The broad, well-established, interdisciplinary scholarly fields

But wait, there’s more. One of the people who signed the letter attacking Rebecca Tuvel – one of the “colleagues” who signed it – wrote a piece for the CHE saying why the signers were right to sign it.

As one of the many scholars involved in writing the open letter calling on Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy to retract the essay “In Defense of Transracialism,” by Rebecca Tuvel, I am compelled to come forward and attempt to reclaim a narrative spinning increasingly out of control.

Five words in the bullying starts – she has to make clear that it was many scholars. (I’m not sure they are all genuine scholars; I think some are adherents rather than scholars, adherents of a political view as opposed to scholars in a discipline.) Many scholars; we all hate you – it might as well be the playground.

And she’s not “compelled,” and nobody stole anything so there’s nothing to “reclaim,” and it’s not a “narrative,” it’s arguments. And it’s not out of control, it’s just not what the “many scholars” had in mind.

Many of us became involved at the request of black and/or trans scholars who feel completely demoralized by Tuvel’s article and the failure of peer review that it represents. Speaking for myself, I signed and circulated the letter because I know, firsthand, of the damage this kind of scholarship does to marginalized groups, especially black and trans scholars, in philosophy.

Tuvel’s article is not a reason to feel “completely demoralized.” That’s more bullying language. It would be fair if she had written a vituperative attack on black and/or trans scholars or people, but she didn’t do anything like that. Saying her article does “damage” is just more of the same bullying rhetoric. It is not reasonable.

Tuvel received substantive critical feedback at conferences from scholars in critical race theory and trans studies. We do not understand how this failed to shape the review process and can only assume that such scholars were not selected as peer reviewers.

Why should they have been? Tuvel wasn’t writing critical theory or trans studies, she was writing philosophy.

[T]he article’s publication signals an arrogant disregard for the broad, well-established, interdisciplinary scholarly fields of both critical race theory and trans studies.

But philosophers are allowed to write about philosophy. They’re not required to write about other fields. Also I have my doubts about the “well-established” bit.

While feminist philosophy should imply a critique of the field of philosophy itself, the open letter to Hypatia wasn’t aimed at the discipline over all. None of us ever expected it to circulate so widely, to garner so many signatures, or to become the object of news stories.

No, you wanted to bully Tuvel in private with nobody watching.

[T]he lightning-fast vituperative response by scholars who would never consider publishing in Hypatia (and who may not respect feminist philosophy) is suspect, to say the least. We authors of the open letter, and the associate editors of Hypatia, are accused of poor reasoning, poor scholarship, and lack of integrity. In other words, the overwhelmingly sexist, male, and white discipline has, once again, called out the feminists as irrational, hysterical, and immoral. To say that we’re engaging in a “witch hunt” couldn’t be more paradoxical when we, the feminist philosophers, have long been treated like the witches of the discipline.

But what about the feminist philosophers and other feminists who think the open letter is horrible? What about the feminists who think the treatment of Tuvel has been unbelievably shitty?

I signed the open letter as part of a continuing effort to make feminist philosophy something other than a damaged, dutiful daughter to the deeply troubled discipline of philosophy. I also signed it as part of continuing efforts to change philosophy’s practices. After all, the methodological insularity evidenced in Tuvel’s article and its publication effectively render ignored and disrespected black, trans, and other minority scholars who work in these fields doubly marginalized. The inequalities perpetuated are both conceptual and practical.

What about the business school? What about geology? What about chemical engineering?

The first comment is useful:

“The fundamental problem with Tuvel’s article isn’t her ability to construct a rational argument but rather the omission of any sustained engagement with the well-developed, interdisciplinary scholarship on race and gender, particularly by black and trans scholars.”

This seems to be a major point of disagreement among those who oppose the call for retraction and those who support it. I fall into the former category, and I do not think she had any obligation to ‘engage’ with the fields you mentioned. Hers was an analytic paper and is no different from other work, even on similar topics, in the field. Philosophers need to have the freedom to choose what method and framework they’re going to work within. Her method is a — though not the only — legitimate one, and this witch hunt (yes that’s what it is) is an attempt to violate her right to choose to use it.

It’s not voting or real estate or schools; it doesn’t have to be representative.

There are many excellent comments at Brian Leiter’s too. Such as:

Chris Surprenant said…

The two points that this article raises as defenses–the number of straight, white males in philosophy and that Tuvel supposedly didn’t cite the appropriate literature–both seem like distractions and are otherwise irrelevant. What was done by the associate editors, letter-writers, and letter-signers was egregious, professional misconduct.

Winnubst’s response is entirely tone deaf to the reasons why there was such a quick backlash from many members of our community on all sides of the spectrum: What was done not only violated clear professional norms, but it also violated norms of decency and kindness that we should show to other people, especially other people who are especially vulnerable in our discipline (untenured, female, etc.).

Oh but decency and kindness aren’t “well-developed, interdisciplinary scholarship on race and gender” so they don’t count.

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