Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Teenage sex August 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monkey @ 6:34 pm

The sad state of teenage sex – young women being coerced into painful anal sex by young men. Read more here.

 

Women are interested in lots of things August 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — magicalersatz @ 7:11 pm

Two caveats. First of all, I’d like to say that I love the Daily Nous, and I’m really grateful for it. Secondly, I’d like to say that the point of this post isn’t to beat up on Justin for posting something I disagree with. Rather, it’s to try to explain why I – and I expect many others – found a particular post problematic.

In this post, Justin asks for recommendations of ‘philosophical topics of interest to women’. The intention behind this request is, as far as I understand it, a really good one – it’s one way of trying to grapple with the underrepresentation of the women in philosophy. And yet. And yet I find posts – and conversations – like this frustrating. Let me explain.

1. Requests that ask us to think about ‘what women like’, ‘what women want’, ‘what women are interested in’, etc. encourage the unhelpful but common assumption that women are some sort of bizarre hive mind (and perhaps unconsciously rely on/promote gender essentialist ways of thinking). Different women are very different. Different women are interested in very different things. A white working class lesbian woman will probably have different interests from a straight upper class Asian woman. That’s how that goes. 

2. Women are often socialized – and pressured – to express interest in certain kinds of things. Uncritical discussion of ‘what women like’ or ‘what women are interested in’ can often gloss over the important social factors that shape both the interests of women and the ways in which they express those interests. It also glosses over – and perhaps contributes to – the effect of things like stereotype threat and implicit bias for women’s interest in traditionally ‘male’ areas.

3. If you say something like, e,g., ‘women like ethics, but they don’t like philosophy of language’, that doesn’t send a very nice message to the actual women who are actually doing great work on philosophy of language. Those women already have enough gender-based nonsense to deal with. They don’t need to read on the internets about how they’re working on a dude subject. 

4. It’s a common misconception of those of us who think feminist philosophy deserves a more central place in the philosophical cannon that we think feminist philosophy is really important because it (unlike, e.g., metaphysics and philosophy of language) is something women care about/are interested in. I only speak for myself here, but that’s certainly not how I see it. The importance of feminist philosophy isn’t that it’s ‘something women like’. Rather, the importance of feminist philosophy is that it emphasizes the philosophical importance of gender, and highlights how so many areas of philosophy – including things like metaphysics and philosophy of language – can be affected by considerations of gender. 

Again, I say all of this in the spirit of constructive criticism, and with deeply felt gratitude for all of Justin’s hard work. 

 

Update: Hilde Lindeman says the following in the Daily Nous comment thread:

The question ['what philosophical topics are of interest to women?'] is a good one, and does NOT necessarily essentialize women. The fact remains that women and other marginalized social groups are woefully underrepresented in philosophy, and course content in introductory and other undergraduate courses can be part of the problem. What I think would really help is if philosophers stopped boundary-beating, and respected the work of people who are doing philosophy on topics that haven’t gotten much attention in mainstream philosophy. A lot of that work is practical: think of the departments, for instance, where bioethics gets dismissed as “not real philosophy.” Philosophy of race, feminist philosophy, philosophy of disability also easily spring to mind. If undergraduates were exposed to some of this stuff in their undergraduate courses, more of them would perhaps find something in philosophy that really speaks to them, whoever they are.

 

I agree with pretty much everything she says (including that the question doesn’t necessarily essentialize women), except the part where she says that the question is a good one. I think the issue of whether the question is a good one and the issue of diversity and boundary policing within philosophical topics are issues that can and should be kept apart. Philosophy has been primarily white, male, straight, able-bodied, middle-class, etc for a really long time. As a result, philosophy can really show its collective bias and groupthink. It’s perhaps easier to think that gender isn’t a philosophically central topic or that we can ask The Big Questions without considering gender when you’ve benefitted from male privilege your whole life. It’s perhaps easier to think that race isn’t a philosophically central topic or that we can ask The Big Questions without considering race when you’ve benefitted from white privilege your whole life. And so on. People who don’t share that same privilege may disagree – and may feel alienated as a result. But it’s a far cry from those concerns – concerns which collectively might push us to expand what we count as ‘real’ or ‘core’ philosophy and encourage us to examine philosophy’s collective biases – to thinking it’s a good idea to ask ‘what kind of philosophy do women like?’  

 

FPQ now accepting submissions August 21, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — KateNorlock @ 11:26 pm

The Feminist Philosophy Quarterly website has gone live. 

 

Dead at Noon

Filed under: Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 8:20 pm

A quite different story of suicide from Gillian Bennett, now the late wife of Johnathan Bennett, mother of Sara Bennett.

h/t to many blogs and news stories today.

 

 

Bringing Out The Best In Us?

Filed under: Uncategorized — phrynefisher @ 5:49 pm

The Philosopher’s Annual website states that the Annual’s aim is “to select the ten best articles published in philosophy each year—an attempt as simple to state as it is admittedly impossible to fulfill”.

I’ve always found such Annual articles as I have read to be excellent, and I’m usually very interested in them. (The work selected for inclusion typically falls in areas close to my own research interests.) I’ve been involved in the selection process in the past, and I am grateful for the work that goes into putting the Annual together, which I think evinces expertise and insight.

However, I do agree with the Annual that its stated aim is impossible to fulfil. As seems to be acknowledged on all sides, there is no methodology which will find the “best” ten papers. So it is worth reflecting on what happens if we employ methods that do not select the best ten papers but then announce the papers thus selected as the best. Some of the upshots of doing this may be relatively harmless or uninteresting, but some of them warrant attention.

In an excellent post at Philosop-HerMeena Krishnamurthy points out that the Philosopher’s Annual has recognised papers in the philosophy of race only twice since 2000, and papers in feminist philosophy only three times. Krishnamurthy invites us to consider whether the methodology used for selection may be resulting in the exclusion of some areas and perspectives, since “[i]t cannot possibly be true that of the very best articles in philosophy since 2000 that only 5 of the best articles are in the area of race and gender”.

In fact, even the count of five inflates the real total: there were only four such articles selected. Sally Haslanger’s “Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?” was one of the two selected papers in the philosophy of race and one of the three selected papers in feminist philosophy.

I think it’s important for philosophers to consider this kind of question, and I am grateful to Krishnamurthy for raising it (and to the interlocutors she credits in her post for helping to start the conversation). It strikes me as particularly important for us to think about Krishnamurthy’s remarks in the context of philosophy’s current and ongoing work of reflection on possible reasons for the pervasive lack of diversity amongst its practitioners. And I suspect that the more it makes us feel uncomfortable, or reflexively defensive of the status quo [1], the more important it is.

As well as asking questions about which subject matters get represented in the selections, we can ask directly about which practitioners get represented. For example, by the lights of the Philosopher’s Annual selection process, 90% of this year’s best papers are by men. And this is not an unusual gender ratio for Annual volumes. Assuming it is not the case that 90% of the best philosophy in a typical year is by men, what happens when we accept and announce a 90%-male list as the best?

One immediate result is that of making it look as if the best philosophy is (acknowledged to be) mostly work done by men. This can contribute to stereotype threat, reinforce and strengthen implicit gender biases, and so on. Another result is that the kinds of prestige, job prospects, etc. that come along with recognition as best are inequitably distributed by gender. (And of course these things can interact and reinforce one another.)

I also think it’s important for us to recognise that these questions and concerns are not only applicable to the Philosopher’s Annual, although consideration of the Annual happens to have opened up a really useful conversation. Like magicalersatz, I think there are more general issues to consider about our various attempts to rank philosophy and philosophers so as to identify some as the best.

For what it’s worth, I remain unconvinced that there is a univocal notion of bestness in philosophy. Philosophy can be good in many—often conflicting—ways, and it strikes me as plausible that the result is usually massive incommensurability. I am concerned (again like magicalersatz) that, in our current attempts to identify univocal bestness, one thing we really do seem to be achieving is the reproduction and entrenchment of already well-entrenched patterns of bias and exclusion.

Is there some reason why the goal of finding out who and what is univocally best, despite being admittedly impossible to achieve and possibly incoherent, is so important that these kinds of negative consequences are justified? I am sceptical.

[1] It is particularly crucial that we be alert to the risks associated with the kinds of defensive reactions that invoke our own objectivity in such matters. Research indicates that we are especially susceptible to bias when primed with a sense of our own personal objectivity.

 

Parenting and careers in philosophy August 20, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — axiothea @ 8:52 am

At NewApps, Helen de Cruz has interviewed seven parents (six mothers and one fathers) who have tenured or permanent jobs in philosophy on various aspects of how parenting has and continues to affect their careers. Many of these stories are familiar – but it’s good to know that one is not alone!

 

Women’s representation in ethics August 19, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 12:32 pm

People frequently suggest, at least in conversation, that there are more women in ethics than in other fields; and even that the relatively dearth of women in other fields may be explained by their large numbers in ethics. We still don’t know whether either of these things are true.  But thanks to Kate Norlock’s excellent work with splendid Trent University student Cole Murdoch, we do know a bit more about how well represented women are in two leading ethics journals.

 

Philosop-her on the Philosophers’ Annual August 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — magicalersatz @ 9:12 pm

Philosop-her has a great post up about trends in the Philosophers’ Annual:

Despite the fact that the Philosophers Annual (PA) is doing better on the political philosophy front, I have a few worries that were prompted by discussions on Facebook (thanks to J.D. and E.B. and others for bringing my attention to these issues). It seems that the PA has recognized papers in philosophy of race only twice since the year 2000: from the literature of 2001, Robert Bernasconi, “Who Invented the Concept of Race?”; and from the literature of 2000, Sally Haslanger, “Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?” Something similar seems to be true of feminist philosophy as well. There have been three papers recognized in the area of feminist philosophy since 2000: from the literature of 2007, Sally Haslanger, “Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?”; from the literature of 2001, Karen Jones, “The Politics of Credibility”; from the literature of 2000, Sally Haslanger, “Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?” Admittedly, I did a quick and incomplete survey (considering only up to the year 2000). If anyone has determined the exact numbers of entries in these two areas since the beginning of the PA, I would be grateful if you could share that information with me.

It cannot possibly be true that of the very best articles in philosophy since 2000 that only 5 of the best articles are in the area of race and gender. That we are led to this conclusion by the PA may suggest that there is something wrong with the methodology behind the PA.

We can and should have a conversation about the specifics of the PA methodology. But personally, I’m of the opinion that any attempt to rank and codify what is ‘best’ in our discipline is going to be subject to – and more worryingly, is going to reinforce – the sorts of oversights and biases our discipline is plagued by. 

 

UPDATE: 

Daily Nous has opened a thread inviting suggestions of great philosophy of race and philosophy of gender/feminist philosophy that have been written during the relevant time period (i.e., 2000-2013). 

 

 

Lego Academics August 17, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jender @ 7:00 pm

Fantastic.

A Glasgow academic has become an online sensation after setting up a social media account using Lego’s new ‘Research Institute’ set.

Lego unveiled its first ever range of female scientists last week, with the popular sets selling out in just three days.

But when Glasgow scientist Donna Yates took receipt of her own box of mini boffins in the post, she managed to create an overnight Lego phenomenon.

“It was delivered in the middle of a terrible rainy day on Friday,” said the University of Glasgow archaeologist.

“My colleague and I were filling out our performance evaluations which we’d had to re-do and it was all so slow and frustrating,” Donna continues.

“We opened it up and started putting the pieces together.”

 

depression and suicide: an Addition August 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 4:20 pm

The following description of depression at WebMD is common:

When you have depression, it’s more than feeling sad. Intense feelings of sadness and other symptoms, like losing interest in things you enjoy, may last for a while. Depression is a medical illness, not a sign of weakness…

There is another side to some people’s depression. Suppose we think of depression as caused by a lack of something or things that make normal life mentally possible. For example, perhaps you are facing a boring day of meetings with people all too prone to complain and delay; still, you can get out of bed, have a reasonable breakfast, arrive at work well-groomed, and so on. When depression of the sort described above hits, all that becomes much more difficult, and maybe sometimes so close to impossible that you don’t do it.

It is important to know that for some people there is quite a bit more to depression. Something fills in the lack, and it is pretty horrible. Kay Jamison writes about this in today’s NY Times:

Suicidal depression involves a kind of pain and hopelessness that is impossible to describe — and I have tried. I teach in psychiatry and have written about my bipolar illness, but words struggle to do justice to it. How can you say what it feels like to go from being someone who loves life to wishing only to die?

Suicidal depression is a state of cold, agitated horror and relentless despair. The things that you most love in life leach away. Everything is an effort, all day and throughout the night. There is no hope, no point, no nothing.

Jamison emphasizes that depression even of this sort can be treated. But some people are treatment resistant, and for others the effects of the treatment may be too costly. Facing that relentless horror may drive one to drink or drugs. One may find it completely intolerable, and when faced with it again and again finally decide life is very literally not worth living.

There is a great deal we do not know about depression and suicide. Still more, much about Robin Williams is out of our ken. But it may help to know that most of us can’t imagine what he may have been going through, and those that do go through it may find it impossible to explain, as Jamison says it is for her.

Addition:
I’ve worried over the last day or so that I’ve put something up for discussion that in effect I’ve maintained only the (very unfortunate) cognoscenti know about. One result might be to denigrate the more ordinary thorough misery of a deep digression that does not involve this mysterious horror. That would be very unfortunate.  Or it might just leave people not believing in that horror as a phenomenon. I think that would be a shame since I expect it is a clue for why some people find suicide is a reasonable option. So I looked up “the horror of depression” and found that sometimes when it occurs the depression is called psychotic depression. William Styron’s description of his depression might help one see the label as appropriate:

For as Styron discovered, true depression swallows its victims entirely, devours them in one huge gulp, then spirits them to an otherwise unknowable nadir.

“To most of those who have experienced it,” Styron writes in “Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness,” a slim volume Random House is publishing this month, “the horror of depression is so overwhelming as to be quite beyond expression.”

But if there were a single designation for this disorder, a word or a phrase, Styron believes it would be something like brainstorm , meaning not some burst of intellectual inspiration, but “a veritable howling tempest in the brain.”

That is how it felt to William Styron, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Lie Down in Darkness,” “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” “Sophie’s Choice” and other books and plays. At his year-round home in Roxbury, Conn., five years ago, Styron’s family watched helplessly while he moaned and shouted from his bed.

“My head is exploding!” Styron cried. “My head is exploding!”

The next day, he entered the psychiatric unit of Yale-New Haven Hospital for the treatment he believes saved his life.

 

 
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