Why I Pulled the Post
Some of you have asked why I pulled the post, “Intellectual Jailbait: Networking at APSA,” which I put up last night.
First, a lot of people were obviously hurt by the post. Those of us who blog of course want to be read, and I try to use humor to get my points across. I think that most humor, or at least mine, tries to go up to the edge of inappropriateness without crossing it. You don’t know until you cross it until you do, however. I would have never posted this if I thought that it would hurt a lot of feelings.
Second, I felt that people were missing the main message, which was to focus less on self-promotion with senior scholars and more on having exciting intellectual exchanges, which I generally found to be more likely among younger scholars even if they are less influential. In the short-term, this will make you feel less cheap. Hence my use of the word “slutty,” still an accurate depiction of how I felt when I tried to attract the attention of those big wigs who were not interested. In the long-term, I think it is better actually for one’s scholarly ambitions as interactions with the most interesting if not the most powerful people will make you do better work. And those interesting young people will eventually themselves be in positions of influence.
So if what I thought was useful advice wasn’t coming through and people were hurt as well, then I saw no point in keeping it up. You can accuse me of censorship or succumbing to the pressures of “the PC police” if you like. I just felt upset at making others upset.
There is a legitimate question still unresolved. Why did I not see this coming? How could I have not seen that this would offend? Does this reveal something about men in the discipline? I think it does. Sherrill Stroschein put it exactly right in a comment on the Duck post : “The conference experience is filled with uncomfortable and subtly demeaning experiences for any young scholars, which I think was what Brian’s original post was trying to highlight. This experience, however, is amplified for a young female scholar because of the greater fear that she will be disregarded because she is a woman, and because of a fear of the casual and sometimes subtle sexualization of these interactions (which is part of why Brian’s original post was difficult to take).” That is exactly right, but would just add that even for men, it is not “subtly” demeaning. It is completely demeaning, and that is the burden I am trying to remove for younger scholars by giving them a different path.
I know the unique challenges for women in the academic business of course but I wasn’t thinking about it. And that is because I will never truly understand what it is like to be a woman in this field. Therefore it is up to women to tell me (and other men). So I thank readers for that although it would be nice if the point could be made without the name-calling. As my wife put it, my post was “clueless.” She is an academic as well, which should of course made me more attentive to women’s feelings before I posted, but we had never really had a conversation about her experiences with casual and subtle sexism in the field before today. So the sensitivity of the issue is now much better understood by me and, I hope, others as well.
My intent was to undermine power relations between younger and older scholars rather than reaffirm and call up feelings of unequal power relations between men and women. I seem to have failed. For the larger point I was trying to make, see Steve’s post below, which says everything I was trying to say.