Saturday, December 4, 2010

Feminist IR Part III

Laura Sjoberg writes:
So I've been accused elsewhere in the blogosphere (not linked here because of profane language) of just posting a lot of overlong (language cleaned up) definitions in service of a poststructuralist cause which is "irrelevant (insert choice words here)." I could get all defensive or argumentative (insert sarcastic comment about feminists here), but I think that I'll those comments as proof that perhaps the explaining needs to continue.

FLG thinks she means him.

He doesn't have much to say about the content beyond what he has already written. He still doesn't think discussions of international relations require wordy definitions of transsexual. Also, FLG's prior statement, "Because deconstruction basically rips apart everybody's thoughts, those influenced by deconstruction are timid and explicit in their writing until it becomes a big pile of shit on a purely aesthetic level, even forgetting the content entirely," still applies.

FLG first recognized this timidity or, perhaps more accurately, an overwhelming fear of being wrong, when he watched this video in which Derrida prefaces his remarks with an explanation of how artificial the interview situation was.

This timidity is most clearly emphasized in these passages:
A caveat before I go into this in more depth: I'm not the foremost authority of, the founder of, a gatekeeper for, or the voice of feminisms in IR - I was in grade school when the people I'm now proud to call my mentors began feminist interventions in IR. These statements, while meant to make feminist work accessible to people who otherwise wouldn't (make the effort to) engage with and understand it, are only my approaches, and not something by which to judge the enterprise of feminisms in IR, which I feel privileged to be a part of, but am only a part of.

Of course, this is an oversimple summary of decades of careful theoretical work which has certainly left major points out.

Lastly, returning to the first passage excerpted, FLG found the quote about not getting somewhat funny given this comment on the interaction over at Mondo's:
Every individual is going to evaluate this according to their own frame of reference. Mine says that [insert proper salutation here] Sjoberg is correct. But that’s because my Dad got a Ph.D. when he was in his forties. On the other hand, I’ve been flabbergasted in recent years at some of the young Ph.D.s I’ve met, many of whom seem to offer very little by way of talents that would be associated with premature lifetime achievement. If degree inflation is underway, and I see very little reason to believe it is not, then title-deflation is the natural result.

Sjoberg’s real crime is casting a net far & wide to collect transgressions to cite against a cyber-entity she perceives as inimical. Put in simpler terms, she isn’t engaging in an ad hom attack but she’s getting ready to. Put in even simpler terms, mark me down as extremely doubtful that she’d be stuck on the perceived slight, if the slighter were more in agreement with her. And this is where I get worried about the state of higher education: People who seem to be working with it just fine, making a lifestyle out of it in some cases, commit these transgressions of discourse that show they aren’t really ready or willing to genuinely exchange ideas. They’re only ready or willing to think the things they were always ready or willing to think.


Miss Self-Important said...

This is all kind of hilarious. I think you should keep attacking random academics to elicit statements like "Call me Dr., bitch!" from them.

However, this is probably not that helpful: "People...commit these transgressions of discourse that show they aren’t really ready or willing to genuinely exchange ideas. They’re only ready or willing to think the things they were always ready or willing to think." The down-homey phrase "don't be so open-minded that your brains fall out" comes to mind. This "genuine exchange of ideas" mush--show me an example of it. Show me a how people blathering about cis-sexism and gendering the border get together with the people blathering about China's acquisition of Russian weapons systems and had a "genuine exchange of ideas" in which people whose entire grasp of human nature and the purpose of politics fundamentally diverges nonetheless took one another's arguments seriously. Doesn't happen. Most of what goes on in social science is thinly-veiled political axe-grinding, so come, grind your axe, and go home.

FLG said...


Please, it's not gendering the borders, it's sexing the borders.

Also, you ought to consider demanding to be called Dr. Self-Important, when the time comes. It does have a nice ring to it.

Withywindle said...

I have mixed feelings about all this. On the one hand, pride in your credentials, boo, hiss. On the other hand, titles and offices have their place in the Republic; and it's not necessarily a bad thing to think of others, and yourself, as a Doctor, or Herr Doktor Professor, or what have you, rather than "Bob." And even where it is pride, to have pride focused on the qualities and achievements that get you a doctorate is useful. And if it is pride to insist on being called a doctor, there is also pride -- or some other sin -- in refusing to call someone a doctor. As these things go, a harmless courtesy.

And I do have some sympathy about being rejected by readers who read your article obtusely. I don't think I much agree with Dr. Sjoberg's point of view, but I don't presume her work was rejected on ideological grounds, but I'm perfectly willing to believe some somnolent gits who deserve horsewhupping rejected her work after a hasty skim. It happens to a lot of us, of all ideological persuasions.

FLG said...


I don't think I ever just addressed her as Laura.

As far as Dr. or Prof. goes, that, as I wrote, is appropriate in the classroom as part of the student teach relationship.

Now, I get what you are saying here about this being harmless pride. I don't think so. Two things:

1) Most PhDs don't demand to be called doctor outside limited, narrow circumstances. Consequently, those that do demonstrate an abnormal level of price. On which I think transgresses into the realm of, as The Ancient called it, vulgarity.

2) In the particular case, I think she did it as an appeal to authority. Look, I have a doctorate, and so I have expertise and authority in this area.

Now, I don't doubt she does. I just question the relevance of the area in which she possesses expertise.

But it was nevertheless one step above ad hom. debate.

Anonymous said...

See - "Dr Romer" while razzing her. That's not so hard?! dave.s.

arethusa said...

I kind of think that calling oneself "Dr." outside an academic context is simply, yet again, academics - who suffer from massive inferiority complexes because, well, what do they actually do? - feeling insecure. When one is being bested in an argument, it's very easy to hide behind the PhD, and no true intellectual should be doing so.

I am of the school of thought that titles matter very little outside of determining hierarchical relationships. I have no problem with calling the President "Mr. President," or the Queen "Her Majesty," or General Petraeus "General," but besides such cases, especially in America, I think we should all be Mr./Miss/Ms./Mrs.

Incidentally, the famous "Dr Johnson" did not in fact have a real doctorate and absolutely hated being called "Dr Johnson." Only Boswell's Life solidified the title. And who am I to gainsay the great man?

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