Category Archives: Disciplinary Politics

News Report: Angry Women Angry Again, Part 1 of 2

The other day, Wendy Wong posted at the Duck of Minerva about race, gender, and having a career in IR – particularly in response to the American Political Science Association’s choice of a stock image of a random Asian woman as the image to advertise their article on authority in International NGOs. Wendy asked a series of important questions: what did this image have to do with authority? or NGOs? Or politics? What happened to her co-author? What search terms led to this picture? Are we still relying on stereotypes that all Asians look alike? How hard is it to google NGOs?

After initially not apologizing, APSA issued an apology, promising to monitor their social media posting better. Still, many of us were horrified that such a ‘mistake’, and all of the stereotypes that brings with it, was even possible for APSA as an organization, given all of the work our field has done on race and gender stereotypes both in scholarship and in the world. My tweet below is only one example:

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Political scientists’ anger was picked up by Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed, in a post titled “Twitter Illustration Angers Women in Political Science.” My immediate reaction was to criticize the gender stereotypes inherent in the article title:

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A 140-character tweet might not have been the best place to explain it. Several other tweeters, and facebook posters, have expressed discomfort with Jaschik’s wording. Steve Saideman noted in a comment on the post:

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Will Moore, on his blog, critiqued the title for suggesting that only women were upset by it, and thereby reifying the normalization and prioritization of white men’s problems over the problems of people who aren’t white men, which are treated as less serious or of lesser import. Wendy Wong and Sarah Stroup suggest a better title for Jaschik’s piece on twitter:

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I think that this is an important correction, and that it is important that Jaschik acknowledge it. But I find Jaschik’s title even more insidious than other critics have explicitly because it plays on and entrenches an embedded (masculine) stereotype of the scary “angry woman.”

Narrativized accounts of the “angry woman” frame her as more scary than, and more dangerous than, any angry men could be. Subtly drawing of gender stereotypes, often descriptions of women’s anger suggest that women (who are understood as emotional) have, deal with, and express anger in more unpalatable ways than men (who are understood as irrational). The “angry woman” is characterized as angry at whatever the offending man might do, however justified and possibly even sympathetically intended. The “angry woman” is a way to characterize feminism as hysteria and not a search for justice and emancipation. The “angry woman” distances women from both agency and normal femininity. The “angry woman” is belittling, sexist, and deeply both intellectually and normatively problematic – even when it is not deployed intentionally. 

I can’t speak for whether Wendy was angry, because I’m not her. I was angry. However unintentional, APSA’s post was sex and race subordinating, and trivialized Wendy and Sarah’s work. But Jaschik didn’t say that. He might have meant to. Instead, he said that women were angry. He didn’t say APSA made them angry. He didn’t say APSA belittled them. He didn’t say APSA’s mistake trivialized their work. He said that the tweet had “angered women.” And watch out for those angry women …

So, I have two take-aways:

  1. I think Jaschik needs to apologize for/change the title of the post on Inside Higher Ed.
  2. “Angry women” don’t come from femininity gone awry –> anger. They come from ridiculous essentialism and subordination –> anger. And a great way to prove the justness of that anger is to stereotype women who stand up for themselves as “angry women.”

In part 2 of this post, I’ll tell you what got me thinking about this a couple of months ago, and how I think of analyzing anger in gender analysis in IR.

Don’t Be Reviewer #2

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I have seen this on Facebook a number of times over the last couple of weeks, and it has really resonated. Especially since Reviewer 2 doesn’t like puppies. And I love puppies. I mean, after all, who can resist my puppies?

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But this “Don’t Be Reviewer #2” stuff made me think about how much of professional development advice in the field comes down to “don’t be an asshole.”

“Don’t Be Reviewer #2” is more complicated than “don’t be an asshole,” of course – but a lot of it is that. Sometimes I tell people I know who do not work in academia about how academics behave towards each other, especially in anonymous situations, and they don’t believe me – they wonder how people who are otherwise intelligent can say and/or do such appalling things.

I started to wonder – is there something about the field that turns on the “asshole” button? And are there ways we can turn it off?

Professionally, this job is both very competitive and very solitary – things that might desensitize us to the effects our behavior might have on each other. Above and beyond that, many of our anonymous situations seem to feel like there’s little chance of getting “caught” – if you are Reviewer #2 – if you write something angry and vengeful – maybe one or two people in the field will ever know it was you. And even those people – mostly the journal editors – will be bound by professional ethics not to tell. Even deeper down the rabbit hole, we spend so much time convincing ourselves that the personal is not in our research that we might not be able to see when our judgments are motivated by insecurity, vengeance, or other emotional reactions.

But, at the end of the day, checking our inner asshole at the door (or before the login) does not seem to be such a monumental task. And, as a journal editor, to be completely honest, there are not that many “Reviewer #2’s” – most people give detailed, very polite reviews that are generally helpful or mildly misdirected. Some others don’t do their due diligence, providing reviews that are hurried, short, or lack detail. Very few people are “Reviewer #2.” Most of us, I think, … I hope … have “don’t be an asshole” down in the reviewing department. But there are “Reviewer #2’s” out there. And many of us (myself included) have failed the “don’t be an asshole” test at least once.

I’m not sure I fully comprehend why or how it happens each time it does. But I’ve been trying an experiment over the last month or so – I’ve been thinking of my professional behavior as measured by the “asshole” test – every time I make a decision, I’ve been wondering what its adverse effects are, and on whom. I’d like to think that’s making me a little bit better of a decision-maker professionally.

As per reviewing, Sara Mitchell’s recent advice about writing high-quality reviews, I think, is very helpful. As my post series on the Duck of Minerva several years back suggested, it is important to try to understand the underlying assumptions that the author makes when reviewing an article. I think writing reviews that you would like to read, and that would be helpful to you, is a pretty good tip. But, when in doubt, use the “don’t be an asshole” rule – either when reviewing, or more generally in professional interaction. Thinking of it in those terms might make less “Reviewer #2”-like-sorts in the world.

Reviewing an Editor’s Reviewing Peer Review

Sara Mitchell over at the Political Methodologist writes a great piece on peer review with many notes of wisdom that do not necessarily have anything to do with peer review.  Much of it borders more on career advice for both Senior and Junior faculty.

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I just have a few notes that were about to become a very long Facebook post that my family has no need to see.

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Ten things I’m going to keep doing in 2016

Amid all of the wishes for a Happy New Year on Facebook and Twitter were hundreds of resolutions. Resolutions are an implicit reflection on what we could have done better in 2015 – the mistakes we made and shortcomings we had. I had shortcomings, certainly; in fact, that’s an understatement. My 2015 was full of (both glorious and inglorious) total failures, disappointments, messes, and the like – not only those, but definitely those. So I have a 2016 resolution – like most other people, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on how to improve the stuff I suck at. But then, I saw someone post this Calvin and Hobbes cartoon to Facebook. At first, my reaction was to chuckle – in part, because my personal life has been somewhat nomadic lately, and I have embraced it – so the ‘wing it’ mentality is pretty near and dear to me; but in part because, at New Year’s, we don’t think a lot about “staying the course.” It made me think about the things I think I might be doing right – the good decisions I’ve made and good strategies I’ve come up with even in the midst of the nomadism and messes. This is not to say that I’m winning whatever game, or that I have all the answers – I certainly have more flaws than victories, and more questions than answers. But I thought it might be good to start 2016 with a sense of what is working for me, as a baseline to think about what isn’t.  So, here are ten things (in no particular order)  I’m going to keep doing in 2016:

1. Look for opportunities to engage my multiple interests in the field rather than looking to fall into one mold.

My work is in gender and security – Feminist Security Studies, to be exact. That’s what drew me to graduate school when I had no interest in academia; that’s what drew me back into academia when I had left for the legal world. It is my passion, and it will be a central focus of my work for the rest of my career. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t explore other stuff that I’m interested in (the Interpretive Quantification project, for example). It also doesn’t mean that I have to – or even can – have one perspective on it. In some of my work in FSS, I’m drawn to mainstream-facing work thinking about how war theorizing might be different if gender were taken into account, to a variety of degrees. In other pieces, I’m drawn to poststructuralist analyses of the grotesque. Sometimes, it is women I think about, other times, its queer or trans- bodies. There are some common themes across this work. But there are also tensions and contradictions. Some are places I’ve come to disagree with myself – for example, as I’ve said before, I’ve come to think my first book was too optimistic about the Just War tradition. But most are places where I don’t have one perspective, one interest, or one understanding. I think that I’d lose my sense of exploration and my sense of why I do this if I tried to be just one of these things. I know there are those who find following multiple paths problematic. But I’m not one of them, and I’m going to aim to keep being not one of them.

2. Put editing work and service work first. 

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A Conversation from “What’s the Point of IR”?

This past weekend, I had the privilege of participating, with a number of friends and colleagues, in the Sussex International Relations Department’s 50-year celebration: What’s the Point of IR?

The conference was interesting in a lot of ways – just go look at the (annoyingly long, but effective) hashtag: #whatsthepointofIR. There was a lot of very important (and very diverse) discussion of what we do and how we do it, both in practice and normatively.

In this post, I want to highlight a part of the conversation I found particularly interesting: a discussion about if IR scholars have an individual or collective normative accountability for the product of their/the discipline’s work. This conversation was had alongside the conference, on Twitter, inspired by Patrick Thaddeus Jackson’s talk on the pedagogical value of IR – largely between Patrick and I, focusing on the question of moral responsibility but also engaging whether there is an IR, who is in it, and what it is for. We intend to expand on/continue to have the conversation, but I figured that it’d be interesting to share:

 

Why I Don’t Give a Shit about My H-Index

My scholarship is a politics. I did not start out interested in an academic career, then narrow down my research interest in graduate school to focus on gender/feminism in IR. Patrick Thaddeus Jackson once called scholarship and teaching a vocation – it may be for him, but it never has been for me. For me, it is feminist politics and the search for global justice that is a vocation, and scholarship the vehicle to follow that vocation. In Marysia Zalewski’s sense, I see theory as practice, as activism. I had an interest in one graduate program, in one dissertation topic, and in one research program – and its not because that is what I like to research. Its because gender studies/global justice is what I am drawn to do, and research and teaching is how I do it.

Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m fortunate to be paid, and paid well, to follow my politics. And I’m not pretending that I do not follow my politics, and navigate my job, strategically. I do all of those things. But if I was putting professional strategy first and politics second, my career would look a lot different. Put into the context of recent discussions, the only way my h-index would measure how well I do what I do is if what I do is look to maximize the attention that my research gets in the academic social sciences. That’s not what I do, and I don’t give a shit about my h-index.

If what I did was try to maximize the attention of my research, I would do research using cutting-edge statistical techniques addressing questions that are of direct interest to a significant percentage of prolific scholars in the field. I do not stay that because it is as easy as that sentence makes it sound – compiling a great h-index, even if one sets out to do it, is very difficult and takes a significant amount of skill. And I don’t say it criticizing the people who take such a career path – to each his/her own, and I know a lot of great people who see this profession as an end in itself, or a means to an end of living comfortably.

At the end of the day, what I’m saying is that choosing to research gender, sexuality, and security in global politics is likely not an h-index maximizing choice. H-index maximization would involve paying attention to, following, and developing disciplinary trends, and citation seeking. My chosen research instead looks to buck and alter disciplinary trends writ large. That doesn’t mean it gets no attention – but it does mean that it gets attention differently, and there is a limit to the amount of attention it gets. That is a career externality to the political choice that I’ve made.

There are some who would argue that the h-index tradeoff is a personal choice that I have made – akin to other personal or career choices people make that have various costs and benefits. That argument might be worth considering if IR research as a whole benefitted from selecting for h-index maximization. I argue that it does not.

My argument does not come from the position that IR research is an unmeasurable art, or the contention that there is some intangible quality that makes scholarship good. Both might be true, but I think my issue is more fundamental. In the provision of data about, and discussion around, IR scholars’ h-index in the last couple of weeks, there has been discussion of whether h-index is a good indicator (whether it captures ‘productive researchers’) and whether what it indicates (‘research productivity’) is what the best Departments should be built around. In those conversations, the suggestion that the h-index measurement has biases has come up several times, especially in Facebook conversations with friends and colleagues.

I reject the notion that h-index measurements are biased. Bias implies that there is some achievable, objective standard out there that h-indexes just fail at measuring – a je ne sais quoi of good scholarship that is either intangible or poorly measured. I disagree. I think that using h-indexes as metrics is a combination of reifications of the political status quo and popularity contests – but I don’t think that is a bias. It is a politics, a direction, and a disciplining move.

The politics is that we like where the discipline is right now, and want to honor innovative, high-quality, attention-grabbing work at its center.  The politics suggests that the majority of ‘research productive’ scholars in IR currently study desirable subject areas from desirable theoretical perspectives using desirable methods. The work that is at the margins is appropriately at the margins, and taking theoretical, empirical, and methodological risks is unlikely to pay off. The direction, then, is the perpetuation of the status quo. The disciplining move is to tie professional success to this status-quo mainstreaming and call it an objective metric. If you can measure quality by influence, and influence by the number of people who pay attention to the work, then IR scholarship has an incentive to run towards the middle and find popular niches.

To me, that does not work for whatever IR is and/or should be. It stifles macroinnovation for microinnovation, encouraging stagnation. It reifies the marginality of disciplinary margins. And it does so in a more formalized way than the social structural exclusions of the discipline do currently.

My h-index exists, like everyone else’s. I even know it. But I don’t give a shit about it. There are those who will judge the quality of my scholarship by my h-index, and/or see it as a good indicator thereof. I cannot stop that. But I can think its both misapplied to me and a bad move for IR scholarship. It being misapplied to me may be my issues – but I’d wager I’m not the only one who doesn’t see citation as a primary purpose of my work. That it’s a bad move for IR scholarship is an argument that I think merits further consideration.

The Problematic Postgraduate Higher Education System in the UK

I step into this breech timidly, the UK education system is severely rotting.  There is so much I can say and so much I should not.  As this is the start of my fourth year in the UK I have a lot to say about the UK higher education system and its faults.  It is not that the American system is perfect, it is often flawed at a deeper level (cost and access).  This is what makes the decline of the British system all that more troubling.  The benefits and advances will be lost with the continued underfunding of significant programmes and the neglect of our highest paying students.   unhappy-dog-rex

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“I know there’s stuff I don’t talk about” and other annoying responses to feminist analysis

Ok, maybe not other annoying responses, for this post. Just this one.

Recently, I was asked to write a response to Mike Desch’s argument that high-tech methodology hurts the policy relevance of Security Studies for Perspectives on Politics. The policy relevance that Desch is interested in is relevance to the Washington establishment in the US.

There’s nothing ground-breaking about my response – it repeats things feminists have been saying for decades. It suggests that seeing the US government as the location of relevance may be not only wrong but morally insidious, then makes the argument that the notion of objective knowledge and scientific process that Desch shares with the quantitative work he criticizes might be the root of a differently understood ‘relevance problem’ for Security Studies – hierarchy and exclusion.

Even though this response is, in my view, strikingly unoriginal – it seems to be getting the same reaction it got 20 years ago. Desch was able to write a response to the response – well, a response to other people’s responses anyway. All of the other pieces (including the other two in the sentence below) are addressed substantively. My piece is mentioned in one sentence. Brace yourself.

“Finally, Tutton, Voeten, and Laura Sjoberg all make an important point about policy-relevance involving much more than government policy-makers.”

Yep. That’s it. I say: gender analysis shows your conception of Security Studies is normatively harmful and intellectually counterproductive. He says: oh, nice of you to tell me that we need to pay attention to policy-making outside of government. I meant that, I just didn’t say it. But my catch-all point applies to that.

In other words, I know there’s stuff I didn’t talk about, and that’s enough to dispense with the gender critique.

My colleagues from outside of the United States often wonder why I engage with the American mainstream of IR, and, when I first read Desch’s response to the response, I’ll admit, I got on the skeptical bandwagon.

But then I thought – that response is exactly why it has to keep getting said. There, and then here, and then anyplace else that it can be. Gender analysis is not just something you mean but don’t say, and then can get away with saying “I know there’s stuff I didn’t talk about.” It affects how you think about a project, ontologically, epistemology, and methodologically. It affects it whether or not you think so – your work is as impacted by implicit masculinized gender assumptions as mine is by explicit feminist assumptions. And I’m talking about it even if you won’t.

On Writing Op-Eds

I have never been successful at writing op-eds, basically I have given up in order to write shorter academic pieces for visible places.  The preference for an academic generally should be places like Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and Slate that will take 1000-2000 word pieces arguing a point, but with evidence, quasi citations (links), and references to your own works.  The reality is that think tanks still matter, policy makers read them, Obama is briefed on them.Untitled

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Sex and Death … revisited?

I won’t tell you how old I was when Carol Cohn published “Sex and Death in the World of Rational Defense Intellectuals” – but I will tell you that I’ve read it dozens of times over my years as an IR scholar, and that it has been foundational to my thinking about security issues in the international political arena, as well as the links between gender, violence, and security. So I was surprised, and interested, to see an article in the FirstView of International Organization which plays off of the title of Cohn’s original Signs article – Rose McDermott‘s “Sex and Death: Gender Differences in Aggression and Motivations for Violence.” Then I read it.

Almost thirty years ago, Cohn described that  “it was hard not to notice the ubiquitous weight of gender, both in social relations and in the language itself” of “white men in ties discussing missile size” (p.688, 692). This discussion about sexualized imagery does not serve to compare (favorably or unfavorably) men and women – in fact, Cohn notes the ease of getting drawn into it even with an explicitly feminist predisposition. Instead, Cohn’s discussion serves to show that militarism itself relies on gendered significations – of men and women, of states, and of strategies and tactics. The lasting richness of Cohn’s work is about voice, signification, reification, and hybridity in gender/security matrices. And that’s what’s lost in McDermott’s reuse of Cohn’s title.

McDermott naturalizes sex and gender, throwing Butler’s caution about the performative co-constitution of sex and gender to the wind. The consequences are a step backwards, rather than a step forward, for analyzing gender and international security.

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