Last night, a friend told me about a kid who had his dissertation censored by their school. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what on earth one could write that would get censored and failed. So i responded with puzzlement and i was told that he had written an entire chapter on how his department’s drama had detrimental effects on his research (this was part of the methods section). Needless to say, this did not go over well.
Today, i was told that i could not submit an abstract with “MySpace whores” in it and was encouraged to change it to “MySpace prostitutes.” Of course, i was like no no no… that’s not the term people use. I think that it is wholely inappropriate to alter cultural terms when trying to talk about the culture. I unhappily agreed to remove the entire segment from my abstract but made it very clear that i had every intention of talking about “MySpace whores” given that the talk is on friending practices in MySpace and the term comes up in almost every conversation i have with people. The response? “i don’t care how vulgar you get in your talk. that will be only a reflection of you and not of me.”
Wow… that was harsh. Am i vulgar to be using the terms that people use? Sure, one could make an argument that their terms are vulgar to elitist ears, but i’m studying a culture filled with all sorts of shall we say… interesting… terminology. If i were speaking to an audience of anthropologists or gender studies folks, no one would bat an eye. Why am i suddenly lacking decorum when i move to disciplines filled with mostly straight white men? Because hegemonic decorum doesn’t recognize the language of less privileged populations? Hrmfpt.