The Glacier of Title IX

UCLA law prof Stephen Bainbridge revealed an internal email sent by the school’s chancellor to all faculty.  The email alerted faculty that they were, under new policy, “responsible employees” to report sexual harassment and sexual violence.  Or to be less officious, profs were now the campus snitches.  Bainbridge was not pleased with his new duty.

The new policy strikes me as problematic in several ways. First, I resent being drafted into the Title IX cops, especially given the very legitimate critiques of university policies in this area. Suppose I think that UCLA’s definition of sexual harassment is too broad (as many are) or I think UCLA’s policy for handling complaints in this area lacks due process (as many do). Requiring me to become an informer despite those concerns strikes me as a serious abuse of academic and personal freedom.

Are academics adorable or what?  Fighting losing battles as they’re conscripted into an ideology army that has already consumed higher education. Is the war really lost? Can the Title IX genie be put back in the bottle.  Well, perhaps, but then there’s this*.

A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research

Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.

A joke? From the Onion? Hardly.

Most existing glaciological research – and hence discourse and discussions about cryospheric change – stems from information produced by men, about men, with manly characteristics, and within masculinist discourses. These characteristics apply to scientific disciplines beyond glaciology; there is an explicit need to uncover the role of women in the history of science and technology, while also exposing processes for excluding women from science and technology (Phillips and Phillips, 2010; Domosh, 1991; Rose, 1993). Harding (2009) explains that the absence of women in science critically shapes ‘the selection of scientific problems, hypotheses to be tested, what constituted relevant data to be collected, how it was collected and interpreted, the dissemination and consequences of the results of research, and who was credited with the scientific and technological work’ (Harding, 2009: 408). Scientific studies themselves can also be gendered, especially when credibility is attributed to research produced through typically masculinist activities or manly characteristics, such as heroism, risk, conquests, strength, self-sufficiency, and exploration (Terrall, 1998). The tendency to exclude women and emphasize masculinity thus has far-reaching effects on science and knowledge, including glaciology and glacier-related knowledges.

You know, glaciers kinda have that phallic thing going, right? Like the snow penis, which was obviously a gender bias problem for lack of a snow vagina.

Maybe the university ought to investigate snowballs, too.

Come on, that’s pretty funny. What isn’t funny at all is that other academics, scholars, grown-ups, are afraid of calling bullshit for fear of being branded a misogynist, racist or, god forbid, rape apologist, for challenging the program.  But to do so would not only risk guarantee castigation in the Academy, but liability as well.

Finally, I am deeply troubled by the requirement to report “possible” sexual harassment. I have been unable to find a definition of “possible” in the new policy. I assume possible means something less than “more likely than not,” but how much less? How do I know when I am supposed to report?

“Vague laws offend several important values. First, because we assume that man is free to steer between lawful and unlawful conduct, we insist that laws give the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited, so that he may act accordingly. Vague laws may trap the innocent by not providing fair warning. Second, if arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement is to be prevented, laws must provide explicit standards for those who apply them. A vague law impermissibly delegates basic policy matters to policemen, judges, and juries for resolution on an ad hoc and subjective basis, with the attendant dangers of arbitrary and discriminatory applications”

Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 108–109 (1972).

All in all, I think we can safely add this policy to the long and ever growing list of Title IX excesses.

By merely questioning his duty as a feminist ally, Bainbridge has exposed himself to all manner of hate from his peers and students. Will they need a safe space from his classes?  Will there be trauma teams to soothe the kiddies with puppies and Play-Doh after his lectures? Will he be put on leave so the Office of Civil Rights can investigate his flagrant violation of Title IX?  Will he be exiled to a manly glacier?

On the one side, scientific studies have gained sufficient legitimacy to be framed as a gender issue, because the laws of nature may not care about gender (and not that old binary notion of gender, but the spectrum view), but academics surely do.

On the other side, the few academics who refuse to be co-opted into the Title IX army do so at grave personal risk.  Still not convinced that scholarship is so unhinged that it’s unsafe to question feminism?

Feminist glaciology asks how knowledge related to glaciers is produced, circulated, and gains credibility and authority across time and space. It simultaneously brings to the forefront glacier knowledge that has been marginalized or deemed ‘outside’ of traditional glaciology. It asks how glaciers came to be meaningful and significant (through what ontological and epistemological process), as well as trying to destabilize underlying assumptions about ice and environment through the dismantling of a host of boundaries and binaries. The feminist lens is crucial given the historical marginalization of women, the importance of gender in glacier-related knowledges, and the ways in which systems of colonialism, imperialism, and patriarchy co-constituted gendered science.

Blame it all on the patriarchy. Even glaciers. Yeah, it’s that crazy.

*Via a twit by Brian Earp


23 thoughts on “The Glacier of Title IX

  1. Franklin Michaels

    If it’s any consolation, it’s my understanding that the “Sage Journals” require the authors to cover the cost of publication.

  2. Robert Fusfeld

    This is obviously a hoax. Reminds me of Sokol on gravity as a male construct. See, Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity. Published by a Duke U “peer reviewed” journal in 1995 and praised as challenging “the sanctuaries of accepted ways of perceiving.”

    1. C. A. B.

      Speaking as someone inside the social sciences, I don’t think it is. As a caveat, I’m neither a geographer (I’m a sociology graduate student) nor a feminist (I have trouble taking them seriously). But these things make me think they’re serious:

      (1) Progress in Human Geography is a very highly ranked journal; according to SAGE, it’s the second-highest ranked journal in its discipline. Its impact factor (5.01) is higher than the top-ranked journal in my discipline (American Sociological Review, 4.39). The review process for a journal this highly ranked in the social sciences is an absolute nightmare. I’ve heard of people going through three rounds of R and R’s at ASR; in a case like that, the authors could be trading drafts and reviews with the journal for more than a year, sometimes closer to two. That would be an awful lot of dedication for a hoax. (Remember, the Sokal hoax appeared in Social Text; I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone cite that journal.)

      (2) Even among the social sciences, geography’s gotten a reputation for being really radical and really value-driven; from what I’ve heard, feminist perspectives, Marxist perspectives, standpoint epistemology, etc. all are very much in the mainstream of geography. If the reputation is anything to go by (and, yes, that always is a very big “if”) this isn’t out-of-keeping with the discipline at all.

      (3) Once you strip out all the crazy gender mumbo-jumbo, the questions they’re asking aren’t really all that nuts. They’re asking (a) “Why and how is it that glaciers have become such a dominant topic in both scientific and lay discussions of global warming?” and (b) “How has this affected what we know/think we know about global warming?” These actually are really normal and interesting questions for the field of sociology of knowledge, at least. If approached from a different perspective, I could imagine they would make a really interesting paper. What makes them so bizarre here is the feminist perspective the authors chose. But, as I said, if the reputation is true, that’s not considered a bizarre perspective in geography.

      So, I think it’s every bit as bad as it looks.

      And with that, I’ll go back to reading and learning, and keeping my mouth shut! 😉

      1. delurking

        Sokal was the first thing that popped into my mind as well. Unfortunately, I have to agree with you, this does not look like a hoax. A bit of googling got me to the history of the paper, and how the co-authors came to be involved, in a U. Oregon press release. It all seems legitimate.

  3. Patrick Maupin

    To do their data modelling properly, they will almost certainly want to use the feminist programming language C+= (C plus equality).

    Feminists such as Molly White are are obviously taking this seriously — what else could she mean when she writes “Why I’m not laughing at C Plus Equality”?

    1. SHG Post author

      I keep hoping people are just trolling me. But no.

      C+= C+= (pronounced either C-plus-Equality, or See Equality) is a feminist programming language, created to smash the toxic Patriarchy that is inherent in and that permeates all current computer programming languages. Note: This is a programming language written by and for FEMINISTS, not WOMEN.Dec 14, 2013


  4. marc r

    But for the kiln explosion, would the sorority sisters have ever gone to that jazz club with their dates? And prof Bainbridge can just submit a list of all the males in his class. So when his back is to the class drawing antitrust robots on the blackboard, all possible Title IX violators will have proactively been turned into the administration.

  5. Junior

    “alternative representations of glaciers”?

    How many possible ways can you represent a big ass chunk of snow and ice which from time to time advances or recedes?

    Is there a LBGT(..n) glacier? A cis-heteronormative glacier? I, for one, can’t wait until this research is published.

    1. The Real Peterman

      Remember, there is no such thingbas objective reality to these people, just texts and their interpretations. So, who knows? Maybe glaciers do have sexuality. Maybe they have privileges. Glaciers made my home state look like a mitten, that’s all I know.

  6. Ken Mackenzie

    ” I am deeply troubled by the requirement to report “possible” sexual harassment. I have been unable to find a definition of “possible””

    In Queensland, the law now requires teachers to report “suspected abuse”. There is no threshold for suspicion. The definition of abuse is insanely wide. The reports go to the police. Failure to report is a criminal offence.

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s almost as interesting to know what happens in Queensland as Finland. Or anyplace that ends in ‘land.

      1. david

        Monty Python didn’t sing about Queensland. Check your privilege, cis-hetero white boy.
        Go the Mighty Qld Maroons!

  7. John Rew

    The insane thing about all this is all the escalating mandatory reporting is making the job practically impossible for children’s services as they are inundated with frivolous reports. Eventually when something important slips through the cracks everyone calls for heads to roll and the department loses experienced people. The fuss that SJW’s and feminists are whipping up is obscuring the landscape and making it more likely that the important issues will be drowned out. The trouble is that by giving in to affirmative action hiring practices we have allowed these people to be installed in the top jobs of the public service and there are few people in any position to do anything about the rot. If they are picking on glaciers it’s because they’ve got just about everything else sewn up.

    1. SHG Post author

      College reporting doesn’t go to CPS. They’ve got enough on their hands destroying younger children’s lives.

  8. Ray Lee

    “A joke? From the Onion? Hardly.”

    I think the purported UCLA email could well be from the Onion but the “Progress in Human Geography” post is too silly and obviously farcical to be Onion material.

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