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May 8 2017

Scholar Published in Feminist Journal Hypatia Slammed for Equating Rachel Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner

by Charlotte Allen

Hypatia was a 5th-century female philosopher who was gruesomely attacked by having her flesh stripped off her with oyster shells by a Christian mob that accused her of heresy.

Rebecca Tuvel is a 21st-century female philosopher who was gruesomely attacked by having her article stripped out of the philosophy journal Hypatia by a feminist mob that accused her of heresy.

Hypatia describes itself as "a forum for cutting edge work in feminist philosophy." So Tuvel, and assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College in Memphis, submitted an essay titled "In Defense of Transracialism" that compared the experiences of celebrity transgender Caitlyn Jenner to those of former NAACP executive Rachel Dolezal, born white but identifying as black and argued that the two "trans" phenomena should be treated similarly (Jenner has been widely praised but Dolezal widely condemned). Tuvel's article went through an anonymous peer-review process typical of scholarly journals and was ultimately published.

Then, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, the oyster shells started flying:

The associate editors of Hypatia, a journal of feminist philosophy, apologized on Facebook this week for the publication of "In Defense of Transracialism," an article by Rebecca Tuvel, that had quickly drawn opprobrium. "Clearly," they wrote, "the article should not have been published."

Critics blasted the article as a product of white and cisgender privilege, said it discounted important scholarly work by transgender and black academics, and accused its author of using harmful language.

Hundreds of scholars signed their names to an open letter calling on the journal to retract the article.

The journal didn’t go that far, but the apology, which came with a pledge to reconsider Hypatia’s review process, still seemed like an extraordinary step.

Prominent among the wielders of bivalve carapaces was Nora Berenstain, an assistant professor of philosophy who accused Tuvel of engaging in "discursive transmisogynistic violence" in a Facebook entry since deleted but preserved by American Conservative columnis Rod Dreher. Here's a quotation:

Tuvel enacts violence and perpetuates harm in numerous ways throughout her essay. She deadnames a trans woman. She uses the term “transgenderism.” She talks about “biological sex” and uses phrases like “male genitalia.” She focuses enormously on surgery, which promotes the objectification of trans bodies. She refers to “a male-to- female (mtf) trans individual who could return to male privilege,” promoting the harmful transmisogynistic ideology that trans women have (at some point had) male privilege. In her discussion of “transracialism,” Tuvel doesn’t cite a single woman of color philosopher, nor does she substantively engage with any work by Black women, nor does she cite or engage with the work of any Black trans women who have written on this topic.

"Deadnaming," by the way, is the practice of failing to pretend, as is now required, that a transgender person ever had a name or identity belonging to the opposite sex. For example, we are now obliged to pretend that there was never a "Bruce Jenner" and that Caitlyn Jenner sneaked into the men's division of the 1976 Olympics and won the gold medal for the decathlon.

In addition, 130 academics have signed an "open letter" to Hypatia demanding that Tuvel's article be retracted.

The good news is that Hypatia's editor, Sally Scholz, a philosophy professor at Villanova, is standing by the article and--at least-so far--refusing to disavow it. So is Tuvel herself--although she has issued an apology for "deadnaming" Jenner, who did get referred to as "Bruce" at one point.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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