Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Barbie F*cks It Up and Feminist Hackers Save the Day November 19, 2014

…So, I wasn’t going to click the link. Sexist books and toys are ubiquitous, and one grows weary of reading about them. But it turns out that even though the Barbie I can be… A Computer Engineer book is even more awful than you might expect (Barbie herself doesn’t write the code: she needs Steven and Brian for that.), Pamela Ribon’s righteous rant in response to Barbie’s ersatz engineering is worth the price of admission:

THE FUCKING END, PEOPLE. Despite having ruined her own laptop, her sister’s laptop, and the library’s computers, not to mention Steven and Brian’s afternoon, she takes full credit for her game design— only to get extra credit and decide she’s an awesome computer engineer! “I did it all by myself!”

Flip the book and you can read “Barbie: I can be an Actress,” where Barbie saves the day by filling in for the princess in Skipper’s school production of “Princess and the Pea.” [...]

When you hold the book in your hands to read a story, the opposite book is upside down, facing out. So the final insult to this entire literary disaster is that when you read “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer,” it appears that you are so fucking dumb, you’re reading “Barbie: I Can Be an Actress” upside down.

Even better, if it weren’t for Barbie I can be… A Computer Engineer, we would never have gotten to enjoy the Feminist Hacker Barbie site, at which readers are invited to improve the original book. Here’s one user’s suggested improvement:

Barbie, wearing glasses and flowing blonde hair, sits at a computer; the screen is showing multiple lines of computer code. Two young men stand beside her smiling.

Update: Great news! A female PhD student in computing has re-written the book to make it what it ought to have been in the first place. Here’s her version. Yay, intertubz!


Teaching Conway, Masham, Cavendish and Chatelet.

Filed under: Uncategorized — axiothea @ 2:36 pm

Originally posted on Feminist History of Philosophy:

Andrew Janiak at Duke University is leading a team of eight faculty, students and staff in developing a web site on the works of early modern women philosophers. The website will include unpublished texts, translations of texts that have never been translated into English, and other materials such as sample syllabi from any philosophy courses that discuss these philosophers.

The web site, which will go live in the spring, will initially centre on four philosophers — Anne Conway, Damaris Cudworth Masham, Margaret Cavendish and Emilie du Chatelet. Andrew Janiak is therefore looking for a selection of syllabi (in PDF, HTML, or another format) that showcase how these figures have already been integrated into philosophy courses at various levels.

If you have such a syllabus and would like to help, please send it by email to janiakATduke.edu

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Market Boost for Women Philosophers seeking jobs

Filed under: academic job market,women in philosophy — Jender @ 2:34 pm

An amazing new programme.

The purpose of the program is to provide support to women candidates on the job market. Since candidates already receive advice and support from faculty in their departments, this program has a particular kind of support in mind. This is the kind of support that can only come from female peers and mentors who have very recently had a similar experience. The program has several goals:
– To connect female candidates with others in their equivalent positions at other schools.
– To provide female candidates with a “junior mentor” from an outside department, someone who has relatively recently been in their position. Having distance from the candidate’s home department will allow for a mentoring relationship that complements the candidate’s own departmental relationships, and it may even help the candidate better handle and leverage those relationships.
– To facilitate the development of relationships between candidates, their mentors (individually), and their peers (collectively). These relationships take time, as they must involve trust in order to work effectively, so the program design includes multiple points of interaction.
– To provide a structured process for interaction among candidates, peer candidates, and mentors such that candidates feel they are connected to a wider network of females who, on the one hand, have been successful in philosophy, but on the other hand, are not so far out ahead that their success seems unattainable.

Check it out here!


CFP: CSWIP 2015, Challenging Ontologies November 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — KateNorlock @ 6:33 pm

The full call is here.

Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy 2015

Call for Papers: Submission deadline for papers and panel proposals, February 20, 2015.

Challenging Ontologies: Making Sense in Ethics, Science, Politics, and Art

October 23-25, 2015
Campion College at the University of Regina, Canada

Keynote Address by Lisa Gannett, St. Mary’s University, Halifax

The Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy invites papers and panel proposals from all areas of philosophy and all philosophical approaches, including analytical, continental, and historically oriented philosophy.

In the broadest sense, ontologies are simply ways of making the world intelligible. As Annemarie Mol suggests, “ontology is not given in the order of things… ontologies are brought into being, sustained, or allowed to wither away in common, day-to-day, sociomaterial practices.” In that spirit, paper and panel topics may include, but are not limited to:
• Social ontologies, hidden ontologies, and the making of social meaning
• Socio-material practices and conceptual or linguistic strategies as ways of making sense
• Epistemological, ethical, and aesthetic considerations of ontological assumptions and practices
• Feminist metaphysics; material feminisms
• Critical metaphysics/ontologies of race, disability, fat, queerness, class
• Ontologies of pleasure and the erotic
• Ontologies of violence, vulnerability, colonialism, shame, trauma
• Challenging ontological orthodoxies in science, politics, ethics, aesthetics, technology, language, argumentation, environment, architecture, and education
• Onto-epistemology and ethico-onto-epistemology
• Artifactual histories and the ontologies of museums, galleries, laboratories, instruments
• Practices of mapping, visualizing, and representing as ontologically salient


‘Philosophy Grad Student Target of Political Smear Campaign’

Daily Nous has the story.

A philosophy graduate student and instructor at Marquette University [Cheryl Abbate] is the target of a political attack initiated by one of her students, facilitated by a Marquette political science professor, and promulgated by certain advocacy organizations.

The full story is quite disturbing, and Justin has screen shots of some incredibly offensive (and misogynistic) comments that have been directed towards Abbate as a result.

Justin has also added this update to the story: “Those interested in encouraging Marquette University to support Abbate may wish to write polite messages of support to the dean of the university’s Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Richard C. Holz, at richard.holz@marquette.edu, or the interim provost of the university, Dr. Margaret Faut Callahan, at margaret.callahan@marquette.edu.”


A brilliant performance poem about objectification November 17, 2014

Filed under: teaching — kaitijai @ 5:05 pm
Tags: , ,

Performance poet Hollie McNish has done a brilliant performance poem about sexual objectification. The poem is designed as a commentary to the music video for the pop song ‘Blow My Whistle’ by Flo Rida – you play the poem alongside the muted song video. It’s very witty and clever and comical - in fact, you should probably listen to it before reading my two pennies worth (nothing spoils literature like hearing a second-hand description of it first!).

I recently used this video in a third-year philosophy lecture to introduce Martha Nussbaum’s excellent paper ‘Objectification‘, and it worked really well. Part of what Nussbaum does in that paper is to make a case for the existence of a positive form of sexual objectification – a temporary object-like treatment of a person that enhances a mutual and otherwise respectful sexual relationship. It struck me that this is very much in line with the position McNish takes in the poem. Interestingly, whilst McNish does critique the objectification of women in the music video, she reserves her real scorn for Flo Rida’s self-objectification. If he really must compare his penis to a musical instrument, she wonders, why choose a whistle – irritating, shrill, and easy for anyone to get a noise out of? Why not, McNish asks, a saxophone – something that requires skill, but which, when played well, can produce beautiful music? In other words, the problem with the penis/whistle (and consequent oral sex/blowing) metaphor is not the fact that it objectifies Flo Rida per se, but that it objectifies him in a way that completely fails to open up any fulfilling or exciting sexual possibilities – something that sexual objectification, if carried out with more imagination, might be able to do.

The video sparked a great discussion* between students about objectification in its own right, and it also, I believe, helped the students to grasp what Nussbaum had to say about positive objectification when I went on to explain her argument. The connection between the poem and Nussbaum’s paper is really very striking. This made me wonder about other pieces of media, art, or literature that could work the same way. Has anyone else found something that captures a philosophical claim really accurately like this, and used it in their teaching? What was it, and how did it go?

*One particularly important point that was raised was whether the poem endorses a harmful ‘bigger is better’ attitude to penises. Now, I do think that there’s room to read the remarks about size as pointing out the irony of Flo Rida implying (via the whistle metaphor) that he has a small penis, when that probably isn’t what he intended to convey. However, the poem doesn’t do much to distance itself from the more harmful reading, which is a bit of a shame.


Interview with Charles Mills by George Yancy

Filed under: minorities in philosophy,politics,race — philodaria @ 2:36 am

In The Stone. A snippet:

C.M.: [. . .] Here in the United States, for example, we have the absurd situation of a huge philosophical literature on social justice in which racial injustice — the most salient of American injustices — is barely mentioned.

G.Y.: In your 1997 book, “The Racial Contract,” you discuss the concept of an “epistemology of ignorance,” a term which I believe you actually coined. What is meant by that term? And how do you account for the complete thematic marginalization of racial justice? Does an epistemology of ignorance help to explain it?

C.M.: Yes, I believe it does help to explain it, but first let me say something about the term. The phrasing (“epistemology of ignorance”) was calculatedly designed by me to be attention-getting through appearing to be oxymoronic. I was trying to capture the idea of norms of cognition that so function as to workagainst successful cognition. Systems of domination affect us not merely in terms of material advantage and disadvantage, but also in terms of likelihoods of getting things right or wrong, since unfair social privilege reproduces itself in part through people learning to see and feel about the world in ways that accommodate injustice. “Ignorance” is actively reproduced and is resistant to elimination. This is, of course, an old insight of the left tradition with respect to class. I was just translating it into a different vocabulary and applying it to race. So one can see the idea (and my later work on “white ignorance”) as my attempt to contribute to the new “social epistemology,” which breaks with traditional Cartesian epistemological individualism, but in my opinion needs to focus more on social oppression than it currently does.

Ignorance as a subject worthy of investigation in its own right has, by the way, become so academically important that next year Routledge is publishing a big reference volume on the topic, the “Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies,” edited by Matthias Gross and Linsey McGoey. The book covers numerous varieties of ignorance over a wide range of different areas and divergent etiologies, but my own invited contribution (“Global White Ignorance”) appears in the section on ignorance and social oppression. In this chapter, I argue that modernity is cognitively marked by a broad pattern in which whites generally endorse racist views (one type of ignorance) in the period of formal global white domination, and then (roughly from the post-World War II, decolonial period onward) shift to the endorsement of views that nominally decry racism, but downplay the impact of the racist past on the present configuration of wealth and opportunities (another type of ignorance). So remedial measures of racial justice are not necessary, and white privilege from illicit structural advantage, historic and ongoing, can remain intact and unthreatened. Insofar as mainstream “white” American political philosophy ignores these realities (and there are, of course, praiseworthy exceptions, like Elizabeth Anderson’s “The Imperative of Integration”), it can be judged, in my opinion, to be maintaining this tradition.


Remember the Sunday Cat? November 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 6:39 pm

The Sunday cat was a series on this blog. We stopped when the internet became overrun with cute cat videos, but it’s occurred to me we could have updates on past favorites, such as Maru. Maru is a Scottish fold whose ears do not fold. He loves boxes and bags.


What is it to feel really bad for someone else? November 15, 2014

Filed under: academia — annejjacobson @ 11:28 pm

After I finished this piece, I became concerned that some readers would not be familiar with the sort of project this is.  I’d certainly assume they are, but I started to worry that a word of explanation would be needed.  The stuff below is, I think, a sort of classical conceptual analysis.  However, it isn’t about truth-conditions.  I don’t know how often this is done these days.  In my grad school days, it was a common indoor sport, but then that was the heyday of ordinary language philosophy.  Philosophy now a days is so technical!  But, since it is great fun, and also educational, I hope it still goes on.


I’m going to describe a case, but I’m hoping to disguise it enough so that it can’t be recognized.  So my question is really about how to describe a kind of reaction to a case sort of like the one I’ll described.  The case I’ll describe is the inability to get or sustain something my student and I had worked towards, but I think approximately the same sort of reaction could occur when one’s child falls ill (i.e., fails to stay well) or a friend’s relationship blow up in her face (i.e., she fails to sustain a loving relationship).  It’s important the failure is not something that the person could have avoided.  There weren’t alternatives for her.  And in the student case, it isn’t as though I resented the time I spent; it was what I was paid for, after all.

So imagine you are working on an important project with a student for a deadline.  A contest is involved, and the student, you hoped, would do very well in it.  And then you find out the morning the completed result is due in that the student simply could not finish it.  She did not really understand the last step at all, messed it up, and then took it down or out or deleted it.

I described the case to one person, who maybe is not particularly as interested in precision as philosophers are, and he said that that sort of thing was very annoying.  I thought that “annoyed” was not really right.  Perhaps we could flesh out each sort of case I mentioned so that “annoyed” is correct, but when, e.g., one’s child gets meningitis from an encounter at school, one probably shouldn’t feel annoyed with the child.  Of course, one might feel get anger at a school that didn’t take precautions when infection was known to be a possibility, but certainly not the child.  Similarly with the friend.  And, in the situation I am thinking about, not with the student.

So I became interested in finding the right word to express feeling bad when something happens but (a) the feeling bad arises from an empathy with their loss, and (b) the bad feeling really is for them.  It isn’t like a the abdominal pain anxiety can give one; abdominal pain doesn’t seem – to me, anyway – to be something one feels for someone.  And while “annoy” is probably “annoyed at” the bad feeling part of it is not an empathetic reaction on her behalf, I think.  So I started through a list of words that express feeling bad in a situation where there’s a failure and looking for something that carries this idea of empathetically feeling-bad-for-someone.

I opened Word’s Thesaurus and started to check through the words I could think of that one might use in a situation.  I’m wondering what you all (our readers) will think.  I got the uncomfortable feeling that the English vocabulary is not rich in expressions of empathetic feeling-bad-for.   Maybe I’m missing out here, but I did try googling “Parents of a very sick child feel” and seeing what competitions I got.  That was not useful.

Here’s the list:


  1.  Annoy: irritate, infuriate, exasperate, upset
  2.  Dismay: Disappointment, Shock, Alarm
  3.  Worry: Concern, Apprehension, Anxiety, Care
  4.  Distress: suffering, pain, sorrow, anguish
  5.  Concern: anxiety, worry, apprehension, fear
  6.  Alarmed: Worried, upset, distressed, shocked
  7.  Drained: weary, shattered, worn out

It may be that we simply understand a lot of these words as capable to pointing two ways.  For example, perhaps one can feel disappointment as just a let down in one’s own feelings or, alternatively, as being disappointed for someone.  In the latter case, perhaps the reaction would be more behavioral:  soothing words, trying to arrange something to make them feel better, and so on.  Similarly, one might feel just sad, as it were, or sad for someone else.

I’m not sure, but I think I am wondering whether there is a word in English that is entirely about an empathetic “feeling-bad-for.”  And if not, why not.


SWIP-UK cfp deadline: Dec.31 November 14, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — KateNorlock @ 10:47 pm

The full text of the 2015 SWIP-UK conference call is here. From Rosie Worsdale:

The aim of this conference is to explore the possibilities for enriching philosophy through exposure to its many ‘Others’.

Possible themes for papers might include, but are not limited to:

  • Feminist epistemology and standpoint theory
  • What is it to exclude? What is it to include? Strategies and practices of inclusion/exclusion and their effects
  • Philosophy of race
  • Critical approaches to philosophical methodology, including pedagogical method
  • Philosophy and disability
  • Philosophy and heteronormativity
  • Non-western philosophy and its relation to western philosophical praxis
  • Identity politics
  • Political philosophy and ‘others’
  • Justice and injustice
  • Critical theory
  • The concept of ‘rigour’ and its place in philosophy
  • The object/subject distinction

We invite proposals for 20-25 minute papers on any topic relating to the theme. We would like, if possible, to have both a postgraduate panel and a panel concerning practical issues relating to the ‘Otherness’ in philosophy.

Please send an anonymised abstract of no more than 300 words to essex.swip.2015 at gmail.com. The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 31 December 2014. Successful speakers will be notified early in the new year.



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