Words have meanings. Sometimes.
Suppose you are an intellectual impostor with nothing to say, but with strong ambitions to succeed in academic life and have students around the world anoint your pages with respectful yellow highlighter. What kind of literary style would you cultivate? Not a lucid one, surely, for clarity would expose your lack of content. The chances are that you would produce something like the following:
We can clearly see that there is no bi-univocal correspondence between linear signifying links or archi-writing, depending on the author, and this multireferential, multi-dimensional machinic catalysis. The symmetry of scale, the transversality, the pathic non-discursive character of their expansion: all these dimensions remove us from the logic of the excluded middle and reinforce us in our dismissal of the ontological binarism we criticised previously.
This is a quotation from the psychoanalyst Félix Guattari, one of many fashionable French ‘intellectuals’ outed by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont in their book Intellectual Impostures
Fashionable nonsense contains a handful of intelligible sentences , sometimes banal, sometimes erroneous but it’s tough on the reader. Surgically inserted syntactically correct sentences that have no meaning whatsoever can give the article, or paper, or whatever, authority, while being gibberish. It sounds reasonable.
No doubt there exist thoughts so profound that most of us will not understand the language in which they are expressed. And no doubt there is also language designed to be unintelligible in order to conceal an absence of honest thought.
But how are we to tell the difference? What if it really takes an expert eye to detect whether the author is genuinely profound or the vacuous rhetoric charlatans?
The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.
Begins a “paper” consisting of 3,000 words of utter nonsense posing as academic scholarship.
Then a peer-reviewed academic journal in the social sciences accepted and published it!
“The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” argues that “The penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct”. The authors argue that the “conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct.”
The authors wrote an absurd paper loosely composed in the style of post-structuralist discursive gender theory. The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. They made no attempt to find out what “post-structuralist discursive gender theory” actually means. They assumed that if the authors were merely clear in their moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, they could get the paper published in a respectable journal.
They didn’t try to make the paper coherent; instead, they stuffed it full of jargon (like “discursive” and “isomorphism”), nonsense (like arguing that hypermasculine men are both inside and outside of certain discourses at the same time), red-flag phrases (like “pre-post-patriarchal society”), lewd references to slang terms for the penis, insulting phrasing regarding men (including referring to some men who choose not to have children as being “unable to coerce a mate”), and allusions to rape (they stated that “manspreading,” a complaint levied against men for sitting with their legs spread wide, is “akin to raping the empty space around him”)
They conclude that penises are not best understood as the male sexual organ, or as a male reproductive organ, but instead as an enacted social construct that is both damaging and problematic for society and future generations. The conceptual penis presents significant problems for gender identity and reproductive identity within social and family dynamics, is exclusionary to disenfranchised communities based upon gender or reproductive identity, is an enduring source of abuse for women and other gender-marginalized groups and individuals, is the universal performative source of rape, and is the conceptual driver behind much of climate change.
They argued that climate change is “conceptually” caused by penises. How do they defend that assertion? Like this:
Destructive, unsustainable hegemonically male approaches to pressing environmental policy and action are the predictable results of a raping of nature by a male-dominated mindset. This mindset is best captured by recognizing the role of [sic] the conceptual penis holds over masculine psychology. When it is applied to our natural environment, especially virgin environments that can be cheaply despoiled for their material resources and left dilapidated and diminished when our patriarchal approaches to economic gain have stolen their inherent worth, the extrapolation of the rape culture inherent in the conceptual penis becomes clear.
If you’re having trouble understanding what any of that means, it’s because it means nothing
Enjoy this froth…
Inasmuch as masculinity is essentially performative, so too is the conceptual penis. The penis, in the words of Judith Butler, “can only be understood through reference to what is barred from the signifier within the domain of corporeal legibility” (Butler, 1993). The penis should not be understood as an honest expression of the performer’s intent should it be presented in a performance of masculinity and hypermasculinity. Thus, the isomorphism between the conceptual penis and what’s referred to throughout discursive feminist literature as “toxic hypermasculinity,” is one defined upon a vector of male cultural machismo braggadocio, with the conceptual penis playing the roles of subject, object, and verb of action. The result of this trichotomy of roles is to place hypermasculine men both within and outside of competing discourses whose dynamics, as seen via post-structuralist discourse analysis, enact a systematic interplay of power in which hypermasculine men use the conceptual penis to move themselves from powerless subject positions to powerful ones (confer: Foucault, 1972).
It is complete nonsense.
Words have meanings. Sometimes.