The list of demands

The open letter to Hypatia that their groveling apology was a response to is pretty horrifying if it really comes from academics.

As scholars who have long viewed Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy as a valuable resource for our communities, we write to request the retraction of a recent article, entitled, “In Defense of Transracialism.” Its continued availability causes further harm, as does an initial post by the journal admitting only that the article “sparks dialogue.”

In what circumstances is it normal to request an academic journal to retract an article? I assume it would have to be for reasons of gross malpractice or dishonesty – shameful mistakes or shameful lies. The “scholars” who wrote the letter have other grounds for their “request.” (I can see there are going to be a lot of scare quotes in this post. That’s because there’s a lot of abuse of language and thought in the letter.)

Our concerns reach beyond mere scholarly disagreement; we can only conclude that there has been a failure in the review process, and one that painfully reflects a lack of engagement beyond white and cisgender privilege.

I repeat: there’s no such thing as “cisgender privilege.” Women don’t have “cisgender privilege.” Pretending they do is profoundly anti-feminist.

We believe that this article falls short of scholarly standards in various areas:

1. It uses vocabulary and frameworks not recognized, accepted, or adopted by the conventions of the relevant subfields; for example, the author uses the language of “transgenderism” and engages in deadnaming a trans woman;

Subfields of what? Hypatia is a philosophy journal; what are the relevant subfields of philosophy that adopt conventions on whether or not to use the word “transgenderism”? Is there a subfield of philosophy that has any view at all on “deadnaming”? That’s not a technical word, it’s a political jargon word. Is there a subfield of philosophy that forbids scholars to mention a trans woman’s previous name? That sounds like a very odd subfield to me.

2. It mischaracterizes various theories and practices relating to religious identity and conversion; for example, the author gives an off-hand example about conversion to Judaism;

How is that a reason to demand that a journal retract an article?

3. It misrepresents leading accounts of belonging to a racial group; for example, the author incorrectly cites Charles Mills as a defender of voluntary racial identification;

Same question. They have detailed objections, but objections are not a reason to retract an article (much less to shame its author on Facebook).

Many published articles include some minor defects of scholarship; however, together the problems with this article are glaring. More importantly, these failures of scholarship do harm to the communities who might expect better from Hypatia. It is difficult to imagine that this article could have been endorsed by referees working in critical race theory and trans theory, which are the two areas of specialization that should have been most relevant to the review process.

Except that Hypatia is a philosophy journal.

A message has been sent, to authors and readers alike, that white cis scholars may engage in speculative discussion of these themes without broad and sustained engagement with those theorists whose lives are most directly affected by transphobia and racism.


They may. There is no law that says white scholars or “cis” scholars (whatever they are) may not engage in speculative discussion of whatever theme they choose. Apparently the authors and signers of this horrible letter want to send the message that they may not – literally may not, on pain of public shaming and retraction of a published article.

We urge that Hypatia immediately acknowledge the severity of these concerns. In addition to retracting the article, we also believe it is imperative that Hypatia commit immediately to the following:

1. Issue a statement taking responsibility for the failures of judgment associated with publishing this article and apologize for the initial uncritical response posted on Hypatia’s Facebook page;

In other words, grovel, a lot.

4. Avoid the practice of deadnaming (that is, referring to trans people by former names) and commit to developing best practices for naming trans individuals as authors and subjects of scholarly discussions.

They say that as if “deadnaming” were an ordinary, universally recognized word and concept. It’s not. There is no general rule that forbids saying X used to go by Y. Sometimes people need to know former names, for safety reasons for instance. It’s not a human right to change one’s name and keep it forever secret no matter what.

And then they had to grovel themselves, because they said A Wrong Thing too, or neglected to say A Right Thing.

“Note from statement writers (added 5/1): We acknowledge that this statement should have named anti-Blackness directly. The statement is not an exhaustive summary of the many harms caused by this article. We hope it will at least serve as a way to register that harm and issue a demand for a retraction. This is one step in the direction of seeking accountability for the harms committed by its publishing– and to begin a conversation about the larger problems with our discipline it represents. And we thank Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (and others) for pointing out the dangerous erasure of anti-Blackness and the erasure of the Black labor on which the rhetoric of our own letter is built”

Tomorrow there will be an addendum saying what Chanda Prescod-Weinstein neglected to say and the people she thanks, and it could go on that way forever.

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