Allegations of Ideological Policing via Refereeing


The refereeing of academic papers in philosophy has its share of problems. Is one of them ideological policing? That is an allegation made by Dan Demetriou (University of Minnesota, Morris) in regards to an article he co-authored with a student, Michael Prideaux.

Here is the abstract of the article, “Gender Exaggeration as Trans“:

Surprisingly, it follows from commonplaces about sex and gender that there is a widely-practiced variety of transgenderism achievable through sex/gender “exaggerating.” Recognizing exaggeration as trans—or at least its moral equivalent—has several important consequences. One is that, since most traditional cultures endorse exaggeration, trans lifestyles have often been mainstream. But more importantly, recognizing that gender exaggeration is trans (or its moral equivalent) reveals a number of sex- and gender-discriminatory practices and intolerant attitudes: from pathologizing hypergender to legally restricting androgenic hormones, many people who consider themselves trans allies are less consistent in their support of transgender lifestyles than they realize. Thus, seeing exaggerators as trans not only follows from a better grasp of transgenderism, but also reveals new arguments in favor of greater gender freedom against gender-policing by both conservatives and progressives.

The paper asserts a provocative thesis about a controversial subject matter, as a lot of interesting philosophy does. If its thesis strikes you as implausible, keep in mind that that’s just the abstract—read the full paper for the arguments and replies to objections.

Demetriou reports that the paper has been desk-rejected a number of times. It has received only two referee reports, which he has published and replied to here. He believes that the paper has been rejected for “ideological reasons” and that the referees “believe in gate-keeping and stifling views they find ‘troubling.'” He is concerned about an “outsiders need not apply” mentality.

Certainly, “outsiders need not apply” would be a troubling characteristic for an area of inquiry. However, if someone telegraphs their outsider status through the unacknowledged idiosyncratic use of certain terminology, or by displaying an ignorance of some clearly relevant ideas or literature, then it is not shocking that referees would read that work with a more critical eye. Demetriou does not think that is what has happened here, and I do not know enough about the topic to know whether that is the case.

I’m posting about this because one of the things I value about philosophy is the serious consideration of unusual and unpopular views, and the defense of surprising theses. I’m curious what others more knowledgeable about this area in philosophy make of Demetriou’s complaints about the refereeing. Please keep it civil.

Also, Demetriou, whom I contacted to let him know about this post, informs me that he is “literally holding a flashlight for a carpenter right now—no electricity for 24 hrs here in this Cameroonian town I’m in”—and so may be a bit slow to reply to comments.

Gates at Frogner Park, Oslo

Gates at Frogner Park, Oslo

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