Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Ferguson, MO August 15, 2014

The past couple of days I’ve been keeping up with the protests in Ferguson, MO, following the death of 18 year old Michael Brown on August 9th. Sitting in my apartment two nights ago watching a live feed of people running away from police through a suburb while the police threw tear gas at them and into people’s front yards is one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had in the past few years. The last time I was locked onto twitter like that and completely lost track of time was when the Boston marathon bomber was running through a neighborhood was that directly adjacent to my own.

So here is a compilation of some resources that I think do a particularly good job of explaining and contextualizing what is going on in Ferguson. On top of this being an important current event, I think there are a lot of issues here that are relevant to various areas of philosophical research. But really, these events deserve attention on their own.

When I include my own commentary and judgment, I try to restrict myself to what direct testimony and documentation have claimed and to keep in mind the available counter evidence. But this compilation is not not ‘objective’ in that knee-jerk “well both sides did stuff wrong” way. Yes, some protesters were violent and there was opportunistic looting. But those actions are political and moral peanuts compared to what the police have done. Uneven power dynamics matter. Who escalated the violence and distrust matters. The different obligations that each side has to the other matters. Saying, “well both sides have been violent,” without factoring in the historical and political context of that violence is intellectually and morally lazy.

The entries below with asterisks are the ones I recommend if you don’t have a lot of time.

The info here isn’t exhaustive, and I don’t provide much concerning today’s events. Other aspects that you might want to look up on your own include: comparison with the Occupy movement (in terms of police response), comparison with the Bundy Ranch events, how Palestinians tweeted messages of support for Ferguson and included tips for how to deal with tear gas, the witness accounts given by Dorian Johnson and Tiffany Marshall, more on how journalists were treated and had a hard time accessing protests, and analysis of the police chief’s press conference today where he finally identified the officer who shot Brown (Darren Wilson) and claimed that Brown was a robbery suspect. Brown’s family has things to say about that press conference.

Summary and timeline of events:

**If you want to read just one comprehensive overview of events in Ferguson, I recommend this article by Vox. It’s a pretty lengthy article. It includes a timeline, punctuated with pictures and vine videos (very short) from twitter. It pretty clearly distinguishes between rumors and what we know for sure. It includes explanation of events from today, and briefly discusses at the end some of the context for why events in Ferguson have played out as they have.

There is a google maps that has pinned many important events and locations. When you click on the link just find the cluster of symbols around St. Louis, and zoom into that area. If you click on a symbol on the map, or on its listing on the left side of the screen, it will highlight the location and give you information about the event. You’ll easily be able to identify Florissant Ave (where Brown was killed) because it’s where most of the symbols are clustered.

This post on reddit is a live feed of users reporting events from Ferguson. It is long. I mean, LONG. But if you want to see the nitty gritty of what was going on minute by minute, this is the place to go. Also you can check out #Ferguson on Twitter.

 

Context and History:

**For a quick summary of Ferguson’s demographics and why there was been so much tension between the citizens of Ferguson and police, Vox has this 2 minute video.

This article shows some of the pictures from Ferguson protests next to pictures from the civil rights movement. When I was watching live feeds on August 13th, I saw cops in military/riot gear, with German Shepherds standing next to them. My exact thoughts were something like, “WTF do they need dogs for? Do they understand how ****** racist that looks to bring dogs to these protests–given our history?”

This picture is becoming one of the most iconic from the events.

 

Journalism Coverage:

A collection of pictures from events. If #22 was in black and white, I would think it’s from the 60s.

There was a really important change between Weds night and Thurs night. To get a sense of that change, you can watch these live feed recordings.

This is one of the feeds I was watching on August 13th (Wed). It’s about 30 mins in total, but police actions escalate quickly and the journalist recording the video does a good job of narrating what’s happening, even as he has to start running. You’ll see tear gas (I think it’s tear gas) being thrown onto people’s property (around 11:00).

Just to note, given pictures and people’s first hand accounts, there was at least one molotov cocktail thrown Weds night.

Now you can watch this video from August 14th (Thurs). It’s long, but really you can just skim through it to get the sense that for the whole hour, cars are honking in support and people are walking around with signs. That is the same street where the night before there was tear gas, armorer vehicles forming a blockade, police with sniper rifles, etc.  The first picture on this article (with the train) sums up how wildly different Thurs was from Wed.

**I also highly recommend this report by Elon James White, who is a political and cultural commentator / internet radio host from NYC (with a background in comedy, I believe), who went down to Ferguson with his two of his co-hosts (Aaron Rand Freeman and Emily Epstein White). If you don’t have a lot of time, I recommend listening to the part where White explains how he got a police officer to aim his gun at him (starts around 14:15). I probably can’t explain what it’s like to listen to one of your favorite podcasters (who normally discusses the news, recipes involving bacon, and super hero movies) talk about him being his sort-of-snarky-but-polite, refuses-to-backdown-from-confrontation self, and getting a *sniper rifle* pointed at him. So I’ll just say listen to the clip. And check out TWIB for good podcasts on news/culture/race/etc.

At least two journalists were arrested on Weds night. This article includes a short (1 min) video recorded by one of the journalists as a police officer (who looks like a soldier) orders him out of McDonalds. He was arrested I think right after that video cuts out.

St. Louis politician Antonio French was also arrested on Weds night. You can check out his twitter feed here.

I’m including one picture on here, because even if all the claims about looting, molotov cocktails, and gunshots are true, this picture still encapsulates why the police’s actions have been so problematic. It is a picture of a sniper rifle laser pointed at a protester’s back. You can see a video of this here (at the bottom of the article, around 1:20). If the police are so nervous (or so cavalier) that they are pointing military-grade weapons at protesters who are not even facing them, something is deeply, deeply wrong.

 

Responses:

This post on reddit includes links to responses from the mayor, the governor, Eric Holder (US attorney general), and others. They’re under the heading, “Statements, comments, reports”

Rand Paul wrote this piece in response to the protests in Ferguson. Many people find it notable because of this line: “Anyone who thinks race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention.” Though, it ends up spending more time talking about the relationship between militarization of police and the size of the federal government than it does about race.

President Obama made these remarks about Ferguson (video). People seem split over whether these remarks influenced later events and whether were empty attempts to appeal to both sides.

Captain Ron Johnson, who was put in charge of security in Ferguson after the police’s militarized reactions Weds night, discusses his concerns with how some information was released on August 15th (today).

 

Decapitated naked women golf tees June 28, 2014

Filed under: miosgyny,violence — Jender @ 6:43 am

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There’s a campaign against it brewing here.

Complain to manufacturer Dunlop here.

(Thanks, S!)

 

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!)

 

Good news, bad news June 10, 2014

Filed under: gender inequality,rape,sexism,sexual assault,violence — philodaria @ 10:11 pm

The bad news is that the Washington Post has been up to some sexist shenanigans. The good news is, it’s under fire for doing so. Read about it here.

 

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.

 

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

Horrible.

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!)

 

 
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