Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

“Diversifying philosophy” February 23, 2014

Filed under: academia,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 10:11 pm

The title of this post is my working title for the CSW (APA’s Committee on the Status of Women) diversity conference, which will be held jointly with a Hypatia conference. It will happen at the of May, 2015. I’m the program chair.

I have some ideas to put before a so-far-exiguous program committee, and they will also have ideas. But for now I’d really like to hear what you (my audience) think are important topics.

Let me mention two that I have begun to think about.

(1). The canon(s). In a number of the winter APA conference sessions speakers and the audiences discussed the ‘required reading’ that publishable papers too often have to cover. I think that the canon so understood often acts in a very exclusionary way, and so it may be important to discuss. One thing a discussion on this topic could look at is in effect advice for early scholars. How, for example, could modest, conservative woman-relevant topics be introduced? Still under the advice heading, we could look for areas that have already opened up a bit, or even a lot. Another topic here would be how can we get referees for conferences, journals, book publishers to consider less canon focused ideas. I.e., new creative stuff. Well, of course they already do, but there are … Well, maybe we should discuss this.

(2). The status of women. One topic might be on women doing philosophy outside the standard tt-tenured structures: what can the APA do? Another might be on surviving a cold climate, or the relative invisibility of women in the profession. Another might also be on the special trials of women of color.

So please let me know what more you think are vital topics. Either add to the sub-topics above or suggest new questions.

There are very recent events that have created very inflammatory discussions. So for now let us avoid the following:
- site visits
- injustices to male faculty as illustrated by recent events
- the demerits of feminist thought, the CSW, this blog, me and certain other bloggers.

We will resist derailing.


Want to improve the climate in Philosophy? Sign up to help! February 19, 2014

Filed under: minorities in philosophy,women in philosophy — jennysaul @ 6:23 am

Philosophical Spaces has made it easy. This post gives a list of simple things you can do. There’s even a link you can click that takes you to an online form allowing you to volunteer. And, if you have money but not time, there’s a link you can use to donate to the APA Fund for Diversity and Inclusiveness.


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.


SWIP.NL symposium

Filed under: events,women in philosophy — hippocampa @ 9:02 am

SWIP.NLThe Dutch branch of the Society for Women in Philosophy, SWIP.NL, is organising their first symposium on April 11, 2014.

The theme of the event is “Does philosophy have a future and if so, what is the role of women in it?“.  That is definitely something I want to know!

The event is hosted at the Free University in Amsterdam, and the language is Dutch. You can find more information here (in Dutch).


The PGR’s un-women-friendly epistemology February 11, 2014

Lady Day:

McAfee’s punch line: “Is there a systematic bias in the PGR methodology that leads it to value more male-dominated departments? Well, yes. An unrepresentative and hand-picked advisory board plus unrepresentative and hand-picked evaluators will lead to a slanted take on the value of the work going on in the profession. You don’t have to be a stand-point epistemologist to see this.”

[Update:  I'm going to recommend that anyone who wishes to comment on the post do so at Gone Public, where it originally occurred, rather than below the reblog here. To that end (and because I'm not able to moderate comments today), I've closed comments below.]

Originally posted on gonepublic: philosophy, politics, & public life:

Julie Van Camp just updated her Spring 2004 article, “Female-Friendly Departments: A Modest Proposal for Picking Graduate Programs in Philosophy” that pointed out the under-representation of women on the advisory board of Brian Leiter’s Philosophical Gourmet Report . This month Van Camp expanded the  postscript with numbers showing that in the past ten years little has changed.

Postscript: November 20, 2004 [updated 2/3/2014]

The 2011 Report:
The list of the Top 51 doctoral programs is included in the 2011 Philosophical Gourmet Report. The 56 members of the  Report’s Advisory Board for 2011 included nine females (16.1%) and was based on the reports of 302 evaluators, including 46 women (15.2%).

The 2009 Report:
The 55 members of the  Report’s Advisory Board for 2009 included eight females (14.5%) and was based on the reports of 294 evaluators, including 37 women (12.6%).

The 2006-08 Report:
The 56 members of the Report’s Advisory Board for…

View original 359 more words


Can you tell if your remarks embody sexist , racist, ablest, etc. attitudes? February 7, 2014

Filed under: academia,trans issues,Uncategorized,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 9:30 pm

It may be very hard to see that one’s remarks are sexist, racist, etc. This point was illustrated on the Piers Morgan show on feb. 5. Piers had interviewed Janet Mock, a famous trans woman and activist, some days before then. This first interview seemed to be one both found acceptable, but she expressed considerable reservations on Twitter and, as he said, dropped him in the sh-t. What was going on? There was a reinterview on the 5th, and one thing became clear: while cis folk might think the journey to become a trans person has got to be the most fascinating thing about trans people, many trans persons very strongly disagree. And the language to describe their lives is important to them. Duh! For example, Janet wants to say that she was born a baby, and not that she was born a boy.


This seemed to be news to Piers, and I’d expect, most people who are white and heterosexual. The result is that what he intended to be a supportive interview stressed seeing her from a cis point of view, and viewed her as pretty sensationally different. Not good.

There is also the constantly worrying fact that too many people in the white, hetero, etc class simply do not realize that what seems perfectly fine to them may not be at all for other people.

These sorts of thing worry me every time I hear that people in a department seek to change the department’s climate. Even without the problems Piers Morgan has, that can take a lot of specialized knowledge to do. And, with the Piers Morgan problem, one can unwittingly leave the climate hostile as, for example, one praises at every talk the remarkable female graduate student who, would you believe it, used to be a man!


T/TT Women at 98 US Departments February 4, 2014

Filed under: women in philosophy — jennysaul @ 7:51 am

UPDATE: UW has been in touch to let us know that they are actually at 47%.  They share with Georgia, Iowa, and Penn State the distinction of having at least twice the national average percentage of women.

Julie Van Camp has updated her list of percentages tenured and tenure track women, and there’s both good news and bad news!  First, some congratulations are in order: The University of Georgia has the highest percentage of women in the country, at 53%.  And the University of Washington has given us a first:  For the very first time since Julie’s been doing this (10 years), a Leiter-ranked department has hit the 50% mark for percentage of women.

Now the bad news: When it comes to Leiter-ranked departments, the percentage remains stuck at around 22-23. (Overall percentage 22.7; average percentage 23.84; median percentage 22.22.)


Talk about a triggering event! February 3, 2014

Filed under: academia,human rights,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 6:35 pm

It’s taken two days for the discussion of the Boulder situation to really sink it.  I think that a number of recent blog posts and articles are stressing the more general fact that philosophy as a field can be nasty and brutish for women, if not short.  People of color, members of the GLBT community have also suffered, and similarly for the disabled and the elderly. And no doubt others I’m failing to think about.  For those of us who have worried about the situation for years or even decades, the fact that a bright national light is fixed on it is at least a relief.

But then many of us have actually suffered in ways that have heavily impacted our careers.  And at some point, the present discussion may well bring it back.  I know it has for me this morning.  So what to do?

There’s short-term advice:  things that can help include exercise (maybe walking if you can), talking to friends, distracting yourself with something you like – download a movie, play music, get a good novel, etc.  Writing about it can also help, and here we have an excellent resource, the What is it Like to be a Woman in Philosophy blog.  Even if you have already described your experience, I think there’s room there for something more general, along the lines of “how my life has been impacted.”  In fact, I think I’ll go over there soon.

We’re keeping comments closed.  Otherwise we’ll be a conduit for misinformation.  But that shouldn’t stop you from using our “contact us,” and letting us know what more we  should be saying.



“Only 2 of the 15 complaints were found to be substantiated” February 2, 2014

Filed under: academia,human rights,politics,sexual harassment,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 7:13 pm

See correction/qualification below

The CSW report on Boulder recommends that the relevant office (ODH) explains what a finding or not finding on a complaint means. I have seen many remarks that suggest that 13 of the 15 complaints described by the CSW report were judged to be baseless. Such a conclusion does not follow at all. I said something about this in comments on the new apps site, but it seems that the issue should be addressed in a more general post. I cannot possibly speak about procedures at Boulder, but I saw a number of cases when I was in faculty governance and when I filed my own complaints. I am also going to suppose that the complaints were based on Title 7. Of course, there may not all have been, but I think the problems I’m describing are the same.

We should also remember that filing a complaint is not fun, and it looks like a good way to make enemies in the profession. Further, it is not thought to be an easy way to get one’s own back. Getting a finding against someone above one on the academic ladder can be very hard.

A disclaimer: I may be wrong at points, but my intention is principally to indicate that a “no finding” result need not be a finding that a complaint is baseless or frivolous. Things are very much more complicated.

First of all, the process often – perhaps always – goes through the hands of lawyers. We – faculty and students – are usually not legally trained. This is important because one’s complaint has to meet some demands that are legal in nature. For example, women form a protected class; that’s why women, and not fit young heterosexual white men, file complaints with the equal treatment office. But this means that one has to show that the egregious behavior is targeting one as a woman. It is not enough that one’s reputation is being trashed, for example; they have to be after you because you are a woman for the claim to be accepted. Being a jerk is not illegal. So really egregious behavior can be judged as irrelevant. No finding is made.

Secondly, at least in many cases, one has to show one has been harmed. That means that, e.g., an unjust decision on tenure has to result in one’s not getting tenure. Similarly for other unjust decisions about salary, leave, etc. A dean or provost can reverse the unjust decision and no harm is done, it is said. If the option is finding for the complainant or no finding, this may well go into the no finding category.

One is well advised to get a lawyer, but even lawyers acting on a contingency basis will want something up front. In Houston $25K is not unusual. That means a lot of people will have to complain without legal counsel. I think those one complains against may get legal counsel. It is not a level playing field.

But supposing a complaint is taken up, a lawyer has been hired, and it is clear the aggrieved won’t go away. They university may well not want the relevant pictures or emails or whatever to enter into a legal process outside of the university. And going to the federal EEOC is not really appealing to anyone, at least anyone I’ve known. So the university may try to settle with the complainant, and succeed in doing so. Here again, the bad actor is not found against, and I’d expect that instead a finding of “no finding” is official.

Let me say again that my intention here is just to illustrate some of the complications. Deciding a charge against title 7 is not at all like grading a paper. Just as a “not guilty” verdict does not mean the defendant was innocent, so a “no finding” conclusion does not mean there wasn’t very serious wrong-doing being reported.

On a note from a reader:

I may have been wrong or at least misleading.  I said that in the case of an unjust decision, such as a tenure decision, the finding of “no finding” might happen if the decision is overturned.  I didn’t mean to say that the legality of the unjust decision might change.  In any case, I do want to clarify the situation.  An informed reader has commented:

 If a department votes to deny tenure, tenure is not ipso factodenied, and if a dean overturns the department, the issue may be moot but the US government doesn’t think so. The legal question is whether an act of discrimination took place on a particular date. Subsequent acts may be considered, but only pursuant to the question.

There’s some worry on others’ part that my comment might discourage others from seeking legal redress.  Even more important, I think, is that filing adds to a paper trail that you may well need if things get worse.  I would in fact go to your office of affirmative action right away and file a complaint.  My university in fact stresses going through all the proper channels, which means that in our situation you don’t want to go to the gov’t right away.  This is something you should ask about.

My information about what happens in the case of an unjust decision – the example I used was tenure – was actually based on my own experience going up for promotion to full professor.  The college committee denied my request; every sentence in the explanation they provided was false.  For example, it said my publication record had gotten worse, but in fact it had gotten better.  It was completely remarkable; since this didn’t happen to the men denied that year, and since I’m a member of a protected class, I had a very good case for saying I was receiving unequal treatment.  But the university legal department said that I had to wait to see if actual harm resulted.  And indeed the provost overturned it.  


Colorado-Boulder replaces chair, suspends graduate admissions to improve climate. January 31, 2014

Filed under: academia,women in philosophy — Jender @ 6:19 pm

More here, including the site visit report that they have chosen to make public. (Thanks, New APPS!)


UPDATE: I am removing comments that speculate about the site visit and the site visit team, and I am closing comments.



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