Feminist scholarship is here to stay. Abjection overruled!
Critical and feminist research is increasingly the target of attacks unleashed on social media. Cybersexism and cyberbullying against academics are a rampant phenomenon, but we say #TimeIsUp!
In a context where our academic institutions, society and even ourselves become increasingly tolerant, and complicit to such attacks often letting them ‘pass’ unchallenged and undenounced, we argue that it is our responsibility, as academics, to assert a professional work ethics whereby such behaviour is unacceptable. Ridiculing, mocking, threatening and shaming other people’s work by engaging in sexist degradation are not behaviors that encourage an environment of collegiality and academic freedom. Severe impacts on the health and wellbeing of targeted academics is just the tip of the iceberg of the deleterious effects of such attacks. Beneath the surface, by allowing this to go on, it is the very impoverishment of knowledge that we are witnessing, ruled by a culture of fear and domination, instead of a culture of creativity, discovery and the kind of inquiry that leads to forms of emancipation and freedom of thought.
In this essay, my colleague and I argue that marginal voices must not keep quiet and must resist these attacks that seek to make feminist work abject. Academic research is not perfect and should never be in order to remain refutable and debateable. But this does not mean having to ask for author-ization by submitting to ‘superior’, ‘legitimate’ forces, or apologizing for our embodied writing. Rather, we should use our authorial voices to challenge abjectifying tendencies that constrain our ability to speak in academia.
Our work is meant to be discussed with others, not abjectified as Other.
We draw on our own experience of being attacked for our feminist writings to argue that there is room for all kinds of knowledge, and even if it is often costly for women to speak, the costs of remaining silent will always be higher. As poet Audre Lorde reminds us: your silence will not protect you. So we have to keep naming sexism and denouncing it for what it is, each and every time it happens. Even if, we often become the problem for naming a problem, as noted by feminist scholar, Sara Ahmed. We have to work towards dismantling tweet by tweet, word by word, the often-veiled abjectifying language of academic cybersexism, despite complicit efforts to cover these up. Much like the glass ceiling and glass walls in gendered organizations, we see an invisible sexist (cyber)wall erecting structural barriers against those viewed as destabilizing patriarchal definitions of ‘clean’ academic knowledge. Disagreement can be productive and we welcome it. But in cybersexism and cyberbullying, there is no intention to engage in a conversation, or even in a disputatio. There is merely the intention of conducting a blunt and (un)disguised attack on any form of difference, only considered sufficient, interesting or worthy of consideration and visibility when it serves patriarchy’s ‘sanitizing’ interests.
Empowered by strong waves of support both on cyberspace and within our academic community, we therefore continue to stand “naked but not ashamed” behind our feminist voices and writing. We call for reinventing ways of conducting activist work and solidarity, working and relating, particularly in pandemic and conflict-threatened ‘disembodied’ times. We must act up by countering cyberbullying with cybersolidarity. Because although it sometimes feels as if we are left alone or shouting in the void, we might be actually joining a chorus. We are convinced that even if we can’t hear the chorus or think that it doesn’t exist, we should start singing and dancing to (re)create it, to generate the energy for transforming our silence into voice and action.
Feminist work is here to stay. And we shan’t apologize about it. Abjection overruled!
In March 2021, one of my papers, co-authored with prof. Emmanouela Mandalaki was attacked on social media. We wrote an academic response sumarized above, and that you can read in full here: Mandalaki, E., & Pérezts, M. (2021). Abjection overruled! Time to dismantle sexist cyberbullying in academia. Organization.