Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Further updates on the Marquette situation November 21, 2014

Filed under: academia,gender,glbt,marriage,women in academia — philodaria @ 11:18 pm

Daily Nous posted a further update to the story on the political targeting of philosophy graduate student Cheryl Abbate of Marquette University:

Fox News has picked up on the story. The article, posted today, starts with a lying headline and is clearly meant to rally the troops. Ms. Abbate has written to tell me that she has already received hate mail as a result of the Fox News article. As of now, Marquette has yet to make any public statement supporting Ms. Abbate. I have been informed that the decision to release any such statement will have to come from the university level, and so I urge concerned parties to write to Marquette University President Michael Lovell at michael.lovell@marquette.edu asking him to step up and publicly support Ms. Abbate.

John Protevi posted a letter of support for Cheryl a few days ago (for which he is accepting additional signatures in the comments), but he has followed up on this update with another letter that may be of interest to our readers:

The harassment Ms Abbate is receiving in inimical to the values not only of American universities in general, but of the Jesuit tradition in particular (speaking as a Loyola University of Chicago graduate), and I ask you to take immediate action in the form of a public statement deploring this harassment and affirming Marquette’s commitment to the welfare of its graduate students. . .

If I may, I would direct your attention to these comments on an Open Letter I authored on the situation, which has garnered over 200 signatures in a few short days: http://proteviblog.typepad.com/protevi/2014/11/open-letter-in-support-of-cheryl-abbate.html

“Please add my name to this. Even if everything printed were true and the grad student said and did everything attributed to her ( which I do not grant) this response — public calling out, exposure to public condemnation, political labeling,– by a faculty member violates every expectation of graduate training and collegiality. It is a betrayal of the trust invested in faculty to mentor and guide students, not to make of them casualties in larger battles whether inside or outside their institutions. Bonnie Honig, Professor of Political Science, Brown University.”


What is it to feel really bad for someone else? November 15, 2014

Filed under: academia — annejjacobson @ 11:28 pm

After I finished this piece, I became concerned that some readers would not be familiar with the sort of project this is.  I’d certainly assume they are, but I started to worry that a word of explanation would be needed.  The stuff below is, I think, a sort of classical conceptual analysis.  However, it isn’t about truth-conditions.  I don’t know how often this is done these days.  In my grad school days, it was a common indoor sport, but then that was the heyday of ordinary language philosophy.  Philosophy now a days is so technical!  But, since it is great fun, and also educational, I hope it still goes on.


I’m going to describe a case, but I’m hoping to disguise it enough so that it can’t be recognized.  So my question is really about how to describe a kind of reaction to a case sort of like the one I’ll described.  The case I’ll describe is the inability to get or sustain something my student and I had worked towards, but I think approximately the same sort of reaction could occur when one’s child falls ill (i.e., fails to stay well) or a friend’s relationship blow up in her face (i.e., she fails to sustain a loving relationship).  It’s important the failure is not something that the person could have avoided.  There weren’t alternatives for her.  And in the student case, it isn’t as though I resented the time I spent; it was what I was paid for, after all.

So imagine you are working on an important project with a student for a deadline.  A contest is involved, and the student, you hoped, would do very well in it.  And then you find out the morning the completed result is due in that the student simply could not finish it.  She did not really understand the last step at all, messed it up, and then took it down or out or deleted it.

I described the case to one person, who maybe is not particularly as interested in precision as philosophers are, and he said that that sort of thing was very annoying.  I thought that “annoyed” was not really right.  Perhaps we could flesh out each sort of case I mentioned so that “annoyed” is correct, but when, e.g., one’s child gets meningitis from an encounter at school, one probably shouldn’t feel annoyed with the child.  Of course, one might feel get anger at a school that didn’t take precautions when infection was known to be a possibility, but certainly not the child.  Similarly with the friend.  And, in the situation I am thinking about, not with the student.

So I became interested in finding the right word to express feeling bad when something happens but (a) the feeling bad arises from an empathy with their loss, and (b) the bad feeling really is for them.  It isn’t like a the abdominal pain anxiety can give one; abdominal pain doesn’t seem – to me, anyway – to be something one feels for someone.  And while “annoy” is probably “annoyed at” the bad feeling part of it is not an empathetic reaction on her behalf, I think.  So I started through a list of words that express feeling bad in a situation where there’s a failure and looking for something that carries this idea of empathetically feeling-bad-for-someone.

I opened Word’s Thesaurus and started to check through the words I could think of that one might use in a situation.  I’m wondering what you all (our readers) will think.  I got the uncomfortable feeling that the English vocabulary is not rich in expressions of empathetic feeling-bad-for.   Maybe I’m missing out here, but I did try googling “Parents of a very sick child feel” and seeing what competitions I got.  That was not useful.

Here’s the list:


  1.  Annoy: irritate, infuriate, exasperate, upset
  2.  Dismay: Disappointment, Shock, Alarm
  3.  Worry: Concern, Apprehension, Anxiety, Care
  4.  Distress: suffering, pain, sorrow, anguish
  5.  Concern: anxiety, worry, apprehension, fear
  6.  Alarmed: Worried, upset, distressed, shocked
  7.  Drained: weary, shattered, worn out

It may be that we simply understand a lot of these words as capable to pointing two ways.  For example, perhaps one can feel disappointment as just a let down in one’s own feelings or, alternatively, as being disappointed for someone.  In the latter case, perhaps the reaction would be more behavioral:  soothing words, trying to arrange something to make them feel better, and so on.  Similarly, one might feel just sad, as it were, or sad for someone else.

I’m not sure, but I think I am wondering whether there is a word in English that is entirely about an empathetic “feeling-bad-for.”  And if not, why not.


What is it like to be trans* in academia? November 9, 2014

Filed under: academia,trans issues — Jender @ 9:27 am

A new blog!

What is it like to be trans* in academia?

By “trans*” is meant any of the following (not an exhaustive list): transgender, transsexual, trans with or without the *, genderqueer, non-binary. If you understand yourself to fall in the category of being trans*, we’d like to hear your stories about what it is like for you in the academy.

The model is blogs such as “What is it like to be a woman in philosophy” though the focus is not merely philosophy. The aim is consciousness-raising as well as a sense of solidarity for those of us in this position.


What is it like to be a foreigner in academia? November 5, 2014

Filed under: academia — Jender @ 6:26 pm

A new blog has launched!

this blog was created along the lines of “what is it like to be a woman in philosophy?”. It consists of short stories sent in by readers sharing experiencies of what it is like to be a foreigner in the academia. The goal of the blog is to raise awareness of the complex experiences that people in the academia studying and/or working in a country other than their country of origin or residence go through. Some of these stories will undoubtedly be stories of unfair treatment, of xenophobia, of conscious and unconscious biases, of constrainsts imposed by bureaucracy, of language and culture barriers. Hopefully, other stories will be tales of enriching adventures, of support in moments of need, of new connections and accomplishments.

We hope that by sharing these stories, a better understanding of what it is like to be a foreigner in the academia will emerge.

Many of these stories will be written by academics working in countries other than their countries of origin, but we hope that not all will be, for others in the academia might have something relevant to say about what being a foreigner in the academia is like.

Check it out, and tell your friends! Note that this isn’t just about philosophy, so do pass on to other academic friends as well.


Diversifying Syllabi November 3, 2014

Filed under: academia,improving the climate,teaching — philodaria @ 4:12 am

This is cool:

The Georgetown‘s Women in Philosophy Climate Coalition (GWPCC) is pleased to announce the launch of a new website, “Diversifying Syllabi” compiling an annotated bibliography of philosophical texts by diverse philosophers, appropriate for teaching in undergraduate courses. The website includes a reading list with text summaries and teaching tips.

We welcome others to join in this initiative by sending in suggestions for additions to the reading list and resources for teaching these texts.

To visit the site, go to http://diversifyingsyllabi.weebly.com

(The website grew out of a summer workshop for Georgetown graduate students that the GWPCC and philosophy department sponsored, “Diversifying Syllabi 101″ where we read and discussed papers written by diverse philosophers and discussed pedagogical strategies for incorporating the texts in our own teaching.)


It’s Halloween and they’re back! Williams and Ceci again November 1, 2014

Filed under: academia,academic job market,bias — annejjacobson @ 10:47 am

Recent  research reports significant faculty bias against women students in science.  

However, Williams and Ceci have an op-ed piece in the NY Times stating a conflicting conclusion from their recent research:  there’s no bias aainst women in math-intensive fields in STEM.  Their piece links to a forthcoming article by them.

Are they right?  If you have the time, you might try to analyze their work.  I don’t have the time, so let me simply urge a lot of caution when you read about the recent work.  They published a similar conclusion in 2011, and there turned out to be serious problems with their reasoning.  We discuss some of them here.


What would you have done? October 28, 2014

Filed under: academia — annejjacobson @ 5:59 pm

Imagine the scene:

You are at a very formal dinner that a foundation has organized to present its medal of honor to a very distinguished scientist.  You are also sitting next to a quite distinguished scientist, X, on your left.  And on X’s left is a young woman who, as it turns out, is in Chemistry at a quite good university.  And you, mistakenly taking the situation for a reasonably friendly one, mention the NSF Advance program for advancing women in science.  The conversation then goes:

She:  my university has one.

Me:  o, do you interact with it much.

She:  no, I think the best thing to do is for women to ignore any discrimination.  I really don’t think we should be creating special clubs for women.  That’s what creates the problems.

Me:  but universities are full of special clubs for men.

Distinguished scientist:  well, that used to be so.  In the 1970′s.

She:  anecdotes about her social skills.

Me:  Look, this really isn’t about personal anecdotes.  One just has to look at the statistics.  The last time I looked the percentage of female full professors in physics was 4%

She:  Well, maybe they just didn’t want to become full professors.


This was not in fact the end of the encounter.  I felt flummoxed,  however.  Do tell me, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?  We were not just having a tete a tete; I had to lean over X to speak to her.  And I basically gave up.

Somehow we fairly quickly turned to philosophy and the distinguished scientist had read about Colorado, so we moved on to easier topics.



Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen” reviewed in the New Yorker: quote added October 26, 2014

Filed under: academia,Microagressions,race — annejjacobson @ 10:42 pm

[My iPad refused to quote from the review, but the MAC air was happy to, so I'm sharing a bit.]

“Citizen: an American Lyric” has been short-listed for the National Book Award, and it is recently reviewed in the New Yorker. It is, the review says, especially important in this time, where injustices occur while the illusion of justice is perfected. One could hardly say the society she experiences is post-racial.

The poet Claudia Rankine’s new volume, her fifth, is “Citizen: An American Lyric” (Graywolf), a book-length poem about race and the imagination. Rankine has called it an attempt to “pull the lyric back into its realities.” Those realities include the acts of everyday racism—remarks, glances, implied judgments—that flourish in an environment where more explicit acts of discrimination have been outlawed. “Citizen,” which has been short-listed for the National Book Award, suggests that a contemporary “American lyric” is a weave of artfully juxtaposed intensities, a quarrel within form about form.

The review points out that its genre is hard to pin down. It reminded me startingly of the blog, What is it like to be a woman in philosophy.  One might, of course, worry about what is not explicit about killing an unarmed young black man, but we can get their meaning.

Another word for what Rankine is exposing is “microagressions.” Readers might find the following blog interesting:


PLUS IT COSTS $5 for the Kindle edition.


Diversity in emotions, again! October 18, 2014

Filed under: academia,emotion — annejjacobson @ 7:53 pm

[note: acute comments coming in make me realize that this post is a bit hastily written. I'll say a bit more in the comments when I can, but let me Draw your attention to the discussion of the bystander in #3.]

There’s a recent post here about how humans vary in the strength of the emotions they field.  A cruel comment may get someone angry for a day or two, but another person may feel beaten up in a way that lasts far longer without being pathological, though it may become a pathological threat to their health and more general ability to function.

The discussion on the last post turned quite quickly to Borderline Personality Syndrome, and contributors covered a lot of ground.  But I think we left out two other important topics.  In addition, there may be connected topics that I am not mentioning, and I hope they’ll get raised in comments if anyone is interested.  So here are the two I am thinking about.

1.  Given that being nasty to someone can cost them a week or more of their lives, and that “strong feelers” are not rare, what in the world is happening with people who are nasty adult bullies in supposedly humanistic fields like philosophy?  I suggested in a certain recent discussion that occupied this and a number of other blogs that maybe some of the bullies are not aware of the power their words can have.  Words are not sticks and stones.  But words can kill by sending someone depressed over the edge.  And no doubt in other ways in our small world.

Another possible source of the nastiness is alexithymia, which is a fascinating but unpleasant disorder.  People with the disorder usually are literally incapable of imagining others’ distress.  It’s been suggested that corporate criminals who ruin the savings accounts of thousands or millions may not be able to imagine fully the effect of what they are doing.  While no diagnostician at all, I watched carefully the descriptions of Ken Lay, of Enron infamy, and he certainly was described as displaying related traits.

I once tried to tell someone prone  sometimes to incredibly nasty comments that she could end up killing someone.  A very difficult thing to say, and I messed up entirely by managing to suggest I was going to die.  That was a real mess to sort out.  So let me say now:  Words can kill.  Probably more often they deeply wound.  The wounds can cause chaos in someone’s life.

2.  A second question concerns the value of being a strong emoter.  If you look at our last discussion, emotional surges were likened to tsunamis.  Of course, some of us like to think that philosophy is driven by reason, but might strong emotional reactions have epistemic importance even in the ‘rational’ fields?  If so, it might mean that some of us arrive at important conclusions in advance of finding the reasons for them.  Does our pedagogy allow this?  If not, should we rethink some of the demands placed on students.

I recently gave a paper to a group of biologists, some of whom encountered the concept of mental content for the first time (which, incidentally, is a concept I doubt in the end makes sense).  Some of the biologists took standard argumentative weapons and launched them at the concept.  But one person was perplexed and very unhappy.  I was reminded of three-hour tutorials with Elizabeth Anscombe, where one could do deep conceptual therapy, which does allow that one may need a lot of time to find reasons for already intuited conclusions such as “There’s something badly mistaken here.”

Anyway, I’d love to know what others think about this.


McCabe, West, and ‘public philosophy’ October 6, 2014

Filed under: academia — annejjacobson @ 3:56 pm

David Livingston Smith put this video up on FB. It is long, but watch the first 6 mins and you’ll probably want to come back to it later.





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