Open Letter to BAR

The July/October issue of Biblical Archaeology Review intended to promote female archaeologists, but it is probably counter-productive (see also my blog post today). They won't print my letter (their religion forbids it), but this is what I told BAR:

I think [editor] Bob Cargill would do well to give more consideration to the unintended consequences of inviting people to judge him by the number of women appearing in his publication. Out here in the Real World, we know that whenever religious quotas are established (religion = believing what you know ain't so), then the quota will dominate any question of quality in all acceptance decisions.

I would expect that in today's religious atmosphere to which you have now contributed, any author who cares about her reputation would hide her identity behind a male (or at least androgynous) pseudonym, and I have seen recent publications where the editor goes to heroic efforts to avoid using gender-specific pronouns in certain author bios where she is identified only by her initials. The style of writing still betrays her, because the so-called "gender divide" is mostly ontological and any effort to correct it is necessarily religious in nature.*

Your final affirmation notwithstanding, you have now announced to the world that we cannot trust the quality of any piece by a female author in BAR, and the damage cannot be undone. No wonder they refuse the invitations, and now they must refuse yours also.

The only way to avoid the stigma of sexism is to absolutely avoid any appearance of sexism at all, positive or negative. [Founder and former editor] Hershel [Shanks] did that.

Tom Pittman
PO 128
Grants Pass OR

* Note: The Turing Test as first proposed by Alan Turing in 1950 described an "imitation game" to distinguish a man's written responses from a woman's. It may be -- as in Turing's game format, where the intention is deception -- that the judge can be fooled. But when the woman is writing about what she cares about without any overt concern about gender, the difference is unmistakable. We know that from the very fact that there is a distinct genre called "Chick Lit" which is very different from fiction aimed at male readers. Some women more or less think like some men, but the overlap is small enough that every workplace in whatever field has a "gender divide" where either men are the majority or else women are.

2019 August 10