Gender Studies in Academia: No Parody Needed
That the scientific method and zoos are sexist, that menstrual periods are a social construct, and that Pilates teaches white privilege are just a few subjects of gender studies papers that inspired the biggest hoax since the Sokal affair.This is all part of the decent of academia into politically correct madness. How can such stuff become so prevalent?
It did not take James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian long to get their fake paper that claimed “the penis is conceptual” and causes climate change published. A reading of over a dozen gender studies papers provided to the Washington Free Beacon by Lindsay makes it easy to understand why.
“We, like many, have been seeing stories and examples of ridiculous papers coming out of the far-left activist wing of academia, fields like gender studies, women’s studies, and so on, based upon what’s sometimes called ‘critical race and gender theory’ or ‘radical constructivism,’” Lindsay said.
He first pointed to an infamous taxpayer-funded paper published last year that studied the “relationship between gender and glaciers.” One goal of the study was to “improve human-ice relations.”
“As many did, we strongly suspected the feminist glacier study was a hoax,” Lindsay said. “But the journal and author stood by it.”
Lindsay said he and Boghossian decided after the feminist glacier study that it was plausible to hoax the gender studies field, as Alan Sokal did in the 1990s. Sokal successfully submitted a paper that claimed gravity is a social construct.
Lindsay, a scholar and author, also said they witnessed many examples of gender studies proponents bullying other academics skeptical of their work, mostly by accusing their critics of racism and sexism.
“Thus we thought a hoax might be worth doing, not just possible,” he said.
“Eventually, we settled on the idea that the penis isn’t real, but that it causes all of our worst problems,” Lindsay said. “By tacking on the popular idea from radical constructivism that pretty much everything is a social construct, we were off to the races.”
Aside from the gender glaciers study, Lindsay pointed to dozens of examples of papers published in respected journals that sound like hoaxes, but are in fact real. The Twitter account @RealPeerReview highlights outrageous examples on a daily basis.
Among the examples Lindsay cited included a paper published in a top-ranked gender studies journal last fall that claimed menstrual periods are a social construct.
“Despite a great deal of feminist work that has highlighted its social construction, menstruation seems a self-evidently ‘natural’ bodily process,” wrote Karen Ann Hasson, in her paper “Not a ‘Real’ Period? Social and Material Constructions of Menstruation.” “Yet, how menstruation is defined or what ‘counts’ as menstruation is rarely questioned.”
Questionable research in gender studies goes back decades. A commonly cited paper by Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman, “Doing Gender,” was published in 1987.
West and Zimmerman call gender a “routine accomplishment,” an “achieved property of situated conduct,” and a “powerful ideological device.”
“We contend that the ‘doing’ of gender is undertaken by women and men whose competence as members of society is hostage to its production,” they wrote.
Another paper published in the Women’s Studies International Forum in 1995 claims the scientific method itself is sexist and needs to be changed for feminists.
Donna M. Hughes wrote about a need for a “feminist critique of the scientific method,” because science is “sexist, racist, heterosexist, and classist.”
“Biological determinism has long been shown to be sexism, racism, and heterosexism at work under the guise of science,” she wrote. “The objectivity of science has long been suspect or rejected.”
Betsie Garner and David Grazian borrowed from West and Zimmerman for a paper published in 2016 that claims zoos are sexist.
An alligator’s sharp teeth reinforces “hegemonic norms of masculinity” to boys, according to Garner and Grazian, who scold parents for engaging in dangerous stereotypes in conversations with their children at the zoo.
One example derides a mother for telling her child that it is surprising that the male peacocks are the ones with the “pretty, bright feathers.”
A dad is rebuked for calling a white bear a “little sissy” for not running and jumping, “demeaning the bear as too weak and feminine to uphold masculine ideals of agility and drive,” the authors write.
“The Essence of the Hard On: Hegemonic Masculinity and the Cultural Construction of ‘Erectile Dysfunction’” was cited by Lindsay and Boghossian in their hoax.
The paper, written by Annie Potts in 2000, argues that curing erectile dysfunction reinforces hegemonic masculinity.
“This article employs feminist poststructuralist discursive analysis to investigate the effect of the metonymic relationship between the penis and the phallus on the cultural construction of male ‘sexual dysfunctions,’” Potts wrote.
Another paper claims fat men’s penises might not exist.
“Fat male sexuality: The monster in the maze,” published in July 2016, argues, “fat male sexuality paradoxically doesn’t exist” because of their depiction in the media. The first reference cited is Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, but lists the year 1992, instead of 1999, when the movie actually was released.
Other examples include donated blood is a social construction, how the Pilates exercises “Single Leg Stretch” and “Leg Circles” teach white privilege, and that male lactation is possible through social construction.
The article “The Lactating Man,” published in May 2016, presupposes that the idea that “lactation and breastfeeding are typically viewed as inherently female activities,” may be wrong.
Another paper published in April examines racism and sexism against squirrels using “feminist posthumanist theories and feminist food studies.”
Yet another gender studies paper published in the Journal of Lesbian Studies in 2013 explores the “conundrums for masculine lesbians” due to “heterosexism and patriarchy” that forces expectations of pregnancy on women.
Wikipedia is also sexist, because it “excludes and silences feminist ways of knowing and writing,” claims another paper. The federal government has also invested in this topic, spending $202,000 to find out why Wikipedia is sexist in 2013.
Syllabi used in STEM courses are also sexist, according to one paper that urges science professors to use “less competitive teaching methods and grading profiles that could improve the experience of female students.”
Lindsay said the most alarming paper he has encountered was published last year.
The paper, written Breanne Fahs and Michael Karger, favorably compares feminists to viruses like HIV and Ebola, who should infect other fields of scientific study with liberal ideologies.
“The truly scary papers are the ones from radical constructivist schools that seek to replace science with feminist science,” Lindsay said. “It’s very concerning.”
Nearly 15,000 students graduate with cultural and gender studies degrees each year.
Start with the general leftist bias of academia. This extends to all disciplines, but some disciplines are more “undisciplined” than others. Physicists can hardly claim the universe is “socially constructed,” since that would render their own discipline useless and meaningless.
But academics in the humanities and social sciences can proclaim things they study to be mere social constructions. As a rule, the more hard data dominates a discipline, the less politically correct it is. Economics is pretty politically incorrect, but sociology and anthropology are very politically correct. Political science occupies a middle position.
Add to this the ability of a particular kind of theory, if it gains a certain number of adherents, to become a little academic cottage industry. The theorists can start their own journals. Referee each others journal submissions. Assign each others articles and books to their classes. Provide references to help each other get promotion and tenure.
If a particular approach becomes sufficiently prevalent in a particular discipline, its practitioners can take over established journals, professional associations, and hiring in departments all over the country.
And of course, any new approach benefits from “freshness” and novelty. If English professors have been saying similar things about Shakespeare for a couple of hundred years, it can seem an exciting innovation to talk about him in terms of “patriarchy” and “white privilege” and “heteronormativity.” Since there is no hard data your theory needs to explain, you can say pretty much anything you want. If it resonates with the dominant ideology in the discipline, you will prosper professionally.
All of this, of course, is a recipe for intellectual corruption, as the leftist biases of academics are amplified into runaway anti-male sexism, and anti-white racism, producing the sort of studies discussed above.