Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Maureen Ryan on Cyber Misogyny October 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — magicalersatz @ 12:39 pm

Maureen Ryan tackles cyber misogyny and the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian (among many others) in an editorial at the Huffington Post. Concerning the treatment of Sarkeesian in particular she writes:

Death threats, bomb threats, terrifying abuse: All because, under the banner Feminist Frequency, she created a series of YouTube videos that offer rational, reasonable critiques of the ways in which female characters are used and misused in video games. As a fellow critic, I find her work thought-provoking and valuable.

But let’s review what prompted the death threats: Sarkeesian used words and images to critique a media product. That’s all.

Agree or disagree with Sarkeesian’s critiques all you want — it’s a free country. Except it isn’t for Sarkeesian, who can’t go home and who’s frequently been in touch with law enforcement as threats to her and other women have escalated over the past couple of months.

The flood of abuse directed at Sarkeesian began in 2012, when she announced a Kickstarter for her “Tropes vs. Women” video series. She got far more money than she asked for, but that was partly because of the shocking malevolence hurled at her for even coming up with the idea. She got funded, but she also had a hate mob after her.

The mob has grown, and it’s gotten uglier.

She then reflects on the systematic problem of which the treatment of Sarkeesian is just one (terrifying) instance:

The abusive incidents against women who speak out and speak up is so demoralizing that it’s hard not to want to crawl into a Wi-Fi-free cave. Developer Adria Richardswent through an awful cycle of abuse a year ago. Writer and developer Kathy Sierra’s story is one of the most terrifying accounts I’ve ever read. The response of the titans of the tech community to what Sierra had to endure — or rather, their shrugging non-response — did not make me optimistic for the future. If leading figures in the industry don’t care much about her treatment, what are the chances that the average Silicon Valley firm will take seriously the safety of female users and customers?

Of course, convenient apathy, defensive ignorance and abusive behavior aren’t limited to the gaming and tech worlds. Toxic Internet trolls can be found clinging to the underside of any topic, and if you step out of line — an entirely arbitrary line, of course — they will be sure to let you know it. Try writing about rape and “Game of Thrones” if you want to see what I mean.

Whether such individuals are part of a coordinated effort or not, whether their actions spring from a desire to lash out or a deeply entrenched set of objectionable beliefs, the activities of abusive individuals frequently force women to pay what activist McEwan calls “the Misogyny Tax.”

It’s the price women pay when they encounter abuse and have to process it intellectually and emotionally. It’s the price they pay when they have to stop what they’re doing and report harassment or other intimidating behavior to a website or network. It’s the time and the mental energy they lose when they ponder what to write and create — and what not to write and create — in order to avoid living a life that is not dominated by a dread of what could be lurking around the next corner.

The women who endure this abuse daily, hourly, for months, for years: I don’t know how they get through it, because the tax being levied on them and their loved ones is so high. It’s too goddamn high.


Philosphy Born of Struggle Conference October 15, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sam B @ 5:33 pm

The program and registration information is available here for “Racism, Empire, and Sexual Violence,” a conference being held Oct. 31 – Nov. 1, 2014 at Paine College in Augusta, GA.



Terroristic threats against Utah State University regarding feminist Anita Sarkeesian

Filed under: gender inequality,violence — philodaria @ 2:50 am

An email sent to Utah State University officials threatens to terrorize the school with a deadly shooting over a talk to be delivered by feminist critic and Tropes vs. Women in Video Games creator Anita Sarkeesian, Polygon confirmed with the school’s Center for Women and Gender Studies. . .

“If you do not cancel her talk, a Montreal Massacre style attack will be carried out against the attendees, as well as students and staff at the nearby Women’s Center,” the message reads. “I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs.”

The Montreal Massacre, also known as the École Polytechnique Massacre, took place in 1989 in Canada. Marc Lépine, who the email references, killed 14 women, injured 10 and killed four men in the name of “fighting feminism” before committing suicide.

The sender claims to be a student at the school, and adds “you will never find me, but you may all soon know my name.”

This latest threat marks yet another in a growing history for Sarkeesian herself and women in the video game industry at large. In August, following the release of another episode of her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series, Sarkeesian fled her home after receiving “some very scary threats” against her and her family. During GeekGirlCon, which took place this past weekend, officials confirmed to Polygon that a threat was made over her appearance there.

More on the story here. 


1000 word philosophy on feminism: The Difference Approach October 14, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sam B @ 5:41 pm

In April Annaleigh Curtis wrote the first in a three-part series on philosophical feminism over at 1000-Word Philosophy Now she’s just published her second excellent essay in the series, “The Difference Approach.” Link: http://1000wordphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/feminism-part-2-the-difference-approach/



A different perspective on Malala October 13, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 7:47 pm

from philosopher Saba Fatima:

However, some Pakistanis are wary of this recognition, precisely because it fits neatly into a Western narrative of backward Muslim countries. Yet again, the West rescues and honors brown women who defy their barbaric cultures. This is not to say that Malala is a stooge of the West (as some lunatic conspiracy theorist claim.) In fact, her agency is on full display and her strength shines through her character. Indeed she ought to be a source of pride for the country.

The wariness stems from the lack of outrage at death of young girls caused by acts in which the West is complicit in, such as drone strikes, and a simultaneous embrace of those girls that highlight Pakistan’s regression on women’s rights. For people in the west, indignation comes much easier at the oppression of women/girls’ rights by the Taliban in Pakistan’s northern regions, however, there is a glaring absence of any reflection (and a definite absence of outrage) on our complicity in these very same girls’ death by drones.


“But isn’t she way overreacting?”.

Filed under: autonomy — annejjacobson @ 7:09 pm

This post comes from a discussion I was having with someone happily unconnected to professional philosophy.  It concerns something I started thinking about some years ago, when I first heard about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which was supposed to be the first effective therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder.  I was very curious for a number of reason, not least of which was my perplexity at what could be called that.  And I think the book I’m going to quote from was the only thing at the time that didn’t cost a huge amount.

Still, lots of incidents over the last several years, and recent cyber discussions have reminded me that lots of us use an idea of normal emotional reactions.  And this idea has normative implications. The non-normal is wrong, bad, etc.
so it seems to me useful to remind ourselves that our baseline emotional reactions may vary a great.  One person who has an unpleasant encounter on Thurs may be struggling with it still a week later (or more) while another cannot understand why they cannot get over it.  So the empirically reasonably well-informed  Dialectical Behavioral Therapy tells us

A lot of people struggle with overwhelming emotions. It’s as if the knob is turned to maximum volume on much of what they feel. When they get angry or sad or scared, it shows up as a big, powerful wave that can sweep them off their feet.If you’ve faced overwhelming emotions in your life, you know what we’re talking about. There are days when your feelings hit you with the force of a tsunami. …

There’s a fair amount of research to suggest that the likelihood of developing intense, overwhelming emotions may be hardwired from birth. But it can also be greatly affected by trauma or neglect during childhood. Trauma at critical points in our development can literally alter our brain structure in ways that make us more vulnerable to intense, negative emotions. However, the fact that a propensity to intense emotions is often rooted in genetics or trauma doesn’t mean the problem can’t be overcome.


This sort of reaction is still seen as a problem because one may well have better things to do. And if pathology gets mixed in, it can become very socially destructive.

***this ends the didactic part of this post. What follows might be a quiz. ****

The book is actually full of internet stuff about mindfulness, but I was quit flummoxed by an early exercise. It concerns practicing radical acceptance. This means just accepting what’s happened without judgment or evaluation.

Here’s part of the list:

-Read a controversial story in the newspaper without being judgmental about what has occurred.

-The next time you get caught in heavy traffic, wait without being critical.

-Watch the world news on television without being critical of what’s happening.

-Listen to a news story or a political commentary on the radio without being judgmental.

I actually manage #2. I’m tempted to try a transcendental argument for the impossibility of the others. What do you think?


Helping Victims of Sexual Assault and Harassment: A guest post by Jennifer Lackey

Filed under: sexual assault,sexual harassment — Jender @ 12:26 pm

It is not a secret that colleges and universities have been plagued by cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Too often, students find themselves victimized by members of their own communities, and we as faculty who are committed to fostering a safe and supportive learning and working environment must find constructive ways to respond.

Why there are these problems, and why they seem to occur with frequency in the academic world, are deep, important questions that I hope we will continue to have conversations about. But what I want to do here is to suggest two concrete proposals for moving forward.

Being sexually assaulted or harassed is a traumatizing and isolating experience, and students who suffer at the hands of members of their own communities often face a further traumatizing choice: be quiet and continue to share classrooms, colloquia, and departmental parties with those who have victimized them, or come forward and face a myriad of possible consequences, ranging from having their private lives subjected to public scrutiny to outright rejection by their peers.

Despite the risks, some students do report the crimes to officials at their institutions, and some do so precisely because they believe that it is the morally right thing to do. Reporting such incidents is a courageous step in protecting oneself and others from being harmed. There is, however, one possible consequence of coming forward that is particularly pernicious: this very act of seeking justice and fostering safety might itself result in further harm to victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, by rendering them vulnerable to lawsuits brought against them by the people who have already victimized them.

Faculty members are employees of colleges and universities and, so long as they are acting within the scope of their employment, they are indemnified by their employers—that is, their employers will cover legal expenses and damages that may arise in the course of their fulfilling their professional obligations. However, students, both undergraduate and graduate, are not employees and may not automatically enjoy this protection. While some institutions readily agree to defend and indemnify students who face legal action against them, absent such indemnification, a student may face significant legal expenses in defending against a lawsuit filed by someone who typically has greater financial resources. This very possibility can have a chilling impact on our communities, for it provides an extremely effective means of silencing victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Here is where my first proposal comes in: should a student report to you that she has been victimized by one of your students or colleagues, fight aggressively on her behalf for the college or university to indemnify her.* You are in a far more powerful position than she is in, and you have far more resources to appeal to in negotiating and advocating on her behalf. Tell your institution how it is in its own interest in the long run to cultivate an environment in which students can seek justice and safety for themselves and others without the added risk of financial ruin. You can assure them that indemnifying students in this way is not without precedent.

In addition to the issue of indemnification, it is also important to recognize that lawsuits often force the defendant into silence. This silence, and the social isolation that comes with it, can be emotionally devastating. My second proposal, then, is that we, as members of the academic community, reach out to victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, to let them know that they do not stand alone and that their position in our profession is secure. If you believe a victim, tell her that you do. If you feel that she suffered an appalling violation, convey this to her. If you know of a professional opportunity for which she is well-suited, invite her. Send her an e-mail, post a collective letter of public support, include her in academic discussions and gatherings. In caring for those who have already taken the courageous step of standing up for justice, we will not only make it easier for future victims to find their voices, we will also foster a community in which our most vulnerable members can flourish.

* Although I use the feminine pronoun here, these issues apply to all victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Please note: Comments are being pre-moderated. We will be exceptionally strict about which comments we let through. In particular, we will not allow any comments revealing specifics about cases or individuals, or speculating about motivations. We will also not allow anything which could serve to support a culture of victim-blaming. We will also err on the side of caution, so I’d expect that some perfectly well-intentioned comments won’t be let through. Please don’t be offended by this– we are fallible humans with day jobs, and we’re doing the best we can. Finally, we won’t be allowing any discussion of our commenting policies. We’re just one blog: if you don’t like our commenting policies, I’m sure you can find a place more congenial to you elsewhere.


Kate Manne in the NY Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — magicalersatz @ 12:35 am

Kate Manne writes this week’s The Stone column in the NY Times, focusing on humanity, humanism, and race- and gender-based oppression. Here’s an excerpt:

I used to be a humanist in this sense of the term. But I am fast losing my religion. Dehumanization increasingly seems to me to be merely a symptom of the problem. The problem being precisely that black people are being seen as people — and they are seen as being threatening, and taken down, because of it.

The humanist line on Ferguson is unduly optimistic, and rests on a psychologically dubious assumption. Namely, that when people who have historically enjoyed a dominant position in society (in this case white men) come to recognize historically subordinated people (racial minorities, women) as their moral and social equals, they will welcome the newcomers.  But seeing others as similar to ourselves can lead to hostility and resentment under certain conditions. It’s true that Orwell’s vision of a person running across the battlefield holding up his trousers during the Spanish civil war transformed an enemy combatant into a vulnerable human being in his eyes — someone who must have been undressed or indisposed moments before the gunfire started. But this humanizing vision involved no loss of status for Orwell. He felt sorry for the man. He saw him as ridiculous.

The situation is different when it comes to white men’s perception of non-whites and women. Over time, as the fight for equality has allowed some advancement and social mobility for racial minorities, as well as for women, toward what we might call the inner circle of humanity, white men have experienced a relative loss of status. And they now have more rivals for desirable positions. Add to that the fact that they may find themselves surpassed by those they tacitly expected to be in social positions beneath them, and we have a recipe for resentment and the desire to regain dominance.


The racist heritage of academia October 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — axiothea @ 10:53 am

Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman delves into the history of racism, and in particular in the work of Francis Galton and his links with University College London. Read his THE article, and watch his short film: Eugenics at UCL: We Inherited Galton.

These were published in commemoration of the following event:

On 10 October 1904, Francis Galton wrote to Sir Arthur Rücker (Principal of the University of London) with an offer to fund a study of National Eugenics, which he defined as: ‘the influences that are socially controllable, on which the status of the nation depends. These are of two classes: (1) those which affect the race itself and (2) those which affect its health.’

Nathaniel also asks that we support the project by commenting on the film and the article, and by sharing them widely, using the hashtag #UCLfacesRACE.


Moving forward October 10, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — magicalersatz @ 7:37 pm

Commenting on some recent news, Justin at Daily Nous reflects:

Whatever the reasons, things are now changing. Over the past couple of years, philosophers have witnessed the emergence of a new consensus—one that rejects acquiescence to abuses of power in philosophy, one that seeks to overturn rather than turn away from the profession’s problems, one that seeks to support rather than silence the vulnerable. At the same time, the consensus reinforces two very traditional pillars of philosophical practice: first, it recognizes that criticism is the currency with which philosophers pay respect to one another while insults are just cheap counterfeits, and second, that we should go wherever the arguments and inquiries take us, putting aside philosophical prejudices and erasing boundaries if need be.

This is, of course, the kind of thing Carrie Jenkins was talking about in her now-famous-sub-things-philosophers-talk-about-online blog post about being nice. It would be such a shame if the main thing people remember about that post is that Brian Leiter got really mad about it, since that’s far from the most interesting thing about it. We’ve had a lot of conversations recently about things in our profession that we don’t like, and what we don’t want our profession to include. Hopefully we can now also – following Carrie’s example – have some constructive conversations about what we do like and what we do want our profession to include.

With that in mind, I wanted to draw attention to a recent comment from David Manley on our old thread inviting people to take Carrie’s ‘Be Nice’ pledge:

Carrie, thank you for articulating these goals so incisively. I also take the pledge and would like to be held accountable. I find it far more effective to consciously commit myself to specific goals rather than relying on a vague background intention to be nice or civil. It’s too easy to allow the boundaries of the latter sort of rule to shift ‘in the moment’!

It took me too long to learn this. Back in graduate school I was one of those people who would have found this sort of thing unnecessary and likely to stifle the necessary ‘rough and tumble exchange’ of philosophical ideas. I have come to realize that I was just wrong–- the most productive philosophical exchanges I have witnessed are entirely consistent with these goals. And what I thought of as the ‘rough and tumble exchange of ideas’ was too frequently in fact a destructive clash of egos that obscured whatever real philosophy was at stake.

I’ve learned all this over the years largely due to the wonderful example of many of my friends and colleagues, as well as venues (like this one) that offer a space to discuss key issues like microaggression & stereotype threat, including first-person accounts of those who have had to deal with these things. Thanks to the folks here for this transformative service.

David Manley
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

I suspect the experience David describes so well is a common one. It’s easy to confuse tough philosophy with aggressive philosophy. (I know I’ve done it in the past, and probably still do sometimes.) But they can and do come apart. Those of us who want a kinder, more hospitable profession aren’t delicate flowers afraid of getting our precious feelings hurt by your devastating counterexample. And we aren’t that worried about your tone. Norms of respect, kindness, inclusiveness, and consideration are something else entirely, and something we can strive for without sacrificing philosophical rigor.



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