Reflecting on interdisciplinary journal clubbing

I come from a physics background, but I spent the past three years running the Ace Journal Club, a group that reads scholarly articles from the interdisciplinary field of asexuality studies. While I was never the sort of person who disrespected the social sciences, my experience with the journal club has enhanced my respect and appreciation.

Asexuality studies is a highly interdisciplinary field, mostly within the social sciences. Looking at our monthly public discussion notes, the most common fields are psychology, sociology, and gender studies. But there have also been a few from communication studies, health sciences, and literature. There are a few odd examples from linguistics, library sciences, and I don’t even know how to classify the paper doing quantitative analysis of romance novels.

An important aspect of the journal club is that we aren’t just reading papers–we’re also discussing them. If I were just reading papers on my own, I would be left on my own to seethe about something the paper said that just didn’t make sense. But since I’m discussing it with other people, some of whom have expertise in the field, they can explain why it says that. OR, more frequently, they explain why it’s even worse than I thought, and then we can complain about it together!

How is it that all these complaints about social science articles lead to greater respect of the social sciences? It shows me that the social sciences are alive.
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Heartstopper season 2

Last year, I gave a lukewarm review of Heartstopper, including the first season of the TV series, and the webcomic up to that point. Today, I will offer a few comments on season 2. Because despite me being fairly critical, you know that I’m into it.

Coming out

If season 2 has any central focus, it’s on coming out. Nick has committed to coming out to people at school at the beginning of the season, and he only gets around to it near the end of the season.

On the one hand, I appreciate the portrayal of coming out as a long and arduous process. In many stories, coming out is portrayed as a single confrontation, usually with parents. But in real life, there are so many people to come out to, way more than you can reasonably fit in a story. When an LGBTQ person is committed to coming out, it really is a long-term commitment, and you never stop.

On the other hand, a huge benefit of coming out for gay/bi men is that you can actually have a relationship in public. There are just so many things you cannot do in a same-sex relationship while closeted because people would find out. But this does not seem to present much of a benefit to Nick and Charlie, because they’re pretty much already doing the things that you can’t actually do while closeted.  They somehow find an endless supply of private spaces.  Quite a number of these private spaces are actually in public, they’re just treated as private for no real reason.  The low-stakes story seems to remove some of the major issues that motivate people to come out.

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The veil of gender ignorance

One of the common TERF talking points is, “If I grew up today, I would have (wrongly) believed I was trans.” As with many TERF arguments, there’s also an anti-ace analogue: “If I grew up today, I would have sooner believed I was bisexual heteroromantic than just gay.” I’m going to take an analytical approach to understanding and countering these arguments.

The veil of ignorance

We can start by borrowing an idea from political philosophy: the veil of ignorance. We imagine that we have the opportunity to construct a society however we wish. Afterwards, we get to take our place within the society. The catch is, we don’t know which place we will take. So we don’t want the society to unfairly favor one group over another, because we may end up taking the unfavored position.

The veil of ignorance is particularly well-suited to this problem, because it’s pretty close to what we’re actually doing. We choose the cultural and social messages that are conveyed to the next generation. And, in order to make that choice, we imagine ourselves in the shoes of the next generation. “If I grew up today…”

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Asexuality 101, annotated

This article is being cross-posted to my other blog, The Asexual Agenda.

Some people may have seen the Asexuality 101 page linked on the side bar of A Trivial Knot. I originally wrote that article in 2011, and transported it from blog to blog, occasionally making updates.

Since the beginning, the purpose of the article was to “get it over with”. I had a lot of non-ace readers, but didn’t want to explain the basics over and over again. So the idea was to silently educate readers before they left ignorant comments, saving me energy and saving them embarrassment. These days, awareness of asexuality is so much higher, which leaves me wondering whether the page is necessary, but it sure doesn’t hurt to leave it there.

You can still see older versions preserved on my previous blogs and in the wayback machine if you’re really interested. The article reflects shifting conventional wisdom in how we do asexuality 101, as well as some idiosyncratic choices on my part. Here’s a point by point discussion of why I wrote it that way.

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Asexuality in rightwing media

I subscribe to Google alerts on asexuality and aromanticism, mostly as a way of finding the best articles to highlight in The Asexual Agenda linkspam. Recently I found two hostile articles from alt right sources. Such articles are rare; once I compiled statistics on the all the alerts from one month, and found that 2 out of 132 articles were hostile. But I still highlight these articles to showcase conservative anti-ace “tropes”.

Knowing what this is, it’s 100% okay to skip this one. I don’t post this on The Asexual Agenda because it’s too feelsbad for a lot of people.

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Too many topics, not enough time

Like many writers, I have a long list of ideas that I never got around to writing about. I’m not very consistent about writing them down, but still the list gets longer and longer, until I start deleting old ideas that no longer make any sense to me. Some of them I missed the moment to write them, or they required more research than I had energy to put into it. Some of them were just bad and non-starters.

Here is a short list of ideas that I made after deleting the ones that I’m obviously never going to write about. If any of these interests you, let me know, your comment might cause it to happen!

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