Dear Friends and Colleagues:
My name is Joelle Ruby Ryan and I am currently a Ph.D. Student at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. On Monday, September 17, 2007, I sent out my Call for Proposals to the Women's Studies Listserv (WMST-L) looking for participants for my proposed panel "The Bailey Brouhaha: Community Members Speak Out on Resisting Transphobia and Sexism in Academia and Beyond." You can read the full CFP as I have included it as an attachment. The panel, if accepted, will include community responses to the work of J. Michael Bailey and Alice Dreger at the National Women's Studies Association Conference on June 19-22, 2008 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
On September 19, Alice Dreger sent out an email to WMST-L plugging her upcoming appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. I have been on the list for two years and never seen her post to the list before. She then sent out a second post to WMST-L on 9/19 in which she attacked me and my work. She said that my CFP was "laden with factual errors and misrepresentations about the history of the Bailey controversy and my work." She proceeded to send readers to the pre-print of her article and to The New York Times piece about this case.
She then had an exchange with intersex activist Emi Koyama. While they
initially seemed to disagree, they ultimately came to a place of agreement on
the following: "that she [Joelle Ruby Ryan] was putting herself at risk as a
scholar working within a controversial field (trans issues) by tolerating
tactics that breed fear and stifle academic freedom. [Presumably they mean the
tactics of people like Conway, James and McCloskey.] I would add that one is not
acting like a scholar when one repeatedly misrepresents facts and the work of
other scholars, as Ms. Ryan did in her CFP."
Needless to say, this whole ordeal has been upsetting and frightening. I am a junior scholar, an "out" and politically active transgender woman, from a relatively unknown academic institution. In one to two years, I will be on the job market attempting to secure an academic position, preferably in women's/gender studies. This public trashing, by a senior scholar with a prestigious appointment at Northwestern University, clearly indicates the level of Dr. Dreger's vituperative, spiteful and mean-spirited agenda. I was shocked to receive such ad hominem attacks against me and my work. While I certainly knew I was stepping into a controversial arena by proposing this panel, I certainly did not expect that my CFP would receive such hateful attacks by Dreger, nor that I would be warned by Dreger and Koyama about my proposed scholarship and told by Dreger that I was not "acting" like a scholar because of my opposition to her one-sided hatchet job. At this time, I have not responded to the WMST-L exchange.
I am thankful for several people, including Mr. Curtis Hinkle and Dr. Lynn Conway, for their supportive emails and words of encouragement. I considered withdrawing the CFP, but I realize now that having the panel is more important than ever. While Dreger stresses the importance of academic freedom, why does she not extend that very freedom to me? Why does she use her considerable power to trash an emerging trans scholar and graduate student who dares to disagree with her findings? Dreger considers herself a friend/ally to the transgender/intersex communities. How does writing this biased article and impugning my CFP lend to the notion of her as a friend to our communities? In addition, Dreger seems to have no understanding of power differentials and how these operate in academia. Enough is enough! We must all speak back to the great damage she (and Bailey et. Al.) are inflicting against our community.
I encourage each of you to publicize this in any way that you can. Please consider adding a report of this latest outrage to your website. Speak about it in the trans/intersex/allied communities and speak about it on your radio program. Join WMST-L and post to the list that you do not appreciate Dreger's threatening activities. (To learn how to join WMST-L, see: http://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/user-guide.html )
I would be happy to be interviewed or speak further with you about this
matter. And let's make the panel be amazing! I envision myself as moderator
and four panelists. I will look into having the session videotaped and to
having a large room so we can have a lot of attendees. After being pushed to
the ground by academic pit-bull Dreger, I feel like I am now getting up, dusting
myself off, and looking for ways to fight for justice. I thank you all in
advance for creative ways to address this continually-evolving case.
Joelle Ruby Ryan
Attached: Please see full CFP and see the unedited exchange
between Koyama and Dreger on WMST-L.
Update of June 27, 2008
by Lynn Conway
As we learned above, when graduate student Joelle Ruby Ryan of Bowling Green State University sent out a call for papers proposing a panel discussion at the 2008 NWSA conference, Alice Dreger tried to stop it from happening by launching a public e-mail attack on Joelle and threatening Joelle's academic career. Proclaiming her own work to be a "scholarly history", Dreger defensively defamed Joelle for having the nerve to criticize her work.
Joelle decisively called Dreger's bluff by exposing her e-mail attack in the message above, a move that received wide notice in blogs and GLBT media:
"With "Defenders" Like This...Alice Dreger Destroys Academic Freedom in Order to Save It", by Élise Hendrick, LifeAfterGonzalesBlogspot, Sept. 25, 2007.
"Academic Attack Against Trans Graduate Student by Alice Dreger of Northwestern University", by Lynn Conway, a letter to the WPATH Board of Directors, September 27, 2007.
"A TransAmazon Takes on The Man", By Jacob Anderson-Minshall, San Francisco Bay Times, October 18, 2007.
Joelle's courageous action caused Dreger's attack to backfire. Joelle's panel went on as scheduled, gaining wide notice and yielding powerful essays that further exposed trans-defamations by Bailey and Dreger. The following pages provide reports on the event, and include excerpts and links to the essays presented there.
"Joelle Ruby Ryan chairs NWSA panel on resisting transphobia in academia: The event Alice Dreger failed to stop", by Lynn Conway
"Alice Dreger's attacks on critics of J. Michael Bailey", by Andrea James