Can you tell the real gender studies papers from the fake ones?


By now you’ve probably heard about the hoax that Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay perpetrated on an academic journal called Cogent Social Sciences.

They submitted an absurd paper, which they say they went out of their way to make sure made absolutely no sense at all, and got it accepted.

Warning: what follows is not suitable for children or work.

The paper, called “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct,” begins:

The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.

Here’s a paragraph from its concluding section:

We conclude that penises are not best understood as the male sexual organ, or as a male reproductive organ, but instead as an enacted social construct that is both damaging and problematic for society and future generations. The conceptual penis presents significant problems for gender identity and reproductive identity within social and family dynamics, is exclusionary to disenfranchised communities based upon gender or reproductive identity, is an enduring source of abuse for women and other gender-marginalized groups and individuals, is the universal performative source of rape, and is the conceptual driver behind much of climate change.

This makes no sense, of course. But check out this passage, which is even loopier:

Inasmuch as masculinity is essentially performative, so too is the conceptual penis. The penis, in the words of Judith Butler, “can only be understood through reference to what is barred from the signifier within the domain of corporeal legibility” (Butler, 1993). The penis should not be understood as an honest expression of the performer’s intent should it be presented in a performance of masculinity or hypermasculinity. Thus, the isomorphism between the conceptual penis and what’s referred to throughout discursive feminist literature as “toxic hypermasculinity,” is one defined upon a vector of male cultural machismo braggadocio, with the conceptual penis playing the roles of subject, object, and verb of action. The result of this trichotomy of roles is to place hypermasculine men both within and outside of competing discourses whose dynamics, as seen via post-structuralist discourse analysis, enact a systematic interplay of power in which hypermasculine men use the conceptual penis to move themselves from powerless subject positions to powerful ones (confer: Foucault, 1972).

The two peer reviewers gave the paper very high marks, and accepted it with minor changes.

Everyone had a good laugh about the whole thing when the news of its publication broke, given that real papers in “gender studies” are often so ridiculous that it would be difficult to distinguish them from a hoax paper like this one.

Now “gender studies” is not a discipline you’d think normal people would be at pains to defend, given its obviously ideological origins (try dissenting from “gender studies” preconceptions and see what happens to you), heavy politicization, and overall nuttiness.

Of course, plenty of people on the left, and even the odd libertarian, have leapt to the defense of gender studies in the wake of this hoax. Why, Cogent Social Sciences is a pay-to-publish journal of no significance, and this incident shouldn’t be used to undermine gender studies as a discipline!

I’ll be a sport and concede that point for the sake of argument. Even still, who in his right mind could defend the various leftist “studies” departments in the face of the authentic articles they publish?

Here are a couple of real, non-hoax articles, drawn from the copious examples to be found via the heroic New Real Peer Review Twitter account:

By dressing in male clothing for the first time in a public space, I challenged the daily heteronormative idea of gender while shattering my own self-identity. The gender constructions and guidelines that were socially taught to me throughout my life were broken when I put on a fake beard. — Caitlin Greaf, “Drag Queens and Gender Identity”

From the abstract for “Breathing Matters: Feminist Intersectional Politics of Vulnerability”:

Breathing is not a common subject in feminist studies. Breathing Matters introduces this phenomenon as a forceful potentiality for feminist intersectional theories, politics, and social and environmental justice. By analyzing the material and discursive as well as the natural and cultural enactments of breath in black lung disease, phone sex work, and anxieties and panic attacks, Breathing Matters proposes a nonuniversalizing and politicized understanding of embodiment. In this approach, human bodies are conceptualized as agential actors of intersectional politics. Magdalena Górska argues that struggles for breath and for breathable lives are matters of differential forms of political practices in which vulnerable and quotidian corpomaterial and corpo-affective actions are constitutive of politics. Set in the context of feminist poststructuralist and new materialist and postconstructionist debates, Breathing Matters offers a discussion of human embodiment and agency reconfigured in a posthumanist manner.

I could go on endlessly.

So color me not worried that an otherwise worthy discipline has been unjustly maligned by a hoax paper. The actual papers seem just as hoax-like as the hoax paper, so much so that I doubt many people could even tell the difference.

On the other hand, maybe it’s good that left-wing academics speak and write this way — no one on God’s green earth will be able to understand a word they’re saying, and that’s just how I like it.

Meanwhile, by the way, you could do something truly subversive by learning real U.S. history, economics, and other subjects from me and other folks you can trust, who use heteronormative and sexist constructs like reason and facts in support of their arguments:

Tom Woods

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