Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

2013 Gender Inequality Index August 17, 2014

The U.N. (Development Program) released the 2014 Human Development Report (and the 2013 Human Development Index within it) a few weeks ago on or around July 24, 2014. It incorporates data from 2013 for the latest Gender Inequality Index on pages 172-175 in Table 4. This index reflects gender inequality along three dimensions – reproductive health, empowerment, and the labor market – as rated by five indicators: both maternal mortality ratio and adolescent fertility rate for reproductive health, both shares of parliamentary seats and population with at least secondary education for empowerment, and labor force participation rates for the labor market.

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This year, all 187 countries ranked in the 2013 Human Development Index are also ranked in the 2013 Gender Inequality Index. The U.S. ranks #47 (down from 42 last year), the U.K. ranks #35 (down from 34 last year), Canada ranks #23 (down from 18 from last year), Australia ranks #19 (down from 17 from last year), New Zealand ranks #34 (down from 31 from last year), and South Africa ranks #94 (down from 90 from last year).

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Also out of those 187 countries (for the 2013 Gender Inequality Index…), Slovenia ranks #1 (up from 8), Switzerland ranks #2 (up from 3), Germany ranks #3 (up from 6), Sweden ranks #4 (down from 2), Denmark ranks #5 (down from 3 formerly with Switzerland), Austria also ranks #5 (up from 14), Netherlands ranks #7 (down from #1), Italy ranks #8 (up from 11), Belgium ranks #9 (up from 12), Norway also ranks #9 (down from 5), Finland ranks #11 (down from #6), and France ranks #12 (down from 9).

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In addition, out of those 187 countries (for the 2013 Gender Inequality Index…), India ranks #127 (up from 132), Saudi Arabia ranks #56 (seemingly up from 145 – is that right?), Afghanistan ranks #169 (down from 147), and Yemen ranks #152 (down from 148).

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Click here for a PDF of the full 2014 Human Development Report (with the Gender Inequality Index on pp. 172-175).
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Click here for a more detailed account of the Gender Inequality Index that includes indicator data (for 2013 and also for some earlier grouped years).
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Click here for a webpage that contains some frequently asked questions and answers about the UNDP Gender Inequality Index.
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Click here and scroll down to “technical note 3” on pages 5-6 for a PDF file that provides details on how the Gender Inequality Index is calculated.

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Unfortunately, the UNDP seems frequently to delete and/or change the URLs/web-addresses for the aforementioned links. Please report any changes (or updates!) in the comments and I will try to update accordingly.
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Click here for links on/for the 2012 Gender Inequality Index

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What do readers think? All sorts of data here for all sorts of comments…

 

The Ethics of Trigger Warnings in the Classroom May 26, 2014

Trigger warnings (definition in the link) are a mainstay on many blogs and internet forums. People are also now starting to use them in books and on classroom syllabi. In response to this, there’s been a huge surge in articles discussing the ethics of using them. Most of these pieces worry that they do more harm than good.

Here’s a sampling of articles, op eds, and blog posts:

Salon. New York Times. NYT Op Ed.  New Republic. Los Angeles Times. The Atlantic. NY Mag. Huff Po. Mother Jones. Jezebel.
If you google “trigger warnings” and under “search tools” set the time frame to within one week (as of today, May 26th), you’ll find dozens more of them.

I take it that most of us can easily imagine the main arguments for using trigger warnings in the classroom: you are giving people a heads about about the material they are about to encounter, so that they can make better informed decisions about how and whether to engage the material, and you are signaling that you understand the severity of the material and consider it a valid decision if students to do not wish to engage the material at this time.

There are a lot of arguments in these articles against using trigger warnings in such a way. Many of them are bad arguments–they conflate serious trauma with any level of momentary discomfort, they seem to not understand how PTSD and anxiety disorders work at the most basic level, they trade on stereotypes of feminists wanting to keep people in a state of perpetual victimhood (thanks to Kate Manne for pointing this one out), and they don’t acknowledge the sheer levels of paternalism involved in their suggestions.

There are, however, some very thoughtful arguments and considerations that raise concerns about how we use trigger warnings and how we follow through with them. I quote some below, along with points in favor of using trigger warnings in the classroom. Comments are open and moderated.

“As someone who studies PTSD from several different perspectives and works with people who actually have PTSD, I think what is interesting about this conversation is that it seems like a basic understanding of trauma and PTSD is almost entirely missing. People who truly have PTSD are ‘triggered’ all the time. By many things. Most of which are not directly related to their trauma. Noises, smells, tastes, phrases, tactile experiences, thoughts, etc. etc. One of the most – if not the most – disruptive part of having PTSD is isolation. Feeling like what you’ve experienced is something that no one else can understand. Feeling like you are not like everyone else and never will be again. If we slap trigger warnings on books that mention war, I worry that we are further isolating the people who need just the opposite. I worry – particularly when it comes to combat related PTSD which the NYT article addresses – that we are sending a message that says, “You’re right. What you’ve been through is so terrible, what you’ve done is so inhuman that we cannot even talk about it.” I worry that though this is intended to come from a protective place that it sends the opposite message. The message that the rest of us don’t want to hear it, don’t want to have to worry about your emotions spilling over. People who have been traumatized – in my opinion – don’t need to be protected from being re-triggered. What they need is empathy. Instead of trigger warnings on syllabi, maybe we should have some classes (and trainings for profs) that attempt to understand trauma and PTSD so that we can all be better witnesses instead of just continuing to shut it all away.”
–Mary Catherine McDonald, philosopher

 

“I’ve used [...trigger warnings] for graphic/sensitive material in my ethics classes (e.g., FGM, sexual assault) for a number of different reasons. Most obviously, there are students who really do need to opt out of discussions which may leave them feeling vulnerable and reeling because of past trauma. Nobody has opted to opt out yet, but I have been thanked for the warning, because it helped a student mentally prepare for what they were aware (and were aware that I was aware) could be an emotionally wrenching discussion. Also, as that brings out, being given a choice can be valuable in its expressive or symbolic value, even if it isn’t exercised or something which it would be good for that particular student to exercise in this instance. Namely, it says to them that opting out would be respected by me and that I am not assuming that they are all clearly going to be fine with talking through anything and everything which might be important to talk about in an ethics class in particular. And that they are not being excluded from philosophy in general if they are not prepared to participate in a more or less unpredictable discussion of (e.g.) bodily mutilation or sexual assault. Finally, and equally importantly, it signals to everyone else – i.e., the students who have no need whatsoever to opt out of the discussion – that this is a morally serious subject which we are going to approach in a morally serious way, remembering that what we are talking about real lives, real bodies, and real social practices.”
–Kate Manne, philosopher

 

“…It’s almost utterly unpredictable what will trigger people. It’s often not the topics themselves, but the smallest thing that unless someone *knows* is a trigger for me (for example), there’s no way they could have given adequate warning. And given my intersectional identity, things that are triggers for other people with sufficiently similar identities may not be triggers for me. This is related to the dilution worry: we’d have to essentially say: “This course may contain triggers.” If we tried to list them all, we’d fail (because we can’t predict how something we think is benign and unrelated is really someone’s #1 trigger) and the list would be massive.”
–Rachel McKinnon, philosopher

 

“…part of what we as educators, parents and students have to recognize is that classroom spaces in which difficult topics like trauma, rape, war, race and sexuality are discussed are already unsafe. When students of color who have endured racism have to hear racially insensitive comments from other students who are in the process of learning, the classroom is unsafe. The classroom is unsafe for trans students who are often referred to by the wrong gender pronoun by both students and teachers. The classroom is unsafe for rape survivors who encounter students in the process of learning why getting drunk at a party does not mean a woman deserves to be raped.”
–Brittney Cooper, writer, Salon (linked above)

 

“I kind of know where these critics are coming from, because I used to be one of them. I publicly joked that sappy songs required trigger warnings, and I privately complained that they were as infantilizing as spoiler alerts. But now that trigger warnings have gone mainstream, I find I’ve come full circle. Why should trigger warnings bother me? Like many of trigger warnings’ loudest opponents, I have noticed, I have no firsthand experience with rape or racial discrimination or cissexism. And a few words at the beginning of an article (or on a seminar syllabus) are no skin off my un-traumatized nose. In fact, what now strikes me most about trigger warnings is how small a request they are, in proportion to the backlash they incite. What is it about about this entirely free gesture of empathy that makes people so outraged? In their distress, critics have entirely overlooked an important distinction: Oberlin students aren’t trying to get out of reading Mrs. Dalloway because they’re special, sensitive snowflakes, or even get it removed from syllabi. They just want a three-word note on the syllabus giving them a heads-up that it addresses suicide. If that’s all it takes for instructors to prevent the shock it could cause a student who has been suicidal, it is, to me, a no-brainer.”
–Kat Stoeffel, writer, NY Mag (linked above)

 

“Kids in college are thought of as these young, naïve, uncorrupted youngsters who need knowledge dropped on them hard, but it gives me pause to acknowledge how many of them have been sexually assaulted or seen trauma already. Regardless of what you think we should do about that, it’s heartbreaking to think that some students begin an experience meant to challenge them already deeply challenged and fragile enough that they aren’t able to experience the positive cognitive dissonance being offered through an education.”
–Tracy Moore, writer, Jezebel (linked above)

 

 

 

 

“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

 

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.

 

Obama launches White House initiative focused on college sexual assault January 23, 2014

Filed under: academia,education,law,politics,sexual assault,sexual harassment,violence — philodaria @ 2:36 am

Obama gave his task force 90 days to recommend best practices for colleges to prevent or respond to assaults, and to check that they are complying with existing legal obligations. The task force — which includes the attorney general and the secretaries of the Education, Health and Human Services and Interior Departments — was also asked for proposals to raise awareness of colleges’ records regarding assaults and officials’ responses, and to see that federal agencies get involved when officials do not confront problems on their campuses.

Read more about it here.

 

Academic Kindness January 10, 2014

Filed under: academia,education — philodaria @ 6:24 am

The Tumblr.  Here’s one of the posts:

While doing my comps, I found myself in need of an obscure, unpublished Ph.D. I was still figuring out Proquest and I was trying to figure out a way to order it from the university. As I was doing this, I sent a brief email to a very senior scholar whose work deals with the material in this dissertation and asked if he could recommend the best way to find a copy of it. Instead, he sent the entire dissertation to me by mail – in two packages because it took him a while to photocopy the whole thing (I should also note that I live in a different country, so it would not have been cheap to send). A very kind and unexpected gesture!

 

Article on Increased Respect for PGPs (Preferred Gender Pronouns) December 1, 2013

Filed under: education,gender,language — Stacey Goguen @ 6:15 pm

A recent article in the Telegram.com is titled, “Preferred Gender Pronouns Gain Traction at Colleges” and discusses how Mills College in Oakland, CA is incorporating PGPs into various aspects of college life.

 

“On high school and college campuses and in certain political and social media circles, the growing visibility of a small, but semantically committed cadre of young people who, like Crownover, self-identify as “genderqueer” — neither male nor female but an androgynous hybrid or rejection of both — is challenging anew the limits of Western comprehension and the English language.”

 

“Inviting students to state their preferred gender pronouns, known as PGPs for short, and encouraging classmates to use unfamiliar ones such as “ze,”’sie,” ”e,” ”ou” and “ve” has become an accepted back-to-school practice for professors, dorm advisers, club sponsors, workshop leaders and health care providers at several schools.”

 

 

 

Open Courseware July 28, 2013

Filed under: academia,education — philodaria @ 5:44 pm

This isn’t news, but a lot of folks don’t know about this wonderful resource yet: Course lessons from a number of universities are free and open to the public online. For example, open courseware materials from the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy can be found here.  Philosophy courses from Notre Dame are available here.  A list of institutional sites for OCW material is here, via the Open Courseware Consortium. And, of course, this is not just limited to philosophy courses. If you want to, e.g., watch a series of lectures on physics, you can do that too.

 

Training teens on bystander intervention June 25, 2013

Filed under: domestic violence,education,violence — philodaria @ 11:53 pm

An article on CNN is discussing bystander training in a high school, instituted in the wake of the murder of former student Lauren Astley by her ex-boyfriend. It’s a terribly heart-breaking story, but it’s a welcome change to see these issues being discussed in a nuanced way, and to see long-term plans for intervention going forward, in a mainstream news outlet.

 

Protecting children from internet pornography May 24, 2013

Filed under: education,pornography — jennysaul @ 9:42 am

A call for better sex education:

A report released on Thursday by the commissioner’s office found that children who watch pornography are more likely to develop sexually risky behaviour and become sexually active at a younger age.

It called for urgent action to “develop children’s resilience to pornography” after discovering that a significant number have access to sexually explicit images. It also called on the Department for Education to ensure all schools delivered effective relationship and sex education, including how to use the internet safely.

I’m really pleased to see this. I naively thought when I first came to the UK that students here would have far superior sex ed to what students in the US have. Years of conversations with my students have shown me otherwise. None of them have been taught such basic things as that sex should be enjoyable for everyone involved, and that you should make sure that the person you’re having sex with is happy about it. (My favourite student anecdote was about one school where the girls were taken into a room to watch a film about menstruation while the boys watched a film about cars.) Thanks, Mr J!

 

 
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