Yes, that’s right: this is a real op-ed from Scientific American, which, if the magazine goes on in this vein, is going to fold—or at least should fold. Click on the screenshot to read. The word “problematic” should be your first clue that this is going to be painful:
I’ll give you the first of five reasons it’s “problematic” in full and then list the other four with an explanatory sentence or two from the piece. Remember, this is not a joke and it’s not April 1. This is intended as a real contribution to social justice.
As we will argue, our justice-oriented projects should approach connections to the Jedi and Star Wars with great caution, and perhaps even avoid the acronym JEDI entirely.Below, we outline five reasons why.
The Jedi are inappropriate mascots for social justice. Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes. So it is that Force potential is framed as a dynastic property of noble bloodlines (for example, theSkywalker dynasty), and Force disparities are rendered innate physical properties, measurable via “midi-chlorian” counts (not unlike a “Force genetics” test) and augmentable via human(oid) engineering. The heroic Jedi are thus emblems for a host of dangerously reactionary values and assumptions. Sending the message that justice work is akin to cosplay is bad enough; dressing up our initiatives in the symbolic garb of the Jedi is worse.
This caution about JEDI can be generalized: We must be intentional about how we name our work and mindful of the associations any name may bring up—perhaps particularly when such names double as existing words with complex histories.
If you see lightsabers as “phallic”, you’re trying very hard to be offended.
The others (the explanation is much longer than I’ve excerpted)
2.) Star Wars has a problematic cultural legacy. The space opera franchise has been critiqued for trafficking in injustices such as sexism, racism and ableism.
3.) JEDI connects justice initiatives to corporate capital. JEDI/Jedi is more than just a name: It’s a product. Circulating that product’s name can promote and benefit the corporation that owns it, even if we do not mean to do so. We are, in effect, providing that corporation—Disney—with a form of free advertising, commodifying and cheapening our justice work in the process.
4.) Aligning justice work with Star Wars risks threatening inclusion and sense of belonging. While an overarching goal of JEDI initiatives is to promote inclusion, the term JEDI might make people feel excluded. Star Wars is popular but divisive. Identifying our initiatives with it may nudge them closer to the realm of fandom, manufacturing in-groups and out-groups.
5.) The abbreviation JEDI can distract from justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. When you think about the word JEDI, what comes to mind? Chances are good that for many, the immediate answer isn’t the concept “justice” (or its comrades “equity,” “diversity” and “inclusion”). Instead this acronym likely conjures a pageant of spaceships, lightsabers and blaster-wielding stormtroopers. Even if we set aside the four cautions above, the acronym JEDI still evokes imagery that diverts attention away from the meanings of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
I really don’t have anything to say about this except that Scientific American keeps pumping out the most ludicrous op-eds, some of which, like the one above, suggests that there are many people who would rather problematize acronyms than actually do anything for social justice. What this has to do with science is beyond me.
This is the first case of acronym-policing that I’m aware of, so it deserves some attention as a new sign of the insanity that is becoming normal in academic circles.
And I had to ensure that the authors are real because this is one of those pieces so close to satire that Titania McGrath (below) could claim credit for its authorship. But yes, the authors are real humans.
Thank you @sciam for publishing my article on the problematic nature of Star Wars and the term “Jedi”.
I am particularly grateful that I was allowed to use five pseudonyms, one for each of my genders. pic.twitter.com/czqK9mSTzC
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) September 24, 2021