Full disclosure, I didn’t come up with the phrase, “death of expertise”, thanks to Prof Nichols for that (Buy his book! Really!).

I am, however, fully sympathetic to the stand, that in this age of interdisciplinarity, expertise is usually dead. Education has turned to a business, and the more marketable a name, the more saleable a university or college is, regardless of what they churn.

But, giving the role of a professor to Angelina Jolie stretches the limit and as usual led me to this long twitter debate. On the plus side, it was a civil discussion, which is unthinkable, given the norm of Twitter discourse these days. On the negative side, it was maddening as only academic debates could be.

So, here’re the basic premise of the question.

  1. Why Jolie?
  2. Is it sexist to oppose Jolie’s position as a Prof?

The answer to the first question is here, by Drezner and Shepherd.

The answer to the second question is “are you F-in joking?!” 

First of all, it is insane and preposterous to insinuate that opposition to Jolie’s professorship is sexism. Notable women academics I know are also opposed to it. (1, 2) as are journalists.

Secondly, which one is more sexist?

I support people who are worthy, regardless of their sex.

How is supporting the fact that there are much more deserving women, who spend years pursuing PhD, facing struggle everyday, only to see their potential job going to a celeb who wears a thousand dollar designer keffiyeh and struts around in refugee camps for photo ops? Why Jolie and not Julia Gillard, or Helen Clark? Why Professorship, and not a visiting guest speaker? Will we let a cobbler do brain surgery? Does any parent here think it will be worthy that their kids will be lectured about the nuances of geopolitics by an actress who acted in Lara Croft? Or worse, Salt?

All jokes aside…I respect and admire her activism (even though I am no fan of activists in general). But it denigrates the profession and struggle of thousands of academics and scholars, men and women, who spend on an average seven grueling, maddening, frustrating, self-loathing fueled years pursuing PhD to be among the top one percent of the planet’s knowledge base having a Dr in front of their name, producing an original research thesis, writing policy papers, attending conferences, diluting their blood with gallons of coffee, contributing to the literature in their field of subject…only to see an actress taking their position, because the Uni thought it will look good on their prospectus.

And to all those criticising anyone critiquing AJP’s employment as sexism, you’re yourself being discriminatory…to the hundreds of women, who are much, much more intelligent and knowledgeable and worthy, and who deserve much better.


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