Smells Like Dude Spirit


(Yeah, we’re pretty much all like this…)

I’ve had a book proposal out in the field for a textbook for about a year now. The other day, I poked my editor to ask if the reviews were back, hoping to God that they weren’t. There’s nothing like the ability to live under the delusion that what you’re doing might actually have merit. (Some of us have been working hard at that game much longer than others…)

She sent along about a dozen reviews. If you’ve never seen the back end of a review process, it’s a lot like a frat hazing: you’re stripped of all your defenses and people whose faces you can’t see are mocking you mercilessly. In the end, they let you live, and chances are, you’ll get to do the exact same thing to the next group. In sorting through these things, they weren’t all that bad but one thing caught me off guard.

A reviewer accused me of being a dude.

I use the word “accused” on purpose because the sentence smacked with righteous indignation that I somehow couldn’t hide my gender properly in my writing. (The reviewer also accused me of being obviously from the South, which amused me to no end. I’ve never lived south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The one time I was in Texas, some folks took me to a rodeo and I didn’t get it. Seriously, they wanted to buy me a hat to help me fit in. I also got strange looks when the guy tied off the legs on the calf and I asked out loud if he was in trouble for not getting all four legs in the rope.) While my posts here are generally peppered with dude-isms like references to my lovely bride, my love of sports moments and my complete lack of direction while driving, in rereading my sample chapters, I didn’t see anything generally penile in there. Maybe I’m missing it…

Then I remembereda column I read by Rick Reilly about how it’s cool to trash white guys and I wondered why it was totally fine for this reviewer get all gender uppity, even having no idea who I was (blind peer review) or where I came from. (No, please, God, no, this is not about how come black folks can use the “N” word and I can’t. I don’t want to, am not asking to and wouldn’t know how to even if I were given official “N” word clearance…) After all, it wouldn’t be cool for me to start a review with, “This is all emotional and scattered and smacks of a woman…” or “Please keep your gender identity issues under control while writing…” (Again, not like I want to. It was hard enough to come up with those stereotypes as examples…)

I guess I wonder about these self-aggrandizing perceptions. I had a student the other day accuse me of not knowing how hard it is to be a student. (Uh… Yeah… Nine years in college, anyone?) Another told me that I didn’t know what it was like to struggle as a non-traditional student with a child. (Nah, the full-time job my wife has on top of her full course load and child gives me no insight as to how hard this is…) Is there a value to these delusions and accusations? Does it make us feel better to be able to call out people we believe are “The Man?” Or is this now our reality? Do I just need to get used to being on the backswing of those folks who have spent a lifetime of people being deemed second-class citizens for various reasons?

Help me understand what I’m seeing here. I need all the help I can get.

After all, I’m just a dude…


7 thoughts on “Smells Like Dude Spirit

  1. I love the things students will accuse you of. One student, having been blatantly caught cheating on her annotated bibliography and told that I would not fail her, but that she had to write a new paper on a new topic, accused me of being unfair.
    Because, you see, she didn’t cheat on the annotated bibliography. Her friend did it for her.
    (Also, totally inappropriate to begin a review of a textbook in that way. If the material is good, then the gender and geographic location don’t matter. If the material is bad, those things MIGHT matter.)

  2. I actually had one student complain to me that I had told her everything she needed for the final was in my study guide. I blinked a couple of times, then told her that everything she needed WAS in the study guide (with the answers to every question HIGHLIGHTED, fer gawdsake), and asked if she had studied it. She looked at me like I’d grown a third head, and said, I’m not kidding, “It’s 14 pages long!” God forbid I expect a student in college to read more than a paragraph. Sigh.
    It’s all about the excuses. As long as you’re a dude, and they’re not, then their failures or misunderstandings or stupidities can be rationalized away by them calling you on your dudeness.
    Likewise, in the case of the reviewer, your dudeness is simply a placeholder for whatever it is she (presumably she) didn’t like about the book. Frankly, it’s lazy thinking–if you can’t come up with a clear way of criticizing what you think is wrong with it, blame the problems on the gender or ethnicity or socio-economic status of the writer, and you’re done! I’m betting if she were asked to be specific about her complaints, if she could do it, none of them would have anything to do with your gender.

  3. Thanks, Doc, for putting a finger squarely on the thing that bugged me about the ‘peer review process’ at the University Press where I worked (briefly) in my last gainful (?) employment.
    If you couch it in the correct language, you can call a writer’s work “acceptable for … [insert stereotypical put-down here]” and thus doom good scholars whose writing might enlighten a field — except, of course, the academics in that field don’t want to consider that their prejudices and preconceptions are anything but perfect and accurate and immutable.
    Because once reviews are “bad,” academic presses lose all interest.

  4. OMFG! The reviewer needs some gender therapy (gendrification?). But I wouldn’t advise you to reply, ‘Yo, bitch…’, either, in retaliation.

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