Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

A remarkable piece on rape culture April 19, 2014

Filed under: rape,violence — Jender @ 9:43 am

As Foz Meadows writes:

In which the husband of rape and murder victim Jill Meagher reminds us, eloquently and with sharp compassion, that while his wife was killed by the archetypal monster, most women are attacked by men they know, and that privileging the monster myth helps obscure the reality of their abuse.
Not only is this one of the best and most necessary articles I’ve ever read in the subject, but that it was written by this man, of all men – someone making a conscious effort to interrogate the reasons why his wife’s death attracted so much public support, and to rebuke not only the underlying misogyny of everyday rape culture, but his own assumptions – the compassion exhibited by this piece is extraordinary.

An excerpt (full article here):

What would make this tragedy even more tragic would be if we were to separate what happened to Jill from cases of violence against women where the victim knew, had a sexual past with, talked to the perpetrator in a bar, or went home with him. It would be tragic if we did not recognise that Bayley’s previous crimes were against prostitutes, and that the social normalisation of violence against a woman of a certain profession and our inability to deal with or talk about these issues, socially and legally, resulted in untold horror for those victims, and led to the brutal murder of my wife.

We cannot separate these cases from one another because doing so allows us to ignore the fact that all these crimes have exactly the same cause – violent men, and the silence of non-violent men. We can only move past violence when we recognise how it is enabled, and by attributing it to the mental illness of a singular human being, we ignore its prevalence, it root causes, and the self-examination required to end the cycle. The paradox, of course is that in our current narrow framework of masculinity, self-examination is almost universally discouraged.

I would add: it’s not just men who are silent and prefer not to think about all this.


Violence against women in the EU March 5, 2014

Filed under: gender,gender inequality,miosgyny,sexual assault,violence — philodaria @ 5:06 pm

Violence against women is “an extensive human rights abuse” across Europe with one in three women reporting some form of physical or sexual abuse since the age of 15 and 8% suffering abuse in the last 12 months, according to the largest survey of its kind on the issue, published on Wednesday.

Read more, here.


What’s wrong with ‘stand your ground’ laws? February 28, 2014

Filed under: law,politics,race,violence — philodaria @ 9:27 pm

For one, “White-on-black homicides are 354 percent more likely to be ruled justified than white-on-white.”

ThinkProgress has some other disturbing facts, here.


Some thoughts on epistemic responsibility February 15, 2014

[Trigger warning for discussion of assault]

Throughout my time as a philosopher, I’ve heard quite a bit of talk regarding ‘epistemic responsibility’ when it comes to discrimination, harassment, and assault. I’ve heard it much more frequently over the last few weeks, and so I feel compelled to say a few words about it. As it happens, I think I have a very different view of the nature of epistemic justification and the conditions under which agents can be said to have it than those who bring up epistemic responsibility in these sorts of conversations, but I want to address a slightly different question: What does moral responsibility require of us when allegations of discrimination, harassment, or assault are made? To be clear, what follows is not an endorsement of a presumption of guilt—rather, it’s an endorsement of action, sympathy, and compassion in the absence of certainty. It seems to me that too often appeals to ‘epistemic responsibility’ justify inaction, undermine progress, and enable serious wrongs.

When discrimination, inequity, and violence are carried out by intentional agents and effectively enabled by the communities in which they occur, withholding all judgment for the sake of epistemic responsibility and withholding all action on account of epistemic reasons will very often quite rightly lead to feelings of further alienation in the victim. If, for example, upon becoming familiar with a report of sexual assault, racial discrimination, or a violent hate-crime, you are not passionately moved, that unaffected reaction cannot help but communicate that there is real sense in which you either do not understand the plight before you, or you do not care. In some circumstances (note: I do mean some), this can be more harmful to a victim than the original offense. A certain amount of stupidity and evil in the world are to be expected. What is generally not expected is for good people to stand witness to severe injury and fail to be demonstrably aggrieved by it (note, here, the aptness of ‘injury’ need not entail that the content of any particular allegation is certainly true, or even true). The unexpected nature of this response often makes the hurt which follows more difficult to deal with. It can communicate indifference, it can normalize suffering, and it can steal away hope.

I do not deny that epistemic responsibility is a great good; but when our epistemic practices prevent us from responding to injury altogether, we are in the neighborhood of vice rather than virtue.

I have experienced attempted rape. Surely I would feel differently had my attacker been successful, but for me, what was most traumatizing was not the assault but rather what happened next. It was in a public park. I was able to get away. I ran to a man reading on a bench and told him what happened. He saw I was being followed. He offered to sit with me until it looked like it would be safe to walk home. But that was all he did (and I do mean that was all: he did not offer to take me to the police, to call any one, etc., and it didn’t occur to me to ask for those things). I sat with him for two hours on that bench in silence. In retrospect, I’m sure he just didn’t know what to do and didn’t know what to say—but in those two hours, and in some months that followed, I felt like what happened must not really matter because it didn’t seem to matter much to him. I thought that I was being silly for feeling angry, violated, and scared. In those later moments where I didn’t doubt myself, I doubted the world at large—the capacity of my fellow humans to do right, to be even minimally decent.

I don’t ever want to be the man on that bench to someone else, whether I think I know what happened or not.


Afghan law to silence victims of domestic violence February 5, 2014

Filed under: rape,violence — jennysaul @ 8:30 pm


The small but significant change to Afghanistan‘s criminal prosecution code bans relatives of an accused person from testifying against them. Most violence against women in Afghanistan is within the family, so the law – passed by parliament but awaiting the signature of the president, Hamid Karzai – will effectively silence victims as well as most potential witnesses to their suffering.


Let’s hope it doesn’t get signed.   (Thanks, R!)


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.


UK Jury endorses police killing of unarmed black man January 9, 2014

Filed under: race,violence — Jender @ 11:56 am

The family of Mark Duggan, whose death in Tottenham sparked the 2011 riots across England, were left devastated as an inquest jury decided he was not holding a gun when shot by police, but nevertheless found the marksman’s decision to open fire was lawful…

The lawful killing verdict was a surprise to some even on the police side, and more so as before announcing the decision, the jury had announced by an eight-to-two majority that they were sure Duggan did not have a gun in his hand when shot.

That had seemed to be the issue at the heart of the inquest.

The jury delivered a narrative verdict, answering a series of questions. It had appeared that the six days of deliberations were going to produce a disaster for the Metropolitan police when the jury found law enforcement had not done enough to gather and react to intelligence Duggan may be seeking to acquire a gun.

Instead the jury announced that by an eight-to-two majority they believed the firearms officer had acted lawfully in gunning Duggan down.


December 6, 1989 — letter from a Canadian woman abroad December 6, 2013

Filed under: violence,women in academia — Lady Day @ 12:08 pm

Today, December 6, Canadians mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action On Violence Against Women.

The date has its origins in the so-called “Montréal Massacre.” On December 6, 1989, a man armed with a Mini-14 rifle and a hunting knife walked into a classroom at Montréal’s l’École Polytechnique, ordered the male students to leave, and then turned his gun on the women. Before he began shooting, the assailant shouted, “You’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!” After shooting the women in the classroom, he headed to the corridors, where he continued to shoot women. By the time he turned the gun on himself, he had killed fourteen women and injured ten more. The event galvanized Canadians and became a powerful force in the Canadian gun control movement, ultimately eventuating in the national long-gun registry (since dismantled by the current Conservative government).

I have quite intentionally omitted from the foregoing account the names of both the shooter and his victims. Regarding the former, one criticism that is often raised of accounts of December 6, 1989 is that in these accounts the shooter’s name rings over and over, giving him a fame he does not deserve. I have omitted his victim’s names because over the years many of their families have expressed a wish that their daughters be remembered for their lives, not for their deaths.

Nonetheless, one of the things that will be happening today at campuses across Canada will be solemn vigils at which candles are lit as, one after another, the victim’s names are read. I’m not opposed to this. I attend such an event every year, and, as each name is read, try to imagine the women alive – smart, curious, quirky, stubborn, weak, strong, tawny, freckled. I think to myself, as my friend Michele last year on Facebook reminded us all to do, about what wonderful things they would have done.

Every campus marks this day differently. Most, but not all, campuses have the candlelight vigil I’ve just described. Some campuses have talks and events intended to educate participants about gender-based violence, broadly conceived, and to advocate for change. At other campuses, Engineering programs offer workshops and lectures intended to support women in Engineering.

The day is meaningful not only for universities but for individual Canadians, especially (but not only) Canadian university women. As the day goes on, if previous years are any indication, one by one of my Facebook friends will log on to list the names of the victims, or to change their profile pictures to that of a single candle or a single red rose. We all have different reasons for finding the day meaningful. For me, one reason (but certainly not the only one) is my generation.

I was in the first semester of my undergrad, just finished lectures for the year and in the midst of exams, when the massacre occurred. I cannot think of my first year of university without thinking about this systematic murder of young women for being women. (The shooter called them feminists, but not all of them were. Indeed, one of his victims protested that she wasn’t a feminist. No feminist scholar who has taught at the undergraduate level would be optimistic enough to assume that all of the women in a class were feminists. The killer may have thought that his victims were feminist, but ultimately what put them in his rifle sight wasn’t their feminism but the fact that, feminist or not, they were women.) Imagine what it is like to be a woman unable to recall your undergraduate years without recalling that woman students like you were murdered solely because they were women. This experience — this cloud always casting its shadow — is, alas, one that Canadian university women of my generation have in common.

I am overseas on sabbatical this year, and hence, for the first time in years, will not be able to take part in a December 6 memorial. To those of you on a Canadian campus today, I say, put aside your grading for half an hour and join your colleagues and students as they stand together against gender-based violence. Others, in Canada and elsewhere, may wish to learn more about this year’s UN-sponsored 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence. This website is a great place to start.


Forum on Women, Drinking, and Rape October 24, 2013

Filed under: gender inequality,rape,sexual assault,violence — philodaria @ 4:20 pm
Tags: , ,

Many of you may have read Emily Yoffe’s advice to young women that they should stop binge drinking to prevent rape, for which she was roundly criticized. The New York Times has a ‘Room for Debate‘ forum up on the subject, and it features the ever-brilliant Louise Antony on what’s wrong with telling women not to get drunk as a method of rape prevention:

But the special risk that drunkenness poses to women – that’s due to a social climate that tolerates sexual predation. When we tell young women to stay sober in order to avoid getting raped, we send the message that we do not intend to change that social climate, that we have chosen to regard misogyny as inevitable.

That’s the message that is sent when we tell women to restrain “pleasure-seeking behaviors” in order to avoid life’s dangers. When men get drunk they get sick; when women get drunk they get sick and raped. That’s not because women are less restrained in their “pleasure-seeking” than men are; it’s quite the reverse. And that’s what needs to change.

Read the whole of her contribution here.


Where’s the line on street harassment? September 29, 2013

Soraya Chemaly argues that violence is a natural end-result of the same principles which operate in what we ordinarily refer to as street harassment:

Earlier this week a man in a car pulled up next to a 14-year old girl on a street in Florida and offered to pay her $200 to have sex with him.  [. . .] The girl said no. So what does this guy do? He reaches out, drags her, by her hair, into his car, chokes her until she blacks out, tosses her out of the car and then, not done yet, he runs her over several times.  Bystanders watched the entire episode in shock. He almost killed her, but she lived and ID’d him in a line up and he’s been arrested and charged with Attempted Murder, Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon and False Imprisonment.  What was the Deadly Weapon referred to in the charge I wonder? Given our normatively male understanding interpretation of what is threatening, does a man pulling up to a girl like this and talking to her in this way constitute imminent harm?

This was an incident of street harassment taken to extremes.

You’re thinking,  “He’s crazy! You can’t possibly put what he did in the same category as street harassment!”  Yes, I can.

He stopped and talked to a girl he did not know and he told her what he thought and what he wanted her to do.  Clearly, he felt this was okay, or he wouldn’t have done it. This isn’t insanity, it’s entitlement. This is, in principle, the same as men who say, “Smile,” “Want a ride?” “Suck on this” and on and on and on.  And, that’s all before the public groping that might ensue.

OK. No big deal I’ve been told.  But, he went further, as is often the case.  When she said no, he just took her.  He crossed a red line that seriously needs to be moved.  “Taking someone” should not be the “red line” for public incivility and safe access to public space.

You can read the whole piece here on the HuffPo Blog.  About a year ago or so, I went to the store — I pulled into the parking lot, and I noticed that in the space next to me, a man was sitting in his car. When I came out of the store, he was still there — except now, he was masturbating. In his car. In broad daylight. He smiled and waived at me. I called the police about it, but effectively, they do didn’t do anything (when the police came, he wasn’t doing it anymore, and by the time I requested specifically that the police allow me to file a witness report or press charges, they had already let him go without taking his name or any information, so there was no one to press charges against). Certainly this experience is no where near the sorts of extreme cases mentioned in Chemaly’s piece, but I have wondered since, if this is the sort of thing that’s effectively permissible in public space, where is the line? When I voice discomfort over my inability to go to certain gas stations without being cat-called, hit-on, etc., my less fervently feminist acquaintances think I’m being over-sensitive, or give me the usual “You ought to take that as a compliment” (which I think is a ridiculous response for a million reasons that are probably obvious to all of our readers) and yet, my run in with the public-masturbator seemed like it ought to be a predictable escalation of that same sense of entitlement to women’s bodies.

Is physical violence likewise on that same spectrum?



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