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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Why Do We Let Them?

Or take that horrible woman from Duke Divinity I linked to yesterday. It’s clear from her comment that she doesn’t give a fuck about diversity. All she wants is an opportunity to hound and bully somebody. Or take the people who are gleefully hounding Tuvel for publishing a scholarly article they don’t like. They simply enjoy her pain, that’s all. 

There are people like that in every society but the rest of us choose whether to tolerate them or shut them down. During Stalinism, crowds of such eager bullies adopted the rhetoric of the proletarian revolution to persecute and destroy people they didn’t like. Nobody could stop them because they had the world’s most powerful repressive apparatus on their side. 

What’s wrong with us, though? Why do we put up with this shit? If normal people – who are an enormous majority- started telling such bullies “What you are doing is horrible. I won’t speak to you or be in the same room with you until you stop”, the bullies would soon fold. Only a total sociopath can tolerate social exclusion, and they are not sociopath. They are simply bad people. And we have bought into the neoliberal alienation to the extent that we don’t see it as our collective responsibility to school bad people into good behavior. 

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11 thoughts on “Why Do We Let Them?

  1. JProf on said:

    Well said! By the way, regarding the Tuvel controversy, it’s interesting to point out that a book with a similar argument to hers was recently published by Princeton UP. The title of the book is Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities. Link: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10800.html

    The good news, I think, is that people are fighting back against the Tuvel “witch hunt” in the media.

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  2. AcademicLurker on said:

    I’ve been following l’affaire Tuvel with morbid fascination for the last few days. As an editor of an academic journal myself, I found the behavior of the associate editors to be just breathtakingly unprofessional. Even more so now that it’s been revealed that they acted without even informing the editor in chief of what they were doing.

    These social media mobs are just another manifestation of the free floating Sadism that’s such an ugly feature of American society lately. Everyone who takes part of course insists that they have the purest motives, but the obscene enjoyment they derive from these rituals is blatantly obvious.

    At least in this case, it looks like the good guys won, and the pyre that was so lovingly prepared for Tuvel has ended up burning the instigators instead.

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  3. Jonathan Mayhew on said:

    Here’s one kind of thinking (from a feminist philosophy blog: “Fear of doing harm. Some of the behavior lately derided as speech policing (e.g., among those protesting the Hypatia article) emerges from a desire not to inflict harm on others and a willingness to take seriously people’s testimonies about what harms.”

    So bullying somebody becomes legitimate if you can turn it around and think that it is motivated by such pure impulses, “a desire not to inflict harm on others.” Who could argue with that? and “a willingness to take seriously people’s testimonies about what harms.” Well, yes. Who would not take that seriously? But that means ganging up on someone who wrote an article that didn’t echo exactly the current day orthodoxy. It would be hard to imagine any work being done in this field, since the only acceptable work would simply be a careful statement of that orthodoxy.

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    • You can’t do serious work when most people are hung up on proving they aren’t transphobic, and can’t get beyond that.

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    • The transgender woman I know is preoccupied with keeping a roof over her head, which is hard because she keeps getting fired as a result of discrimination. I won’t even ask her if she’s hurt by the use of Jenner’s birth name because that will be insulting. She’s had a really harsh life, and these academic spats do absolutely nothing for her.

      There are real people who really suffer but you’d think that the main obstacle for transgender people is the Hypatia article.

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  4. Jonathan Mayhew on said:

    Here’s another one from someone quoted in the CHE: “”I regret the deadnaming of Caitlyn Jenner in the article,” Ms. Tuvel said in a statement issued before the correction’s appearance. “Even though she does this herself in her book, I understand that it is not for outsiders to do and that such a practice can perpetuate harm against transgender individuals, and I apologize.”

    This person was a famous athlete and celebrity reality tv star who made the entire process a media spectacle, etc… But it is not for outsider’s to “dead name” this individual.

    And this

    “Most of the people who responded did not have the conceptual competence to engage with the post,” she said, “as is evidenced by the reaction to my use of the word ‘violence.’ ” She said her use of the term was a reference to the scholarly concept of structural violence, which describes “a range of systemic harms that go beyond direct interpersonal physical contact.”

    Well yes, then you get to accuse people of violence in an absurd way and then claim that the term is a term of art that ordinary people cannot comment on.

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