Does not translate

July 27, 2017

I have always found Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s opinions stimulating, not least because I am often in disagreement, at least partially, with them. In “Translation: steer clear” (Opinion, 13 July), I jumped at the casual sexism of the following remark – “The submission is insufficiently sexist: it would be fine if it featured women just because they’re women rather than because they’re relevant”, which was offered as the “trans-lation” of an hypothetical peer reviewer’s comment, to wit, “Unfortunately, the submission lacks gender balance”. 

The fact is that mentioning a lack of gender balance in the context of a peer review (or in other areas, for that matter) does not mean what Fernández-Armesto implies, instead it highlights an intellectual laziness that should be intolerable in academia. Such lack of understanding is confirmed by the definition of gender (the study topic) as a “modish shibboleth” later in the same piece, a rather popular view in conservative quarters, old and new (“Gender studies under attack from the new right”,, 11 May).

Perhaps Fernández-Armesto should practise himself the advice he offers to peer reviewers, “there is something to be said for brilliance unalloyed with erudition”, only brilliance is even better untainted by sexism.

Anna Notaro
Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee
Twitter: @Notanna1

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