Tracy Brown on Tracy Brown

Tracy Brown (tbrown@ACPUB.DUKE.EDU)
Tue, 5 Apr 1994 14:18:43 -0400

Dave Jacobson asks what it is that I found rude about Carrier's comments.
In general, the tone of his note was condescending and patronizing. He
begins the note demanding that I explain why it is I introduced the issue
of the nature of Western epistemology into the discussion. I say "demanding"
because the first sentence of the note was: "Why introduce the issue of
linear argument into a discussion of obscure writing?" Beginning a
sentence with an interrogative implies that the person is not asking a
question, but demanding an answer. It carries with it a tone of
condescencion. Compare Carrier's first sentence with this: "Could you
please explain why you have introduced the issue of the nature of Western
epistemology into the argument about obscure writing? I am not sure I
understand the connection between the two issues." This is a much nicer
way of phrasing the exact same question: it is not a *demand*, but a *request*
for clarification.

But, perhaps more importantly, I find it strange that I should have to
defend introducing a tangential issue into a discussion on this list. So
what if the connection between the two issues was not linear? This is a
discussion, afterall, where people ought to be allowed to throw around
different ideas. The fact that I was asked to explain why I wanted to
discuss epistemology means (to me, at least) that controlling the shape
the discussion takes on this list is an issue for some people. It was for
these two reasons (the tone of Carrier's note, my having to explain
myself) that I made the comment about rudeness and egos on this list. We
talk as if academia exists "out there" -- apart from this discussion
group. But it does not -- we are part of academia. Thus, this list is
open to the same critiques that have been made about academic writing.

If I may say one more thing about this interchange. I think Dave Jacobson
ought to be careful about how he characterizes my (or anyone else's)
comments on this list. He wrote that I was "whining" and "complaining"
about Carrier's note. Why use these terms if not, again, to be
patronizing or, more seriously, to be sexist? In a forum where the terminology
one uses is of the utmost importance (i.e. a written exchange), choosing
these kinds of words to describe a woman's comments ought to be
questioned. Of course, no one likes to accused of whining, but I
think those words take on an especially pejorative connotation when
applied to women.
Tracy Brown