Kate Manne has agreed to let me share a post from FB about her experience with a rejection of a feminist philosophy paper.
I received a rejection notice from a journal yesterday. This is a pretty routine occurrence in this game, admittedly. Acceptance rates are notoriously low in philosophy; well under five per cent in the top journals. So you have to learn to accept the rejections themselves gracefully. And much as you slightly dread reading the reports, they can be valuable, even invaluable, in making the paper better. They can help to expose unclarities in your claims, gaps in your argument, etc. But sometimes, they simply confirm that you are fighting a losing battle.
This referee report was one such. The reviewer complained about my use of feminist terms and concepts throughout the paper – e.g., “hegemonic dominance”, “messages that are not only false but oppressive,” and “hermeneutical injustice,” being the specific phrases which they listed as objectionable. And they went on to remark more generally that “the rhetoric of the ms. is such that it will, I think, (1) turn off some readers and (2) distract from the author’s argument. The author brings in some concepts and language which, whatever their merits, seem dubious to many of us in the analytic tradition.”
As a feminist philosopher in the analytic tradition, this is a very disappointing reaction to encounter. Many of us – me included – take the above terms and concepts to be standard, useful, and indeed vital, stock-in-trade. And the people who the reviewer feared would be so “turned off” by the language as to be “distracted” from my argument seem to include the reviewer themselves, ironically. They not only managed to completely miss, but handily illustrated, my central point in the paper. The point being that if one espouses politically marginalized views within philosophy, then one is disproportionately likely to be dismissed, disparaged, silenced, or even excluded from the discipline altogether. One is less likely to be given a platform in leading journals, for one concrete example, in view of which one is of course less likely to be able to earn a living wage, let alone get tenure.
Taken alone, my experience is just one data point, of course. But recent work by Sally Haslanger, among others, strongly suggests that it is not anomalous. Feminist philosophy is virtually absent, and plausibly systematically excluded, from top journals, she argues.
Obviously, the worry here is not that a paper got rejected. It’s that it got rejected for reasons suggestive of ideological bias against an entire area of philosophy, bias so strong that even using the vocabulary common in this area is sufficient grounds for rejection. It seemed to me that it would be useful to open a discuss here in which people can share similar experiences.
So have at it!