The importance of lived experience

A friend of Rebecca Tuvel’s, Alison Suen, writes at Daily Nous about what all this has been like from that “standpoint.”

Recently, amid the controversy over Hypatia’s publication of Rebecca Tuvel’s “In Defense of Transracialism,” there has been a lot of talk in the philosophical community about the importance of lived experience. I have been reflecting on my lived experience over the past week, as one of Rebecca’s friends. Speaking from the perspective of someone who has been on the sidelines watching this whole affair unfold, I am not sure if I am ready to, as Sally Haslanger says, “go forward,” and “not focus on Rebecca Tuvel, the individual and the philosopher, and to shift the conversation to broader issues.”

I agree completely that the conversation should have been about the issues, rather than the individual. Unfortunately, it did not begin that way. Instead it began with Rebecca receiving hate mail; it began with people trashing her paper without having read it.

And since it did begin that way, and went on that way for a considerable time, it’s too late for not focusing on Tuvel, because harms need to be undone. People demanded her paper be withdrawn; colleagues apologized for the publication of her paper.

Instead of reasoned dialogue, people called her names. Instead of mentorship, Rebecca received enormous pressure from senior feminists to apologize and retract her paper.

It would be terrible for this to happen to anyone, and it was extremely painful to watch it happen to someone I care about deeply. So I hope you’d understand why I struggle to “go forward” and examine the larger issues as if Rebecca had never been targeted, shamed, or threatened.

I do, and I think it’s a bad suggestion.

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