dismissed and their behavior interpreted with bad faith.

    Be sure to look at the comments. Apparently the story was changed drastically, without noting and explaining the change. While talking about journalistic standards…

    It has outright lies: “Remember, GamerGate began its life as a harassment campaign thanks to a heavily workshopped blog post by Eron Gjoni falsely accusing his ex-girlfriend, Zoe Quinn, of various sins including sleeping with reviewers for good coverage of her game Depression Quest.”

    You only have to read the ‘Zoe post’ to see that Gjoni never accuses Quinn of sleeping with reviewers to get good coverage. He claims to be a victim of an abusive and cheating girlfriend and offers a lot of chat screenshots to support his claim. I’ve never seen evidence that the accusation is false. In fact, we have other evidence of abusive behavior by Quinn. Furthermore, the post does not call for harassment and when people started harassing, Gjoni edited it to ask people not to do so.

    So this one sentence has two slanderous accusations.

  4. 4
    Harlequin says:

    Here are some thoughts on the peer-review thing. I’m not an expert in the kind of fields they’re submitting to, and I am (I think understandably!) finding myself pretty defensive about it as both a feminist and an academic, so read this comment with that knowledge, but I’ll try to be as objective as I can.

    Obviously, this work highlights some problems with peer review; and I think you are absolutely correct that the lack of a control group is a problem here, because peer review has limitations everywhere. In particular, they seem to think that the peer reviewers should have been doing a much more extensive investigation of the data and methods they provided. But we’re all professionals working in a community, and we don’t have infinite time to go around checking the work of other professionals. They violated the assumptions of good faith and collegiality. So, some of their evidence (not all!) is less “peer review and academic journals in the humanities are flawed” and more “social hacking works.”

    There’s another control group that’s missing, though, and that’s papers that are similar to the hoax papers they constructed, but have the opposite argument. Reading the introduction to the Aeon piece, they seem to have two beliefs: 1) that these fields are ideologically-driven, and 2) that they accept shoddy work as a consequence of 1). They tested 2) by initially submitting shoddy work and finding that, in fact, it didn’t get accepted. (Although they were disappointed with the quality of work that WAS accepted, the floor wasn’t as low as they had thought, basically.) But critically, as far as I can tell, they never tested 1) by constructing similar papers with the similar evidence and the opposite conclusions. I’m sure they would need to frame it differently–as, like, here is a surprise we found doing experiment X–but that’s common to any field where you’re going against the grain of the established literature. But without such a test, they actually haven’t shown anything at all about the philosophical/political bias of the targeted fields, because they didn’t check if the philosophy or politics of the papers was actually important!

    They’ve (unintentionally, I’m sure) harmed their project by conflating papers with bad methodology and papers with what they think are bad implications. I’m thinking particularly of the fat studies paper. Their stated motivation is “To see if journals will accept arguments which are ludicrous and positively dangerous to health if they support cultural constructivist arguments around body positivity and fatphobia” but their actual argument, as far as I can tell from the excerpts provided (I am not willing to read the actual paper), is not out of the mainstream for fat studies. If you don’t like fat studies, fine, but you didn’t need to deceive people to show it. Indeed, this raises the possibility that, like some kind of machine-learning algorithm, they figured out how to mimic scholarship well enough that they accidentally committed scholarship…

    I’m not going to get into the ethics of posting quotes from anonymous reviews–I know some people didn’t like that, but I think, as scientists and academics, we should be prepared for our professional communications to be part of the record of our field. However. The usual advice for writing critiques of things, including peer review reports, is the sandwich method: say something positive, then say all the negative stuff, then say something positive again. And believe me, sometimes finding the positive is…difficult. But the fact that there were positive pull quotes from their reviewers? Totally understandable, even if the papers were terrible. Again, this is a practice that comes about because of assumptions of good faith and collegiality; it’s not a flaw.

    Their stated goal was to get into “top journals.” They…didn’t.

    I think they also misunderstand what the imprimatur of publication in a journal means, particularly (as I understand it from the outside) in the humanities. It emphatically doesn’t mean “this paper is correct.” It just means “this paper is plausible enough that other people should be able to see the argument and then do further work to decide whether or not it is correct.” For example: A bunch of particle physics models have been proposed for what dark matter could be. Most of them have now been ruled out by better data. Should those models not have been published? (The hoax authors might say, but these papers are so bad they don’t need further work to disprove them. I’m not enough of an expert in the targeted fields to know.)

    I’m not sure if they thought the journals were supposed to have noticed their fake identities or not. If they were, though, I think accepting articles from people that don’t exist online is a thing we affirmatively want: if your work is good enough you should be published even if nobody’s ever heard of you. (That might have been one thing they were looking for, actually–whether there was a difference in acceptance between fictional people and real people, and hoping there wouldn’t be. But their sample size is small enough you likely couldn’t build statistics on it.)

    Anyway: without reading the full papers, seems like the authors are correct that some of them were too flawed to be published, and some journals definitely have egg on their face right now. But a lot of the outcomes they achieved were not because of philosophical or analytic problems with the targeted fields, but rather because of professional norms common to most of academia. (Which I find surprising, because at least some of them are academics.) And the fact that they were committing a hoax breaks enough of those norms that it makes it harder to draw conclusions about the actual scholarship in the field.

  5. 5
    Fibi says:

    I found the video in #16 fascinating. Thanks for putting these links together. I just wish I didn’t stumble on them at midnight!

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    Fibi – Thanks! It’s good to know that people look at the links that aren’t about politics, and yeah, that video was utterly fascinating.

    Probably 60% of the links on the list, I stumbled on after midnight…

  7. 7
    lurker23 says:

    re the papers, i saw a twitter post something like “we want the trick to make publishers focus on the flaws in their data and post better papers. but it will only make them focus on avoiding trickery, not on content.”

    I thought it was funny that the posted papers were not noticeably different from all of the other stuff on the “real peer review” twitter feed. post modern work is very funny and often very bad. and if you do not read that feed you should start, it is very funny.

    with #10, the false accusation article is very poorly written, for example they they do the thing where they limit it to only false-lying and say that is all that matters. but if you are accused of something illegal there is no difference TO YOU between false-lying and false-wrong, you need to defend either way and you have the costs either way.

    so when they say this it does not make any sense?

    Let’s start with the idea that false rape accusations ruin lives, and are therefore a universal risk to men. Generally, feminists dismiss this idea by arguing that false accusations are rare—only between 2% and 10% of all reports are estimated to be false. What’s equally important to know, however, is that false rape accusations almost never have serious consequences.
    It’s exceedingly rare for a false rape allegation to end in prison time.

    Haha! “serious consequences” are not only “prison time.” They include getting taken to the stasi, and paying for a barrister, and losing your job, and having to leave your school and not getting into other schools, and other really bad stuff.

    i am so tired of people saying these things don’t matter or are not serious. of course they are!

    and the worst part is that the same feminists who say these things are not an issue treat that sort of thing differently in reverse. say that women were being threatened with firing or kicked out of school or having to pay a lot of money for a lawyer if they didn’t have sex. i think and feminists also think that would be illegal because the things they are threatened with are very bad. but feminists then say those same things are NOT bad when they happen to people who are falsely accused.

    something is bad or not. if it is bad to do to women or black people or trans people, it is also bad to do to people who are falsely accused, even if they are white or men.

    outside rape that is also true. false things are very serious! many people think that false statements made trump get elected, or hilary not-get elected. That seems serious to me. many people think that false vietnam statements kept your John Kerry from becoming president. many people think that kavanaugh will be unable to serve as judge even if the statements are false. even if you like those things that seems serious to me, too.

  8. 8
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I follow the “RealPeerReview” twitter feed. It’s just true that absurd papers get published fairly regularly, I’m just not sure what this hoax actually accomplishes by proving that it is still the case that absurd papers get published. I suppose one upside is that more attention will be drawn to this issue now?

    I think hoaxing a Scientific or Engineering journal is possible, especially with a team of three smart academics like Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose. A bad paper just might get past a few peer-reviewers- but such an exercise misses the point, IMO. The peer review process is not the reason that scientific journals appear more rigorous. The difference is a cultural one, where the academics in each of these places as a whole, embrace different epistemologies. It’s not that physicists are better at peer review (though it wouldn’t surprise me), it’s that the entire field insists that all claims be falsifiable. A hoax paper can be undermined by a real one. Status is gained by any person who can overthrow the most widely held ideas. The epistemology is Darwinian in nature. Karl Popper looms large regardless of whether or not he’s well read among physicists.

    An auto-ethnography is not falsifiable. Whether or not it has academic value is a philosophical question, that immediately makes me think of this riff on an xkcd cartoon:

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-okTHTBxF__E/T-n1a7OvH9I/AAAAAAAAAyk/O_yQ5XwlvF8/s1600/539801_10150900768080913_1021221700_n.jpg

    I see those who write for Hypatia as existing at the base of this cartoon, challenging the foundations of knowledge itself. I also see them doing this in a new way, unpolished compared to older philosophies that have been refined over the centuries. The ideas discussed in a journal like Hypatia shouldn’t be seen as having utility… yet. They are young ideas, less like Popper and more like Plato. They may be important, but we shouldn’t pretend that they have utility, and to me, this is the problem. Way too many people think that an idea that is published academically is TRUE in a way that makes it useful. No one should assume that an auto-ethnography says anything useful about the world because it gets published. No one should assume that pure privilege theory divorced from empirical data tells us anything useful about the world because it is published. No one should assume that critical race theory is useful either. The problem is that too many academics teach this stuff as if it has utility in the same way that a paper on structural engineering does… actually it’s worse than that. I see proponents of these ideas preaching like evangelicals, expressing more certainty than their counterparts in the sciences. It sounds absurd to those who don’t buy it. Imagine an academic arguing for Jungian philosphy as hard as Angela Davis argues for Critical Theory and how silly this person would sound. You’ve imagined Jordan Peterson.

  9. 9
    nobody.really says:

    Two questions for you:

    1. Are you more of a visual learner or an auditory learner?

    2. Who cares? Research suggests that people learn things about as quickly regardless of which learning style they profess, or how the lesson is presented.

  10. 10
    Mookie says:

    I confess being baffled that folks getting a good chortle over long-term Sokal-lote imitators (Boghossian’s been doing this for a dog’s age) aren’t aware that this is a problem affecting academic journals, all plagued by predatory publishers, the world over. Of course hard science, computer science, and engineering have had their share. SCIgen ring a bell? Bogdanov brothers? Where in the hell have ye all been?!

  11. 11
    Sebastian H says:

    Harlequin, I agree with a lot of what you say about the peer review issue, but I’m not so sure you’re seeing the thrust of the critique. A large number of social ‘science’ papers aren’t hypothesis/test/discuss oriented. They are essentially arguments presented. Peer review for those types of papers involves making sure that you are engaging with the topic as those in the field see it (either by addressing and agreeing with the common tropes in the field, addressing and disagreeing with the common tropes in the field, or probably in most cases addressing and subtly modifying the common tropes in the field).

    The dog paper for example is so ridiculous not because of the faked data (which I would NOT expect the reviewers to catch), but because anyone would think that the data as presented had anything to do with the conclusions. The abstract suggests they can investigate the following by watching dog owners react to dogs trying to copulate in the park: better understand human a/moral decision-making in public spaces and uncover bias and emergent assumptions around gender, race, and sexuality. The problem isn’t that the study had improper protocols or controls. The problem is that you shouldn’t expect to find emergent assumptions around gender, race, and sexuality that way. You shouldn’t expect to find useful insights queer performativity that way.

    The Mein Kampf paper is even worse. You shouldn’t be able to publish a propagandistic screed that attempts to dehumanize and demonize an ‘other’ and pass it off as a legitimate commentary on gender studies. The fact that a demonizing propagandistic screed can pass for a gender studies discussion, is really discouraging. (See the comments from the reviewers).

    The Feminist AI paper is almost a word salad. They were just asked to change some things to conform to the style guide. There is no way the response should have been even remotely positive.

  12. 12
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    I think that one of the major issues is that there is a tendency to see peer review as much more powerful than it is and can be. As a result, many people see published papers as trustworthy.

    While it is understandable that lay people think this, a far greater problem is that many scientists and even entire scientific fields believe this as well, with serious consequences to the quality of science. For example, one consequence is a lack of replication and other attempts to challenge the outcomes of studies. The ‘replication crisis’ is but one example of how corrupting of science this is, with high percentages of much-cited studies (which are thus core to the field) failing to replicate. That is even more worrying when considering that direct replication merely examines whether the methodology reliably gives the same outcome. It doesn’t consider cases where the methodology is flawed in a way that reliably gives bad outcomes. So papers that replicate well can still be incorrect.

    IMO, to fix the problems with many scientific fields, there needs to be improvements in methodologies, how scientists determine the reliability of papers and how scientists are judged (and promoted/funded). As it is, scientists that do the right thing actually get less funding and promotions than bad scientists. For example, doing replication studies rather than original studies is bad for scientist’s careers.

    However, replication cannot actually be used by fields that don’t use statistical methods or other methods that can be replicated, but other methodologies. Yet those fields don’t escape the need to provide strong evidence that their claims are correct. A field that seems quite good at it is mathematics, which has a very robust methodology based on logic. That robustness comes at the cost of limiting the things they can apply their methodology to severely and mathematicians generally stay within those limits. They also have a pretty good culture in that mathematicians try really hard to find errors in each other’s work.

    However, there are also fields that don’t require strong evidence for claims. Some of these are little more than people exchanging just-so stories, where the standard seems to be mainly that it appears plausible to peers. Such a standard is highly problematic, because it favors claims that align with biases, whether those are general human biases, biases specific to the larger culture or to the subculture that dominates the field.

    The reviewer comments for some hoax papers are very illustrative as they show that many of the reviewers judge the papers by standards that should be irrelevant:
    – This is an interesting paper seeking to further the aims of inclusive feminism by attending to the issue of allyship/solidarity.
    – While I am extremely sympathetic to this article’s argument and its political positioning, I am afraid that I cannot recommend publication in its current form.
    – The reviewers are supportive of the work and noted its potential to generate important dialogue for social workers and feminist scholars.
    – I found this article to be weird, fascinating, fun and provocative. I would very much like to see it published in some form. It’s trying to do something genuinely new – and the fact that it doesn’t get it exactly right first time is to be expected given its experimental status. The authors should be supported in this project.
    – Your work affirms several theorists’ claims that […]

    What I see here is that reviewers judge a paper by how it supports a movement, by its political positioning, by the debates it generates, by how fun it is to read, by how thought-provoking and different it is and how it matches claims by others. I consider all of these unscientific reasons that don’t address whether the methodology is correct.

    Furthermore, these reviewer comments strongly suggest that the reviewers want the paper to be pleasing, which suggests that they will reject papers that make claims that are different from their existing beliefs.

  13. 13
    closetpuritan says:

    I found this thread from one of the reviewers of one of the rejected papers interesting.

    “I don’t like reviews that reject the premise of the paper outright. I’ve received reviews like that since my papers are on the porn industry. So I tried to buy into the paper and offer paths forward. These are the comments that the hoax authors quoted in their write up.”

  14. 14
    Harlequin says:

    Sebastian, I have a general response, that I think will be made easier by responding to a specific example you give (so while I’m quoting only this one part, it’s meant to respond to the totality of what you said, as I understand it).

    The problem isn’t that the study had improper protocols or controls. The problem is that you shouldn’t expect to find emergent assumptions around gender, race, and sexuality that way. You shouldn’t expect to find useful insights queer performativity that way.

    Here’s the thing: I don’t know enough about the field to know if this is actually true. When you probe very deeply into a topic, some things that are counterintuitive turn out to be true, or at least useful. A lot of the power of this exercise comes from non-experts going, “That seems ridiculous,” but there are a lot of ways to show that–I guess this method has the benefit of not humiliating specific people in the targeted fields, but it also removes a possibility that the hoaxers could be countered by somebody carefully explaining why it wasn’t ridiculous in the first place.

    Again, I think they have successfully demonstrated that peer review has serious flaws; and I would agree that a lot of published literature also has serious flaws, and that this is more likely in fields where there’s not one right answer. But they are using those facts to claim that the fields they are target are intellectually corrupt. Here’s another way they could have made that point, though: They could have taken the time they spent working on this project and actually asked somebody from one of the “grievance studies” to explain it to them. They could have seriously engaged with the literature and tried to understand it, and then they could have either changed their minds or pointed to specific, actual, honestly published papers and said why they were bad. I’m sure a lot of the people in the targeted fields wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with them–but I also guarantee that there are people in those fields who would relish the chance to try to persuade a skeptic! But, honestly, that is a lot harder than trying to turn out a bunch of bullshit papers and then submitting them to journals. And it requires that they accept that somebody in one of those fields might actually have something to teach them. That’s the real premise-that-they-think-is-a-conclusion: they believe they already know the fields are bullshit, so there’s no point in trying to learn.

    (Just to repeat, by the way: I’m commenting without really having read the papers, so my bias here is that I know people in, say, gender studies who are smarter than me, so my feeling is that if the papers were really as ridiculous as claimed they wouldn’t have been published. I could of course also be wrong. I glanced through a few and fully read the one about female astronomers: for that one, my reaction was that the beginning was okay and then the rest of it was a stretch, but I’m used to feeling that way about a lot of interpretational works. I’ve heard some people say the Mein Kampf thing isn’t as close as stated, but I’m definitely not willing to read either Mein Kampf or their paper to figure that out!)

  15. 15
    desipis says:

    They could have seriously engaged with the literature and tried to understand it, and then they could have either changed their minds or pointed to specific, actual, honestly published papers and said why they were bad.

    I’ve heard some people say the Mein Kampf thing isn’t as close as stated, but I’m definitely not willing to read either Mein Kampf or their paper to figure that out!

    Pot, meet kettle.

  16. 16
    Ampersand says:

    Pot, meet kettle.

    I assume you’re joking?

    I did skim the Mein Kampf paper, reading long sections. Word substitution completely changed the meaning from the original; essentially, the only way to recognize that it was based on Mein Kampf is to have happened to have Mein Kampf so memorized that you’d recognize the paragraph structure and connecting phrases.

    The Mein Kampf paper is a perfect example of how anti=SJWs are full of bullshit. It sounds spectacular – “they published Mein Kampf! What idiots!” But the reality is, the odds of anyone recognizing the source of the paper were about nil, and the implicit demand that random reviewers be able to recognize a severely rewritten passage from Mein Kampf is ridiculous and unfair. But it scored points and sounds great on Fox News, and for many anti-SJWs, that truly is the only thing that matters.

  17. 17
    Ampersand says:

    It may be helpful to look at a specific example.

    From “Our Struggle Is My Struggle” (clever title):

    Second, then, in creating solidarity for overcoming oppression, sacrifices will be necessary, and, though we must remain aware of the real and material barriers feminists and others may face that limit their potential for activism, no accessible sacrifice that abnegates neoliberalism should be considered too great. As Ferguson (2010, p. 251) remarks, Feminists need to publicly make judgments about personal matters sex, career decisions, dress and makeup, power in intimate relationships because reimagining our personal lives is an essential component to a feminist reimagining of the world we share. Whatever compromises are made by neoliberal feminists for the causes of oppressed people, they do not stand in significant proportion against the potential gain of those oppressed, including women, if oppression is considerably remedied.

    Only myopic selfishness, as often arises in neoliberal and choice-centered contexts, can forward individual autonomy over collective autonomy and thus prevent understanding that genuine liberation requires achieving liberation for all. This cannot occur unless, through right allyship and solidarity, feminism can be solidified internally first.

    From “Mein Kampf”:

    To win the masses for a national resurrection, no social sacrifice is too great.

    Whatever economic concessions are made to our working class today, they stand in no proportion to the gain for the entire nation if they help to give the broad masses back to their nation. Only pigheaded short-sightedness, such as is often unfortunately found in our employer circles, can fail to recognize that in the long run there can be no economic upswing for them and hence no economic profit, unless the inner national solidarity of our people is restored.

    Two points.

    First, as I said before – no one could reasonably have been expected to catch this.

    Second, although the faux-feminist essay is too extreme (imo), they’ve considerably softened it from their source material by adding nuance. Where Hitler flatly said no sacrifice is too great, the faux-feminist essay puts in a lot of hedging: “…we must remain aware of the real and material barriers feminists and others may face that limit their potential for activism, no accessible sacrifice…”

    Essentially, it’s the difference between someone saying “no sacrifice is too great,” full stop, versus “after we account for all these reasonable reasons people’s sacrifice has to be limited, no sacrifice is too great.”

    Don’t get me wrong – I don’t agree with the faux-feminist essay. It is too militant. But to imply that it’s as extreme as “Mein Kampf” is misleading; if they had done nothing but take Mein Kampf and swapped out “Jews” and “employers” and replaced them with “white men,” they never would have gotten it accepted, and they know it.

  18. 18
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    They could have taken the time they spent working on this project and actually asked somebody from one of the “grievance studies” to explain it to them. They could have seriously engaged with the literature and tried to understand it, and then they could have either changed their minds or pointed to specific, actual, honestly published papers and said why they were bad.

    This would be great. One of the stated reasons Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian choose to construct this hoax is that no one in the relevant fields is willing to debate them.

    We already have a giant collection of “bad” papers thanks to NewPeerReview. If I reach out to Hellen Pluckrose, I bet money she’d be game so long as all correspondence can be made public. I’ll lobby her email and twitter accounts if you find a relevant subject matter expert in Gender or African American Studies willing to defend “bad papers.” I think we could make something like this happen. We could probably even get NewPeerReview to release a collection of papers pulled from only respected journals- and excluding any papers from pay-to-play journals. It’s not exactly the Steve Pinker vs Judith Butler debate I’ve always wanted to see, but something like this could be productive.

  19. 19
    J. Squid says:

    One of the stated reasons Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian choose to construct this hoax is that no one in the relevant fields is willing to debate them.

    Can you see how seeking out debate and seeking out an explanation are different things? If you can, you’ll understand how this in no way renders Harlequin’s suggestion moot. In fact, it’s not even a response to what Harlequin was saying.

  20. 20
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Can you see how seeking out debate and seeking out an explanation are different things? If you can, you’ll understand how this in no way renders Harlequin’s suggestion moot. In fact, it’s not even a response to what Harlequin was saying.

    Sure I can. This isn’t really about a subject matter expert in Gender Studies changing the mind of Helen Pluckrose though, because we both know that’s not what’s going to happen. Instead, the important thing is a public dialogue where two opposing sides are BOTH willing to listen to the other with an open mind, and then, observers like you and I can better assess whether or not there is a problem with the quality of published papers within Gender Studies. That’s what we are tyring to assess right? How do we figure that out if only one side gets to speak? (or write. this would all be better if it was in writing)

    I would grant this- the side defending the “bad paper” should be given a whole bunch of time/page-space to explain the paper, time and page space not afforded the other side. Let the best case for the paper be made, and then discuss the paper.

  21. 21
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    James Lindsay already got back to me (his was the easiest email to find). He claims they tried to do something like this in the past, but cannot get a response. He says “…I agree we should talk far more about the real papers than the fake ones.”

    He also said that they are way too busy now, but that he likes the idea, and to get back to him in a month if I’ve found a subject matter expert willing to discuss real papers. Anyone here know somebody who would be interested, specifically a published professor? It would also be nice to find a neutral blog or platform, something other than Quillette, where a discussion like this could take place.

  22. 22
    Ampersand says:

    Since the position of Pluckrose et al is something like “grievance studies” (the schoolyard name they made up to mock areas they disagree with) is particularly corrupt,” I don’t think focusing on a “bad paper” makes sense. All fields have genuinely bad papers published now and then, and no one is denying that. The point is that there are also valuable papers published.

    Rather than focusing on “bad papers” as selected by people who loathe feminism, a better discussion might focus on leading papers – books and papers in the fieldhave been cited a lot. Those publications, it seems to me, have a much better claim to being reflective of what people in the field find interesting and influential.

    Here’s a list of the most-cited gender studies publications of the last ten years. Unless you can explain to me why the studies RealPeerReview cherry-picks are more representative of the field than the most-cited publications, I’d argue that’s a much better place to start if we want to assess where gender studies is right now.

    Finally, unwillingness to “debate” with these particular three people – only one of whom has an academic position, and all of whom have a clear political chip on their shoulders and a demonstrated willingness to act in bad faith – doesn’t equal a general unwillingness to enter discussions.

    The PSU prof, for instance, has posted about how disgusting he finds the bodies – the physical bodies – of male feminists. Why would I want to enter a discussion with him? There’s a significant chance that all he’s going to do is go back to his friends and talk about how fat I am. (And can you imagine being a thin male feminist student taking one of his classes?)

  23. 23
    Harlequin says:

    Pot, meet kettle.

    Ah, you’ve found me out! I, a person commenting on a (very good) blog in my spare time, do not hold myself to the same standard in judging a single work as I do the authors of that work when they claim on a large platform that entire areas of study are intellectually worthless. I do indeed have different standards for intellectual rigor depending on venue and on the ordinary or extraordinary nature of the claims.

    Jeffrey, I don’t know of anyone who would be willing to do this personally, unfortunately, no. I do second Jake in saying that debate and education are two different things, as well; I would add that, while I don’t necessarily disagree that the point of such a work would be for the audience of it and not necessarily the authors of the study we’re discussing, so a debate might be nevertheless interesting, debates between people with very different levels of expertise in the subject can be hard for audience members to interpret. Is a disagreement because one person knows something the other doesn’t, or because they draw different conclusions from the same data? Easier to conflate those when the knowledge base is very different.

  24. 24
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Yeah, rereading the thread, I definitely misunderstood and thought that the argument made was something like “no, these bad papers are actually good if you’d sit down and take the time to understand them with an expert.” When really, I think you guys are saying that the academic literature in total is good, despite some bad papers.

    This could be true. A school of thought that generated 50% outstanding papers, and 50% drivel would be fantastic, and totally worth wading through the drivel. Maybe something like that is going on here, where the existence of bad papers says nothing about the good ones. It’s also possible that there is a very low standard among “grievance studies” (I too don’t like this phrase, and would like a substitute. Is “Minority Studies” a way to say the same thing?) where very poor argumentation isn’t recognized as such. I think it’s perfectly fair for these schools of thought to come under extra scrutiny now, including heavily cited papers. How good is the argumentation is these papers? Are they written clearly enough that they can be argued against (Hey Judith)? Are criticisms of these papers taken seriously and responded to, or dismissed as “patriarchal?” Do people familiar with these papers truly understan
    d the world more f
    Amp says:

    Finally, unwillingness to “debate” with these particular three people – only one of whom has an academic position, and all of whom have a clear political chip on their shoulders and a demonstrated willingness to act in bad faith – doesn’t equal a general unwillingness to enter discussions.

    This is true. Those who disagree with academic feminists often have a political chip on their shoulder, but that’s because many of the authors of the best cited papers in minority studies also have political chips on their shoulders, and they are writing about these chips. They also have a tendency to argue in bad faith (I’m ready with examples if anyone requires them, mostly accusations of bad motives concerning the maintenance of one’s privilege) Those who disagree with them are likely to do so in ways that sound political by necessity. Can you name a single thinker who opposes feminist scholarship in a way that feminists deem respectful (from an even more radically left position doesn’t count!)?

  25. Can you name a single thinker who opposes feminist scholarship in a way that feminists deem respectful (from an even more radically left position doesn’t count!)?

    Jeffrey asks here a really interesting and, I think, telling question here (and I mean telling not as an accusation against you, Jeffrey, but telling in that it reveals something I think people don’t often acknowledge.)

    Leave aside, for the moment, the assumptions implicit in the use of the singular scholarship, not only as if there were one, unified thing called feminism, but also as if feminist scholarship in literature, philosophy, biology, sociology, psychology, business, and so on were, in fact, a single scholarship.

    “Feminist scholarship” is an academic way of “reading the world” that wears its political agenda on its sleeve. No doubt that agenda can, and has, been described in many different ways, but one political point I think it’s fair to say all feminisms and their scholarships have in common is a desire to dismantle patriarchy. To oppose feminist scholarship, then, is to oppose the dismantling of the patriarchy. Or, to state it positively, it is at least implicitly to argue for the patriarchy as a fundamental element of the status quo.

    This doesn’t mean, because I happen to support its overarching worldview, that I think all feminist scholarship is therefore pure and good and morally and ethically defensible. I don’t, and I have in fact posted to this blog a talk I gave that is quite critical of one area of feminist scholarship. What I’m trying to point out here is that the way this discussion is usually framed, by highlighting feminism’s political agenda, tends to leave unexamined the status-quo-reinforcing political underpinnings not only of scholarship that opposes feminism, but of almost any scholarship that does not incorporate feminist insights and perspectives (though the blind spots of this latter scholarship is not what we’re talking about here).

    To put that another way, if I believe that dismantling patriarchy is a basic prerequisite for actualizing (a word I hate, but grant it to me for the moment) the full humanity of women in society and culture, why—not only, but especially if I am a woman—should I deem as respectful in any way any scholarship that, in its opposition to mine, would shore up a culture that depends for its existence on treating me as less than human?

  26. 26
    Ampersand says:

    I think there should be a distinction between “is opposed to feminist scholarship as a a whole” and “has criticism of a paper or book” or even “has a criticism of a particular problem – say, peer review letting through bad papers – in the field.”

    The former seems like kind of an extreme viewpoint.

  27. 27
    Petar says:

    So, Richard Jeffrey Newman, you are basically saying that feminists, because of their beliefs, can label disrespectful anyone who disagrees with them. How is this any more worth of notice than Christians, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, etc. labeling any criticism of their dogma as disrespectful?

    Two days ago, I interacted with people who accused me of being racist for saying that depicting Cleopatra as Sub-Saharan Black is propaganda, pandering or ignorance. They were absolutely convinced that Cleopatra, and practically all Egyptians at the time were Black, and it was the rise of Islam that pushed modern Egyptians to resemble the population of Turkey more than that of Sudan. One of these persons, a tenured professor in Modern Languages and Literature, thought that even discussing the issue is a personal attack, and told me that I better leave the party, taking “my ilk” with me. I had literally said three sentences on the subject “This [depicting Cleopatra as Black] is propaganda, pandering or ignorance.”, “If I remember correctly, she was Macedonian or Persian, or a combination of the two”, “Actually, recent DNA studies have shown that Egyptian mummies have less and less Sub-Saharan DNA the further you go back.”

    In the space of one minute I was called a racist, an Islam-apologist, and ignorant. Are you seriously suggesting that this willingness to even discuss a topic because ‘the opponent is disrespectful’ is uncommon?

  28. 28
    Gracchus says:

    @Petar: It seems unfair to ask Richard to defend an argument he wasn’t involved in, didn’t participate in, and presumably doesn’t endorse. You’re clearly very angry at the experience you had and I’m sure we’re all sorry for that but I’m not sure bringing it up in an unrelated conversion* is the best way to process this issue.

    I assume you aren’t interested in defending something some random conservative said to Richard, so perhaps you could extend him the same courtesy?

    *I guess it seems related to you, but please believe me, it’s not.

  29. 29
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I think there should be a distinction between “is opposed to feminist scholarship as a a whole” and “has criticism of a paper or book” or even “has a criticism of a particular problem – say, peer review letting through bad papers – in the field.”

    Yeah I agree. But what about a person who “sees foundational problems with feminist scholarship as a whole?” Because I think that may be a more accurate portrayal of at least Lindsay and Pluckrose (boghossian I’m less sure about).

    One of the most cited papers in gender studies is a book on feminist methodology (https://scinapse.io/papers/2128218911) a subject which seems pretty ripe for criticism by experts on methodology and the philosophy of science. I think this methodology is at the heart of many of the “bad papers” cherry-picked at Real Peer Review.

    Outside criticism of this methodology is valid for the same reason that criticism of evolutionary biology by mathematicians and statisticians is valid- complex topics require a wide range of tools, and thus a wide range of subject matter experts. Criticism from statisticians was an important part of the replication crisis in psychology, after all.

  30. 30
    Petar says:

    @Petar: It seems unfair to ask Richard to defend an argument he wasn’t involved in, didn’t participate in, and presumably doesn’t endorse. You’re clearly very angry at the experience you had and I’m sure we’re all sorry for that but I’m not sure bringing it up in an unrelated conversion* is the best way to process this issue.I am saying that this is the exact same approach to refusing to discuss something, because it is offensive.

    Richard Jeffrey Newman says that because dismantling the patriarchy is a fundamental goal of feminism, critiques of feminism are opposed to dismantling the patriarchy, and thus offensive to feminists, which is why feminists cannot be expected to politely engage critics.

    I said that because the divinity of Jesus is a fundamental belief of Christians, a Christian could choose to be offended and refuse theological discussion with anyone who tries to make an argument disputing such divinity, such as, for example, any Muslim. I think I have posted enough on Alas to make clear how much I respect such a position.

    And finally, I gave an example of someone refusing to even talk about the possibility that Cleopatra was not black, and considers even a hint that she should not be portrayed like this, this or this to be racist.

    If you do not think that those three reactions are connected, you are using a different standard than the one I use. How offended should I be?

  31. 31
    Ampersand says:

    One of the most cited papers in gender studies is a book on feminist methodology (https://scinapse.io/papers/2128218911) a subject which seems pretty ripe for criticism by experts on methodology and the philosophy of science. I think this methodology is at the heart of many of the “bad papers” cherry-picked at Real Peer Review.

    I’m puzzled. The abstract for that paper book very clearly says that there is no such thing as a singular “feminist methodology.” You’re arguing as if that book sets out one feminist methodology, and other feminists scholars have followed it, but that’s not even remotely what that book is.

    Examining the full range of feminist research methods, Shulamit Reinharz explores the relationship between feminism and methodology, challenges existing stereotypes, and explains the historic origins of current controversies. Concluding that there is no “politically correct” feminist method, but rather a variety of perspectives, Reinharz argues that this diversity has been integral to the accomplishments of international feminist scholarship. She offers a unique chapter-by-chapter analysis of important research methods, a concluding chapter integrating ongoing debate and major points of view, and an encyclopedic bibliography. “Feminist Methods in Social Research” is an essential resource for students and scholars in the social sciences and women’s studies.

    The book itself covers 11 broad approaches to research, and of course each method includes multiple sub-methods.

  32. 32
    Ampersand says:

    Two days ago, I interacted with people who accused me of being racist for saying that depicting Cleopatra as Sub-Saharan Black is propaganda, pandering or ignorance.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to bring up something some other people allegedly said, that you’re furious about, to us in this forum to answer for. I think it’s a method of conversation that’s likely to produce more heat than light.

    But if you insist on pursuing this, you should provide a link so we can all read it.

  33. 34
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Amp, I didn’t argue as if that book has one ideology. I think there are several themes throughout feminist methodology, as layed out in the conclusion section of the book, that are bound to lead to poor scholarship.

    That book’s conclusion reads more like a report of the myriad ways feminist do research, it’s long and full of “OMG are you kidding me” moments. Here it is:

    https://www.brandeis.edu/sociology/pdfs/faculty-articles/reinharz-methods.pdf

    The huge and whacky range of acceptable methodologies is the problem, and I’m surprised you can’t see that. I just don’t understand why this kind of scholarship should be taken seriously. Imagine if we as a society studied agriculture and shaped agricultural policy with such loose standards. We’d all die. Why should we listen to feminist academics who would reshape politics and economics according to such shoddy research methods as auto-ethnographies and personal interviews with friends? I see a bunch of academics creating “theory” and hardly anyone at all actually testing it with sound methodology. People don’t want to fund that sort of thing, they demand better. And it could be so much better!

  34. 35
    Petar says:

    Two days ago, I interacted with people who accused me of being racist for saying that depicting Cleopatra as Sub-Saharan Black is propaganda, pandering or ignorance.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to bring up something some other people allegedly said, that you’re furious about, to us in this forum to answer for. I think it’s a method of conversation that’s likely to produce more heat than light.

    Where did I ask you to answer for it? I gave it as an example of people taking offense and refusing to talk about something. And I even made it clear that it is an example in a post before yours.

    Are you saying that you have never seen an argument like that? Because I think Richard Jeffrey Newman made a very similar one.

    Or are you looking for specifics? Because you recently linked to the blog of someone who claimed in an earlier post that Gods of Egypt was ‘the most racist movie ever’ for only the mass scenes showing ancient Egypt as Sub-Saharan, and having only the God of Wisdom Black. And no, his argument was not that it was racist to portray ancient Egypt’s population as practically all Black. By the way, I do not think it is racist, either, just ignorant.

    Are you saying that you have never heard an argument that depicting Cleopatra as anything but Black is racist? Well, I had not until Saturday, and I posted it here as example of indefensible thin-skinness, but clearly for some it is a perfectly understandable feeling. On the other hand, I just did a simple search, and it shows literally dozen of people with alleged academic credentials making that very argument on Quora.

    So, lets assume that no one, ever, in the history of the Universe was accused of being offensive for saying it’s improbable that Cleopatra looked Sudanese.

    You still have to admit that at least one person claimed that to oppose feminist scholarship can be viewed as support for dehumanizing women. Can you explain to me why Christians should not use a similar argument to dismiss anyone whose arguments can be seen as denying the divinity of Christ?

  35. 36
    Kate says:

    So, Richard Jeffrey Newman, you are basically saying that feminists, because of their beliefs, can label disrespectful anyone who disagrees with them. How is this any more worth of notice than Christians, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, etc. labeling any criticism of their dogma as disrespectful?

    In my experience, many of them do. Or, at least, the right to disagree is reserved for people of certain status. Usually men with a certain type of education. If you are a man with a certain type of education, you may not have noticed that women are often meant to obey without question in large portions of all these traditions.

    In the space of one minute I was called a racist, an Islam-apologist, and ignorant. Are you seriously suggesting that this willingness to even discuss a topic because ‘the opponent is disrespectful’ is uncommon?

    Based on your own description, you opened by accusing them of “propaganda, pandering or ignorance”. You are the one who set the disrespectful, hostile tone in that interaction. You were an asshole. How do you expect people to react when you start accusing them of “propaganda, pandering or ignorance” – “Oh yes, sir, please tell me more about how evil, wrong and/or stupid I am. It is so fascinating.” Maybe if you entered such interactions open to the possibility that you might not know the whole story, and things might not be as clear as you think, you wouldn’t get that level of hostility.

  36. 37
    Petar says:

    Kate, how would you describe a movie in which the first Moon landing shows a Chinese spacecraft touching down and releasing a robot with Han markings?

    Or one in which brave Protestants save Malta from the Ottoman threat?

    Or one where a cavalcade of French knights ends the 1683 siege of Vienna?

    Or one in which American sailors capture an U-boat with an intact Enigma machine ?

    I’ve seen all those. And I have called them propaganda, pandering or ignorant, without being Russian, Catholic, Polish or British.

    So I am an asshole for taking the side of a Macedonian complaining about a historical character being depicted blatantly incorrectly? Can you please give me an alternate explanation for changing the nationality, religion or race of a known individual? Is it OK to erase the history of others?

  37. 38
    Kate says:

    Can you please give me an alternate explanation for changing the nationality, religion or race of a known individual?

    Several, not applicable to all, but frequently overlapping:
    They don’t see it that way at all. They see themselves as discovering hidden truths.
    Their work grows out of profound distrust of dominant historical narratives rooted in a history of discrimination against their race.
    They were often raised and educated in an alternative tradition with different assumptions, approaches and its own internal logic.
    There is a suspicion of historical “truth”. They read history as a text, which can be reinterpreted.

    I’m not saying I agree with their interpretation. But, their ideas are more complex than you give them credit for.

  38. 39
    Petar says:

    Do you know the history of Macedonia? Do you know that their country was under Ottoman rule for five centuries? Do you know that with the Bulgarians and Armenians they were the ones who produced the bulk of the Janissaries, children taken from their parents, forcibly inducted into another culture and religion, and sent against their relatives and coreligionists? Do you know that they achieved independence only about 30 years ago? Do you know know that even to this day, they are referred to as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, because of pressure from their neighbors. one of which’s official policy is “Macedonians are Greek” while the other’s is “The Macedonian language is a dialect of Bulgarian”

    How do you think a Macedonia feels when the last Ptolemaic ruler is depicted as in the the three stills I linked?

    Does it matter to you?

    You have wonderful explanations for Americans making movies in which the history of a small ethnicity is erased in the name of “hidden truth”, “interpretations”, “alternative traditions”, and “own internal logic”. I personally do not think that those should be mentioned in the same sentence as DNA testing, historical records, or scientific consensus, but I guess that’s just like, my opinion, man.

    And we know what the opinion of a racist and an asshole is worth.

    So, to continue the original theme, how do you feel about people, who because of the way they are raised, and because of their gut feelings, and because of the consensus in their communities, and because of the perceived ‘liberal mass media” war on their traditions make movies which depict scientists, atheists, minorities, etc. as caricatures?

    Do you use the words propaganda, pandering and ignorance, or do you refer to the people who give low ratings to their movies as assholes?

  39. 40
    desipis says:

    RJN:

    To oppose feminist scholarship, then, is to oppose the dismantling of the patriarchy. Or, to state it positively, it is at least implicitly to argue for the patriarchy as a fundamental element of the status quo.

    Or alternatively, it’s implicitly arguing against the existence of the patriarchy.

    This doesn’t mean, because I happen to support its overarching worldview, that I think all feminist scholarship is therefore pure and good and morally and ethically defensible.

    Except the problem is that a lot of feminist scholarship is corrupt, bad, and morally and ethically flawed. When the flaws are a prevalent as they are it suggests systemic issues with feminist scholarship as a whole.

    To put that another way, if I believe that dismantling patriarchy is a basic prerequisite for actualizing (a word I hate, but grant it to me for the moment) the full humanity of women in society and culture, why—not only, but especially if I am a woman—should I deem as respectful in any way any scholarship that, in its opposition to mine, would shore up a culture that depends for its existence on treating me as less than human?

    This is an absurd level of rhetoric that I see used quite a bit. How do you define “full humanity” or “less than human”? Claiming that your (or feminist) views are so important and so correct that any disagreement at the fundamental philosophical level isn’t worthy of respect just makes you come across as a close-minded pompous jerk.

  40. 41
    Kate says:

    Yes, I know the history of Macedonia, in broad outlines. I also know the history of Copts in Egypt, who preserved the ancient language in their liturgical services and also identify as Arab. I also know the history of Nubians, who never claim to have been the original inhabitants of Egypt. Afro-American-centrist interpretations make many histories invisible, and this is seriously problematic. A lot of African Americans don’t see how being American makes them privledged globally. And, yes, that’s a problem.
    The DNA evidence is WAY more complicated and far less straightforward than you let on. But, on the whole, I argee with your conclusions. All I’m saying is that, your approach is not calculated to inspire dialgogue.

  41. 42
    Ampersand says:

    just makes you come across as a close-minded pompous jerk.

    Desipis, you are way too familiar with this blog to not know better. This is a warning.

  42. 43
    Ampersand says:

    Are you saying that you have never seen an argument like that? Because I think Richard Jeffrey Newman made a very similar one.

    No, I’m saying that if you want us to consider a specific encounter that you had on the internet, then you should provide a link.

    Also, and I’m now saying this as a moderator: Please try and dial back your tone a couple of notches. Thanks in advance.

  43. 44
    Ampersand says:

    Jeffrey: Sorry I misunderstood you. Not intentional.

    The conclusion makes it clear that feminist methodology includes both traditional methods of research as well as (using your word) “wacky” research methods.

    If I were considering – for instance – a change to a policy intended to lower poverty, then I’d want to read traditional research on both the current and proposed policy, both qualitative and quantitative (the exact kind of research I’d want to see would depend on the specifics of the policy in question). I’m sure the same is true for you. Your belief that “hardly any” work is being done like that by feminist academics is simply false, and suggests that you don’t have much familiarity with the field.

    But I don’t think that all academic discussion should consist of traditional research intended to shed light on policy questions, and nothing else. I think there’s a place for a lot of different thinking. Judith Butler’s writing is not research, and pushed outside the bounds of traditional thought, but that doesn’t mean it’s valueless.

    An academy that doesn’t allow “wacky” thought is an academy that’s going to lack a cutting edge. Neither of us know everything; it may be that some line of thought we dismiss as “wacky” is going to be seen as very valuable, in ten or twenty or fifty years.

  44. 45
    Ampersand says:

    Richard wrote:

    “Feminist scholarship” is an academic way of “reading the world” that wears its political agenda on its sleeve. No doubt that agenda can, and has, been described in many different ways, but one political point I think it’s fair to say all feminisms and their scholarships have in common is a desire to dismantle patriarchy. To oppose feminist scholarship, then, is to oppose the dismantling of the patriarchy.

    I think I disagree, Richard (and it’s fun for me to be disagreeing with you for a change). There are a wide range of reasons one might oppose “feminist scholarship,” many of which are rooted in anti-feminism and misogyny.

    But a person could also believe, for example, that no scholarship should ever “wear its political agenda on its sleeve.” If a person were consistent about that – genuinely holding Mary Koss’ feminist research and Brad Wilcox’s right-wing-Christian research to the same standard – then I think they could fairly claim that they’re not pro-patriarchy, but they merely think that research with a political agenda is a bad tactic for opposing patriarchy.

    To put that another way, if I believe that dismantling patriarchy is a basic prerequisite for actualizing (a word I hate, but grant it to me for the moment) the full humanity of women in society and culture, why—not only, but especially if I am a woman—should I deem as respectful in any way any scholarship that, in its opposition to mine, would shore up a culture that depends for its existence on treating me as less than human?

    I don’t think there’s any reason any individual needs to (unless it’s an unavoidable requirement of their job). But I do think we should keep in mind that there are a multiplicity of approaches taken by feminist scholars, including women scholars. Some feminist scholars choose to engage in such debates and prefer to use a respectful tone, and that’s a legitimate choice to make. (I doubt you’d disagree with anything I’m saying in this paragraph.)

  45. Amp wrote:

    I think there should be a distinction between “is opposed to feminist scholarship as a a whole” and “has criticism of a paper or book” or even “has a criticism of a particular problem – say, peer review letting through bad papers – in the field.”

    I think that’s true, but I also think that the way Jeffrey asked his question—in terms that (implicitly or explicitly) mark feminist scholarship/methodology as deficient (with the implication being that this deficiency is rooted in feminism’s political agenda)—while leaving unremarked the political agenda(s) of scholarship that “opposes” feminist scholarship, reflects a framing that ought to be explicitly called out. Not because Jeffrey necessarily intended that framing, but because I think it is often an unconscious bias that shapes these conversations. (Though desipis makes that bias quite clear in his comment, to which I am not going to bother to respond.)

    Petar, you wrote:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman says that because dismantling the patriarchy is a fundamental goal of feminism, critiques of feminism are opposed to dismantling the patriarchy, and thus offensive to feminists, which is why feminists cannot be expected to politely engage critics.

    That is not what I said. What I said was this:

    What I’m trying to point out here is that the way this discussion is usually framed, by highlighting feminism’s political agenda, tends to leave unexamined the status-quo-reinforcing political underpinnings not only of scholarship that opposes feminism, but of almost any scholarship that does not incorporate feminist insights and perspectives (though the blind spots of this latter scholarship is not what we’re talking about here). To put that another way, if I believe that dismantling patriarchy is a basic prerequisite for actualizing (a word I hate, but grant it to me for the moment) the full humanity of women in society and culture, why—not only, but especially if I am a woman—should I deem as respectful in any way any scholarship that, in its opposition to mine, would shore up a culture that depends for its existence on treating me as less than human? (emphasis added)

    I didn’t say anything about how feminists should respond to that kind of scholarship. Rather, I was responding to the terms in which Jeffrey asked his question about whether there is any scholarship that opposes feminist scholarship that feminists find respectful. In point of fact, feminist writers and scholars frequently respond to that kind of research quite politely, quite respectfully, within the bounds of academic discourse, all the time. And I was specifically thinking about scholarship, not personal conversation, where interactions like the one you describe—and I have, like I am sure everyone else on this blog has, stories of my own—are not uncommon regardless of the point(s) on the political spectrum that might be at stake.

    Jeffrey Gandee:

    That book’s conclusion reads more like a report of the myriad ways feminist do research, it’s long and full of “OMG are you kidding me” moments…The huge and whacky range of acceptable methodologies is the problem, and I’m surprised you can’t see that.

    I read the document you linked to. The author specifically states that feminism is a perspective, not a methodology, and so framing your critique in terms of what might be “ripe for criticism by experts in methodology and the philosophy of science” (as if there are not already feminists with those qualifications) seems to me a fundamental mischaracterization of what she says. Instead of talking in vague generalities, however, which is what you’ve (not unreasonably) been doing, let’s get specific. Choose one of the things that you think is particularly whacky and let’s take a look at it.

  46. Amp:

    We cross-posted. You wrote:

    But a person could also believe, for example, that no scholarship should ever “wear its political agenda on its sleeve.” If a person were consistent about that – genuinely holding Mary Koss’ feminist research and Brad Wilcox’s right-wing-Christian research to the same standard – then I think they could fairly claim that they’re not pro-patriarchy, but they merely think that research with a political agenda is a bad tactic for opposing patriarchy.

    That’s a good clarification, but I would point out that what you describe is not opposition to feminist scholarship per se. It’s opposition to an entire range of scholarships and methodologies, across disciplines and the political spectrum, that does not call out any one politics in particular. I understood Jeffrey’s question to be about opposition to feminist scholarship in and of itself. (And, interestingly, in the document Jeffrey linked to about, the conclusion to the book about feminist research, the author makes the point that there are feminist scholars who believe their work should be as free of their own personal, political, gendered, etc. bias as possible.)

  47. 48
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman,

    You define feminism as opposing the status quo, but I can give many examples of feminists defending the status quo and anti-feminists who ask not for a return to the past, but for an end to the status quo.

    What I’m trying to point out here is that the way this discussion is usually framed, by highlighting feminism’s political agenda, tends to leave unexamined the status-quo-reinforcing political underpinnings not only of scholarship that opposes feminism,

    I would argue that the status-quo-reinforcing political underpinnings of feminism are often left unexamined, as well as the…

    “Feminist scholarship” is an academic way of “reading the world” that wears its political agenda on its sleeve.

    …possible readings of the world that don’t match feminist dogma.

    My claim is that reading the world based on a political agenda is usually not scientific. It generally results in people seeking to prove what they want to be true, starting with a desired outcome, then looking for facts and politically acceptable ways to change those facts that achieve the desired outcomes. This approach fails when the outcome is not actually achievable or only achievable by methods that are not considered acceptable.

    Making science political results in scientists using political methods to ‘prove’ their claims: using framing, selectively presenting evidence, redefining words, making ‘plausible’ claims rather than giving evidence, etc.

    In my view, proper science should do the exact opposite of this: it shouldn’t only be acceptable for convenient facts and explanations to be true and desirable interventions to work. Instead, all possible explanations for measurements should be considered and the explanation that has most merit should be favored (and if multiple explanations are possible, further investigation should be done, rather than pick the most convenient explanation). Interventions should be judged on whether they actually work, not on whether they ought to work according to the theory. Etc.

    Then if there is a conflict between political beliefs and the actual facts, the only valid option is to alter the beliefs, as the facts are the facts.

    When politics rules, you get Lysenkoism like this.

    should I deem as respectful in any way any scholarship that, in its opposition to mine, would shore up a culture that depends for its existence on treating me as less than human?

    But this is exactly the reason why I object to most feminist scholarship, as well as to feminist culture in general!

    The feminist claim that men oppress women depends for its existence on silencing men who suffer abuse at the hands of women, to make them feel like exceptions, to deny them social support, to deny them social services, to deny them justice, etc.

    Is that not dehumanizing?

  48. 49
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Amp,

    I am all for wacky thinkers. They are necessary for generating theory. I am not for thinkers who pile theory on top of unsupported theory that rests on unsupported theory, where it’s theory all the way down. Feminists rightly have criticized arm-chair evo-psych theorists for doing something like this. At least that field is starting to listen to it’s critics and shape up.

    You posted the top ten most cited Gender Studies papers of the past 10 years, and it appears that perhaps one of them, “The Female Offender: Girls, Women, and Crime” might is based on traditional research methods (but since feminist research methodology can include “research aimed to create social change,” according to the book I cited earlier, we should all be on the lookout for extreme bias in this paper and others). It’s true that my experience with gender studies was a single 101 course, and between 12 and 20 hour-long talks/lectures/panels I’ve listened to by professors in the field. I’ve also seen the themes discussed in these classes and talks emerge in other places, like news reporting, political commentary and sometimes the social sciences. That’s not much, but the methodology I was exposed to during that time was appallingly bad. The theorizing itself was also appallingly bad- too often rather than trying to fit theories to data, I heard feminist theories that crudely dismissed the data (I imagine this is what’s going on with Petar’s example of Afro-centric scholars who insist Cleopatra is black).

    So what are the most important findings in Gender Studies in the past 10 years using traditional research methods? Why do we here so little of these findings, while everyone is beat over the head with McIntosh’s “The Invisible Knapsack.” How likely is it that these findings stand up to scrutiny? How would these stack up against the most important findings in other fields?

    RJN,

    I think you misread. The conclusion of the book seems to be that there is no single feminist methodolgy, nor is feminism itself an ideology, but the book does lay down themes within feminist methodology which is definitely a thing. I think this methodology deserves criticism from the outside.

  49. Limits of Language:

    My claim is that reading the world based on a political agenda is usually not scientific.

    Except that all scientific readings of the world are rooted, somewhere, in politics. Whether it’s male evolutionary scientists who don’t realize that the model through which they have understood selective choice, etc. is rooted in a male heterosexual view of the world (something—I wish I could find the paper—that was pointed out and critiqued by a woman in the field who was a feminist), or linguists and sociologists who don’t recognize that the way they have been understanding the language spoken in African American Communities is rooted in a fundamentally racist world view, all observation is shaped by the socioeconomic, cultural, political, and other characteristics of the person who is observing.

    While I hesitate to introduce an example not from feminism, only because it could end up confusing this conversation, take this article by the linguist William Labov (originally published in The Atlantic in June 1972; I’ve uploaded a PDF because I’m not sure if the link will be behind a paywall.) Labov very handily exposes the racist and classist politics underlying the prevailing social-science wisdom of the time, which held that Black children spoke the way they did because they did not actually have a language. (That’s a gross oversimplification of the article.)

    I understand that the scientific method is supposed to eliminate as much of this bias as possible, but it cannot eliminate biases that are not recognized as biases.

    But this is exactly the reason why I object to most feminist scholarship, as well as to feminist culture in general!

    I have not yet read the article you linked to, but I will. For now, then, I will grant that partner violence against men is understudied, as is partner violence in same sex couples, in couples where one or both partners is trans. I will also grant that the prevalence and frequency of partner violence against men—whether perpetrated by women or other men—is probably greater than current statistics reveal. In other words, because I have not yet read the article, I don’t want to get into a debate about its specific findings. I do, however, want to point out this: We would not even have the words to describe, talk about, analyze or work to end partner violence—regardless of who the victims and perpetrators are—were it not for the activist scholarship and political activism of feminists. Nor would we have the tools with which to critique that scholarship when it is too narrow or exclusionary were it not for feminism.

    Does this mean that all feminists are therefore pure and good and noble, without self interest, without the capacity to act in ways that harm others unfairly, in the case of your example, men? No, of course not. Does this mean that all feminists who hold power—whether in academia or anywhere else—always behave justly in the use of that power. Again, no. But a correction to those problems—as, for example, I assume the author of your article wants to make—is, fundamentally, a correction that is already coming from within a feminist perspective (assuming it is not a correction that would result in the further abuse, subjugation, etc. of women)—if only because, without that perspective, there would be no problem to correct in the first place.

    The feminist claim that men oppress women depends for its existence on silencing men who suffer abuse at the hands of women, to make them feel like exceptions, to deny them social support, to deny them social services, to deny them justice, etc.

    If this, the complete statement, were true, it would indeed be dehumanizing. I see this, rather, as talking about two distinct phenomenon, though. That men have historically oppressed women seems to me pretty much incontrovertible. At the same time, I would agree that certain kinds of feminist analysis and activism have the result of “silencing men who suffer abuse at the hands of women, to make them feel like exceptions, to deny them social support, to deny them social services, to deny them justice” is also true. The latter, in other words, does not cancel out the former.

    Indeed feminists are themselves working to correct some of the bias that has neglected men. Here are two books in which women try to do so within feminist understanding of gender and within fertility science that have neglected men: Exposing Men and Conceiving Masculinity. Whether or not any one of us agrees or disagrees with what these books have to say is not the point. My point is simply that there are feminists who are already doing what I understand you to be implying they are not doing.

  50. Jeffrey:

    I think you misread. The conclusion of the book seems to be that there is no single feminist methodolgy, nor is feminism itself an ideology, but the book does lay down themes within feminist methodology which is definitely a thing. I think this methodology deserves criticism from the outside.

    No, I did not misread. I understood perfectly well what the author meant when she said that feminism is a perspective, not a methodology. You were the one who characterized “the myriad ways feminist do research” as “long and full of ‘OMG are you kidding me’ moments” and then called that range “whacky.”

    I am asking you to pick one of those “‘OMG-are-you-kidding-me’ moments” so that we can talk about it, instead of engaging in vague generalities, which is what you have been doing.

  51. 52
    Sebastian H says:

    Amp “I did skim the Mein Kampf paper, reading long sections. Word substitution completely changed the meaning from the original; essentially, the only way to recognize that it was based on Mein Kampf is to have happened to have Mein Kampf so memorized that you’d recognize the paragraph structure and connecting phrases.“

    This misunderstands what they were doing with the Mein Kampf paper. The gotcha isn’t “you failed to recognize plaigarism”. The gotcha isn’t “you failed to recognize Mein Kampf”. The gotcha is “an unhinged screed which is deeply based around defining and demonizing its unfavored ‘other’ can be mistaken for scholarship”.

    Which is a partial answer for Richard Newman’s tone policing the respect expressions of critics.

  52. 53
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Ampersand,

    Your link to most cited works contains many books, which are difficult to discuss for several reasons (their breadth, accessibility, etc). The first paper on that list is this one.

    I would consider that a very poor paper. One of its many flaws is that it equates valuation with pay and status. This is highly debatable, as people can obviously be valued in different ways. For example, people commonly feel valued if they get compliments, gifts, services, etc. It’s quite possible that women get their valuation (and remuneration) more in non-monetary form. If so, the paper exaggerates the lack of valuation that women experience. However, the paper doesn’t consider this possibility.

    The paper is also very dogmatic about where this monetary valuation must come from, as it argues that: “One form the devaluation of traditionally female activities takes is the failure to treat child rearing as a public good and support those who do it with state payments.”

    This completely ignores that the traditional provider/child-rearing gender division has the husband earn money to support the wife and children. So by the logic of the paper, the woman is being valued by her partner, when he supports her. Yet the paper never concludes this, which I see as bias. Ignoring the benefits to women and costs to men of the traditional gender roles aligns with the common feminist assertion that the patriarchy greatly benefits men and harms women.

    Another flaw is that the paper seems to assume that there is only one kind of status, that is linked to work. Furthermore, the paper ignores the possibility that status is awarded differently for men and women. Without these assumptions that I consider very unlikely, many of the claims in the paper no longer make sense. For example, without these assumptions it may very well be true that different jobs have different status for men and women and that women gain more status from child-rearing. This then undermines the claim that women would gain status by entering ‘male’ jobs.

    Anyway, I could go on and on to point out many more flaws, but I will spare you. The flaws mentioned above already make the paper extremely flawed, in a way that I perceive as being based on feminist dogma.

    I consider it very worrisome that this paper is one of the most cited. While this paper is not as poor as the papers that @RealPeerReview points to, it does strongly suggest that the entire field is subpar when one of the most cited and thus most central papers is this poor.

  53. 54
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Whoops, typo above to RJN. Where it says feminsim isn’t itself an ideology, I meant to type it’s not itself a methodology.

  54. 55
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman,

    Cherry picking poor social science to argue that all science is rooted in politics will not change my mind, as it doesn’t clash with my claims. I never argued that science as practiced is or was (always) apolitical. My argument is that the goal of science should be for the work to be apolitical in its methodology.

    As humans are inherently political, this is a challenge, especially for the more ‘social’ sciences, because it requires suppressing certain human impulses (by incentives and cultural means).

    For now, then, I will grant that partner violence against men is understudied

    The finding that reciprocated violence is the most prevalent and that one-directional violence by women against men is at least as common as one-directional violence by men against women is actually not understudied at all. There are hundreds of studies showing this. That is why it is so shocking that this finding has been consistently suppressed in favor of a false narrative.

    I do, however, want to point out this: We would not even have the words to describe, talk about, analyze or work to end partner violence—regardless of who the victims and perpetrators are—were it not for the activist scholarship and political activism of feminists.

    This is just not true, as William Blackstone, who was very much not a feminist, actually argued (in 1765-1769) against domestic violence aside from ‘moderate correction’ by the husband to make his wife obey and behave:

    But, with us, in the politer reign of Charles the second, this power of correction began to be doubted: and a wife may now have security of the peace against her husband; or, in return, a husband against his wife.

    Blackstone built his justification for ‘moderate correction’ on the consequences of coverture (which made men liable for civil misbehavior by his wife, while she could not be brought to justice for that). So one can argue against domestic violence by taking Blackstone’s argument and then rejecting coverture, which then removes his justification entirely.

    The reduced acceptance of domestic violence that Blackstone observed and/or proposed is actually a pattern that one can see in history, where there is a gradual decline in the acceptability of violence to correct behavior, which has little to do with feminism, as it also made violence less acceptable against convicts, children, colonized people, slaves, other ethnicities, etc.

    Ultimately, the words to discuss partner violence with are mostly just the words we discuss other violence with. I don’t see how one can claim them to be feminist. Perhaps your actual claim is that feminists strongly fought against domestic violence and/or made people aware of and less accepting of certain gender norms?

    That men have historically oppressed women seems to me pretty much incontrovertible.

    I would argue that harm was done to men and men were expected to accept harm, for the benefit of women, while the opposite is also true.

    I would argue that men have exerted power over women and that women have exerted power over men (although the latter often less formally).

    I would argue that the most logical conclusion was thus that men and women oppressed each other (often enabled by class or such).

    Then to achieve gender equality and to reduce oppression, both the harms to men and women & the ways in which men and women wield power (and how it interacts with class and such) must be addressed. I would argue that feminists often refuse to address one half of this equation, where this is often justified by the dogma that ‘men oppress women.’

    My point is simply that there are feminists who are already doing what I understand you to be implying they are not doing.

    Yes and there are also many feminists who oppose attempts to help men, often in very militant ways. An assessment of the overall effect by feminists of society can’t just look at the positive behavior by a few and ignore the negative behavior by many.

  55. 56
    Gracchus says:

    “But a correction to those problems—as, for example, I assume the author of your article wants to make—is, fundamentally, a correction that is already coming from within a feminist perspective”

    Is this really the case? If male anti-racist activists call out a white feminist scholar for being ignorant of her racial privilege or bias as a white person, can we really say these activists are coming from a feminist perspective? Similarly, if working class activists call out wealthy feminist scholars for being ignorant of their class privilege, are they coming from a feminist perspective?

    It’s true that the call out is likely to be more effective if it is made by an anti-racist activist/working class activist who is -also- a feminist, or at least supportive of feminism, or at a bare minimum not an active anti-feminist. But effectiveness is not validity, and frankly, if feminists are going to be sincere about being accountable for their privilege they have to be open to criticisms of it from outside the feminist community (just as anti-racism activists should, by the same metric, be open to criticisms for their gender privilege that come from outside the anti-racist activism community).

    Or is the argument that even people who identify with feminism are unknowingly doing the work of feminism by eliminating privilege in all its forms? If one had a very deeply intersectional view of feminism I could see that, but even then it’s not really a feminist perspective; it would be feminism outside the feminist perspective.

    Or maybe I’m just reading too much into a brief statement, I don’t know. But this really confused me.

  56. Limits of Language:

    Cherry picking poor social science to argue that all science is rooted in politics will not change my mind, as it doesn’t clash with my claims. I never argued that science as practiced is or was (always) apolitical. My argument is that the goal of science should be for the work to be apolitical in its methodology.

    I wasn’t cherry-picking. The work Labov was criticizing was recognized as authoritative in its time. In other words, it was only recognized as poor social science after its biases were revealed. More to the point, no methodology is apolitical because no methodology exists outside of the power relations that obtain when it is practiced. It seems to me the goal ought to be to be transparent about the ways in which methods are constructed and the politics inherent in that construction rather than to try to eliminate what cannot be erased.

    That’s it for now. More later.

  57. 58
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    RJN,

    I think I’ve singled out at least two poor methodologies in this thread. One is from the “themes” section of the conclusions to the feminist methodology book I’ve been linking to:

    6. Feminist research aims to create social change.

    I think this is self-evidently bad scholarship. The distinction between political advocacy and academics is useful, especially if our academic institutions are to receive public funding. Biased reasearch is questionable research. I’d be highly skeptical of tobacco-industry funded studies on similar grounds. Libertarian economists publishing papers with the expressed intent to “create social change,” would be rightly ridiculed.

    8. Feminist research frequently includes the researcher as a person.

    I’ve pointed out the limited usefulness of the autoethnography. It’s bad enough, but combine it with the theme I quoted above, and it’s a recipe for useless, almost unreadable scholarship. It’s the sort of scholarship that inspired the Sokal Squared hoax.

    Let’s see these themes on display. Peer reviewers are supposedly experts. These are the revision notes on the hoax dog rape paper:

    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1047813753180438528.html

    Read these, and then read the dog rape paper. The reviewers are excited about this paper. I think this speaks for itself. The paper isn’t just a hoax, it’s atrociously argued, the whole premise is farcical, yet the reviewers are mostly concerned with whether or not the paper can be placed in the context of black feminist geography. Why are these reviewers so blind to the poor reasoning?! Their education has failed them. This is so far from a faked physics or biology paper with made-up data. Many of the sentences hardly make sense. If nothing else, this is at least evidence that Minority Studies has managed to cultivate a terrible writing style that itself deserves criticism. For fun, strip away the jargon, and imagine a simplified version of the presented theory, method, discussion, and conclusions. Without the jargon the argumentation is naked and laughably bad. Middle Schoolers could pick it apart.

    Certainly the dog rape paper isn’t representative of the best feminist scholarship has to offer. I suppose the best reads more like the top 10 most cited papers Amp linked to above. Maybe we should all read the piece at the very top, “Black Looks,” by Bell Hooks. Have any of you read this? I found a PDF online (https://aboutabicycle.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/bell-hooks-black-looks-race-and-representation.pdf), and I’ve started it during lunch. It’s under 200 small pages. It’s… not terrible. It’s sort of interesting and well thought out. It’s very approachable, not only does it frequently reference pop-culture that I’m familiar with, it uses less jargon (though still more than necessary). I just don’t think it’s very scholarly, and AGAIN, the problem is the methodology. The arguments are mostly unsupported, or supported by earlier unsupported arguments piled on top of each other. It’s a feminist version of an arm-chair evo-psych student trying to explaining the whole world through his narrow theoretical lens, using theory, rather than data, to support his points. I’ll keep reading, maybe it gets better (though a peek at later chapters suggests it’s going to keep building on these weak foundations). I’d love to see a discussion of this very work by a critic and a feminist academic, though I fear it would sound like a broken record, with the critic constantly asking “Without the availability of a remote mind-reading device, how could anyone falsify these claims that Bell Hooks keeps making?” As a scholar, she should do a better job of finding the falsifiable predictions implied by her theories, and stating at least some of these predictions (besides her prediction that tearing down the “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” is the only way to end the commodification of blackness. That’s not a helpful prediction.)

    I’m starting to wonder what gender studies would look like if methodological rigor was applied symmetrically across all subjects and all points of view. It seems to me that many of these thinkers can demand rigor when it suits them (“where’s the control for this new Sokal hoax?,” “Evo psych is just arm-chair theorizing”) but are more forgiving with their allies .

  58. Jeffrey,

    I’ll be honest. I am not sure how to respond to this comment. You pick two of the characteristics of feminist scholarship listed by Reinharz, but instead of talking about them in the context of her work—she did, after all, do an awful lot of research—you choose to use as illustrations first, a paper that was constructed to be a poor example of those characteristics at work, and, second, a book that you admit to having “started over lunch” and about which you offer your opinion without providing any evidence for its basis in hooks’ text. Far more fruitful, it seems to me, would be to start by looking at the claims Reinharz makes in her conclusion about the two characteristics you list, if only to get a better sense of their scope.

    In other words, instead of assuming from the start that doing research to create social change is “self-evidently bad scholarship,” maybe it’s worth taking the time to think about what doing research for that purpose actually involves; what ethical, methodological, etc. questions it raises; and how those who pursue this research attempt to account for those questions. After all, there’s an awful lot of research—and I’m thinking of certain kinds of public health research in particular—that gets done in order to create social change; and there’s also social science research that has had the same purpose, the benefits of which we are living with right now. That there are responsible and irresponsible ways to do this research is, or should be, obvious. That there are examples of both in the world should be obvious as well. That a hoax could be perpetrated on an academic journal using a fake example of this research might say something about the shortcomings of the people who accepted the hoax as legitimate; or it might just be an illustration of the fact that people are human and make mistakes. None of those delegitimize the idea of doing/using research to create social change in and of itself.

    And I would say the same thing about “feminist research frequently includes the researcher as a person.” Instead of making entirely unsupported, presumptuous, and even contemptuous statements about a book that you admit you have not read completely, let’s take a step back—perhaps, again, starting with what Reinharz actually says about this characteristic of feminist research—and look at what it actually involves, not as embodied in a text you have already decided you think is second rate, but at the methodological level.

    You introduced Reinharz’ text into this conversation. I did not know the book before this, but I think it was a good choice, and I think it’s worth sticking first to what she has to say about her own conclusions, to make sure that we (and I include myself; I have not read the conclusion as carefully as I might) fully understand what she is claiming, before taking those conclusions for a spin and applying them to other texts.

  59. 60
    lurker23 says:

    if I believe that dismantling patriarchy is a basic prerequisite for actualizing (a word I hate, but grant it to me for the moment) the full humanity of women in society and culture, why—not only, but especially if I am a woman—should I deem as respectful in any way any scholarship that, in its opposition to mine, would shore up a culture that depends for its existence on treating me as less than human?

    because you might i hope understand that your judgments and guesses are not perfect, just like everyone else?

    because you might think that hearing other ideas would make you more likely to understand what you want to think is “true”, i don’t know about you but i change my mind alot, and i think that is very extra important for a professor?

    because those objections are based on a slippery slope of predicting a future consequence of a complicated world?

    this is just a claim “if I actually engage with this argument as opposed to shutting it down right now, someone in the future will be hurt.” but EVERYONE can make this claim, it’s a standard bad faith “play all the future odds your way” claim.

    Watch!

    if I believe that [whatever I happen to want] is a basic prerequisite for [something super general and also good], why should I deem as respectful in any way any scholarship that, in its opposition to mine, would shore up a culture that [generic description of things i don’t like about the culture]?

    if I believe that [full and honest communication between people] is a basic prerequisite for [society advancing to a golden age where ideas can be considered and the best ideas chosen no matter who speaks them] why should I deem as respectful in any way any scholarship that, in its opposition to mine, would [shore up a culture that supports judging people based on their racial and gender identity]?

    I would understand that the person who was angry at you was just making up the future to meet their needs. they don’t know what is good or bad, in most cases.

    I would understand that even if something might be likely to be generally bad it might be good in the short term or in little quantities, and I might not always know which is which.

    I would understand that even if what you said was wrong in the end, thinking about it it would make me know better what was not wrong.

    Anyone who thinks this would ignore you or dislike you, Richard. *I* would defend you against that ridiculous charge. But even though i think you are a good person and smart and interesting, i am not so sure you would do the same for me?

  60. 61
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    RJN, I’m doing my best, here. I’m nearly halfway through “Black Looks” now and plan on finishing it tonight. It’s short and mostly an easy read/listen. I think you might consider taking back your criticism since the book is actually a collection of essays, of which I had already read 2 by the time I posted, and I’m now half way through a 6th essay. These essays consist of a series of assertions based on the lived experience of Hooks mostly, but also some other people, including some scholars. I’ve encountered no evidence, data or otherwise in support of the arguments presented by hooks. If it wasn’t for the fact that her perspective is unique and interesting, I’d have already put it down.

    Unless things start to change over the next few essays, “Black Looks” is precisely the kind of scholarship that’s become under fire.

    What I will say is that her perspective changes the way I’d try to relate to others in much the same way that understanding my parent’s conservatism changes the way I talk to them about politics. I probably could stand to read more stuff like this as a way to understand what people think, regardless of whether I find her convincing. She’s proved to me that she sees the world differently than I do, but she hasn’t yet showed me how there is any utility in seeing the world as she does (I wonder if her perspective has negative utility). I see no reason to listen to her policy prescriptions (she has them). If “Black Looks” qualifies as academic now, good luck convincing people that academics needs more funding.

    I’ve been exposed to different ways of thinking in non-academic works. I think reading great fiction written by authors outside of my own culture serves this purpose much better than Hook’s writing. People should learn to enjoy opening their mind through reading those who think differently. I think it’s really important to know how people think, what causes them pain, and what brings them joy if I’m to act as a responsible moral agent. I think hook’s makes fines points about the way certain media makes people like her feel. I’m not out to destroy the Humanities. I am out to combat the humanities infringement on the discussion of what is, outside of human experience especially when what is often informs what ought. Academic discussions of what is should require careful discussion and methodology that’s been developed over the centuries to protect us from our own biases and steer us toward the unreachable ideal that is objectivity. This is the best way to understand what is by way of predictive validity, and it’s this predictive validity that allows us to use this knowledge and understand the consequences of our decision making.

  61. Jeffrey,

    Forgive my brevity. I’m on my phone. You still have not provided a single example from hooks’ text to illustrate your criticism. You ought at least live up to the standards to which you would hold others and provide evidence to substantiate your claims.

  62. 63
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    My criticism of Hooks isnt what she wrote, it’s what she didn’t include, so I’ll have to quote a lengthy excerpt to show a pattern of unsupported assertions. I’ll try to do it in the morning, it’ll take a bit because the PDF isnt the sort I can copy and paste from, but I do have an excerpt in mind.

  63. 64
    Michael says:

    @Richard Newman#50- Yes, it’s impossible to eliminate bias entirely from science but that’s the OBJECTIVE. In some situations, there simply is an objective reality. Newton’s formulation of the laws of motion might have been influenced by his male bias but if someone pushes you off a roof, you’re going to fall. The entire point of science is that you should get the same results no matter who does the experiment/ research. Trust me, you have no conception of the harm that can be done by people that reject a truth because it contradicts their preconceptions.

  64. 65
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman,

    I wasn’t cherry-picking. The work Labov was criticizing was recognized as authoritative in its time. In other words, it was only recognized as poor social science after its biases were revealed.

    Yes and one of the discussions we are having is whether some fields have a collective belief that they are doing good science, while they actually use/accept such poor methodologies that what they do is better described as either poor science or non-scientific.

    Where I disagree with you is that you seem to believe that nothing can be unbiased, so you argue that there is no possibility of having an objective methodology. Frankly, I think that this postmodern mindset is exactly the problem for some fields, where many seem to have given up on trying to be objectively correct.

    If the exact sciences had taken this mindset, they would have never become ‘exact’ in the first place. After all, alchemy was the precursor to chemistry (and Newton still worked a lot on alchemy). Astronomy was historically seen as a mere tool to allow people to do astrology. Aristotle examined nature by casual observation and reasoning, rather than controlled, quantitative experiments. So it’s not like the exact sciences have always been as good as they are now. They struggled and stumbled towards better methodologies, which is what I want the less exact sciences to strive for as well and not to reject as impossible.

    Jeffrey Gandee,

    I think that it is fine for the hypothesis to be politically motivated, as long as it is falsifiable and testable. The actual test should be done as objectively as possible, eliminating bias as much as possible (for example, double-blind medicine studies do this by blinding both the doctor and the patient). Then the interpretation of the results should be as objectively defensible as possible. Then other studies that reference the study should not misrepresent it as claiming more than it does.

    For example:
    1. The researcher’s ideology is that women get discriminated against by employers and he notices that official statistics show that women have lower wages.
    2. The researcher reduces that broad claim to a much more limited hypothesis: women get less pay for the same job performance.
    3. Problem: ‘job performance’ is not something that you can objectively measure, so this hypothesis is not testable.
    4. The researcher makes the hypothesis even more limited and flips it: The lower wages cannot be explained by women working fewer hours.
    5. The researcher does a statistical analysis of the correlation between work hours and pay & finds that this explains part, but not all of the gender wage gap.
    6. The scientifically defensible conclusion is now that lower wages are partially due to a gender difference in hours worked and that the rest of the gap is due to another cause or causes, which may be, but is not proven (or disproved) to be gendered wage discrimination by employers.
    7. Then the researcher participates in a march (in his spare time) with a sign that has a scientifically indefensible statement, like a claim that the gender wage gap that is not due to a work hours difference is due to gendered wage discrimination by employers.

    I’m fine with all of this, as long as the actual sciency bits are doing properly and people are not deceived by having unscientific claims be presented as being scientifically ‘proven.’

  65. 66
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    RJN,

    I’ll excerpt a portion of “Eating the Other,” an essay that makes up chapter 2 of “Black Looks.” Like other essays in this book, hooks lays down some theory, starts running with it, and then gets into a rocket ship and blasts into outerspace. I’m tempted to excerpt a portion from the end of the essay where the unsupported assertions are the weakest and most numerous (her ability to read the minds of young white jocks is truly astounding). Instead, I’ll start near the beginning when she begins spending less time setting up her arguments, and starts making them, it’ll be easier to understand that way. Keep in mind that my problem with this piece is that it’s not academic. It’s perfectly fine for Hooks to write non-academic works, but I imagine we’d both agree that the #1 most cited paper in economics shouldn’t be Atlas Shrugged, and that no one should look to Atlas Shrugged as a way to understand how economics works in the real world. I could quote this bit by bit, pointing out each unsupported assertion as they come, but I want do that. I don’t like that kind of critique- much like “youtube response videos,” it breaks up the piece being critiqued, destroying it’s flow. You should have no problem spotting all the assertions on your own.

    Let’s go to the last paragraph on page 23 (https://aboutabicycle.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/bell-hooks-black-looks-race-and-representation.pdf). Hooks has just finished describing a scene where she is walking behind a group of young white males who are blonde and appear to be jocks. She overhears them talking about their planned sexual conquests, specifically the races of the women they plan to fuck and how the perceive each racial conquest. Sorry to post such a long excerpt, but again, my point is to show you what’s not present, and that’s evidence for the many many assertions Hook’s is about to make (sorry about any typos, I got chrome to read the PDF, but it made some mistakes I’ve tried to correct. I may have missed some):

    To these young males and their buddies, fucking was a way to
    confront the Other, as well as a way to make themselves over, to leave
    behind white “innocence” and enter the world of “experience.” As is
    often the case in this society, they were confident that non-white people
    had more life experience, were more worldly, sensual, and sexual·
    because they were different. Getting a bit of the Other, in this case
    engaging in sexual encounters with non-white females, was considered
    a ritual of transcendence, a movement out into a world of difference
    24 BLACK LOOKS
    that would transform, an acceptable rite of passage. The direct objective
    was not simply to sexually possess the Other; it was to be changed in
    some way by the encounter. “Naturally,” the presence of the Other, the
    body of the Other, was seen as existing to serve the ends of white male
    desires. Writing about the way difference is recouped in the West in
    “The ‘Primitive’ Unconscious of Modem Art, or White Skin, Black
    Masks,” Hal Foster reminds readers that Picasso regarded the tribal
    objects he had acquired as “witnesses” rather than as “models.” Foster
    critiques this positioning of the Other, emphasizing that this recognition
    was “contingent upon instrumentality”: “In this way, through affinity
    and use, the primitive is sent up into the service of the Western tradition
    (which is then seen to have partly produced it).” A similar critique can
    be made of contemporary trends in inter-racial sexual desire and
    contact initiated by white males. They claim the body of the colored
    Other instrumentally, as unexplored terrain, a symbolic frontier that will
    be fertile ground for their reconstruction of the masculine norm, for
    asserting themselves as transgressive desiring subjects. They call upon
    the Other to be both witness and participant in this transformation.
    For white boys to openly discuss their desire for colored girls (or
    boys) publicly announces their break with a white supremacist past that
    would have such desire articulated only as taboo, as secret, as shame.
    They see their willingness to openly name their desire for the Other as
    affirmation of cultural plurality (its impact on sexual preference and
    choice). Unlike racist white men who historically violated the bodies
    of black women/women of color to assert their position as colonizer/conqueror,
    these young men see themselves as non-racists, who
    choose to transgress racial boundaries within the sexual realm not to
    dominate the Other, but rather so that they can be acted upon, so that
    they can be changed utterly. Not at all attuned to those aspects of their
    sexual fantasies that irrevocably link them to collective white racist
    domination, they believe their desire for contact represents a progressive
    change in white attitudes towards non-whites. They do not see
    themselves as perpetuating racism. To them the most potent indication
    of that change is the frank expression of longing, the open declaration
    of desire, the need to be intimate with dark Others. The point is to be
    changed by this convergence of pleasure and Otherness. One dares–
    acts–on the assumption that the exploration into the world of difference,
    into the body of the Other, will provide a greater, more intense
    pleasure than any that exists in the ordinary world of one’s familiar
    racial group. And even though the conviction is that the familiar world
    Eating the Other 25
    will remain intact even as one ventures outside it, the hope is that they
    will reenter that world no longer the same.

    I’m not here to debate whether any of this is true, that would be tedious. I’m just saying that Hooks’s methods aren’t a good way to learn about the world, they are only good for learning about Bell Hooks. This is mostly pure narrative. Some people may think I’ve chosen a particularly weak and unsupported section of the essay. I encourage those people to read the whole thing. It’s really short and its arguments get worse, not better

  66. 67
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    LimitsOfLanguage,

    Methodology crafted with the intent of creating political change is a problem, IMO. I think people can have their theory shaped by the politics, but when it comes time to evaluate that theory, it’s very important to leave our biases aside as best we can.

  67. Limits of Language:

    Where I disagree with you is that you seem to believe that nothing can be unbiased, so you argue that there is no possibility of having an objective methodology. Frankly, I think that this postmodern mindset is exactly the problem for some fields, where many seem to have given up on trying to be objectively correct… So it’s not like the exact sciences have always been as good as they are now. They struggled and stumbled towards better methodologies, which is what I want the less exact sciences to strive for as well and not to reject as impossible.

    First, that’s not what I believe, as long as we agree that objectivity is always contingent, that it is always possible we will discover something that reveals our previous stance not to have been objective in the way that we believed it to have been. If you want to argue that there is such a thing as “pure objectivity,” then we have a real disagreement. This discussion started in the context of talking about whether or not feminist research in particular—and as a representative of other, similar kinds of research—strived for the kinds of objectivity you find in the exact sciences. I think the conclusion to Reinharz’ book that Jeffrey linked to is instructive. One component of much feminist research, in any discipline, is often a challenge to existing epistemologies in science, which have been and often continue to be androcentric, privileging a very specific kind of objectivity. It is to be expected that this kind of challenge will be met with resistance of the sort that says, “But you are not following what has been the accepted way of creating knowledge in this particular discipline. Therefore your methodology is all wrong and your conclusions are not worth taking seriously.” Sometimes, no doubt, that resistance will be legitimate and necessary; other times, not so much; and other times, not at all. My problem with the way you and other are arguing is that you are painting all of feminist research (and similar kinds of research) with a broad brush that is rooted in political disagreements with feminism at least as much, if not more, than in any substantial critique of any particular bit of feminist research.

    (I know you have discussed research regarding women’s pay, but, frankly, I think your arguments there do in fact have more to do with a political investment in not acknowledging the pay gap than in the researchers methods. To wit:

    The paper is also very dogmatic about where this monetary valuation must come from, as it argues that: “One form the devaluation of traditionally female activities takes is the failure to treat child rearing as a public good and support those who do it with state payments.”

    This completely ignores that the traditional provider/child-rearing gender division has the husband earn money to support the wife and children. So by the logic of the paper, the woman is being valued by her partner, when he supports her. Yet the paper never concludes this, which I see as bias. Ignoring the benefits to women and costs to men of the traditional gender roles aligns with the common feminist assertion that the patriarchy greatly benefits men and harms women.

    Husbands do not pay their wives salaries commensurate with the time and labor that goes into childcare. Husbands of less means might support their wives, but they clearly do so at a lower level than husbands of more means; yet the labor of childcare remains the same. The issue at stake in whether or not child care should be paid labor is not whether or not a husband values his wife, but what the value of the work actually is. The former argument, your argument, is an argument rooted in and perpetuating of traditional gender roles; the latter argument is one that attempts to question those roles from a socioeconomic standpoint. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, but I think it is disingenuous to pretend that your analysis is based solely in an objective consideration of the researcher’s methods/reasoning/assumptions.)

    Also, regarding this, which you wrote in an earlier response to me:

    I would argue that harm was done to men and men were expected to accept harm, for the benefit of women, while the opposite is also true.

    I would argue that men have exerted power over women and that women have exerted power over men (although the latter often less formally).

    I would argue that the most logical conclusion was thus that men and women oppressed each other (often enabled by class or such).

    Then to achieve gender equality and to reduce oppression, both the harms to men and women & the ways in which men and women wield power (and how it interacts with class and such) must be addressed. I would argue that feminists often refuse to address one half of this equation, where this is often justified by the dogma that ‘men oppress women.’

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the first two statements you make here. I would argue, though, that the dynamic you describe exists within—is a feature and not a bug of—patriarchy and that the benefits of the system redound overwhelmingly to men as a class; and I would add that you need to have a class analysis in order fully understand how that dynamic works. But that is a much larger and more complex discussion than I have the resources or time to engage in right now.

    Jeffrey,

    I could quote this bit by bit, pointing out each unsupported assertion as they come, but I want do that. I don’t like that kind of critique- much like “youtube response videos,” it breaks up the piece being critiqued, destroying it’s flow. You should have no problem spotting all the assertions on your own.

    You’re dodging the question here. Of course I can find hooks’ assertions on my own, but you’re the one making the argument that they are an example of poor scholarship and that they are representative of trends within certain disciplines that you find troubling and even dangerous. Make the argument, then. I’m not going to do that work for you.

    Lurker23,

    this is just a claim “if I actually engage with this argument as opposed to shutting it down right now, someone in the future will be hurt.” but EVERYONE can make this claim, it’s a standard bad faith “play all the future odds your way” claim.

    While I am replying specifically to you here, I am actually replying to a theme I have seen in responses to me that because I asked why a woman who is a feminist scholar should deem respectful scholarship that perpetuates the oppression of women. Nowhere did I say that this woman—that feminists—should not engage with that scholarship; nowhere did I say they should shut it down out of hand (though there are arguments that I think it is reasonable to shut down that way); nowhere did I say that the only appropriate response is to deride the scholarship and the scholar, calling him her her sexist, misogynist, etc.; nowhere did I say that there might not be something worthwhile in that scholarship. All I asked was why that hypothetical woman should consider it respectful.

    I suspect the fact that people insist on reading what I wrote in that way says more about their own understanding of what my hypothetical woman might have at stake in that discussion than it does about me.

    ***

    Finally, as you can see from this comment, there are at least three different conversations—and I think I may have missed one or two—in which people have engaged with me. I simply do not have the time or resources to continue to engage back in a meaningful way. I will continue the conversation with Jeffrey about the bell hooks’ text because I am still waiting for him to make his argument so that I can respond more fully. The rest of you, please understand if I stop responding. It’s not because I am ignoring you.

  68. 69
    lurker23 says:

    whether or not feminist research in particular—and as a representative of other, similar kinds of research—strived for the kinds of objectivity you find in the exact sciences.

    no postmodern field can do that well?

    the goal of the “exact sciences” (nice term BTW) and people who think that way is to be “as objective as you can get with the science and knowledge that you have”. but that objective may change if you get new science and knowledge. and when i say ‘objective’ i also mean ‘real truth,’

    to put it another way, the “exact science” people are always trying to reach the goal of objective truth, because we think it is important and the best way to understand things even if we also know that we are not capable of being perfect.

    you seem to agree, when you say

    it is always possible we will discover something that reveals our previous stance not to have been objective in the way that we believed it to have been.

    BTW, in your response i see you switched from “postmodern” to “feminist” but I am not sure that they are the same thing at all. the hoax paper talked about postmodern things. not all feminist stuff is postmodern, at all!!

    but of course the whole point of postmodern is that you cannot claim to be objective, postmoderns also attack the idea that anything can be more or less objective than anything else. which also means they attack the idea that things can be more or less true than anything else.

    One component of much feminist research, in any discipline, is often a challenge to existing epistemologies in science, which have been and often continue to be androcentric, privileging a very specific kind of objectivity. It is to be expected that this kind of challenge will be met with resistance of the sort that says, “But you are not following what has been the accepted way of creating knowledge in this particular discipline. Therefore your methodology is all wrong and your conclusions are not worth taking seriously

    are they? how would anyone know?

    part of finding a new method is that you need to find a way to explain how it connects to reality. in other words you cannot just explain how it will work you need to explain how you can decide whether or not it works to talk about reality in an objective way, and how it works better or worse than other ways.

    but postmodern does not think that you CAN describe objective truth, so they do not care, and they do not think that you CAN be more or less objective, so they do not make the comparison.

    so for example, postmodern often has ‘autoethnography’ which in my view it bullshit, not because i think the people are lying but because the answer is “so what?” there is no proof, there is no false, there is no way to show that it is good or bad, it is not science.

    on the other hand you have some feminist stuff like the college rape papers which is real science for sure, maybe you agree or do not agree with the method or the conclusion but either way the people are trying to figure out objective truth, whether it turns out to be good science or bad science it is “exact science” and is not postmodern at all.

    and you have things like the implicit bias studies which are really interesting because they DO show certain effects but nobody manages to connect those differences to anything at all in reality, so they remain open questions until some people figure out what those differences actually mean in real life. again, those are science even if some of the claims are bad (like the people who claim they ‘prove’ bias in real life, they may but we do not know that yet.)

  69. 70
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    That bell hooks quote…. It isn’t scientific evidence, but I think it’s got some basis. There’s notion in movies that white people can learn a valuable lesson in loosening up from contact with black people.

    Also, it just occurred to me that more generally, the idea that losing one’s virginity is important and is a means of transformation, and it has *nothing* to do with the partner unless that partner is also a virgin.

    Bias and science: it’s very plausible that pushing categories of people out of science isn’t just bad for them, it limits the questions that get asked. This presumably applies more to biology than to physics.

    In Mother Nature, Sarah Hrdy says that male scientists studied mothering by putting a mother animal and child in a cage, supplying everything they needed, and observing the animals’ behaviors.

    This left out the complex behavior animals need in their lives of balancing their own needs and their young’s needs, not to mention cooperation between adult animals (mostly female, I think) to take care of each other’s young.

  70. 71
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    RJN,

    You’re dodging the question here. Of course I can find hooks’ assertions on my own, but you’re the one making the argument that they are an example of poor scholarship and that they are representative of trends within certain disciplines that you find troubling and even dangerous. Make the argument, then. I’m not going to do that work for you.

    That wasn’t a dodge. I truly despise that style of critique. Chopping up a written work like that makes it difficult to follow the logic… if there is any. It’s often unfair. I felt it necessary to post one long string of assertions to show that her use of unsupported claims is a pattern, otherwise people may assume the Hooks goes on to provide support for these assertions later.

    With the exception of a cited assertion concerning Picaso’s use of the word “witness,” rather than “model.” Every other assertion in that excerpt is unsupported, and it’s mostly assertions. I mean, it’s right there in front of you, if you read it you noticed. But if you insist, here’s Hooks inside the minds of a group of white jocks:

    As is often the case in this society, they were confident that non-white people had more life experience, were more worldly, sensual, and sexual·
    because they were different. Getting a bit of the Other, in this case
    engaging in sexual encounters with non-white females, was considered
    a ritual of transcendence, a movement out into a world of difference that would transform, an acceptable rite of passage. The direct objective
    was not simply to sexually possess the Other; it was to be changed in
    some way by the encounter.

    I consider these claims to be extraordinary, like, Russel’s Teapot extraordinary. Yet they are entirely unsupported. There is no evidence, logic, or empirical data to back this up- at least not cited within these pages. The reader is left to guess how she could possibly know this. I got marked down for less in high school. There would be red pen marks all over this.

    Imagine if in this very comment section I advanced claims such as these after overhearing my black or white blue-collar coworkers talk about their sexual conquests (and did they ever). Imagine if I delved into their minds like this, revealing to you their intentions as I saw them. I would never do this because I’m not a wizard, but if I did, you’d rightfully skewer me here. It would be even worse if went on to generalize my observations as she does, using them to explain the inner workings of men’s minds at a societal level. It would most likely be irresponsible. I would expect better of the most cited scholarly work on women in the last 10 years.

  71. 72
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Nancy Lebovitz

    That bell hooks quote…. It isn’t scientific evidence, but I think it’s got some basis.

    I’m not arguing that Eating the Other has no basis. I’m arguing that as presented, it shouldn’t be considered good scholarship. The internet is full of blog posts that have some basis, but I’m going to be distrustful of a scholarship that consists of bloggers citing each other.

  72. 73
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Lurker23

    …in other words you cannot just explain how it will work you need to explain how you can decide whether or not it works to talk about reality in an objective way, and how it works better or worse than other ways.

    I have a feeling you’ve identified the source of most of the disagreement here.

  73. 74
    lurker23 says:

    i think part of the problem is that SOME sort of guessing is actually normal and helpful. like, in hard sciences there are some people who just wonder ‘what if there are invisible strings everywhere connecting everything?’ or ‘what if there is a gravity particle’ or ‘what if plants can talk and think?’ or whatever.

    but in hard science, most of those people then spend their life trying to figure out a way to prove that they are right. there are a few people who make a lot of speculation but the field is not mostly just “stand on a box and tell everyone what you think is true”

    in postmodern this is backwards! i think people like bell hooks can be useful even if she is wrong just like stephen hawking can be useful when he speculates, even if he is wrong. sometimes i read things like bell hooks and they make me change my mind or make me try to think about things a different way, and that has value. not everything in life has to be science-y

    but problem in postmodern is that EVERYONE thinks they are bell hooks or stephen hawking and you cannot argue about why.

    science is good at accepting thing. like sometimes young people or poor people or people outside the university have been known to figure things out and people say “yahoo, now you figured it out!”

    but postmodern studies is more like art. if my 5 year old did abstract art which looked just like modern abstract art, nobody would like it or pay for it, because they are paying for the setup. you can try to convince an art critic thar your kid’s art is just like someone else’s splatter art, but they will not agree.

    with art and with postmodern it is just a bunch of people talking about what they think, and they will not accept anyone who disagrees because in their mind, one test for “truly understanding the field enough to have an opinion” is whether or not you agree.

    if you don’t think bell hooks is right, you you cannot disagree with bell hooks in a smart way until you understand it. but because bell hooks is right, if you disagree with bell hooks then you must not understand race, or bell hooks, or privilege.

    like a god in religion, a true postmodern does nothing wrong; neither god or them can be wrong, you just do not understand god or them well enough because if you did, you would agree that they were right.

    anyway i think it is good to have people who make things up they are interesting. but a whole field of people who make things up cannot claim to really be an academic field, i don’t think.

  74. 75
    Erin says:

    I think sociology and the like made more real contributions back when those types of majors didn’t try to be any more scientific than they really were and before the invasion of the left into all of the “soft” sciences. Some good observations can maybe be made about sociological topics without pretending to be the scientist that you aren’t.

    For some reason, they all want to be on a mathematical or at least statistical foundation today. Sometimes to the detriment of actually advancing the state of knowledge.

    The grievance studies kind of came about at the same time as the notion that everyone should go to college. Can’t figure out integral calculus or protein folding? Not a worry, you can write an essay about how stupid and privileged white men are … and … get a higher GPA than many of those dopes in molecular biology or quantum mechanics will have. Presto! Gender studies and African-American studies and queer theory.

  75. 76
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Lurker23,

    I agree that creative people who make guesses are instrumental to scholarship. Where I take issue with “Black Looks” is that Hooks isn’t acknowledging that what she does is guesswork.

    To use an example most people are familiar with, Einstein’s paper on Special Relativity (https://www.fourmilab.ch/etexts/einstein/specrel/www/)doesn’t make a whole bunch of yet-uncited assertions, instead, he asks his reader to follow along with him as he makes assumptions, starting sentences with “Let…” “We might… “If we…” “Imagine…” ultimately generating three equations and ending with this qualified sentence: “These three relationships are a complete expression for the laws according to which, by the theory here advanced, the electron must move.” He shows an awareness that he is advancing something new and untested, and acknowledges that it’s his job to make a case to his readers through a combination of evidence and deduction that his theory might be right.

    Hooks could present her case this way in “Black Looks,” but she doesn’t. Instead her guesses are presented as truth (as are the guesses of those scholars she cites), and if other scholars read them as truth, and use these “truths” in their own theories, bad scholarship will result.

  76. 77
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    a general point– there’s a tremendous amount available of people describing the subconscious motivations of large groups of other people who they don’t know and don’t like.

    I have a hard enough time understanding my own subconscious, and I’ve also found that once I come up with a theory of someone’s else’s bad motivation, it’s a tremendously sticky thought, and probably incompletely accurate even if there’s some truth in it.

  77. 78
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman,

    One component of much feminist research, in any discipline, is often a challenge to existing epistemologies in science, which have been and often continue to be androcentric, privileging a very specific kind of objectivity.

    When the proposed alternatives are extremely subjective and this subjectivity is not constantly made explicit and apologized for nor do I see attempts to eliminate that subjectivity, it seems to me that the desire is not to have an alternative kind of objectivity that is just as or more legitimate a way to get to the objective truth, but rather a desire to have less objectivity.

    It is to be expected that this kind of challenge will be met with resistance of the sort that says, “But you are not following what has been the accepted way of creating knowledge in this particular discipline.

    But scientific fields do have to be responsive to criticisms of their methodology. Arguing that ‘this is just how we do things,’ rather than ‘this way of doing things is legitimate because of A, B and C’ is unscientific.

    This is especially true when those disciplines are themselves using methodologies that are heterodox compared to traditional scientific fields that have proven themselves far more. The burden on gender studies is a lot higher than on physics, because physics has a much better track record. Yet nevertheless fields like string theory get a lot of criticism for their methodology, when they spend a lot of effort on creating theories without ever managing to make testable predictions.

    Sometimes, no doubt, that resistance will be legitimate and necessary; other times, not so much; and other times, not at all.

    Sure, but my experience is that resistance is often only considered legitimate and necessary if it is based on dogmatic (political) beliefs. Or in other words: ‘only people who largely agree with me can disagree with me.’ Such a stance merely allows resistance to details, not to the larger claims.

    My problem with the way you and other are arguing is that you are painting all of feminist research (and similar kinds of research) with a broad brush that is rooted in political disagreements with feminism at least as much, if not more, than in any substantial critique of any particular bit of feminist research.

    Ampersand gave a link to the most cited papers and books. I critiqued a highly cited paper. Jeffrey critiqued a highly cited book. Both the paper and the book got over 500 ‘upvotes’ aka cites, so if the paper and book are unscientific, that tells us something about those 500 papers that accepted an unscientific work as a source.

    Neither of us made critiques that are based on political disagreements, but rather, on methodological errors. I don’t know what more I/we can do. Obviously I cannot critique thousands of papers and books.

    I know you have discussed research regarding women’s pay, but, frankly, I think your arguments there do in fact have more to do with a political investment in not acknowledging the pay gap than in the researchers methods. To wit:

    I think that you fail to understand my argument, which is not about whether or not the claim in the paper is actually true or not, but whether the argument is logical. This is similar to finding a plot hole, which you can even do for fiction.

    The paper argues that women were devalued because the traditional female activity of child-rearing is not a public good and not paid for by the government. However, the paper also considers private sector paid labor to be ‘valuing’ as well, so the public good bit seems irrelevant and what they really argue is that unpaid labor is devaluing/harmful while paid labor values people and is beneficial.

    But that then leads to the logical question why men turning over part of the pay to their wife is not a payment for labor and thus valuing, within the argumentative framework of the paper?

    My point is not that the paper is very poor because it doesn’t reach a specific conclusion, but that it is poor because it doesn’t address this obvious rebuttal.

    Husbands do not pay their wives salaries commensurate with the time and labor that goes into childcare. Husbands of less means might support their wives, but they clearly do so at a lower level than husbands of more means; yet the labor of childcare remains the same. The issue at stake in whether or not child care should be paid labor is not whether or not a husband values his wife, but what the value of the work actually is.

    But RJN, you cannot do this! The paper has to stand on its own and has to make its own valid and comprehensive arguments for it to be a legitimate scientific paper. You cannot defend the quality of a paper by defending its claims with arguments that are not in the paper itself. The topic is not the quality of your or my arguments. It is the quality of the arguments in the paper.

    The former argument, your argument, is an argument rooted in and perpetuating of traditional gender roles

    You are mistaken. I never introduced a new argument. I introduced a fact and applied the same argument that the paper was already using, to this ignored fact, to show that the paper’s argument does not support the conclusion.

    Again, the argument in the paper is that a lack of compensation for labor is devaluing, while the existence of compensation is not. I merely pointed out the fact that compensation does exist for child-rearing under the traditional arrangement*, which is not something that you seem to dispute. Then by applying the argument of the paper, the providing men are valuing their wife’s child-rearing labor to some extent.

    Again, it is irrelevant whether or not this is my belief. If a traditionalist had written a paper arguing that the traditional arrangement values women because they get compensation for their child-rearing labor and that women who stay home are therefor more valued than women who work, I would have made the exact same kind of rebuttal, only then by pointing out that working women get compensation and thus are valued, by the logic of the traditionalist paper. Pointing out that flaw would no more demonstrate that I oppose patriarchy than pointing out the flaw in the feminist paper demonstrates that I support patriarchy.

    Science is not about being on the right team or being supportive to the right people. It’s about creating theories that result in correct and testable predictions. Scientific knowledge never tells you what you have to do, it merely tells you the consequence of your actions.

    Science cannot help you to choose your terminal values, it can merely help you figure out whether certain actions bring you closer or further away from realizing your values.

    * Wives could in fact sue husbands who refused to support them under common law, which you can see in the legal commentary by Blackstone that I referenced earlier.

  78. Here’s a pretty good summary explaining just how profoundly lurker23, Limits of Language, and (I think) Jeffrey Gandee misunderstand postmodernism. (The author is replying to a discussion that is linked to at the top of the page, but I am not sure you need to read that discussion to make sense of what the author has to say.)

    This does not mean that I think postmodernism cannot be critiqued, but if we’re going to have a discussion in which people want to critique it, we ought at least to be talking about what postmodernism actually is, not debating a version of it that people have constructed to serve their own rhetorical purposes.

  79. 80
    Harlequin says:

    Wow. Uh, can we not make “the exact sciences” a thing? What an inaccurate name.

    I would also caution against easy analogies to the physical (or life) sciences in this discussion. After all, what you’re talking about when you read, say, widely-cited papers from the last ten years in gender studies is cutting-edge research, from papers that are mostly experts talking to each other; when you make analogies to high-school-level or early-college-level physical science, there are a lot of important differences besides the fact that one thing is physical science and the other is gender studies. (Edit: This is true regardless of what you think of the quality of the research being produced–the stuff that goes in research papers and the stuff that goes in textbooks are obviously related, but they’re not the same.)

    The unknown unknowns are really a problem here, too. It’s easy to look at, say, a theoretical computer science paper and realize you don’t know the math or the jargon. Recognizing what context you don’t know can be harder when it’s the humanities, because they’re using words that are more similar to what we use on a daily basis. Which is not to say that you can’t read or understand those papers–just, when I look at (for example) the paper on pay that lurker is citing, I wonder what the standard in the field is for what “valuation” means. (I think of “valuation” as putting a cost on something, but “devaluation” meaning a more general decrease of any desired trait, and the author uses both.)

    Glancing through that paper, I also wonder if it is highly-cited not because of its hypothesized explanations, but because it collects a lot of measurements of women’s participation in the workforce over time into one place. There are a lot of reasons a paper can be highly cited–pretty sure we’ve had this discussion here before, actually…

  80. 81
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    RJN,

    Is Hooks’s work postmodernism? I don’t even know anymore. I’m tempted to abandon the label forever and just say “people who cite Foucault and/or Derrida all the time.” If Hooks is in that camp, she doesn’t make it obvious. Hooks mostly cites Hooks.

    I’m less interested in a debate about “postmodernism,” mostly because no one seems to agree on what is and isn’t postmodern thinking vs post-structuralist or whatever, so attacking the philosophy itself is firing on a moving target. I have no problem with those who want to critique the concept of objectivity. It’s obvious to me that it’s an unachievable ideal. I just disagree with anyone who thinks its utopian nature means that the pursuit of objectivity isn’t worthwhile. We need more tools to help us cope with our inability to be objective and get closer to that ideal even if we can’t reach it. What we don’t need are scholars urging us to abandon objectivity for… whatever the hell is going on now that makes that Dog Park paper sound like reasonable argumentation (and maybe Black Looks too, though I don’t really know how it’s fans might defend it).

    This conversation is about the quality of scholarship of Minority Studies. The Hooks piece I’ve linked to, the most cited piece on women over the last 10 years is bad. I thought it was interesting at first (though probably not an accurate map of humans and the world we live in), but 8 essays in and now I’m bored and annoyed. Not even post-modernism can justify her sloppy theorizing. Much more insightful and intelligent thinkers than her manage more epistemological humility on subjects where more certainty is justified.

    I keep imagining a red-pilled version of Bell Hooks- some white guy who, upon hearing a group of sorority girls joke about having “bad pickers,” theorizes on the sub-conscious urges of high status women on his journey toward comprehending the deep truths about women recorded by PUAs on reddit as they work to comprehending femininity on a societal level. It’s not hard to imagine because I’ve encountered these guys and I want none of them. The adoption of their worldview makes men stupider, and I’m starting to wonder if that’s the case with some of the scholarship in minority studies programs, and if that’s how experts in those fields can be spoofed by not only con artists, but also all the authors of the authentic absurd papers chronicled at RealPeerReview. It takes a rigid adherence to ideology to accept the absurd.

  81. 82
    desipis says:

    From RJN’s postmodernism link:

    Specifically, it argues that the degree to which society accepts an individual’s claim of objectivity is directly proportional to that individual’s structural power. This view sees knowledge and power as unavoidably connected.

    That might be an accurate reflection of social epistemology works in the humanities, but it’s fundamentally inaccurate when it comes to the more tangible sciences. Which is probably why many of those in the science world find postmodernism so utterly preposterous; it’s founded on an epistemology that is directly contradicted by their own personal experience.

  82. 83
    lurker23 says:

    i think that article on postmodernism is not accurate about how it really works, just like the articles on communism are not accurate about how it really works.

    like it maybe in theory is supposed to be a way to sometimes think about new things when reaching conclusions so we can be more objective, or so we can understand limits of objective. but actually it is just a bunch of people who spend all their time speaking nonsense to each other while nodding in agreement.

    the only way they convince each other looks like they use terms which are incredibly general and which cannot be realistically translated for ordinary people who have not agreed to use the postmodern language and who do not believe in postmodern. so they use an incredibly high amount of words and language to make things more complex and say very little which has actual fixed meaning, while speaking very much.

    if a postmodern person says “it is warm today”
    and i ask “what do you mean when you say warm?”

    if they followed your article they would say something like “it is 72 degrees, which I perceive as a comfortable temperature, although i concede that it may fell different to you”

    but these days they will say something like “it has to be viewed in context, because by warm i do not mean the thing which we all call heat, or the thing which we sometimes call cold, because those things are different. and even in the antarctic it can be warm and there are or could be or will be things which may in some way which we do not yet understand consider it even hot. by which i do not mean that it IS hot, or IS that thing which i may call hot, and yet why do we even use the word “warm” anyway?”

    postmoderns do not like at all to define things and use a lot of words which often dance around what they are trying to say, and use “it is not this” and “i am not saying that” as a way to avoid specificying what it IS and what they ARE saying. you do that too a lot, but OTOH when you are writing about your super expertise area of persian literature that changes and you do not do that anymore.

    that is why postmoderns are always so sure of themselves. it is very easy to claim to state things accurately when they do not have any specific meaning for your terms and when they do not believe it is necessary for their terms and language to be internally consistent across their own speaking much less across their academic discipline

    this is also how religion works. almost all religions say a lot of things which are very squishy and mean nothing/anything like “you must see the one in all things and by doing so open yourself to the cosmos” and it seems like bullshit to anyone who is not a member of that religion.

    but science is a language which lives by definitions, even as the definitions change though as we learn more. that is why this postmodern stuff is not science. it cannot be translated to people who are not postmodern.

  83. Jeffrey,

    I’m less interested in a debate about “postmodernism,” mostly because no one seems to agree on what is and isn’t postmodern thinking vs post-structuralist or whatever, so attacking the philosophy itself is firing on a moving target.

    Fair enough, except that the last part of this sentence is more a demonstration of your ignorance about this subject than it is a true assertion about what people who actually know what they’re talking about agree or disagree on when it comes to structuralism, post-structuralism, post-modernism, etc. But, on to the conversation at hand: bell hooks’ book. I have been thinking a lot about how to respond to the post in which you provided the quote from hooks because there appears to me to be, beneath your critique, a kind arrogance that I don’t want to attribute to you personally and directly, since I don’t know you personally, but that seems evident to me in what you write.

    So, if I understand what you have told us about yourself in relation to Women’s/Gender Studies as a field, you are someone with a self-confessed limited exposure to it, and you are also someone who has a bit of a chip on his shoulder when it comes to methodologies and pedagogies in Women’s/Gender Studies because of a negative experience you had in a single class when you were a nineteen-year-old undergraduate. It may be that you have more exposure to Critical Race Theory (CRT), which you have referred to in passing in at least a few of your posts, but nothing you have posted, in my memory and in the brief survey of your posts that I just did, actually deals specifically, substantively, with what CRT actually is or with any of the claims it makes, and I am going to assume, since CRT emerged specifically from legal scholarship, that your exposure to much of what has been written elsewhere in Africana Studies, Ethnic Studies, etc. is on par with your exposure to Women’s and Gender Studies. In addition, you have continually expressed your preference for the methodologies traditionally associated with the physical or life science over what you understand the methodologies of what I will broadly call cultural studies (to incorporate Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, etc.) to be. (And thank you, Harlequin, for that corrective about the term “exact sciences.” I had meant to put it in quotes and note it as a problem when I used it, but I got lost in the argument I was trying to make and that point got lost.)

    All of the above—in addition to the fact that you’re smart, a generally perceptive reader, a pretty sophisticated writer, and a good and tenacious advocate for your positions—is a summary of the relevant-to-this-discussion parts of what I think I know about you from what you’ve written on this blog. In this context, you have chosen to critique a book by bell hooks that was, very clearly and explicitly, if you read the introduction, not written with you (or me, frankly) in mind as the primary audience. Her use of the first person plural throughout the introduction makes it quite plain that she intends the book for a Black audience. More to the point, it’s also clear from the introduction that she intends the book for people who already have a fair amount of knowledge and experience within the disciplines that intersect in what she’s writing.

    In other words, Black Looks is not “Race and Representation 101” (In the way that people used to refer to Feminism 101 on this and other blogs.) Indeed, what hooks says, even in the brief passage you quoted, depends is rooted in a vast literature on gender, race and representation—not to mention on the sexualization and exoticization of Black women in the white (male) imagination (in regards to the passage you quoted). A small window into this literature is provided by hooks’ Selected Bibliography. As I read through your critique and your continued assertions that her work is just “bad,” I found myself wondering how many of those books or articles you have read—I’ve read some; I am familiar with others—not to mention whether you have read anything from the much wider expanse of such literature that is out there.

    You are, of course, correct that she doesn’t cite her sources and that she doesn’t provide the kind of context for her assertions that she might have provided if she were writing for an audience unfamiliar with her perspective, with pre-existing scholarship in the field, and so on, but since that’s not whom she was writing for, why should she? Approaching this book from a position such as yours, and responding to it in the way that you have, is a little bit like my opening a book on evolution that was written for other evolutionary scientists and complaining that that the author did not explain, source, prove, for me, everything about evolution that he or she could take for granted that the intended audience already knew. To put that a little more strongly, you have not in what you have written in your response to hooks, and of the fields she represents, showed even half the epistemological humility that you claim she lacks.

    For that reason, it’s really hard for me to see in your critique much that is worth engaging with beyond what I have said here. The only thing I would do is underline a point Harlequin made, which is that a citation is not the same thing as an “upvote,” which I think is something Limits of Language said. There are any number of reasons people cite a book or an article, including to disagree with them. All we know about the number of times hook’s book was cited is that people thought it was worth paying attention to and, given how well-known she is in the field, that is not surprising. (NB: I actually assigned one of hooks’ books in a writing seminar I taught and spent a great deal of time persuading my students that it was very badly written—I am not a particular fan of her writing style or of the ways she often makes her arguments (though I still often agree with what she says)—and that they didn’t have to assume the book was well-written just because it had been published.)

  84. In response to desipis’ cherry-picking, this is also from the link I provided:

    First, postmodernism (and epistemology generally) distinguishes between subjective truths and objective truths. The former are statements about one’s individual experience of the world, while the latter comprise propositions supported either inductively or deductively.

    For example, the colour red contains both objective and subjective truths. Objectively, ‘red’ is the term given to light in the visible spectrum with wavelengths around 650 nm. However, seeing the colour is a subjective experience that happens within the brain of each observer. Thus, my experience of seeing red need not be identical to yours.

    [P]ostmodernism stresses the distinction between objectivity of facts, versus objectivity of knowledge or people. It accepts the possible existence of facts outside human context, but argues that all knowledge is mediated by an individual and that the experiences, biases, beliefs, and identity of that individual necessarily influence how they mediate any knowledge.

    Even in the physical and life sciences, knowledge is not the same thing as fact; knowledge is constructed from facts; and that construction is subject to the exigencies of human subjectivity no differently than it is in the humanities or social sciences. Just look at the ways ostensibly objective scientific knowledge was used in the past to support the notion that “biology is destiny” when it came to women’s reproductive lives. We have, obviously, in some ways corrected that narrative, but the fact of that correction doesn’t mean our own scientific narratives do not have their own hidden subjectivities that are waiting to be uncovered.

    And with this, I am truly done. I have too much work to do to keep commenting.

  85. 86
    Erin says:

    lurker23 sez:

    like it maybe in theory is supposed to be a way to sometimes think about new things when reaching conclusions so we can be more objective, or so we can understand limits of objective. but actually it is just a bunch of people who spend all their time speaking nonsense to each other while nodding in agreement.

    the only way they convince each other looks like they use terms which are incredibly general and which cannot be realistically translated for ordinary people who have not agreed to use the postmodern language and who do not believe in postmodern. so they use an incredibly high amount of words and language to make things more complex and say very little which has actual fixed meaning, while speaking very much.

    Perceptively, and also in an epistemological and ontological sense, postmodernism probes and inquests – without explicitly delving into – the outer boundaries of essence – the big game if you will – without having to be tied to a hegemonic, heteronormative or tradition-bound context. As Richard Rorty, during his groundbreaking work at Princeton in the 1960s expressed it, the idea of knowledge is a “mirror of nature” and scientific and philosophical methods merely form a contingent set of “vocabularies” which people abandon or adopt over time according to social conventions and usefulness. The interpretation of culture as conversation constitutes the crucial concept of a postphilosophical culture determined to abandon representationalist accounts of traditional epistemology. I often express to my students and other inferiors that revolution without rotation simply constitutes a spinning of one’s wheels – neglectful of the difference in discernment, acumen and sagacity incumbent upon me as an entity on the instant globe in the role of information-conveyor and facilitator. It is one of my major precepts that information conveyance must be secondary to the fait accompli that inferiors are to be presented with – “made conscious” of, if such a construction furthers the construct, which I believe it does – tangible attestation of the intellectual superiority of the ego center, the “I” if you will. Wordsmithing based on this principle is sometimes at conflict with the presentation of factual or precept-based didactic – even dyadic in the context of more rigorous, almost algebraic statements, if I may – as the abalienation of personal superiority is of preeminence.

  86. 87
    lurker23 says:

    (bell hooks) use of the first person plural throughout the introduction makes it quite plain that she intends the book for a Black audience. More to the point, it’s also clear from the introduction that she intends the book for people who already have a fair amount of knowledge and experience within the disciplines that intersect in what she’s writing.

    because this kind of writing only makes sense if you agree with what it says (or fails to say) before you start reading it.

    good talk is talk which you can understand. you KNOW this, because you do it in your threads on translations! i have read those. if someone asks why did you translate this as “person” instead of “shepherd” in that line? you do not say “well if you don’t understand why i used that word then you don’t understand enough about petry to understand my explanation”!

    instead you will and do answer, and then they agree or not but your answer and reasoning is clear. even if your answer is “there is no specific reason but i thought it just felt right” or “i don’t remember” that is still honest and clear.

    bell hooks and postmoderns do not do that, the ideas that they try to say they have are always floating around and you cannot ever stop them moving long enough to see where the edges are. so they cannot really be understood. if you press them they may say things are very complex and intertwined and loopy. which is okay, but if they are so complex then maybe the theory you have is not so very accurate–no, they say, they are totally right but cannot explain why you just sort of have to believe it.

    ERIN, I do not know for sure what you are saying though i think that is a joke? If so it is very funny.

  87. 88
    elissa says:

    Below is an interesting and relevant entry from Scott at SSC –

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/01/24/conflict-vs-mistake/

  88. 89
    desipis says:

    RJN:

    Even in the physical and life sciences, knowledge is not the same thing as fact; knowledge is constructed from facts; and that construction is subject to the exigencies of human subjectivity no differently than it is in the humanities or social sciences.

    The impact of human subjectivity is very different between the sciences and other groups. One of the great impacts of the enlightenment is the way science communities have adopted an allegiance to empiricism over an allegiance to popularism, tradition or authority. This resulted in a social epistemology that leveraged reality to mediate human subjectivity in a way not possible in other disciplines, and of course the subsequent explosion in human knowledge. The process of constructing narratives from evidence, whether at the subconscious, conscious or communal level, will be very different when those narratives are subject to immediate rebuke through further evidence.

  89. 90
    Kate says:

    lurker @ 83

    this is also how religion works. almost all religions say a lot of things which are very squishy and mean nothing/anything like “you must see the one in all things and by doing so open yourself to the cosmos” and it seems like bullshit to anyone who is not a member of that religion.

    lurker @87

    because this kind of writing only makes sense if you agree with what it says (or fails to say) before you start reading it.

    ALL fields have agreed upon sets of beliefs which everyone must accept before going on to more complex topics. If you won’t accept their presuppositions, at least for the sake of argument, nothing built upon them is going to make sense. To really understand a field, you need to at least temporarily buy into it and try to understand it on its own terms.
    When I was younger, I would look at First Things and complain that all these Catholic theologians are taking certain premises for granted. But, of course they are – combined they are the premises of Natural Law – it is their foundation! I don’t agree with the premises of Natural Law, but I recognize that if you accept them, debates within that framework are logical. Our disagreements are on more fundamental levels than the debates on issues like birth control, and female priests. It makes no sense for us to debate those issues. We don’t have a common foundation to discuss them from. Our differences lie further down the decision tree.
    Now, I could tell them why I disagree with Natural Law. However, I’m not under the illusion that they’ve been living in a bubble, have never before heard such arguments and if they don’t fold under the crushing grip of my reason then they JUST have a political agenda. We have fundamentally different values, out of which our political agendas grow.
    For the same reason, it makes no sense for us to discuss cultural studies scholarship here. Our disagreements lie further down the decision tree. How much further down, I’m not sure.

  90. 91
    Kate says:

    The article LimitsofLanguage linked to @48 M. Straus, “Thirty Years of Denying the Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence: Implications for Prevention and Treatment.” , might provide such a platform.
    This is an issue which is still the subject of debate, but I don’t think there is any need to get into that debate. This is a good article, written in good faith.
    But LimitsofLanguage failed to note some very significant asymmetries, which according to the scholarship I’ve looked at EVERYONE acknowledges:

    Attacks by men cause more injury (both physical and psychological), more deaths, and more fear. In addition, women are more often economically trapped in a violent relationship than men…” p. 336

    If I were to lose my mind and violently attack my husband, I might, if I surprised him and was very lucky, get in one punch and bruise him before he could peacefully restrain me.
    If my husband were to lose his mind and violently attack me, I would be helpless. He could kill me.
    This is the reality in most (NOT ALL) heterosexual relationships. So, when we’re talking about relationships in which both partners are physically violent, the consequences are not the same for both. Women are twice as likely to end up dead. That is an oppressive system. Acknowledging that need not silence male survivors of domestic violence.

  91. 92
    Erin says:

    Kate sez:

    If I were to lose my mind and violently attack my husband, I might, if I surprised him and was very lucky, get in one punch and bruise him before he could peacefully restrain me.
    If my husband were to lose his mind and violently attack me, I would be helpless. He could kill me.

    Well, there are things called “weapons”, Kate. Jodi Arias could sing a song about weapons. The human animal is also capable of planning and executing on plans. Playing the victim is cool, I guess, but you know full well that you could do a bit more damage than “get in one punch and bruise him before he could peacefully restrain me.” I mean, doesn’t he ever sleep?

    Not to be too direct about it.

  92. 93
    J Squid says:

    Well, there are things called “weapons”, Kate.

    Yes, indeed. Because Kate should absolutely plan and live every moment of her life as if her husband could lose his mind and violently attack her at any time. What weapon do you suggest concealing in the shower so that it’s easily accessible, yet hidden from her husband’s view?

  93. 94
    Kate says:

    “Playing the victim” is a nasty phrase – it implies that people alleging abuse are faking it for fun (or to look “cool”). I think you owe me, and all victims of abuse reading this thread, an apology.
    Aside from that, your objections ignore my framing. I’m talking about the assymetrical results of symmetical levels of violence. Punch for punch. One punch from me would do almost nothing to my husband. One punch from him could kill me. That’s not “playing the victim”, its reality.
    In theory, weapons could level the playing field for women. But, in fact, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Having a gun in the house actually makes it more likely that a woman will be killed by her partner, not less.
    That’s probably because, although we are capable of planning and executing plans, domestic violence incidents are usually not premeditated. They tend to be crimes of passion. If two people are fighting, and both know where the weapons are, the stronger party is more likely to get and maintain control of the weapon.

  94. 95
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman,

    Your claim is that there is other scientific literature which supposedly makes bell hooks’ writing/claims scientifically valid. However, this fundamentally misunderstands that a paper does not become scientifically valid because its claims matches other scientific literature, but because it follows scientific standards. The standard in scientific writing is that if one presents a claim based on other scientific publications, one needs to actually reference those publications so people can see where the claim comes from. Without those references, it becomes impossible to know what the writer actually bases their claims on, so the claims become unverifiable (and thus unscientific). The burden of proof in science is on those who make a claim. Hooks makes many (and very far reaching) claims without referencing a publication that offers evidence for her claim and neither does she present solid evidence herself. So we are left with bare assertions, which is unscientific.

    Furthermore, bell hooks makes specific claims about the motivations of a group of ‘white, jock type boys.’ She never actually reproduces what they say, but instead, gives an interpretation of what they say, which makes her narrative unreliable from the off, as we cannot assume that her interpretation is objective and we cannot verify it, because she doesn’t present the raw data (= what the boys actually said).

    When I read her narrative, I notice that her description of what the boys said is perfectly compatible with them being motivated by a desired to have have a lot of sex, preferably with women of different ethnicities for the sake of variety. I see no evidence in hooks’ description of what the boys said for most of her claims. Hooks argues that the boys preferred Asian girls and deemed them easier to entice. However, she never seems to consider that these may be linked, where the boys preferred to try to seduce Asian girls because they are easier to get into bed. Instead, she presents a very weird theory about white people believing that non-white people have more life experience and those white people seeking to get life experience from non-white women by having sex with them (is life experience sexually transmitted?!). When I read this passage, I see someone interpreting their experiences with an single narrative that they are already convinced is true and not being open to alternative explanations and/or their narrative being incorrect.

    A scientific approach would be to consider different theories that match the observations and then do proper studies to see which theory is more plausible. For example, one could survey non-white male students about whether they want to have sex with white women because of their race. If not, this provides a little bit of support for hooks’ theory. If so, this provides some evidence that her theory may be wrong. Another study that one could do would be to ask (white male) students to rank the ‘life experience’ of different ethnicities to see whether this matches her claim that (most) white people think that non-white people have more life experience than white people. One can survey (white male) students about their motivations to have promiscuous sex, making them rate the importance of various potential reasons (like ‘sex feels good,’ ‘gaining life experience,’ ‘having different experiences,’ etc). Yet hooks does not seem interested in testing her theory in a scientific way.

    Your claim that bell hooks’ book is supposedly for a black audience and for people who already know the literature seems like an admission that the book doesn’t provide objective evidence for its claims. If only (some) black people can interpret the book as intended (presumably by using their life experiences as ‘evidence’), then it is not objective writing and thus not science. Furthermore, hooks writes about the mental state of white people, which black people cannot experience first hand. How can black people who read the book know what white people are thinking? Is the book then not appealing to (or creating) stereotypes about white people?

    The only thing I would do is underline a point Harlequin made, which is that a citation is not the same thing as an “upvote,” which I think is something Limits of Language said. There are any number of reasons people cite a book or an article, including to disagree with them.

    An ‘upvote’ is not the same as a statement of agreement. I’ve upvoted things that I disagree with, but believe worthy of being read/discussed. In science, citations are commonly taken as a measure of how influential/important a publication is to the field.

    My argument is not that gender studies is a highly unscientific field because others agree with bad science like the publications of hooks and England (the writer of the paper I critiqued). My claim is that the field is poor due to these very publications being very influential, rather than being mostly ignored. It does not take 500 citations to debunk a publication with such major flaws. Such a large number of cites of extremely flawed publications shows that the field is expending a lot of effort on debating extremely flawed papers, which logically means that they are not spending that effort on debating good science.

  95. 96
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Kate,

    But LimitsofLanguage failed to note some very significant asymmetries, which according to the scholarship I’ve looked at EVERYONE acknowledges:

    I referenced the paper to argue that certain scientific findings are being suppressed, seemingly with the goal to hide counter-evidence to a very common feminist narrative (that (only) men are encultured to use violence). So of course I didn’t note the scholarship that people (mostly*) agree on, because that was rather irrelevant to the point I was making. I never argued that women are not greater victims than men**, but rather that men are not more likely to perpetrate than women. The distinction between men causing more harm because they are more often violent vs them causing more harm because they are stronger, is important.

    The traditional narrative harms (at least) the following groups:
    – Men who are weaker than their partner
    – Children
    – Men who want to protect their children from an abusive partner
    – Men who suffer major psychological harm, but not severe physical harm from partner abuse
    – Women who need psychological care for being violent
    – Lesbians (and their children)
    – Gays

    Men who are weaker than their partner are harmed because people assume that women rarely abuse, so these people often feel like lonely exceptions, especially since the media doesn’t pay much attention to them. They are often not taken seriously or offered aid. I’ve seen some abused men recount going to an organization that provides aid to victims (with government subsidy), only to be placed in a group of male abusers and asked to admit to being a perpetrator. Imagine being raped, trying to get aid and being placed in a group with rapists and being asked to admit to being a rapist. It’s horrible beyond words to place victims with perpetrators and to gaslight them by demanding they see themselves as perpetrators. This (further) abuse is enabled by this false narrative.

    Children are harmed because people are less likely to suspect the mother than is reasonable given the actual statistics. So this most likely means that it takes longer for abusive mothers to be identified and that allegations of child abuse by a father against the mother (for example in divorce cases) don’t get taken seriously enough.

    Men who want to protect their children from an abusive partner are harmed because they may (accurately) fear that if they leave the partner, the authorities won’t keep the children safe from their partner. I’ve seen multiple men argue that they stayed with an abusive partner so they could reduce the harm to their children, by redirecting the violence to themselves.

    Men who suffer major psychological harm, but not severe physical harm from partner abuse are harmed for mostly the same reasons as men who are weaker than their partner.

    Women who need psychological care for being violent are harmed for pretty much the opposite reason as men who are weaker than their partner. Where those men may be treated as perpetrators and thus withheld support suitable for victims, violent women seem to regularly be treated as victims and withheld appropriate treatment for perpetrators. Perpetrators often seem to have psychological issues and treatment that ends or reduces the violence not only helps their victims, but presumably also makes the perpetrators have a better life.

    Lesbians are harmed because the common narrative logically leads to the conclusion that lesbians should rarely be perpetrators or victims, because no man is present in the relationship and women lack the enculturation that leads to violence. However, victim surveys actually show that domestic violence is more common for lesbians than for heteros and gays. So lesbians then most likely experience the same problems as other groups who are not assumed to commonly be victims or perpetrators, as described earlier. If they have children and abuse them, those children may also be harmed because people may refuse to believe that a lesbian can harm children.

    Gays are harmed because the common narrative logically leads to the conclusion that gay relationships should have twice the number of perpetrators compared to hetero relationships, because gay relationships have two men who are supposedly encultured to be violent. Victim surveys actually show that this is not the case and that gay relationships are the least violent. The false belief that gays are violent can lead to opposition to gays, gay marriage, gays adopting kids, etc. In general, it seems to be a fairly common belief among (right-wing) traditionalists that men are naturally prone to bad behavior and should be made to behave by (having them seeking the approval of) a female partner. Such a belief encourages people to harm gays, by trying to force them to live as a hetero or by treating them as bad people (including by beating them up).

    I don’t believe that recognizing that men are not more prone to commit domestic violence than women, but that they are stronger and thus (can) do more physical harm, will prevent people from trying to reduce the physical harm to women. I certainly support doing so. I merely want the same for men (and children) who suffer serious physical harm at the hands of women. I also want more recognition of psychological abuses and how it can be perpetrated by physically weaker people against stronger people.

    Women are twice as likely to end up dead. That is an oppressive system.

    Men being stronger than women for biological and cultural reasons is not a ‘system.’ By calling it a system you are strongly implying that there is an intentional and/or coordinated effort to cause harm to women and/or that this is something that is relatively arbitrary and can reasonable be changed. However, there is nothing intentional or arbitrary about men having way more testosterone than women. We cannot reasonable remove testosterone from men to make them weaker or give it to women to make them stronger.

    I also want to point out that by your logic, the worse outcomes that happen to men due to biological and cultural reasons should then also be considered to be due to an “oppressive system.” For example, the lower life expectancy of men. Is that something that you believe?

    * I do strongly suspect that the hospital and police records undercount the number of men who experience severe physical abuse. Firstly because there is a strong taboo on men ‘letting’ themselves be harmed by women, so men are probably more likely to refuse to seek help or admit that their injuries came from their partner. Secondly, men are encultured to be stoic in general, so men go to the police and hospital less in general, creating a greater disparity between victimization and reporting than for women.

    ** Although I need to point out that death and physical pain is not the only harmful consequence of domestic violence. It also causes psychological suffering, so a person who experiences abuse that does not require medical aid, can still suffer severe psychological consequences. Given that victim surveys show that women more often (one-directionally) abuse men than vice versa, it seems possible that women more often cause psychological harm to men through domestic violence, but that men more often cause severe physical harm to women (due to the disparity in strength).

  96. 97
    Erin says:

    J Squid queries:

    What weapon do you suggest concealing in the shower so that it’s easily accessible, yet hidden from her husband’s view?

    https://www.everydaynodaysoff.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/SHOWERGUN_2.jpg

    or

    https://1.bp.blogspot.com/_-kZfLgIo2Nk/R4m_rn0C2II/AAAAAAAAABI/q5ALn7IDjp4/s400/Cookie+Shower+Gun.png

    Just kind of kidding. But to J Squid and Kate: My post was simply a rebuttal to Kate’s statement that, while her husband could easily kill her, the maximum she could do to him is maybe cause a light bruise. That’s just absolutely not true. It’s also – in general – projecting a world view that I don’t really like.

    With regard to the shower, it’s coincidental that I mentioned Jodi Arias in my post, because that’s where she may have started killing her ex-boyfriend Travis, probably with a knife. She caused a bit more damage than a light bruise before he could peacefully restrain her.

  97. 98
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    LimitsofLanguage: You said your list wasn’t complete, and here’s one more category of men which could be added– men who have strong inhibitions against using force against women.

  98. 99
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    RJN,

    I see how my criticism of “Black Looks” reads as arrogant, but writing it, I was feeling disgusted.

    I do think the essay I’m quoting is written for people who are familiar with a larger body of scholarship who “know” things I don’t. I just don’t think that these people “know” these things in the same way a biologist understands “genetic drift.” I think they know these things in the same way a misogynist redditor on a PUA sub knows how a woman’s mind works. I don’t believe there to be a rigorous research that justifies the claims made in “Eating the either,” instead, I suspect their to be a bunch of uncareful unscholarly work propped up by a poor epistemology. I do not think there is a body of work that justifices Hooks’s excersizes in mind reading. Perhaps you should ask yourself whether or not it is Hooks who is arrogant. She’s the one making the extraordinary claims. I’m just asking her and her fans to reconsider her certainty while laying down her theory, and provide the same rigor I’d expect to see in a text on evolution.

  99. 100
    Kate says:

    I also want to point out that by your logic, the worse outcomes that happen to men due to biological and cultural reasons should then also be considered to be due to an “oppressive system.” For example, the lower life expectancy of men. Is that something that you believe?

    Absolutely!! The flip side of having greater social power is the stress of maintaining those positions. Fighting to maintain dominance is one thing that makes mens lives shorter than women’s. That’s a major component of the concept of “toxic masculinity”. Jobs which are more dangerous than they need to be – like coal mining and logging – are also things that are really change-worthy. I wish that men like you would focus more on issues like those, and less on trying to tear feminists apart.

    I never argued that women are not greater victims than men

    Yes, actually, you did.

    You said @48

    The feminist claim that men oppress women depends for its existence on silencing men who suffer abuse at the hands of women, to make them feel like exceptions, to deny them social support, to deny them social services, to deny them justice, etc.

    And @ 55

    I would argue that men have exerted power over women and that women have exerted power over men (although the latter often less formally).
    I would argue that the most logical conclusion was thus that men and women oppressed each other (often enabled by class or such).

    [Edited for clarity – below is a third point I’m addressing]

    Although I need to point out that death and physical pain is not the only harmful consequence of domestic violence. It also causes psychological suffering, so a person who experiences abuse that does not require medical aid, can still suffer severe psychological consequences. Given that victim surveys show that women more often (one-directionally) abuse men than vice versa, it seems possible that women more often cause psychological harm to men through domestic violence, but that men more often cause severe physical harm to women (due to the disparity in strength).

    Not according to the article you linked to. As I quoted @91.

    Attacks by men cause more injury (both physical and psychological), more deaths, and more fear. In addition, women are more often economically trapped in a violent relationship than men…” p. 336

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