We need the humanities
A trio of hoaxers spent a year writing fake articles to make fun of the humanities. First, who has that kind of time? The world is full of things to learn. Why not learn some of them and do real work? Second, their vandalism has consequences. I wrote at Pacific Standard
The New York Times reports that the administration's memo proposes defining sex "as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with." But this latest policy, as Parker Molloy has written, is just the most recent manifestation of a sustained, concerted campaign spearheaded by right-wing identity groups like the Family Research Council. Molloy argues that this plan begins with stripping away civil rights protections for trans people, but that its broader goal is to use the power of the federal government to enforce reductive gender norms on all people. The latest academic hoax emerges from the same ideological position as the Trump administration's attack on trans rights and the agenda of the Family Research Council.
It was in a gender studies class that I, a wise but foolish sophomore, first learned that there were non-binary ways of defining gender. I took an anthropology of gender class, in which we studied the berdache, a third gender, in Native American societies. I'd previously thought of myself as a smart, well-informed feminist, but in such classes, my mind was blown.
Again and again, I've turned to these disciplines at difficult moments in my life. When my son was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome, I read widely in disability studies as a way to better understand his future and my own. As I wrote recently, both disability studies and one of its sub-disciplines, known as "mad studies," helped me process my own battles with mental illness. As my middle-aged body goes soft in the middle, feminist attempts to broaden our standards of beauty help support me in accepting its changes. These are trivial issues compared to a sustained assault on trans rights from the federal government, but they've been important to me. The hoaxers' attempts to undermine these disciplines place Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose in alliance with the administration's assault, and the logic of their academic vandalism would threaten to strip people like me of access to the wisdom on which I've come to rely.