Not covered by the principle of academic freedom

The LA Review of Books has An Open Letter from Queer Studies Scholars. It is not an intelligent or persuasive letter.

To Whom It May Concern,

We write to respond to Christopher Reed and Christopher Castiglia’s unfortunate letter regarding Grace Lavery’s essay on using appropriate pronouns in the classroom context. While we debated taking up the many points of Professor Castiglia and Professor Reed’s very long essay, we feel that the best response is a simple reiteration of the final lines of Professor Lavery’s essay:

Deadnaming and misgendering are not acceptable scholarly practices, and they are not covered by the principle of academic freedom.

They “feel” (not think) that is the best response? And they call themselves scholars?

“Deadnaming” and “misgendering” are not straightforwardly anything, including practices or scholarly practices, because the words are jargon, and quite recently coined jargon at that. They are jargon and they are not even scholarly jargon but rather political jargon, and politics of a very peculiar kind. It’s fundamentally meaningless to announce that “deadnaming” and “misgendering” are not acceptable scholarly practices, which makes it very odd to call it “the best response.”

And even if the two jargon words were perfectly cromulent words, the sentence that contains them would remain simply an abrupt and unargued assertion. It’s downright weird to see people who claim to be scholars calling an abrupt and unargued assertion “the best response.” It isn’t.

And then there’s the fact that the assertion is not even true. Scholarship takes no position on the made-up crimes of “deadnaming” and “misgendering” because scholarship has better things to do.

After that fatuous claim they do go on to make a token effort to present something resembling an argument, but the result is not compelling.

We reject the idea that misgendering is an exercise of academic freedom. As teachers and scholars, we take very seriously the responsibility to challenge our students intellectually, but that responsibility in no way translates into the capacity to selectively refute their dignity and right to self-definition.

Once again that’s not scholarly anything, it’s hackneyed and basically meaningless political jargon. What does “refute their dignity” even mean? It should at the very least be something like “refute their claims to dignity,” but even then it would be feeble, because it’s not self-evident that anyone’s dignity is dependent on other people’s tactful acceptance of counterfactual personal claims. You could argue that it’s the other way around: that tactful acceptance of counterfactual personal claims treats the claimant like a child who has to be humored, which is not as dignified as all that. And then, what “right to self-definition”? Again: that’s not a real thing, and certainly not a real scholarly thing. There is no such thing as a broad, general, binding right to define ourselves. I can “define myself” as a Supreme Court Justice if I like, but it won’t get me a seat on the bench or even the courtesy of being called Justice.

That is not academic freedom; it is a form of self-serving aggression worthy of Title IX intervention on the part of the institution.

What? Self-serving? How is it self-serving? Step one, say women are women; step two, face barrage of hostility; step three, ???; step 4, profit!? It’s not self-serving, it’s resistance to being ordered to believe lies. Is it aggression though? No, it is not aggression. Is it a Title IX crime? Nope not that either.

If this shit is scholarship give me ignorance.

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