Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Being a genius or working very hard: is the profession getting more realistic May 28, 2014

Filed under: academia,Uncategorized,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 7:06 pm

The post “Why are there so few women in philosophy?”referred to research that described several ways in which beliefs about abilities affect women’s career choices. One important factor was whether people in the field saw the foundation of ability as something like inborn genius. Since women are seen as being less likely to possess innate brilliance, and they know this, the ‘genius fields’ may well seem less attractive to women.

I think there are a number of comparisons it would be interesting to make. How do exceptionally gifted children fare if they grow up to go to philosophy grad school? Another is asked by Josh Knobe below.

What do you think?

From Josh Knobe:

In my (very limited) experience, it seems like things have actually gotten a little bit better in this regard. I am really curious to hear whether people have the same impression.

Back when I was a grad student, there was a prevailing sense that the ticket to getting a job was not making concrete contributions to philosophy but rather cultivating an aura of genius. Some of my fellow students ended up writing and publishing papers while they were in school, but this effort was seen almost as ‘tarnishing’ or ‘sullying’ the purity of their philosophical work. Of course, this is exactly the sort of atmosphere that Leslie et al. show leads to underrepresentation of women, and all of the women in my year ended up leaving the field.

In the time since then, my sense is that things have actually improved a bit. More and more, I see an emphasis not on innate genius but on actual concrete contribution. But this sense I have is based entirely on anecdote and personal experience, not on any serious empirical research. So I am curious, do other folks see things in the same way?

Let me close by mentioning one thing that worries me. There are a lot of researchers these days investigating creativity. Creativity may be teachable to some extent, but not, as far as I can tell, by hard work. I don’t know what that means for originality in philosophy, nor do I have much idea of how much creativity and originality a field needs. Here again, what do you think?


Another feminist philosopher in a leadership position!

Filed under: academia,women in academia,women in philosophy — Lady Day @ 10:00 am

Two days ago, we reported on two feminist philosophers who are assuming new leadership positions. Yesterday, another feminist philosopher joined that list. Last night at the annual general meeting of the Canadian Philosophy Association, feminist philosopher Samantha Brennan was elected vice president of that organization. She will assume the presidency in 2015. There’s a rumour that Samantha’s election will eventuate in CPA dance parties. I’m already polishing my dancing shoes. Congratulations, Samantha!


Women Philosophers as leaders: New News! May 26, 2014

Filed under: academia,Uncategorized,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 7:21 pm

There have been at least two recent appointments that should delight supporters of women in philosophy.

Louise Antony: President of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association

Tamar Gendler: Inaugural Dean of Yale’s new Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Both deserve our heartiest congratulations and our very best wishes for success.


If other recent appointments should be mentioned, please let us know in comments!


Committee on the Status of Women: a CFP May 24, 2014

Filed under: CFP,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 6:16 pm


The APA’s Committee on the Status of Women:  Call for Papers

Diversity in Philosophy

May 28-30, 2015

Villanova Conference Center

Villanova University

The APA/CSW conference seeks to examine and address the underrepresentation of women and other marginalized groups in Philosophy. Participants are invited to focus on hurdles and best practices associated with the inclusion of underrepresented groups. Deadline for submissions of 250-500 word proposal is January 1, 2015

Suggested topics include:

  1. Subverting canons, old and new
    1. Undergraduate pedagogy
    2. Graduate pedagogy
    3. Continuing education for established philosophers
  2. Critical thinking, epistemic diversity & relativism
    1. Ethical and epistemic benefits to creating diverse philosophical communities
  3. Theoretical and quantitative empirical approaches to inclusion and exclusion
    1. Stereotype threat
    2. Implicit bias
    3. Ideal worker/philosopher
    4. Creating and using demographic data
    5. Collaborating with social scientistse44
  4. The consequences of sexual, gender, racial, disability, and sexuality harassment
    1. Implications for survivors
    2. Implications for departments/communities in which there is harassment
    3. Implications for the discipline
    4. Bystander training (empowering community members to create an environment that doesn’t tolerate harassment)
    5. Analyses of cronyism and alienation for women and members of other marginalized groups
  5. Intersectionality
    1. Structural intersectionality in the academy
    2. Putting intersectional analysis to work in the profession
    3. Political intersectionality transforming the discipline
  6. Embracing the range of philosophical careers
    1. Academic philosophers outside 4-year colleges and universities)
    2. Philosophers in other disciplines


Additional features of the APA/CSW 2015 Conference:

  • Held in conjunction with the 2015 Hypatia Conference, Exploring Collaborative Contestations.
  • Professional workshops on publishing feminist philosophy in journals, anthologies, books, blogs, and more hosted by the Hypatia Local Board.
  • The APA Diversity Summit, May 29, 2015 during the conference!
  • Workshop on sexual harassment and bystander training
  • The APA Diversity Summit: May 29th
  • APA/CSW Site Visit Training: May 31st at Villanova
  • Modest travel Grants available for presenters in need


Conference website: http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/artsci/hypatiaconference/

Accessibility planning in action – please contact conference coordinator



Co-sponsored by Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy and

the College of Arts and Sciences – Villanova University



Why are there so few women in philosophy? May 22, 2014

    The data on doctorates is telling. According to recent research the number of women receiving doctorates in philosophy is very near the bottom of the academic barrel.

    This blog has been looking at many facets of this problem. See our discussions of research here and here, for example. Or search our site for posts on implicit bias and stereotype threat.

    New research is opening up our understanding of another factor, which resides in the beliefs about one’s ability to succeed in a career:

    The decision to pursue a career rests in part on how we judge the following inequality:



    If we believe this inequality to be true, we might proceed; if we decide it’s false, we might look elsewhere. Importantly, however, neither side of this inequality is easy to evaluate. Abilities are nebulous, context-sensitive things that are notoriously problematic to pin down. As a result, we often look to others for clues, leaving the door open for substantial social and cultural influences on career choices. A symposium at the 2014 SPSP conference in Austin highlighted a number of recent findings that link sociocultural influences on people’s assessment of the inequality above to the presence of gender gaps.

    How do we get from sociocultural influences on this formula all the way to gender gaps? First, and most obviously, contemporary culture is rife with stereotypes about differences in men’s and women’s cognitive profiles; these stereotypes shape people’s beliefs about the quantity on the left-hand side (that is, the abilities they are likely to possess). Second, and less often discussed, practitioners of different careers may send different messages about the abilities that are required to reach the highest levels of achievement in their particular field; these messages shape people’s beliefs about the quantity on the right-hand side (that is, the abilities required for success). Putting these two elements together, we might make the following claim: One circumstance that gives rise to a gender gap in a career or discipline is when a gender group is stereotyped to lack an ability that the people in that discipline believe is essential for success.

    The post from which the quote above comes comes is full of interesting ideas and results. It’s a must read for anyone interested in the questions concerning access and opportunity.

    Here are some snippets:

    In some disciplines success may be seen as depending on sustained effort and dedication, whereas in others it may be seen as requiring a “gift” or brilliance that cannot be taught. Because women are stereotyped as being less likely than men to possess innate intellectual talent, they may find the academic fields that emphasize brilliance as the key to success to be unwelcoming. [note that the claim here is that the fields themselves may seem less welcoming. This seems different from the conclusions of Carol Dweck that we discuss in our Psychology of Philosophy section.]

    – Regardless of the purported cognitive differences men and women, or of the abilities purportedly required to become a physicist vs. a psychologist vs. an anthropologist, the mere presence of (1) different societal beliefs about the intellectual abilities of men and women, and (2) different societal beliefs about the intellectual abilities required for success in different fields will be sufficient to give rise to (or at least exacerbate) gender gaps.

    Stereotypes may have many different sources. To the extent that they contain messages about ability, this research says they may quite significantly affect career choices. Though the research is specifically about gender, we should keep it in mind as we think about issues such as the incredibly low representation of blacks in higher education in The Uk. Or the abled body whiteness of US philosophy.

    (Thanks to BL.)


Great minds and ignoble deeds May 21, 2014

It is appalling to read about philosophers sexually harassing/assaulting vulnerable people, but is it surprising? An article in yesterday’s New York Times argues that we should not expect better.

The life of an intellectual, Mr. Ignatieff [Michael Ignatieff, the Canadian academic-cum-politician] claims, provides a petri dish for the universal human experiment of thinking, being and doing. It’s a lovely idea. The trouble is that intellectuals seem no better at it than anyone else. They often think great thoughts, while being ignoble characters. Maybe Mill and Berlin and John Dewey were noble characters. But Marx was a serial adulterer, Karl Popper was a pompous narcissist, and Heidegger was a fascist. Elite thinkers, maybe: but as amateurish humans as the rest of us.

I’m not so sure, but there are a lot of issues that need clarification before we’re in a good position to accept or reject the article. Still, there are some points we can make. Great achievements typically require concentration and caring. The idea of caring that extends to what one says and not at all to what one does is puzzling. One expects a great scientist to care very much about the truth of his words. But then what does that care look like if it allows lying in letters of reference to reward sexual compliance?

And isn’t philosophy, at least when it is about human life, different? On the other hand, maybe moral behavior requires more than morally apt thinking. For example, perhaps a capacity for empathy. And a love of truth in one area may co-exist with a capacity for self-deception that enables a lot of borrowing from others. E.g., plagarism.

Perhaps, then, we need to recognize that there are many character flaws that can disconnect behavior from thought. I myself would still, at least at this point in time, like to think that at least for some areas really vicious behavior will mean one does not have the capacity for some great intellectual tasks. But is that really true?

What do you think?

A remarkable example of disconnect was explained recently by Bob Dylan. I thought of him as the voice (or a voice) of a generation of protestors. But, as he has said, that’s not at all what he was doing. He was just a musician. So where did those wonderfully apposite lyrics come from? It was, he says, simply magic.

In fact, many people report a similar experience (I think). As Feymann put it, suddenly boom, boom, the answer is there. Ownership may seem tenuous, and connection with character very problematic.


Hilde Lindemann: Guest Post

Filed under: sexual harassment,women in philosophy — Jender @ 5:04 am

What follows is a guest post from Hilde Lindeman, Chair of the APA’s Committee on the Status of Women. She was interviewed for by Inside Higher Ed regarding sexual harassment in philosophy, and her remarks were taken so far out of context that their meaning was seriously distorted. Here she sets out her views regarding sexual harassment in philosophy.

Let me be clear. It seems I was not, in the interview I gave Colleeen Flaherty for the article that was published in the May 19 issue of Inside Higher Ed. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/05/19/unofficial-internet-campaign-outs-professor-alleged-sexual-harassment-attempted#ixzz32C3gVxms All sexual predators should be prosecuted and, if the evidence warrants, punished for their crimes (and yes, sexual harassment is actionable, as is attempted rape and sexual molestation). Within philosophy, sexual harassment, sexual predation, and bullying have been and are all too common, and I agree with Eric Schliesser that because too many decent philosophers keep looking the other way and refusing to speak up, lawsuits and “the harsh light of publicity” are needed to break the culture of silence.

While Schliesser calls the discipline a “train wreck” that is “incapable of self-reform,” I have not given up on self-reform. I believe philosophy’s climate of hostility to women must be tackled on many fronts, both from without and from within. Each of us in the profession is obliged to do what we can from where we stand. Departments must do their part, as must the APA, as must the APA’s Committee on the Status of Women, which I chair. Neither the APA nor the CSW are in the business of policing individuals’ behavior. That responsibility falls to the universities where the crimes occur, and to courts of law. The allegations against specific philsophers are so serious that due process is and ought to be required before they are stripped of tenure and made to pay criminal penalities, yet because universities seemingly fail pretty frequently in their duties to investigate these allgeations and punish the offenders, we are too often left with nothing but rumors and inuendoes, so that while many people “know” so-and-so is a sexual predator, nothing concrete is done about it.

In any case, when the focus is solely on individual bad apples, and whether their victims consented, and whether the balance of power is so great between a graduate student and big-ticket philosophers in her area of specialization who might be able to advance her professional interests that consent isn’t really possible, attention is diverted from the systemic problem of a culture in which bad behavior flourishes. That is why I say philosophy’s climate of hostility to women must be tackled on many fronts. Some of us have given to the Protecting Lisbeth campaign—a worthy way of helping victims hire the attorneys they need to prosecute their harassers. (In my interview with Ms. Flaherty, I was not asked to comment on the Protecting Lisbeth campaign and did not do so. Nor did I suggest that a site visit to the Yale philosophy department would be a better strategy. In fact, such a suggestion would have been ridiculously naïve. Site visits are for any department, including good ones that want to become better, and are made at the request of the department.) Some of us have called out colleagues in our own departments who have made disparaging remarks about women or engaged in bullying behavior. Some department chairs among us have asked the CSW for a site visit to assess their department’s climate and make suggestions for improvements. Some of us—in fact, quite a lot of us, and I’m personally grateful to you all—have given money to the CSW for its Site Visit Training Program and the Diversity Conference to be held in May 2015 at Villanova University.

We need all these strategies and more if we are to succeed in making the profession of philosophy a hospitable one for women and other underrepresented groups. Philosophy as a discipline is better off when talented people from many different social positions contribute to its body of knowledge and understanding. And in any case, discrimination for irrelevant reasons is just plain wrong.

I am actually quite heartened by the well-publicized scandals that have made the headlines this past year. I take it as a sign that something is shifting, that the old culture of sexual predation, coverup, and contempt for the relatively powerless is beginning to give way to a culture in which such behavior is no longer tolerated. But we are going to have to keep applying steady pressure here, in all the ways I’ve mentioned and in many others as well. Philosophy deserves no less.


A reply to Robert George: Why sexual assault can’t be blamed on the sexual revolution May 18, 2014

Recently, philosopher of law Robert George wrote a piece in which he links the culture of sexual assault on college campuses to the sexual revolution. A philosophy graduate student has written a beautiful and moving reply. I quote from it below, and the full response is here.

Yet, the fact is, sexual assault is deeply wrong and harmful regardless of the victim’s sexual history or values. The Philadelphia Magazine article provides ample evidence that students who have casual sex, seemingly without sharing metaphysical or ethical commitments about what it means for “two to become one,” still experience assault as a serious trauma. Moreover, sex workers can be sexually violated and process it as such, irrespective of their views on sex. Some people might counter that victims can be mistaken about the source of their trauma, and that if they think it has nothing to do with the meaning of sex, they are lying to themselves. This reasoning, much like sexual violence itself, denies people agency. It’s hard to capture the sheer horror of having one’s will subjugated by another person, the utter powerlessness of being at someone else’s mercy. As long as we see sexual assault as an offense against purity or chastity rather than primarily against autonomy, we cannot do justice to that experience.

. . . Professor George, I share your sadness and yearning for truth, in my various roles as young Catholic philosopher, Swarthmore alum, sexual assault survivor, and human being. I am just worried that when culture wars overshadow the discussion of sexual violence, it leaves all parties hurt and none transformed. By all means, let’s create spaces for college students to discuss campus sexual culture, the meaning of sex, and healthy relationships. All I ask is that we not let questions over which many reasonable people disagree turn our attention away from the distinct and severe wrong of sexual assault. Otherwise, I fear you will be right: We will live in a “hell on earth—complete with ideologies hardened into orthodoxies to immunize it from truth-telling and to stigmatize and marginalize truth-tellers.”


SWIP-Germany e.V. Workshop Announcement May 11, 2014

Filed under: women in philosophy — philodaria @ 1:26 pm

Human Nature: Perspectives from Ethics and Philosophy of Science/ Menschliche Natur: Wissenschaftstheoretische und Ethische Aspekte

Ruhr University Bochum, Germany
21st of July 2014

We are pleased to announce the second annual meeting of SWIP Germany e.V. (http://swip-philosophinnen.org/). The meeting will take place on the 21st of July at the Ruhr University Bochum. SWIP Germany is a registered charity and its meetings aim to advance and make visible contributions of women in German/ German-speaking philosophy. Our workshops and meetings also aim to foster the development of research networks and provide informal mentoring in an inclusive and trans-friendly environment.

Workshop Program:

Part I:      Talks (open to all and aimed at a wider philosophical audience, in English and in German)

14:00      Maria Kronfeldner (Bielefeld, Germany)

Human nature – Quo Vadis? Eliminativist and Constructive Approaches to a Contested Concept in the Philosophy of Sciences

15:15      Coffee break

15:45      Mari Mikkola (Humboldt-University, Berlin) Introducing SWIP Germany

16:00      Felicitas Krämer (Eindhoven, the Netherlands)

Some Problems of the Genetic Enhancement of Emotions

17:15      Break

Part II:    Mentoring (for women, in German)

17:45      With Buffet and Drinks (until approx. 20:00)

Attendance for the first part is free of charge. For the second part we ask a fee (payable on the day) of 5 Euros for SWIP members/ students/ unwaged participants, 12 Euros for others. (Membership of any SWIP makes one eligible for the reduced fee.) We can also arrange reasonably priced child-care on campus. If you require child-care facilities, please register as soon as possible and no later than the registration deadline.

Deadline for registration is 24th of June. To register, please email Anna.Welpinghus[at]rub.de. For catering purposes, please indicate whether you will be attending the whole event or only a part of it (and which one). Please also indicate whether you require child-care.


Anna Welpinghus (Bochum)

Mari Mikkola (Humboldt-University, Berlin)

Pascale Ruder (Bochum)

Anne-Sophie Brüggen (Bochum)


TransAdvocate Interview with Judith Butler on Gender Identity May 3, 2014

The TransAdvocate recently posted an interview with Judith Butler on gender and gender identity, specifically surrounding trans* issues. There are a lot of quotable gems in there, so I encourage you to check it out!


“We [all] form ourselves within the vocabularies that we did not choose”


“No matter whether one feels one’s gendered and sexed reality to be firmly fixed or less so, every person should have the right to determine the legal and linguistic terms of their embodied lives.”


“My sense is that we may not need the language of innateness or genetics to understand that we are all ethically bound to recognize another person’s declared or enacted sense of sex and/or gender. We do not have to agree upon the “origins” of that sense of self to agree that it is ethically obligatory to support and recognize sexed and gendered modes of being that are crucial to a person’s well-being.”


“Sometimes there are ways to minimize the importance of gender in life, or to confuse gender categories so that they no longer have descriptive power. But other times gender can be very important to us, and some people really love the gender that they have claimed for themselves. If gender is eradicated, so too is an important domain of pleasure for many people. And others have a strong sense of self bound up with their genders, so to get rid of gender would be to shatter their self-hood. I think we have to accept a wide variety of positions on gender. Some want to be gender-free, but others want to be free really to be a gender that is crucial to who they are.”



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