Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Yellowface: traditional art and colonial racism July 20, 2014

Filed under: bias,discrimination,race — annejjacobson @ 6:35 pm

To what extent should traditional Western artworks be altered in order to excise the racism (or sexism, etc) in them? What do you think?

From Colorlines:

“Yellowface is nothing new. But people seem unable to leave it behind as an embarrassment of the past. The Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year with a production of the operetta duo’s classic “The Mikado.” Except, writes Jeff Yang over at CNN:

It is the most frequently staged of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas and a perennial favorite of the Society. Every time, they have done it the same way: As a photocopy of the Victorian original, with Caucasian actors wearing garish facepaint and outfits that cartoonishly approximate traditional Japanese garb.

[T]hese “traditional” productions — yellowface productions — of “The Mikado” have to end.

They are the deep-drilled root of the yellowface weed: the place from which the scourge keeps springing back, even when its surface expressions are plucked. There are older examples of yellowface in entertainment than “The Mikado,” but none so popular, and certainly none that have been as popular among mass audiences for as long — 129 years and counting.

I want to be clear that I’m not saying that “The Mikado” shouldn’t be performed at all.

Its biting satire and splendidly silly stage play make it quite possibly Gilbert and Sullivan’s greatest work. But when it is performed by an all-white troupe of actors dressed and made up as Asians, it shifts from a brilliant comedy of manners to, as Asian-American actress and blogger Erin Quill says, a “racist piece of crap.””

 

Who is fed up? Part I June 24, 2014

Filed under: academia,bias,bullying,discrimination,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 7:44 pm

Plenty of people are fed up with the current treatment too many women receive in the philosophical community. This blog was offered the opportunity to post an open letter to the profession on this topic. We reacted enthusiastically. The letter is long, but contains many valuable observations. Rather than edit it, I’m putting it up in two parts.

———

An Open Letter to My Colleagues in Philosophy:

The most recent bout of sexual harassment scandals has brought on yet another round of tortured conversations about women in philosophy and what we can do about the problem of sexual harassment in the field. It is a good thing that and that these problems are coming to light and that people are finally taking note of widespread misbehavior and abuse that occurs across the profession, and I believe that there are genuinely well-intentioned male (and female) philosophers who are sincere in their desire to learn more about what they can do to improve the situation. But I continually encounter responses to these complaints in casual conversations that frustrate me almost to the point of tears, and if I have to summon the energy to adopt the cool, measured tone I must assume in order to maintain my place as a Reasonable Woman in this “conversation” one more time, I fear I will rip my tongue out of my throat. So in the hopes of moving this conversation along, I’ve compiled of list of things not to say when women complain of sexual harassment in philosophy, and a brief explanation of what is wrong with them. This list is just a compilation of bits of conversations I’ve had recently that rankle me the most. Please feel free to edit them, and add your own.

34 things NOT to say in response to complaints about sexual harassment in philosophy:

(Note: ALL of these have been said to me, at some time or another, in conversations about accusations of wrongdoing by fellow philosophers. I’m sure other women have others.)

1. But here is some other couple (both members in the profession, who got together when one was a faculty member/held a more senior position to the other) who are happily married.
2. But he’s fun/just having fun.
3. But he’s cool.
4. But he’s married/has a girlfriend.
5. He’s harmless.
6. He never does that to me.
7. He’s really nice to me.
8. I was hit on/propositioned once at a conference/ talk.
9. I was hit on/propositioned once at a conference/ talk, and it wasn’t so bad/I enjoyed it.
10. But what’s wrong with meeting someone at a conference whom you find attractive and with whom you have similar interests?
11. What’s wrong with asking someone out/two members of a profession having a relationship with each other?
12. But how is a guy supposed to get a date?
13. I’ve never seen him do that.
14. But he’s a good philosopher.
15. But he’s a good force in the department/field.
16. But she’s not a very good philosopher.
17. She’s crazy.
18. The other women who’ve complained about him are crazy.
19. All the women who’ve complained about him are crazy.
20. Pursuing this complaint would ruin his career.
21. But think of all the good he does.
22. What did she expect would happen?
23. But he had a reputation for this kind of thing/everyone knows he’s a sleaze. (!!!)
24. She was asking for it.
25. She’s had other affairs with members of the profession.
26. She’s slept with everyone in the profession.
27. She consented.
28. She’s an adult.
29. It was an adult consensual relationship.
30. Yes I agree he’s a problem but what am I (we) supposed to do about it?
31. But then you owe me a solution to the problem/an answer to the question of what we should do about this.
32. What do you want them (us) to do, fire him?
33. Just ignore it.
34. Just ignore it and focus on your work.

Why are these wrong?

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 hominem 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

 

Sexual misconduct and silencing June 14, 2014

There’s a really fantastic and important piece up on Jezebel about silencing and retaliation in connection with Title IX issues on college campuses.

“I look at my entire career, entire education, and I just see the body count,” says Stabile. “I see the faculty members who quit 10 years into the job. I see the women who didn’t finish… and it’s not even that they just leave the university and don’t finish their education. It’s students who wind up killing themselves. It’s students who don’t survive.”

This is the price of valuing a college’s reputation over the well-being of the people who actually work and live there — failing rape survivors becomes an unspoken part of university policy . . .

However, there is hope for reform — college and university faculty members across the country have banded together to create a new organization, Faculty Against Rape (FAR), which hopes to help faculty respond to campus rape and institutional betrayal. According to Caroline Heldman, who is helping to launch the organization, FAR’s three main focuses will be developing resources for faculty to better serve survivors, helping faculty who want to be part of the anti-rape movement organize on campus, and providing strategy and legal resources for faculty who are retaliated against by administrations.

Although many faculty have been advocating against sexual assault for years, the increased media attention on the issue now may help them affect meaningful change. “This conversation is happening nationally,” says Stabile. “‘I’ve never seen this conversation before. It’s a moment where we can move to change things. When I can’t sleep at night or I wake up in the morning thinking about the students I’ve lost, I try to think about that, too.”

Theidon agrees with this sentiment. “I think ten years from now, twenty years from now, people are going to look back and say this is one of the most important social movements on college campuses,” she says. “And I know that if 10 years from now someone asks me, ‘What were you doing back then, Kimberly?’ I want to be able to answer, ‘I was standing up, speaking out, and supporting these women. What were you doing?’”

(Thanks Q!)

 

University of Texas tells women what to wear June 4, 2014

Filed under: academia,discrimination,gender inequality,sexism — philodaria @ 6:56 pm

Via Jezebel.

UT Austin Dress Code

A reader spotted this sign up at the University of Texas School of Nursing in Austin.

Our reader said the signs popped up this week. “Revealing clothing MUST NOT be worn while in the School of Nursing Building. It distracts from the learning environment.”

“It distracts from the learning environment.” Oh, OK. For a second there I thought we were only teaching young girls in elementary, middle and high school that their bodies are nothing but shameful sin receptacles which must be covered up and hidden at all times from men who absolutely cannot control themselves at the slightest hint of a woman’s skin. Good to see that this outdated sexist bullshit is being instilled in college students in a professional training program, too!

 

Why are there so few women in philosophy? May 22, 2014

    The data on doctorates is telling. According to recent research the number of women receiving doctorates in philosophy is very near the bottom of the academic barrel.

    This blog has been looking at many facets of this problem. See our discussions of research here and here, for example. Or search our site for posts on implicit bias and stereotype threat.

    New research is opening up our understanding of another factor, which resides in the beliefs about one’s ability to succeed in a career:

    The decision to pursue a career rests in part on how we judge the following inequality:

    image

     

    If we believe this inequality to be true, we might proceed; if we decide it’s false, we might look elsewhere. Importantly, however, neither side of this inequality is easy to evaluate. Abilities are nebulous, context-sensitive things that are notoriously problematic to pin down. As a result, we often look to others for clues, leaving the door open for substantial social and cultural influences on career choices. A symposium at the 2014 SPSP conference in Austin highlighted a number of recent findings that link sociocultural influences on people’s assessment of the inequality above to the presence of gender gaps.

    How do we get from sociocultural influences on this formula all the way to gender gaps? First, and most obviously, contemporary culture is rife with stereotypes about differences in men’s and women’s cognitive profiles; these stereotypes shape people’s beliefs about the quantity on the left-hand side (that is, the abilities they are likely to possess). Second, and less often discussed, practitioners of different careers may send different messages about the abilities that are required to reach the highest levels of achievement in their particular field; these messages shape people’s beliefs about the quantity on the right-hand side (that is, the abilities required for success). Putting these two elements together, we might make the following claim: One circumstance that gives rise to a gender gap in a career or discipline is when a gender group is stereotyped to lack an ability that the people in that discipline believe is essential for success.

    The post from which the quote above comes comes is full of interesting ideas and results. It’s a must read for anyone interested in the questions concerning access and opportunity.

    Here are some snippets:

    In some disciplines success may be seen as depending on sustained effort and dedication, whereas in others it may be seen as requiring a “gift” or brilliance that cannot be taught. Because women are stereotyped as being less likely than men to possess innate intellectual talent, they may find the academic fields that emphasize brilliance as the key to success to be unwelcoming. [note that the claim here is that the fields themselves may seem less welcoming. This seems different from the conclusions of Carol Dweck that we discuss in our Psychology of Philosophy section.]

    – Regardless of the purported cognitive differences men and women, or of the abilities purportedly required to become a physicist vs. a psychologist vs. an anthropologist, the mere presence of (1) different societal beliefs about the intellectual abilities of men and women, and (2) different societal beliefs about the intellectual abilities required for success in different fields will be sufficient to give rise to (or at least exacerbate) gender gaps.

    Stereotypes may have many different sources. To the extent that they contain messages about ability, this research says they may quite significantly affect career choices. Though the research is specifically about gender, we should keep it in mind as we think about issues such as the incredibly low representation of blacks in higher education in The Uk. Or the abled body whiteness of US philosophy.

    (Thanks to BL.)

 

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible” May 20, 2014

A petition and a brave spoken word performance aimed at bolstering diversity initiatives at UCLA.

Now you tell me that I should be proud to be at UCLA?
When only 35 of us are predicted to walk across that stage?
When most of us are dropping out from the lack of financial aid
While Judy Olian, Dean of Anderson School of Management just spent $647,000 on first class flights and hotel stays
But waiting for an apology is asking for the impossible
Because no snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible
But you tell me I should be proud to be a Bruin

When we have more national championships than we do black male freshmen
It’s evident that our only purpose here is to improve your winning percentage
So now black high school kids can care less about grades, just as long as the number on the back of their jersey doesn’t fade
And you tell me I should be proud to be a Bruin

 

A reply to Robert George: Why sexual assault can’t be blamed on the sexual revolution May 18, 2014

Recently, philosopher of law Robert George wrote a piece in which he links the culture of sexual assault on college campuses to the sexual revolution. A philosophy graduate student has written a beautiful and moving reply. I quote from it below, and the full response is here.

Yet, the fact is, sexual assault is deeply wrong and harmful regardless of the victim’s sexual history or values. The Philadelphia Magazine article provides ample evidence that students who have casual sex, seemingly without sharing metaphysical or ethical commitments about what it means for “two to become one,” still experience assault as a serious trauma. Moreover, sex workers can be sexually violated and process it as such, irrespective of their views on sex. Some people might counter that victims can be mistaken about the source of their trauma, and that if they think it has nothing to do with the meaning of sex, they are lying to themselves. This reasoning, much like sexual violence itself, denies people agency. It’s hard to capture the sheer horror of having one’s will subjugated by another person, the utter powerlessness of being at someone else’s mercy. As long as we see sexual assault as an offense against purity or chastity rather than primarily against autonomy, we cannot do justice to that experience.

. . . Professor George, I share your sadness and yearning for truth, in my various roles as young Catholic philosopher, Swarthmore alum, sexual assault survivor, and human being. I am just worried that when culture wars overshadow the discussion of sexual violence, it leaves all parties hurt and none transformed. By all means, let’s create spaces for college students to discuss campus sexual culture, the meaning of sex, and healthy relationships. All I ask is that we not let questions over which many reasonable people disagree turn our attention away from the distinct and severe wrong of sexual assault. Otherwise, I fear you will be right: We will live in a “hell on earth—complete with ideologies hardened into orthodoxies to immunize it from truth-telling and to stigmatize and marginalize truth-tellers.”

 

Harvard Professor suing over denied tenure May 1, 2014

Dr. Kimberly Theidon, an anthropology professor, is suing Harvard University, alleging discrimination and retaliation after she spoke out on behalf of victims of sexual assault and criticized the university’s handling of their cases.

“I’m not going to be silent, I was not going to be a dutiful daughter so they denied me tenure and effectively fired me,” said Theidon.

Now she’s blowing the whistle on the university by filing a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination alleging she was discriminated and retaliated against for criticizing the university’s handling of sexual assault cases.

“This case is about the importance of women who are sexually assaulted on campus having someone to go to as the first responder who will not be afraid to help them,” said her attorney Elizabeth Rogers.

“We want Harvard to change their policies,” said attorney Phil Gordon.

A spokesman for the University declined Team 5 Investigates request for an interview, citing the pending litigation.

However, in a written statement, the university told Team 5 it “would never deny tenure due to a faculty member’s advocacy for students who have experienced sexual assault.” Instead, tenure decisions are “based on the quality of a faculty member’s research, teaching and university citizenship.”

“I think in principal that is probably true, but in practice, they violate it often and in my case they violated it,” said Theidon. However she said she doesn’t have any regrets,” I would do it all over again, only I would be louder.”

Read more here. 

 

 

Schliesser on de Gournay: sexism is “serious blasphemy” April 26, 2014

Yesterday, at his Digressions & Impressions blog, Eric Schliesser posted a (second) lovely discussion of 17th century philosopher Marie de Gournay and her account of the Church’s role in the subordination of women. Strikingly, de Gournay argues that, in having played this role, Christianity also oppresses men, by encouraging them to make idols of themselves.

For, men have chosen to let themselves be ruled by “superiority of…strength” (73) and not their rational faculty. In fact, she argues that in so doing men have committed “serious blasphemy” because men have elevated themselves above women. For, women are “worthy of being made in the image of the Creator, of benefiting from the most holy Eucharist and the mysteries of redemption and of paradise, and of the vision–indeed, the possession–of God.” (73) Man’s political decision to deny women “the advantages or privileges of man” is, thus, a way to make an idol of himself. 

De Gournay’s argument is a powerful reply to the Pauline-Augustinian argument that woman only expresses God’s image when she is united to man (de Trinitate, Book 12, Ch. 7). I know what I’ll be adding to the syllabus the next time I teach philosophy of gender. Thanks, Eric!

 

If you’re wondering how wrong university procedures can go… April 24, 2014

[Trigger Warning]

This story from Brown University will give you some idea. I encourage anyone who is confused about why victims may not come forward especially to read it. But of course, this isn’t just about Brown.

Students were outraged in 2013, when Yale University disclosed in a semi-annual report that only one of six people found responsible for sexual assault had been suspended, and the rest were punished with reprimands, training or probation. A subsequent report showed one student was found guilty of sexual assault and was given a two- term suspension, and the rest of the assault cases hadn’t concluded or did not lead to a formal investigation.

From the 2008-09 academic year to 2012-13 at Harvard College, five students were required by the Administrative Board to withdraw from the undergraduate school due to “social behavior – sexual.” Two students were punished with probation for “social behavior – harassment/sexual” and the college took no action against six students for “social behavior – sexual.” Harvard College was hit with a federal complaint last month for, among other grievances, forcing sexual assault victims to live in the same residence halls as their attackers.

Documents provided by Dartmouth College show that from 2010 to 2013, sexual violence cases resulted in two students being “separated or resigned” from the college, two students suspended, two placed on probation and four found “not responsible.”Dartmouth may implement a policy that would make expulsion the preferred sanction for students guilty of sexual misconduct.

Colleges are not required to disclose how many students are investigated or punished for sexual misconduct. Columbia University, for instance, has so far declined to release such statistics.

Three women accused the same male student at Columbia of sexual assault. Still, two of the reported victims told HuffPost that the male student was found not responsible and was allowed to stay on campus.

 

 
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