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They Send Letters

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This is academic inside baseball, but since that’s obviously a disproportionate percentage of our audience, I’d thought I’d give some publicity to the issue here. The political science journal Gender and Politics has apparently decided to reject without external review any manuscript dealing with research on questions related to LBGT community. Because…gender is something that only straight white women have? I can’t really imagine the reasoning. At any rate, Julie Novkov of SUNY Albany has responded with an open letter to the American Political Science Association’s Women and Politics section, which I reprint below the fold…

President Kim Fridkin

President-Elect Mala Htun

Dear Professors Fridkin and Htun:

I am writing to express my astonishment and distress at hearing from Greg Lewis, Marc Rogers, and Ken Sherrill that their article, “Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Voters in the 2000 Election,” received a summary rejection without review from Politics & Gender. The letter from editor Jennifer Lawless informed them “Based on my review of the manuscript, I have determined that the paper is not right for Politics & Gender. We really focus on the latest cutting edge theoretical and empirical research grounded in the political science literature that focuses on women and politics (as opposed to the role of gender when assessing lesbian, gay, and bisexual political behavior). Therefore, I will not be sending your manuscript out for review.”

Let us leave aside for a moment the fact that the journal’s own title is Gender, not Women. This statement, in my opinion, shows a profound misunderstanding of the deep relationship between scholarly research on sexuality and politics and scholarly research on gender. The journal’s own mission statement advocates for a broad and comprehensive understanding of gender:

“[The journal] aims to represent the full range of questions, issues, and approaches on gender and women across the major subfields of political science, including comparative politics, international relations, political theory, and U.S. politics. The Editors welcome studies that address fundamental questions in politics and political science from the perspective of gender difference, as well as those that interrogate and challenge standard analytical categories and conventional methodologies.”

Is work on lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals as voters not within this “full range of questions”? Is the interrogation of how sexual orientation may affect voting behavior not a “fundamental question in political science . . . from the perspective of gender difference”? And given the mountain of articles on women as voters and minority groups as voters and the paucity of articles on sexual orientation and voting, is this not a challenge to conventional wisdom? The argument that sexual orientation has nothing to do with gender ignores the history of research on sexuality in political science and its intimate connection to gender studies, feminist theory, and individual feminist theorists.

Would the journal have considered an article on women and voting behavior in the 2000 election while rejecting this one without review? That, to me, is a highly troubling implication of this decision. It suggests not that the journal intends to move forward and break new ground with respect to gender and politics, but that it refuses to recognize what really is new in the field.

So I have a question for you. Is it now the policy of Politics & Gender that the journal will not consider scholarly work on sexuality or on LGBT identity unless the article focuses on the gender identity category of women? If so, I believe that this clarification should be publicized so that junior scholars working on sexuality do not inadvertently waste valuable time submitting work to a journal that is not interested in their questions.

I believe, however, that such a stance on the part of the journal would be a profound mistake. Not that long ago, I and presumably a lot of other people received a plea from the journal for more manuscripts to review. The journal has only just managed to get itself listed in one of the major indices so that its articles can count in measures of scholarly productivity. As a relatively new journal, it is still jockeying to gain a strong reputation for excellence in the field and to gain readership. Closing down an entire line of scholarly inquiry that – and here I differ with Lawless – is indeed about gender is damaging to the journal. I’m also baffled as to why, after making particular pleas to established senior scholars and then getting a submission of an article from people with a great deal of name recognition connected to a long history of high production of visible and excellent research, the decision is to define them out of the mission.

I humbly ask for your clarification and guidance on this issue.

Sincerely,
Julie Novkov

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