Like Jill said, I’m a cowboy.

No but really, who are you?

Hi, my name is Scott, and I have too many blogs. In addition to my personal blog, Acephalous, I also edit a literary theory blog, The Valve, and contribute to a history blog, The Edge of the American West.

That’s a list of where you write. It doesn’t tell us who you are.

You probably know me as the professor who caught random students having sex in his office, or the kid who first learned about rape from a comic book, because those were two posts that were linked here. As for the rest, all I’ll say is that I live a statistically improbable life.

Why are you here?

I’m here because I’ve always wanted to poach links from Shameless Self-Promotion Sundays, but knew that would be tacky. So I sent Jill an email saying, “I’ve always wanted to poach links from Shameless Self-Promotion Sundays, but know that would be tacky. Maybe I could collate them for you at Feministe?”

How exactly will this work?

I don’t exactly know yet. I’m going to try to parse the material out in readable chunks. I don’t want anyone to think that my not linking to them amounts to a silencing, when it is, in fact, a concession to our ever shorter attention spans. I may hold off on posting a link one week, for example, because I think it deserves a wider airing than it would receive were it the fiftieth entry on a seemingly endless link dump.

As a blogger myself, I’m sensitive to issues surrounding publicity. I know how gratifying it is to post something today and see it linked on some main page tomorrow; but then there might be a more substantial dialogue if posts on similar topics are collected, coordinated, and posted together at a later date. (Which has the added benefit of allowing me to cull the archives for brilliant posts that would be ignored simply because they were written last week or month or year.) As I’m terminally indecisive when it comes to administrative matters, feel free to voice any preference you might have.

What I will say is that I’m committed to being fair, i.e. that I will actively seek out and encourage new voices, and try to make sure each post is as representative as possible. I mean that both in terms of whose links I elevate and which subjects are addressed. If the majority of links address a particular issue, I may devote one post to links that address that issue, and another for all the subjects that might otherwise be drowned out by the thrum of the news cycle. As I said, this is a work in progress, and any ideas or advice you have is most welcome.

One last note: if you link to posts with substantial audio components, please do not lie about what is said in them. I’m legally (and sometimes disturbingly) deaf, and the combination of not being able to read podcasters lips and the low bitrates at which podcasts are recorded make it nigh impossible for me to understand them. I’ll be able to tell if you disguise a recording of your cat howling all the way to vet as an excellent lecture by an important person, but only barely.

Isn’t that an awful lot of prefacing for a first post?

Probably. But what else could I have done?

Incorporate some of the links into your introduction?

You mean I should said something about how I’m co-authoring a book about how to use comics in composition classrooms, then written something like, “And speaking of comics, s. tried to determine which circle of Hell the EA marketing department belongs in for their misogynistic promotion at Comic Con 2009.” Is that what you mean?

Maybe a little more subtle.

Subtle? I can do subtle. Let me see . . . I loved The Wire, which was on HBO. Natalie demonstrates that HBO executives might be unwittingly embracing homophobia; meanwhile, Sara Freeman writes about HBO’s decision to broadcast a sensitive, respectful portrait of a bipolar life cut short.

How is that any more subtle?

Good point. I should probably just get down to posting some links.


Alright then, the inaugural wrangling of the links commences now:

RMJ—who changed her background since, I think, this morning—is still looking for contributions to her list of 50 Books for Problematic Times. I keep meaning to contribute forty or fifty, then I remember that nobody besides other literature professors wants to hear what literature professors have to say about literature. Speaking of literature professors, Faith reminds us that the most famous one, currently, once defended misogynistic lyrics as being hyperbolic parody, then busted out laughing at the thought of them.

But enough about literature professors. How about we return to talking about literature? Isabel responds to Steph’s post here with what I have come to call “the Faulkner defense”: “[S]o, Fitzgerald, obviously not a feminist, apparently got people well enough that when he was writing he couldn’t help but write his women as people.” A novelist might not be able to overcome their prejudices, but if they stay true to the complexity of their craft, they might accidently transcend them. (I named that defense after Faulkner’s portrayal of race in Light in August. The man was, clearly, a racist; but as a novelist, he captured the complexity of racial politics with such delicacy that his novels can overcome the prejudice of their author.)

One of the many Rebeccas writes two epic posts about dealing with trolls.

Mandy Van Deven calls out Hudson Jeans for manufacturing scandal, and Rachel Hillis tells us why the magazines in which such ads appear routinely suck.

Lauren O. thinks that “feminists should just shut up, because there is no such thing as gender inequality or patriarchy, and it’s actually men who are oppressed.” That, or she’s damn sarcastic. Read her post on catcalling and decide for yourself.

Stephanie R. bemoans the fact that 500 Days of Summer violates The Rule.

Miranda questions the viability of “TV show with a strong female lead” as a Netflix category, seemingly unaware that the first iteration of that category was “TV show with a strong female character,” which Netflix dumped after realizing that the only shows with strong female characters were those with strong female leads. (That last clause is a lie, invented by me; but sadly, it’s so plausible you might not have caught it had I not confessed.)

Jasper Gregory provides a thoughtful critique of brain sex theories of gender, then models how to discuss sensitive issues with strangers on the internet. (Not that I need to tell anyone here how difficult it is to do so.)  [UPDATE: It figures that I would make at least one awful error my first post, and it appears I have: it seems that the reason that Jasper’s discussion is so civil is because he’s silencing commenters he’d rather not respond to.  That, obviously, is not modeling how to discuss sensitive issues with strangers on the internet.  Had I known he was doing that, I wouldn’t have held him up as such.  I apologize for the error, and promise to make many more in the future.  Not that I plan to, mind you, but I’m human and it happens.]

Adventures in medicine are had by The Czech, during the course of which we learn that, for doctors, the operative phrase is “making AIDS.”

Finally—and in what I hope will be a regular feature—I want to welcome some newcomers to the blogs: this week we have Katie at Kataphatic, who focuses on fat liberation theology.

That’s not all for this week, but that’s all from me tonight, as I don’t want to hog the front page.  Future editions will be more coherent, I promise.  (I actually have a monstrous post cobbled together from the past few month’s worth of material, but it resides on a laptop that refuses to boot since I moved from the OC and into Riverside County.  I suspect snobbery.)

Author: has written 3 posts for this blog.

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38 Responses

  1. Miranda
    Miranda August 4, 2009 at 6:12 am |

    Hi — thanks for the shoutout! But the Women’s Glib post you recommended was actually authored by my co-blogger Ruth. I posted it on SSPS, which is probably confusing. Note to self duly written.

  2. RMJ
    RMJ August 4, 2009 at 8:11 am |

    Thanks for the shoutout! I would love to hear what you have to say, SEK. Cross-posts are great, too! And yes, I changed my background :)

  3. Natalie
    Natalie August 4, 2009 at 10:18 am |

    Thanks for linking to me! What a great way to catch up on self-promotions one misses the first time around.

  4. peanutbutter
    peanutbutter August 4, 2009 at 10:50 am |

    Nice set of links. I have to admit to thorough amusement at the “disturbingly so” link. I get a certain amount of puzzlement myself, but since I’m a woman I don’t get the same set of assumptions applied…

  5. Sara Freeman
    Sara Freeman August 4, 2009 at 11:14 am |

    Thank you for mentioning me! I’m looking forward to your linkage. :-)

  6. Lauren O
    Lauren O August 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm |

    I would like to thank you for the link!

    Also, I think someone followed it without reading the “sarcasm” bit, decided not to actually read it, and left some…er…interesting comments.

  7. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney August 4, 2009 at 9:46 pm |

    That “brain sex” post is problematic for several reasons. Jasper paints trans activists with a fairly broad brush in that post. I know that ze considers my blog a bastion of “brain sex activism” and the focus of my blog is on how society interacts with and treats trans people, and how trans people require the ability to use our own voices to explain our experiences – which is not about brain sex, but about trans people having a place in society that doesn’t involve losing our friends, family, careers, health, or lives, and for him to reduce these discussions to “they’re describing their lives in ways that I find offensive” is just every day transphobia.

    Jasper is throwing a diverse set of discussions into a single category – what he considers to be “brain sex arguments,” or classifies them as reductionist dogma. He also preemptively classifies any trans person’s responses that point out cissexual privilege or trans misogyny as dishonest, cynical moves intended to silence dissent. He further invokes a rather prejudiced stereotype of Jews who characterize any criticism of Israel as, well:

    In short, Brain Sex has become an identity rather than a theory. An attack on the theory becomes a personal attack on trans people which is labeled as hate, transphobia, transmisogyny (if the opponent was raised female) or cis privilege. Doubting the theory, makes you into the moral equivalent of a neo-nazi for whom the only ethical relation is outrage or a vicious counter attack. Dialog is not possible. It is the identity politics equivalent of zionism, which labels discussion of Israeli government policies as antisemitism, Isreal Critique = Jew Hater = Hitler.

    He also implies in his post a host of assumptions about what trans people really think and implies that some of the things that we think (like transitioning is effective) are wrong. In another post, he refers to Riki Wilchins in some rather gross, essentialist, objectifying ways, and implies that trans people who transition are fooling ourselves as to whether it’s really possible to move from one social category to another.

    I understand why he is opposed to the gender binary, and I won’t even begin to argue with that, but when he starts marking transsexual people as the enemy because many of us echo things that are stated explicitly and repeatedly in cissexist society, then he’s lost the plot. The problem isn’t that transsexual people who might believe that there’s a biological brain sex, the problem is that we live in a society built on essentialist assumptions about gender and sex.

    As a transsexual woman who has had to put up with people saying nonsense like Jasper about me for two decades, I don’t see it as insightful at all.

  8. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney August 4, 2009 at 9:48 pm |

    Damnit, I slipped into the wrong pronouns – I don’t know which pronouns Jasper prefers and tried to use gender neutral, but got them wrong. :( I am sorry about that, but I stand by the rest of what I said.

  9. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla August 4, 2009 at 10:20 pm |

    wow, the level of transmisogynist fail on Feministe has hit a new low. between the Majikal Disappearing Post of G.D. asking for basic 101 information about trans women and the “she shouldn’t box as a woman, she’s got man-muscles … (she’s not a real woman)” comments in that post, and this one saying that Jasper’s post is somehow “thoughtful” when it is nothing more than the usual radfem tropes used to reduce us to something lower than animals…

    nope, not boycotting. i just won’t be back.

  10. queen emily
    queen emily August 4, 2009 at 10:23 pm |

    Word, Lisa.

    I’d also like to point out that my polite comment pointing out concrete ways transsexual “brain sex activists” have worked for genderqueer rights was not approved.

    Nor my other (admittedly not-so-polite) one that suggested painting trans writers like myself and Lisa as naive essentialists is a fairly standard cissexist move, one that hardly accords with the ways that we and numerous other transsexual writers have been thinking about sex and gender as social constructions.

    The entire “brain sex” argument is a straw trans woman, based on cis “common sense” about how we must think rather than any engagement with any actual trans women activists. Most of us could give a crap about brain sex beyond “oh that’s interesting” and would rather concentrate about oh those tiny little minor things like violence and discrimination.

    In short, ze’s hardly knowledgeable about trans politics, ignorant of trans theory and body practices, but not exactly willing to expose that ignorance in public.

    So thoughtful? I think not. Try arrogant and dismissive.

  11. piny
    piny August 4, 2009 at 10:29 pm |

    Look, not to ignore the rest of your comment–especially the part about how you won’t actually be seeing this response–but thank you. “Radfem tropes” is exactly what I couldn’t put my finger on. Unnamed “trans activists,” the erasure of “biological essentialism” except when trans people putatively do it, the dismissal of trans identity/experience and then the followup accusations of derailing when people complain about it…that is familiar.

  12. piny
    piny August 4, 2009 at 10:36 pm |

    Oh, and the followup post about how, in order to make the discussion more productive, all emotionally loaded comments on life, core identity, and hatred will be deleted forthwith.

  13. queen emily
    queen emily August 4, 2009 at 10:41 pm |

    But being criticised by the people who you’re writing about is so meeeeean. And Zionist, natch. Illuminati may involved, I’m not sure. Certainly evil trans bunnies are Out To Get Him (and hence All Genderqueers Norly)…

  14. Kristin
    Kristin August 4, 2009 at 10:47 pm |

    ““Thoughtful” doesn’t necessarily equal “correct.” I grade student papers comprised of thoughtful insanity all them time. What matters when dealing with difficult issues isn’t whether you agree with your interlocutor, but whether he or she frames the argument in a way that fosters future debate.”

    Your problem, as I see it, is that you are treating people’s lived experiences as fodder for academic debate. Also, “thoughtful insanity” is kind of an ableist expression. Finally, you’re a pretentious git.

  15. queen emily
    queen emily August 4, 2009 at 10:51 pm |

    “When I said thoughtful, I meant it was shit and offensive. You were just too dumb to *realise* it.”

  16. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney August 4, 2009 at 10:55 pm |

    SEK, that’s cool – and I agree that thoughtful doesn’t always mean agreeable, but when i read Jasper’s post, I just see the usual “transsexual people are too unsophisticated to really understand what gender is” stuff that cis people like to say about trans people all the time.

  17. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney August 4, 2009 at 11:12 pm |

    SEK, I see what you’re saying there, and I certainly can’t argue with it – unfortunately, he’s also not approving the comments most critical of his post and definitely not engaging with them. One of mine is in moderation limbo, as are a few of one of my co-bloggers’ (Queen Emily), and at least one by Andra.

  18. Kristin
    Kristin August 4, 2009 at 11:13 pm |

    “If I failed, I failed, and am willing to listen to exactly how and why I did.”

    Yep, you did. I think Queen Emily, Lisa, GallingGalla, and piny have done a great job of explaining why. You could’ve saved all of their trouble, of course, with good old Google.

  19. Queen Emily
    Queen Emily August 4, 2009 at 11:31 pm |

    Look, when someone begins a post with a characterisation of the people, political movements etc as Zionists who shut down any discussion, then that’s not an invitation to discussion. Jasper most definitely isn’t willing to *discuss* this, hence the repeated tone arguments (“civil”) on hir blog.

    That’s a power play, designed to control what does and does not constitute legitimate disagreement–not an invitation to discussion with those ze so blithely mischaracterises in hir “critique.”

  20. little light
    little light August 4, 2009 at 11:32 pm |

    See, that’s the thing, though, SEK. You’re referring to the way Jasper has conducted this post and subsequent conversation as “model.” When a person writes about a marginalized group they don’t belong to with erroneous assumptions about how members of that group think, contradicts their lived experiences with arguments about theory and tone, and then dismisses the criticism of members of that group, I don’t think of that as model behavior when it comes to discussing sensitive issues. Following that up with another post about how people are just too sensitive and emotional about these things and you won’t be approving remarks by anyone who’s not ready to have a cool, rational discussion of issues and theories isn’t model, either.
    People are upset with you because you by all appearances held this post up as a good example and then don’t seem to understand why people are critical.

  21. Queen Emily
    Queen Emily August 4, 2009 at 11:32 pm |

    Wrote that last before I saw your comment. Cheers, we understand each other better now.

  22. Drakyn
    Drakyn August 4, 2009 at 11:36 pm |

    “this was a post that treated the subject, and those who took issue with the subject, respectfully.”

    Jasper says in one of the comments, “As a moderator I ask you to remain
    civil. Saying you are appalled by my behavior is trolling and escalating”.
    Moreover, it was already stated that Jasper created straw-arguments & straw-transactivists for hir post. Seriously, I don’t recognize hir “summarization” of brain-sex theory from any group other than a very, very small minority of people (who, btw, don’t even identify as trans & would be insulted to be called trans activists). Most people who believe in brain-sex theory that I know believe that there are more than two sexes (& that our way of categorizing sexes is messed up), not everyone has a strong neural-map or has the same amount of detail in their map, etc.
    This is rather like someone saying that all feminists believe that all women should work outside the home & in high-paying jobs and that no woman ~really~ chooses to be a mum.

  23. Queen Emily
    Queen Emily August 4, 2009 at 11:39 pm |

    I’m particularly annoyed because he emailed me asking me to comment, then didn’t approve my bloody comments cos I disagreed with him!

  24. Kristin
    Kristin August 4, 2009 at 11:42 pm |

    Also, SEK, you’re holding up tone arguments as exemplary on a *feminist blog*? Seriously? Are you *familiar* with feminism?

  25. Critiquing Genderqueer Transsexualphobia « Questioning Transphobia

    […] body)”. I was mostly fine with commenting on that post, but now that it’s been linked on Feministe, and since Jasper is extremely selective about approving comments criticizing hir post, and fairly […]

  26. piny
    piny August 5, 2009 at 12:11 am |

    “Thoughtful” doesn’t necessarily equal “correct.” I grade student papers comprised of thoughtful insanity all them time. What matters when dealing with difficult issues isn’t whether you agree with your interlocutor, but whether he or she frames the argument in a way that fosters future debate. I think Jasper’s post did, and that the tenor of the responses (and apologies) to commenters proved that. If you want to take issue with my characterization of that particular rhetorical stance, you’re more than welcome to, and I’m happy to discuss the matter more.

    “Thoughtful” and “thoughtful but insane” are different things, aren’t they? It did sound like you were straight-up complimenting the post.

    That’s not how I would define “thoughtful.” Thought-provoking, maybe. And, well, so was Sarah Palin’s farewell manifesto. Controversy can be useful, but not all controversial things are smart.

    I can believe that Jasper was honestly trying to say true things about an important subject, but the way it was done was not well-reasoned, conscientious, or respectful of other viewpoints. There is a lot of virtual ink out there on this subject, and I did not see very much detailed–heck, even sourced–engagement with any of it. That would have been a thoughtful approach; this was not. The post did characterize trans people and inter-community disagreements unfairly, from what I’ve read, and it did not do so in a way that invited criticism.

    If you want to open up a discussion about the thorny issue of gender essentialism, you should prepare for a long hard talk. It might be best to make it into a separate post, and one that includes more than one link from somebody who is, as LL said, criticizing another as an outsider.

    First, I’m not able to see comments until they’ve been approved—at least, I don’t think I can see them, as I haven’t until they’ve shown up—so I haven’t approved or disapproved of any comments here.

    You should be able to as a logged-in administrator–check “pending” on the dashboard; it will show you the comments that have gotten hung up in the cue.

  27. shemale
    shemale August 5, 2009 at 7:40 am |

    “What matters when dealing with difficult issues isn’t whether you agree with your interlocutor, but whether he or she frames the argument in a way that fosters future debate.”

    Ah, so we’re judging by tone and style rather than content when it comes to selecting articles, essays, and blog entries for praise on the Feministe front page now?


    “You’re interested in a different subject. That’s fine. The internet’s big enough to accommodate all interests.”

    Right, i’m sure. The internet is big enough to accommodate lots of things, from feminist blogs to rape porn for Nazi fetishists.

    But is Feministe really, do you think, the place to “accommodate” the masturbatory, blithe, cissexist theorizing of cissexual people about What Transsexual People Think?

    “I knew that no matter what post I chose to link to, the content would be offensive to some…”

    So there’s nothing you possibly could’ve done to prevent this, right? Throw your hands up, “it was inevitable that someone is going to find something offensive,” you don’t have to take anything away from this conversation because that’s just how people are, right?

    So, answer a question for me: What in the motherfuck are you even doing here?

  28. HazyJane
    HazyJane August 5, 2009 at 8:06 am |

    Welcome Scott.

    Someone may well have already called you a pretentious git (insults are always a pleasant welcome?!?) but I for one am looking forward to more of your posts as I really, really enjoy your writing style. I guess this style of prose isn’t for everyone but jeez, some people are RUDE.

  29. Medea
    Medea August 5, 2009 at 3:22 pm |

    Also like the writing style.

  30. Donna
    Donna August 5, 2009 at 3:33 pm |

    I think you are still missing a very important point and something you should look for whenever you are doing your link round ups. It’s that Jasper was misrepresenting what trans people think, how they live their lives, etc. You should always be suspicious when you see someone of a privileged class writing about people of an oppressed class, and especially when there is no links or other sourcing for hir assumptions and conclussions.

    This also should have been a big warning sign, “The term cis privilege is used to silence all critiques of brain sex activism.” That is on par with saying that people of color like to throw out the race card to silence white people.

    The signs were all there that this was not going to be a respectful dialogue even before you found out that Jasper is not approving comments from people who disagree. And you should expect anger, and that people will be appalled when you misrepresent their lives, thoughts, and feelings. So hir other post about the heated discussion and how everyone must post calm, cool, collected comments about hir academic theories and uninformed speculation is also bunk. Trans people are talking about their actual lives, the reality. Telling them to calm down about the crap they put up with is not just disrespectful but callous and infuriating. You can not expect people to be able to put that kind of dispassionate distance into writing about their lived experiences the way that privileged people can when it’s just theory, assumptions, and speculation.

  31. Luther Blissett
    Luther Blissett August 5, 2009 at 11:34 pm |

    I don’t think link round-ups should only include what the rounder-upper approves of. That would create an atmosphere of what we like to call, in the fancy academic world, narrow-mindedness. Why not include that with which we passionately disagree, or that which offends us?

    On the subject of personal writing: Donna is creating some false either/or distinction between “calm, cool, collected” academese and passionate personal writing. I’d just hold up Joan Didion or Anne Dillard or Toni Morrison or bell hooks as examples of personal writing — or writing motivated by personal issues — that is particularly effective because of the reflective distance it creates between first-hand lived experience (whatever *that* is in the age of total mediation) and writing about it. I mean, write however you want, really. But don’t be fooled that writing “passionately” is justified because it’s writing about the self (as if one can only be worked-up by what affects the self, or that one should not be worked up by that which affects others). It’s either effective writing or it’s not.

    Scott, I don’t envy you the role you’ve taken on over here. It already seems as if you’ve been forced to be far more “sensitive,” to back off more from your positions, than I’ve ever seen in your writing or on-line personae.

  32. piny
    piny August 6, 2009 at 5:16 am |

    A fair number of the people who have a bone to pick with Scott either hold graduate degrees or read graduate-level theory in their spare time. Most of them are not unfamiliar with academia. I don’t think people were annoyed about the book-larnin’. I think they were annoyed that someone who’s supposed to think for a living liked such a thoughtless post.

    Nobody said that Scott should only link to pieces of writing he approved of. People were critical of him because it sounded as though he approved of a piece of writing that was not all that good. They all stated reasons for their low opinion, too. Here’s my short list: it’s intellectually dishonest; it’s shallow; it’s it states two positions inaccurately; it’s disrespectful, and not only of competing arguments.

    This also isn’t a trivial or invisible issue–not to the people involved, anyway. Many other bloggers have written posts on the topic that are better. It’s not a good idea to pluck out a crap recap of the discussion; the likely result is more, not less, misinformation.

    Finally, no, Donna is not saying that only emotional words are effective. She’s rebutting a false dichotomy between valuable words and angry words. Jasper repeated some very transphobic tropes. Then ze said that nobody would be allowed to say anything angry on his comments thread, because, you know, more heat than light and so forth. That’s bullshit. It’s possible to speak dispassionately about something close to you, but it’s unfair to place that burden on someone else.

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