Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

A call for consent workshops July 20, 2014

Filed under: academia,consent,rape,sex,sexual harassment — jennysaul @ 4:35 pm

The meaning of sexual consent is often misunderstood in disturbing ways by young people. There’s the idea that if you wear sexy clothing you’re asking for it; that silence during a sex act equals consent; and that women are always falsely accusing men of sexual assault and rape. Surveys have shown that one in two boys and one in three girls think it is OK to sometimes hit a woman or force her to have sex. All of which suggests a new approach is necessary. We need to teach young women and men about affirmative, enthusiastic and informed consent.

[....]

Consent workshops aren’t about preaching or judging. I attended a training session earlier this year that explained how they would work, and we discussed the sorts of things in everyday life we typically ask consent for. This ranged from seeing if a chair is free, to going to the toilet during a class. It revealed that we ultimately ask for people’s consent all the time, so in sex it should be no different. We also discussed how to “check in” with your partner, to see if they consent at different stages of an encounter, and the ways in which people in ongoing relationships can negotiate an understanding of consent. When feeding back to the session, the phrase that kept being repeated was “Just ask”.

The idea of affirmative and enthusiastic consent encourages people to regard sex as a positive, willing action. It’s about teaching women and men not to be ashamed of sex, and to proceed consciously and confidently. An understanding of consent engenders respect for everyone: from those who choose to refrain from sex to those who are in relationships, and those who engage in sex in a wide variety of situations. Consent is about ensuring that people are completely comfortable in their sexual decisions, whatever those might be.

Colleges at Cambridge have taken a big step by introducing consent talks and workshops – but I’d like to see these made compulsory in all universities across the UK. The workshops bring home the difficult truth that we are all capable of violating someone else’s consent, while creating a safe space to discuss the meaning of consenting positively and enthusiastically. They are empowering, and absolutely necessary.

More here.

 

Sexual harassment in science: very common in field work July 18, 2014

Filed under: academia,sexual harassment — jennysaul @ 1:30 pm

I am frequently asked whether philosophy is worse than other fields for sexual harassment. I always reply the same way: we cannot get reliable statistics for something so unreported, and so often sealed under confidentiality when it is reported. I also frequently encounter scientists who are shocked by the stories from philosophy. But this shock of course doesn’t show that similar things don’t go on in their fields: after all, philosophers are shocked by these stories too.

Now we know a bit more about what goes on in some other fields, though, and it doesn’t look good. At least in scientific disciplines involving fieldwork, sexual harassment is a very big problem.

 

Who bears responsibility? July 17, 2014

Important questions about sexual misconduct in philosophy, being asked by Heidi Lockwood over at Daily Nous. Go join in the discussion!

 

Code of Conduct Discussion July 15, 2014

Filed under: academia,improving the climate — philodaria @ 3:49 pm

In an article on Inside Higher Ed.

“As teachers, mentors and colleagues, we, professional philosophers, take our tasks of teaching, research, and service to the profession very seriously,” Eleonore Stump, professor of philosophy at Saint Louis University, and Helen De Cruz, a postdoctoral fellow in philosophy at the University of Oxford, wrote in their petition. “We want to create a supportive environment where fellow faculty members and students feel safe and where their concerns are heard and addressed.”

Amy Ferrer, executive director of the association, responded to the petitioners in a statement they posted on their web page. In her response, Ferrer said that members of the association’s Board of Officers, “like so many others in the profession, are deeply troubled by incidents of harassment and other misconduct that have recently come to light. We want members to know that we take professional ethics very seriously.”

. . . The eight-member task force, made up of professors from institutions across the U.S. and Canada, is expected to provide a progress report to the philosophical association’s board in November. Discussions – which will mainly be internal – are just beginning, but the task force announcement already has prompted a range of reactions.

Inside Higher Ed

 

Sometimes two negative stereotypes can conflict, with perhaps surprising results July 10, 2014

Filed under: academia,bias,gender,human rights,race — annejjacobson @ 11:15 pm

Thanks to Shen-yi Liao’s comment on this post.

The Positive Consequences of Negative Stereotypes
Race, Sexual Orientation, and the Job Application Process
David S. Pedulla1

1Department of Sociology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA
David S. Pedulla, Department of Sociology, Princeton University, 107 Wallace Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA. Email: dpedulla@princeton.edu
Abstract

How do marginalized social categories, such as being black and gay, combine with one another in the production of discrimination? While much extant research assumes that combining marginalized social categories results in a “double disadvantage,” I argue that in the case of race and sexual orientation the opposite may be true. This article posits that stereotypes about gay men as effeminate and weak will counteract common negative stereotypes held by whites that black men are threatening and criminal. Thus, I argue that being gay will have negative consequences for white men in the job application process, but that being gay will actually have positive consequences for black men in this realm. This hypothesis is tested using data from a survey experiment in which respondents were asked to evaluate resumes for a job opening where the race and sexual orientation of the applicants were experimentally manipulated. The findings contribute to important theoretical debates about stereotypes, discrimination, and intersecting social identities.

 

How to recruit more female undergrads? July 8, 2014

Filed under: academia,gender,race,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 2:16 pm

Advice is being solicited here. Do consider offering ideas.

 

Worrisome developments in European Academia July 5, 2014

Filed under: academia — Jender @ 6:26 am

Mostly about Portugal, but significant likelihood of this spreading.

ESF was founded in 1974 and played an important role in the promotion of research in all academic areas across Europe, promoting collaborative research for instance through European collaborative projects (EUROCORES projects, involving researchers from at least 4 European countries), exploratory workshops (to support research into new lines of inquiry), and also conducted peer review. In the past, ESF has allowed researchers to define their own research questions, and apply for funding for self-defined projects. Now, however, this is coming to an end.

Miguel Seabra, the president of the Portuguese FCT, is also the new president of Science Europe, a new distinct organization dedicated to lobbying for science in the European research area. Since Miguel Seabra took office as president of FCT in 2012, there were drastic changes to the funding of research in Portugal. For instance, there were dramatic cuts to the number of PhD grants, post-doctoral fellowships, and 5-year research contracts. This took place in spite of the fact that, as the Portuguese minister for Science and Education, Nuno Crato, claims, the funds available at FCT have not decreased. In the humanities, the cuts in number of grants and fellowships were around 35% for doctoral grants and 65% for postdoctoral grants (The Conselho Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia issued a statement of concern after this — the official link to the statement in the site of the Portuguese government has been deleted). This overturns a continued investment in science and research in Portugal in the past 20 years (or more) that had brought the percentage of PhD’s in Portugal closer to the European average, and drastically increased the number of Portuguese international publications, number of citations and patents. As an illustration, in the last call for individual PhD grants, only 5 were granted to philosophy PhD candidates in the whole country.

 

A pledge to try to be kinder July 3, 2014

Filed under: academia,professional conduct,Uncategorized — Lady Day @ 3:17 am

July 1st, to mark her first day as full professor at UBC (Congratulations!!), Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins made two public pledges: (1) to treat other philosophers with respect, and (2) not to treat behaviour by other philosophers that violates (1) as if it were acceptable within the profession.

Writes CIJ:

I think of the following as pledges concerning my future behaviour qua professional philosopher. I’m making them public in the hope (and expectation!) of being held accountable to them.* This isn’t a complete list of my aspirations in this domain, of course; just a few basic things to start out with.

While she hastens to add that it’s not her “intention to suggest that these or similar pledges should be made by every philosopher,” it seems to me that it would be really wonderful if those of us who wish to hold ourselves to the same admirable standards CIJ describes were to publicly state that they too wish to take the pledge. The comment thread below is, I think, as good a place as any to do this. While FP has always permitted anonymous comments — and while we will continue to permit them in this thread — it would be really great if colleagues who feel safe doing so note their name, rank and institution below. I’ll start things off…

 

A lack of respect for women June 27, 2014

Filed under: academia,survival strategies,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 10:20 pm

We just recently published an anonymous letter to the profession (Part I and Part II) about the problem of sexual harassment in philosophy. Why does this problem exist? Why isn’t it going away?

I think the letter gives us some indications about one factor that holds the behavior in place, and indeed may even in effect spread it. A foundational problem, one can see from the letter, is a pervasive lack of respect for women.

This lack of respect shows up in the 34 responses the writer gets when attempting to talk about the problem. No where do we see “O my god, that’s awful. What can we do about it?”

I think the lack of respect can show up even more chillingly in the treatment that women as outsiders can receive. And here I certainly do not mean to suggest that only men can do this. Women can also inflict the damage described in this passage:

Bias thrives in unstructured environments, where objective excuses for hostility are available, and where stakes tend towards doling out in-group rewards rather than punishing out-group exclusion. When professional rewards are discretionary, distinction between in- and out-group membership is heightened, the perceived flaws or weaknesses of out-group members are exaggerated, members are blamed more harshly, weaknesses are attributed to the person (“she’s not very smart,” “she’s crazy,”…) not the circumstances, excuses are less available, and punishment is swifter and more severe. Withholding professional respect, excluding women from philosophical conversations, refusal to acknowledge their contributions or minimizing their significance in favor of those of male colleagues, are all examples of discretionary rewards that even the best-intentioned philosophers are prone to deny women in informal settings. The presence of a male philosopher displaying overt hostility or aggression towards a female philosopher licenses further in-group hostility towards her, and where an objective rationalization is available for explaining this behavior (he has an objection to her argument, say, or she behaved somewhat inappropriately, etc.), it is often taken to justify this response. Women philosophers thus also suffer judgments that are harsher than their male colleagues’, more hostile, quicker and crueler dismissals of their views, and these judgments are multiply-reinforced by even their well-intentioned peers (my stress).

One particularly awful fact is that once one is positioned as an offending outsider, the complete lack of respect may be communicated to younger scholars. “O, she is just awful,” even if, for example, she has been chosen by peers for leadership positions, is generally described as at or near the top of the profession, and so on. The lesson here is: No matter what sort of reputation she manages to get, she does not deserve the sort of respect we give our male colleagues because she is a feminist, or she behaved in appropriately, etc. Junior scholars may not need to learn this behavior by example; they may be instructed in it. And so it goes on and on.

One problem for women who get this sort of treatment is that Equal Opportunity people may not see that it is gendered and so an offense against Titles VII or IX. “The department has a lot of jerks, but being a jerk is not illegal,” they may say. However, being a sexist jerk who is creating a hostile environment for a woman is. So it is well to go to any meeting to complain with a list of the kind of gendered cliches that show up in denegrations of women. Here’s the start of one and a few references.

So, supposing I’m right about the problem, what do we do? Suggestions, biblios, etc., are very welcome.

 

Who’s fed up? Part II June 25, 2014

Below you’ll find Part II of a letter FP was invited to post. There are several elements in this post that are worth explicitly distinguishing:
(1) Sexual harassment, which we can understand to include drawing particularly attention to a women’s gender.
(2) Demeaning one or more female colleagues and creating a hostile environment for her/them.
(3) The author’s tendency to link (1) and (2) to things like bruised masculinity and “personal or professional frustrations.”

I think that (2) and its link to (1) and (3) form a very important topic. As one Affirmative Action officer put it to me, “there’s no law against being a jerk.” That can make it seem as though women, despite their being a protected class, have no legal recourse when they are demeaned and their reputations are assaulted. However, I’ve argued in much earlier posts that we can discern elements of the demeaning which are gendered. I’ll shortly repeat some of those points and open the discussion to our readers. The current post, however, is closed to comments.

I’m repeating the last para of the previous post, since it provides a context for what follows it.
_____________________

Complaints of harassment are complaints of lack of professionalism in ways that hinder women’s professional advancement in philosophy. They include complaints that men are sexually predatory, aggressive, hostile, that they abuse their position, that they alternately prey on women sexually or spurn them for perceived rejection, that they systematically exclude women from philosophical conversations, downgrade their contributions, ignore them or respond to them with overly hostile reactions. Men in the field often take out their personal and professional frustrations on their female colleagues with sexual aggression. They do so overtly, by making overt sexual advances towards women that bear no relation to meaningful attempts to enter into a mutually respectful and caring relationship, and have everything to do with reasserting their feelings of power and control in personal and professional contexts. Or they might do so less overtly, with ad hominemm attacks on women’s femininity or sexuality and attractiveness, or their quality as a philosopher, made either directly or behind women’s backs to other members of the profession. These are also ways of reasserting their power and bruised masculinity and enlisting other members of the profession in their diminishment of their female colleagues.

Junior and senior philosophers alike are guilty of these behaviors. Offenders are your friends, colleagues, co-authors, co-organizers, esteemed rivals, and mentors. They are also husbands, fathers, and boyfriends. You might even have unwittingly crossed the line on occasion as well.

An exalted atmosphere of collegiality and sociability exacerbates these problems, and provides cover for these attacks on women. The informality and sexual permissiveness that pervades many professional philosophical environments (conferences, graduate departments, and so on) masks aggression and abuse, making them seem like gossip or harmless flirtation. Well-intentioned colleagues can unknowingly contribute to a climate of abuse by participating in and encouraging this fraternal banter, out of a misguided sense of friendship, loyalty in rebuilding bruised egos, or simply attempts to curry favor, gain inclusion, or seek professional advancement by more powerful members of the profession.

Make no mistake about the seriousness of the abuse and the depth of the damage that this kind of behavior wreaks, however. Bias thrives in unstructured environments, where objective excuses for hostility are available, and where stakes tend towards doling out in-group rewards rather than punishing out-group exclusion. When professional rewards are discretionary, distinction between in- and out-group membership is heightened, the perceived flaws or weaknesses of out-group members are exaggerated, members are blamed more harshly, weaknesses are attributed to the person (“she’s not very smart,” “she’s crazy,”…) not the circumstances, excuses are less available, and punishment is swifter and more severe. Withholding professional respect, excluding women from philosophical conversations, refusal to acknowledge their contributions or minimizing their significance in favor of those of male colleagues, are all examples of discretionary rewards that even the best-intentioned philosophers are prone to deny women in informal settings. The presence of a male philosopher displaying overt hostility or aggression towards a female philosopher licenses further in-group hostility towards her, and where an objective rationalization is available for explaining this behavior (he has an objection to her argument, say, or she behaved somewhat inappropriately, etc.), it is often taken to justify this response. Women philosophers thus also suffer judgments that are harsher than their male colleagues’, more hostile, quicker and crueler dismissals of their views, and these judgments are multiply-reinforced by even their well-intentioned peers.

Countering complaints about sexual harassment by pointing to the hazards of dating life and noting women’s consent to affairs ignores the nature of the wrong being committed and diminishes the seriousness of the complaint. Sexual harassment isn’t sexual assault. Consent is irrelevant. The concern lies with a vitriolic professional atmosphere which allows virtually untrammeled sexual access to women, including the diminishment of their professional status, under the guise of “dating,” and in which women bear virtually 100% of the professional costs of relationships gone wrong. Pointing out the adulthood of the complainants and alluding to the fact that some relationships succeed is belittling, beside the point, and, frankly, a bullying tactic aimed at embarrassing women complaining of the over-sexualization of the profession into silence. It is no part of a meaningful conversation about the climate in philosophy.

What’s a well-intentioned single guy to do when he meets a likeminded female philosopher with similar interests and with whom he makes a “connection?” Hold back. This isn’t OKCupid. A thoughtful philosophical conversation is not flirtation, however titillating it might be, and following it up at the bar or wherever the rest of the professionals go after the formal encounter has ended is not an invitation for sex. Imagine this woman was your advisor/letter writer/dean, and then ask whether your interest is strong enough to risk the professional relationship.

I don’t know how to rid philosophy of sexual harassment or what an ideal outcome would look like, but I am certain that no progress can be made without genuine and sincere attempt to come to terms with the full breadth of the problem, and a meaningful way of holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions. Women are failing by virtually every measure of success in philosophy. Responses like those listed are defensive and deflecting, and serve more to silence conversation and stifle understanding, than they are attempts to make meaningful progress on an important and pressing issue.

I am writing anonymously because of the overwhelming risk of professional retaliation. I hate doing this. The indignity of not being able to defend myself in my own name is outweighed only by my frustration with these “conversations” that I have to keep having.

Fed Up

 

 
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