Reception to Hypatia Transracialism Controversy

Author's statement
Tuvel issued a statement, on 1 May 2017, in response to the associate editors' apology:

I wrote this piece from a place of support for those with non-normative identities, and frustration about the ways individuals who inhabit them are so often excoriated, body-shamed, and silenced. When the case of Rachel Dolezal surfaced, I perceived a transphobic logic that lay at the heart of the constant attacks against her. My article is an effort to extend our thinking alongside transgender theories to other non-normative possibilities.

Citing scholars who have adopted sympathetic positions on transracialism, including Adolph L. Reed Jr. and Melissa Harris-Perry, she argued that failing to examine the issues would "reinforce gender and racial essentialism". She apologized for the parenthetical reference to Jenner's previous name, which was removed from the article at her request on 4 May. She also acknowledged that "a valid reproach is that my article discusses the lives of vulnerable people without sufficiently citing their own first-person experiences and views." Expressing concern about the personal attacks and hate mail she had received, including from commentators who had not read the article, she wrote that commentators had warned her that failing to retract the article would "be devastating for ... her personally, professionally, and morally". She argued that "critical thought is in danger", and that "the last place one expects to find such calls for censorship rather than discussion is amongst philosophers".

Early response from Hypatia
Sally Scholz, the journal's editor-in-chief, offered her support to Tuvel on 6 May, writing that "it is utterly inappropriate for editors to repudiate an article they have accepted for publication (barring issues of plagiarism or falsification of data)." The board of associate editors was a policy board with no role in the journal's management, she wrote, and it had acted independently in drafting and posting the letter. Scholz's position was supported by Miriam Solomon, president of Hypatia Inc.'s board of directors. Scholz, the board and the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, referred the matter to the Committee on Publication Ethics.

On 18 May the board issued a statement with a mixed message. Signed by Elizabeth Anderson, Leslie Francis (treasurer), Heidi Grasswick (secretary), Solomon (president), and Lisa Tessman (chair), it acknowledged the "intensity of experience and convictions around matters of intersectionality", and the "egregious history of treatment of women of color feminists and feminists from other marginalized social positions" within academic philosophy. Dismissing the view that objections to the article were too minor to have triggered such a strong response, the board wrote that such a view from "outsiders" reflects "ignorance of the cumulative history of marginalization, disrespect, and misrepresentation of oppressed groups". The statement continued that the associate editors had apologized without adequate consultation with the editor-in-chief and on their own behalf only. Condemning the personal attacks on Tuvel, the directors said they stood behind the editor-in-chief and that the article would not be retracted "barring discovery of misconduct or plagiarism". The associate editors' apology remained on Hypatia's Facebook page; on 25 May 2017 it was updated to say that it did not represent the views of the editor or board of directors.

Early academic reaction
The academic community came out in support of Tuvel, particularly on two popular philosophy blogs, Justin Weinberg's Daily Nous and Brian Leiter's Leiter Reports. Leiter wrote that he had "never seen anything like this in academic philosophy". Mark Newman, chair of the Rhodes College philosophy department where Tuvel teaches, expressed the department's "complete and unconditional support" for her.

The concept of harm had been "twisted beyond all recognition" by the associate editors' letter, according to José Luis Bermúdez, professor of philosophy at Texas A&M University. Paul Bloom called the episode "a bizarre and ugly attack". Several commentators blamed social media's call-out culture for the speed with which the dispute unfolded. In the view of Suzanna Danuta Walters, editor-in-chief of the feminist journal Signs, the associate editors had undermined "the whole process of peer review and the principles of scholarly debate". Dan Kaufman, professor of philosophy at Missouri State University, blamed the profession's "increasing obsession with identity politics" and "purity-purges". Rogers Brubaker, author of Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities (2016), described as "epistemological insiderism" the idea that certain issues can be covered only by particular categories of scholar, and that as a white cisgender woman Tuvel had no standing to argue about transgender or transracial issues. For Brubaker, acknowledging himself as a white cisgender man, this position means not only that certain topics are too easily closed off to particular scholars, but that scholars with lived experience are expected to focus on those topics.

Systemic sexism within the discipline was cited. There had been tension for some time between Hypatia and women-of-color philosophers, who believed the journal did not take their work seriously, according to Tina Fernandes Botts. Botts was critical of the Hypatia peer-review process that had allowed the paper to be published. "What you do when someone submits the paper is you find people who are experts in that area to review it," she told The Chronicle of Higher Education, "to make sure that it is situated within contemporary scholarly discussions. Obviously they didn't do that."

Sally Haslanger, later appointed co-chair of Hypatia's governance task force, complained about poor working conditions and the narrow focus of philosophy journals; she wrote that there are days she can "hardly stand the arrogance, the ignorance, the complacency, in short, the bullshit, of the profession". The situation was not Tuvel's fault; she had been unfairly targeted, in Haslanger's view. Of 13,000 professional philosophers in the United States in 2013, she wrote, only 55 were black women and 30 percent of those were PhD students. Citing sexual-harassment complaints and figures showing that, in 2016, 75 percent of APA members identified as male and 80 percent white, Shannon Winnubst, editor of the feminist journal PhiloSOPHIA and one of the open letter's top signatories, wrote that the publication of Tuvel's article had brought "all of the systemic problems" of philosophy and feminist philosophy to a head. Oliver Traldi argued in Quillette that the dispute was partly attributable to the influence of continental as opposed to analytic philosophy, and the idea that philosophy should be a vehicle for social change, rather than an impartial search for truth.

Hypatia resignations and task force
The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) reported in July 2017 that the associate editors' apology had been inappropriate, and that, when responding to an external complaint about a journal article, an internal inquiry should be held prior to a public response. The associate editors apparently refused to accept the report's conclusions. On 20 July Hypatia announced the resignation of Scholz, the editor-in-chief, and Shelley Wilcox, editor of Hypatia Reviews Online. They also announced that a task force would restructure the journal's governance, and that anyone holding an editorial or non-board position with Hypatia would be "required to sign a statement of adherence" to COPE guidelines.

According to a statement from the associate editors, the board asked them, on 17 July, to resign or it would suspend the journal's governance documents, thereby removing the associate editors' authority to choose the next editor. Eight of the associate editors resigned. In a resignation letter, they argued that feminist philosophy had an ethical commitment to transform philosophy into "a discipline that honors the perspectives and welcomes the scholarly contributions of historically marginalized groups, including people of color, trans* people, disabled people, and queer people".

Sally Haslanger, Serene Khader and Yannik Thiem were named as co-chairs of the governance task force, and Ann Garry, Serene Khader, and Alison Stone were appointed as interim editors. In February 2018 the five-person board of directors was replaced. Linda Martín Alcoff and Kim Hall, two of the associate editors who resigned in July, became, respectively, president of the board of directors and chair of the search committee for the new editorial team.

2018 symposium, Mellon Foundation grant
Peg Birmingham, editor of Philosophy Today, published a symposium on Tuvel's article in the journal's Winter 2018 edition, with contributions from Chloë Taylor (Alberta), Lewis Gordon (UConn), Kris Sealey (Fairfield), Sabrina Hom (GCSU), Tina Fernandes Botts and Rebecca Tuvel. In March 2018 the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation extended a $75,000 grant to Fairfield University to develop a "code of ethics for publishing in the field of philosophy", naming Sealey, a member of the Hypatia governance task force, as the project lead. Referring to "recent publishing controversies", Amy Ferrer, executive director of the American Philosophical Association, said the aim was to "develop guidance that scholars, editors, and publishers alike can use to ensure that they produce scholarship that meets the highest ethical and intellectual standards".