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Deconstructing Racist Gourds

This is an actual academic paper: [1]

The Perilous Whiteness of Pumpkins

This article examines the symbolic whiteness associated with pumpkins in the contemporary United States. Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, a widely circulated essay in McSweeney’s on “Decorative Gourd Season,” pumpkins in aspirational lifestyle magazines, and the reality television show Punkin Chunkin provide entry points into whiteness–pumpkin connections. Such analysis illuminates how class, gender, place, and especially race are employed in popular media and marketing of food and flavor; it suggests complicated interplay among food, leisure, labor, nostalgia, and race. Pumpkins in popular culture also reveal contemporary racial and class coding of rural versus urban places. Accumulation of critical, relational, and contextual analyses, including things seemingly as innocuous as pumpkins, points the way to a food studies of humanities and geography. When considered vis-à-vis violence and activism that incorporated pumpkins, these analyses point toward the perils of equating pumpkins and whiteness.

This is also an academic paper: [2]

Leakey Performances: The Transformative Potential of the Menstrual Leak


In this essay I bring fluids into scholarly dialogue with theories of performance, liminality, and femininity to argue for a new, positive cultural understanding of menstruation. Invoking Victor Turner’s theory of liminality, I ponder the source of our fear and subsequent control of feminine leaks in a patriarchal world. Operating on three increasingly abstract levels of leakage, I examine how fluids disrupt our socially constructed binaries and reflect on the positive potential of (menstrual) leaks to create a space for alternative, sanguine epistemology and ontology. I aim toward a scholarly view of menstruation as a positive phenomenon worthy not only of exploration, but also of celebration, and argue the need for more fluid scholarship.

This is how I found out about such admirable scholarship:

What kind of bubble do you have to live in to believe that any of this matters? I mean, honestly, can you imagine the fruit of years of academic study is obsessing about the meaning pumpkins, and periods?

UPDATE: However, lest you think these crazy people are benign, look at this [5]. Excerpt:

Last week, several [6] news [7] outlets [8] reported that a student at the University of Tennessee (UT) received a zero on a quiz—a grade his professor justified because he viewed an answer as sexual harassment under Title IX. Now he’s being investigated [7] by campus officials after unidentified faculty saw the absurd interpretation being mocked by entertainment website Total Frat Move.

How might one violate Title IX on a quiz? The first question on the quiz asked “What is your Lab instructor’s name?” and invited students to “make something good up”—that is, a joke—if they don’t remember his or her name. The student, Keaton Wahlbon, couldn’t remember his lab instructor’s name, so he wrote a generic first name, Sarah, and a common last name, Jackson. Writing Sarah Jackson—an altogether ordinary name—landed Wahlbon in hot water with his lab instructor and his professor. In fact, the quiz was returned to Wahlbon with the word “inappropriate” next to his Sarah Jackson answer.

As it turns out, Sarah Jackson happens to be the name of a Canadian actress and lingerie model. It is also a name shared by thousands of other people across the world. Wahlbon tried to explain to his professor that he wrote what he thought was a generic name on the quiz and did not intend to be crass. According to an email screenshot obtained by Total Frat Move [9], his professor wrote:

I have no way of determining your intention. I can only consider the result. The result is that you gave the name of Sarah Jackson, who is a lingerie and nude model. That result meets the Title IX definition of sexual harassment. The grade of zero stands and will not be changed.

Read the whole story. [5] Basically, when the whole damn thing falls apart, it will be an improvement.

83 Comments (Open | Close)

83 Comments To "Deconstructing Racist Gourds"

#1 Comment By Elijah On October 12, 2016 @ 6:50 am

@ Axxr – great comment. An awful lot of ‘academic’ papers certainly seem to focus on the trivial.

#2 Comment By Howard On October 12, 2016 @ 7:19 am

I’ve had to grade my share of student essays, and many of them are just awful. Sometimes they are massively inappropriate as well. One student chose to write the essay on schizophrenia, which was an approved topic, but the way that it was treated was abysmal, with a lot of space dedicated to how funny “crazy” people are. One line I remember distinctly was, “If you can’t laugh at the disabled, who can you laugh at?” I didn’t penalize the student for being a jerk, but I know that some of my colleagues would have.

#3 Comment By Dan Berger On October 12, 2016 @ 7:28 am

@ [10]:

As an academic myself, I have a better theory: the insidious pressure to publish, to publish any old crap as long as it’s in print. There’s a lot of junk publication in third-rate journals in the sciences.

“Deans can’t read, but they can count.”

What is pretty much what [11].

#4 Comment By Sam M On October 12, 2016 @ 7:41 am


“You bounce back and forth between the extremes. There’s a whole country in between them. Why not write about that?”

Because the whole country in between is mindlessly doing things like sending their kids off to be educated by these people? Look, this isn’t some Ivy League or Oberlin or Naropa Institute marginalia. This is UNC Chapel Hill. This is University of Tennessee.

You don’t care. OK. But lots of those people in between actually do.

Wait until some teacher out in the hinterlands mentions creationism. I bet progressives just look the other way. No chance they make a federal case about it.

Oh wait: [12]

#5 Comment By Craig On October 12, 2016 @ 7:42 am

So the Professor immediately drew an association between this name and a lingerie & nude model? I can’t be sure of his intention, but it sure sounds like he has been personally involved in the objectification of women. Probably should be fired, in the interest of social justice.

#6 Comment By David J. White On October 12, 2016 @ 8:21 am

In light of this nonsense, I have a more basic question. Why would you want your children to go to university at all!?

Because at present and for the foreseeable future, a college degree is the necessary credential to pursue just about any professional career. Higher education is in many instances less about education than about credentialing.

#7 Comment By Egypt Steve On October 12, 2016 @ 8:26 am

Re: Title IX madness:

If I was the dean with responsibility for this situation, I’d strongly sanction this faculty member, if not move to terminate them (if they’re a contract employee). Whatever the merits of the “sexual harassment” charge, it’s unjust and stupid to retaliate against the student by imposing a failing grade on an assignment. There’s only one grounds for a grade, and that’s whether or not the assignment was successfully carried out.

As for the rest of it, sorry, but they made their bed when they invited the student to provide a joke answer on the quiz. Live with the result, and learn not to do that again.

#8 Comment By Phillip On October 12, 2016 @ 8:42 am

Clearly “Dick Johnson” would have been a better answer.

And how hateful and misogynistic to take offense at comparison to a empowered woman who has bravely freed herself from the bonds of the heteronormative fashions of the patriarchy.

And makes money doing it. Filthy capitalist.

#9 Comment By lawoftheland On October 12, 2016 @ 8:54 am

Well thank goodness The Office of Equity and Diversity is looking into the matter. I’m sure they’ll make a unbiased and level-headed decision about this whole matter.

#10 Comment By connecticut farmer On October 12, 2016 @ 8:54 am

The irrelevancy of liberal arts programs on full display here, folks! The late Allan Bloom would have nodded in recognition back when he was writing “The Closing Of The American Mind” shortly before we went full crack-up.

#11 Comment By kgasmart On October 12, 2016 @ 9:06 am

“White Pumpkins Matter.”

All Pumpkins Matter.

I suppose carving those pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns would be a Title IX violation, unless there were an equal number of jill-o-lanterns.

It would be a microaggression for sure, and I’m sure our morally superior university administrators will find a way to punish it accordingly.

#12 Comment By mrscracker On October 12, 2016 @ 9:09 am

How is the name of a “lingerie model” common knowledge? And what’s a lingerie model anyway?

#13 Comment By grumpy realist On October 12, 2016 @ 9:09 am

This is why no one has any respect for certain majors, and good riddance.

It’s not just conservatives who are against this, Rod. We STEM types hate this with a passion. All of us, both male and female.

(These are the same idiots who claim that physics is a masculinist plot, what with the math and all. My best friend had an over-the-top female law professor who tried to pull that on her. My friend, having graduated from M.I.T., was not amused.)

#14 Comment By a commenter On October 12, 2016 @ 9:11 am

“I have no way of determining your intention. I can only consider the result. The result is that you gave the name of Sarah Jackson, who is a lingerie and nude model. That result meets the Title IX definition of sexual harassment. The grade of zero stands and will not be changed.”

The professor’s argument is malicious but is also a great example of how people on the Left think, and of why their thought processes are so flawed. First of all, the professor makes his/her determination on the basis of the name’s “result”, but the definition of “result” is flawed. THe complete “result” of the student’s choice of name is that the name is shared with hundreds of thousands of people in the USA and Canada. So if the professor were truly judging the name on its “result” then the professor should have considered the name innocuous. Instead, the professor cherry-picks one miniscule, one hundred thousandth part of ‘the result,’ a part the student didn’t even know about, and punishes the student for that. The professor’s definition and application of the concept of a “result” are sloppy, self-serving, and illogical.

That the professor assesses harassment on the basis of outcome rather than intention is chilling, especially given the cherry picked understanding of the name that the professor uses. It sets a standard that only those who are part of the professor’s political intimates can meet. It’s not that surprising, in a way, considering that the new definition of sexual harassment seems to be “if I FEEL harassed, you are guilty, even if what you did is merely walk near to me and glance my way, or accidentally brush me upon the arm as you walked by.”

Maybe all the people named Sarah Jackson should file Title IX complaints against the professor who considers their very name a form of harassment.

#15 Comment By grumpy realist On October 12, 2016 @ 9:13 am

P.S. Oh, and definitely read Feynman’s “Cargo Cult Science” linked above. What these bozos are trying to pull is EXACTLY that.

(Read Feynman, anyway.)

#16 Comment By Fran Macadam On October 12, 2016 @ 9:39 am

I can’t count anymore how often I’ve been censured for what I’ve written on this blog as “inappropriate” by our new progressive Mennonite church leadership.

Basically, having been captured by the spirit of hedonistic individualism of this age, the purpose of church is now to celebrate each other’s sins, rather than to seek forgiveness and repentance, from God through Jesus. Thus, in particular, any reasoned defense of the theology of over 2,000 years of Christianity is now deemed “inappropriate” and you are cast out.

#17 Comment By Jon.Rak On October 12, 2016 @ 9:39 am


Do you think we could have some kind of competition in this thread to see who can post The Most Ridiculous Academic Research That Was Taken Seriously By Its Author? Call it the TMRARTWTSBIA awards.

No really…my nomination for best climate-related ridiculous academic research is: [13].

You get bonus points if you can actually explain the meaning of the title (I forfeit my bonus points).

Ah well. If you can’t laugh at this stuff, you’re not having enough fun in show business, I guess.

#18 Comment By Publius On October 12, 2016 @ 9:40 am


“I think this is what much of the malaise in our society boils down to—a world devoid of risk-taking grown-ups in which perpetual teenagers, unwilling to take on real responsibilities, endlessly discuss the ‘rules'”

In short, we’ve become Italy.

[NFR: If only! We would eat much better if we had. — RD]

#19 Comment By Steve S On October 12, 2016 @ 9:44 am

I’m sure the academics writing this nonsense have all called Trump a con-man more than they can count. Takes one to know one, I guess.

#20 Comment By Scot Martin On October 12, 2016 @ 9:50 am

The Sarah Jackson thing is on the creator of the quiz. Students were asked to come up with “something good.” There is no note about not being inappropriate. The prof is the one who needs to learn about CYA.
BTW, I wanted to introduce myself on Saturday, Rod, but you left early. 🙁

#21 Comment By dan On October 12, 2016 @ 10:27 am

Carl Tuesday says:
“I’m confused, are we supposed to be celebrating a woman’s choice to take her clothes of or not? I thought in our liberation we were supposed to celebrate stuff like this.

It’s empowering, until it’s not… I’m sure “cocks not glocks” will be up next for the inquisition since it sexualizes young women.”

Well said. I think we can acknowledge that the left is completely incoherent when any such subject is raised.

#22 Comment By Carl Tuesday On October 12, 2016 @ 10:32 am

Using their own lens for viewing the world, isn’t the height of whiteness and privilege to be a Professor and spend time working on this drivel?

#23 Comment By Will Harrington On October 12, 2016 @ 10:36 am

March hare, what do you offer for this alliance or are you just assuming you will adopt the old Republican strategy of talking about alliances, etc…and doing nothing for us once your goals are met? Why would we not be better off keeping our kids out of these overpriced, overrated, and corrupt institutions? You have a proposal, now flesh it out. Whats in it for us?

#24 Comment By chris On October 12, 2016 @ 10:40 am

How long before the Bias Response Team gets reports of students sipping pumpkin spice lattes on campus? Safe spaces from jack-o-lanterns?

#25 Comment By LouB On October 12, 2016 @ 11:39 am

This is the Red Guards flexing their muscles and enjoying their newfound unchallenged primacy.

#26 Comment By Howard On October 12, 2016 @ 12:12 pm

By the way, I should probably have been more explicit about that first paper I linked to, but it is more fun if people explore for themselves. That said, the title was probably too intimidating / boring, which was, oddly enough the point. The paper itself was deliberately nonsense, and it was written by a physicist to mock the social scientists who were insisting that science is entirely a social construct instead of being largely dictated by, you know, the objective behavior of the real world. He only revealed the joke after the paper was published in one of their most “prestigious” journals, having flown through the much-vaunted peer review process.

I think a moral theologian would say he should NOT have done that, and yet … I can’t help feeling sort of glad he did. Sometimes it is not enough merely to state that the emperor has no clothes; sometimes it is necessary to demonstrate the fact.

#27 Comment By grumpy realist On October 12, 2016 @ 12:39 pm

P.P.S. And please don’t imagine that this sort of idiocy is celebrated by everyone on the left. Most of us can’t stand it.

(I’m even harsher: anyone who generates such a piece of idiocy should be locked up in a rubber-lined room in a strait-jacket.)

#28 Comment By David J. White On October 12, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

How long before the Bias Response Team gets reports of students sipping pumpkin spice lattes on campus? Safe spaces from jack-o-lanterns?

Does the Bias Response Team get to slide down poles, like firemen? Or is that too phallic? Or too much like stripping? But of course if it’s reminiscent of stripping, it’s empowering, right?

I’m seeing a reality show on the Discovery Channel: “Bias Response Team!”

#29 Comment By bacon On October 12, 2016 @ 3:09 pm

RD, a grown man, a respected public intellectual like you, should be ashamed of attacking academics. It’s like beating up children (I except hard science academics as long as they stick to science), not worthy of your stature.

#30 Comment By JonF On October 12, 2016 @ 4:22 pm

The Pumpkin Paper (hey, wasn’t that a thing in a very different context once?) is silly enough to appear in The Onion.

#31 Comment By Brendan from Oz On October 12, 2016 @ 7:54 pm


The Sokal Hoax was 20 years ago. Do you think the teaching and practice of Reason vs Sophistry has improved, even in STEM subjects, in Western countries or is it as an academic migrant said recently about immigration to America: that they cannot deny Visas to top researchers because no one educated in America has the ability or training to perform the leading roles in research?

When Liberalism = institutional and enforceable Sophistry/Solipsism, first religion and then all tradition and thought not based on Sophistry (most of the world for most of history) must be eliminated.

The War of Gods and Giants rages on, as Plato noticed in his conflict with Sophistry all those centuries ago. I do not see any effort on campus or off to defend Reason against “Man is the measure of all things.”

#32 Comment By grumpy realist On October 13, 2016 @ 11:33 am

Rod, here’s another “several forks short of a picnic basket” group. (I think you’ll like the author’s comments about Gnosticism.)


I do notice that it’s people with a background in computer science who end up dreaming up the nuttier ideas of the trans-humanists. Which makes me think that CS rots the brain about as much as post-modern philosophy does.

#33 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 15, 2016 @ 12:17 pm

Incidentally, I’ve always thought white pumpkins are ugly. No matter how old I get, I always carve a jack-o-lantern or two, and I prefer deep orange pumpkins. Orange is the new black.