Judgments of risk to children and parental culpability

It’s not that risks to children have increased, provoking an increase in moral outrage when children are left unattended. Instead, it could be that moral attitudes toward parenting have changed, such that leaving children unsupervised is now judged morally wrong. And because it’s judged morally wrong, people overestimate the risk.

This may seem to get things the wrong way around, but it’s supported by new research available Monday in the open access journal Collabra. In a series of clever experiments, authors Ashley Thomas, Kyle Stanford and Barbara Sarnecka find evidence that shifting people’s moral attitudes toward a parent influences the perceived risk to that parent’s unattended child.

Read on, for a fascinating collaboration between philosophers and psychologists.

Ryan Lochte, false reports, and believing the women

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted on social media that they had been robbed. Immediately, messages of concern and support started to pour in. Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Are you okay? Are you hurt? Is there anything I can do? Etc, etc.

A similar thing happened on a much larger scale when US Olympian Ryan Lochte claimed he had been mugged in Rio. But leaving aside the legal fine points of whether what happened to Lochte should technically count as robbery, it’s become clear since his initial report that Lochte lied about the incident and painted himself as a victim when he wasn’t one.

‘Believe victims’ is a common refrain among feminist and anti-rape activists. And it’s one that’s commonly misinterpreted, mostly by critics but occasionally by well-meaning allies as well. When anti-rape activists say that we should believe victims, they’re effectively saying that our attitude toward reports of rape shouldn’t be different than our attitude to self-reports of other crimes: the default should be belief, rather than skepticism.

When my friend said they were robbed, they were met with messages of support and condolence and offers of assistance. So was Lochte. Women who say they were raped are often met with questions about whether they are sure it wasn’t consensual, whether they’re remembering things correctly, whether they might’ve been sending mixed messages. The default is very often suspicion.

When anti-rape activists say that our default should be belief, it doesn’t mean that they think we should continue to believe any and all accusations of rape, come what may. The default was to believe Ryan Locthe, but when evidence emerged that he was lying, people revised that belief. ‘Believe victims’ isn’t asking us to confer special epistemic status on people who say they were raped – to treat that testimony as completely unquestionable or inviolable. It’s instead asking us precisely not to confer special epistemic status. Don’t treat an accusation of rape differently than most any other self-report of a crime.* Give the alleged victim the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re telling the truth.

We have good reason to suppose that false accusations of rape are rare. We also have very good reason to think that there’s massive disincentive against making a false accusation. But we also know that false accusations do happen, and that sometimes people act irrationally. Ryan Locthe had a lot of reasons not to make up an action movie story about getting robbed in Rio, but it still happened. ‘Believe victims’ doesn’t mandate that we ignore the possibility of false accusations; it just treats false accusations as the outlying exception rather than the rule, just as false accusations of robbery are the exception rather than the rule.

But the difference in the cases, of course, is that people will take this one very high profile instance of a false accusation of robbery and remember it as ‘Ryan Lochte lied about robbery’. That Ryan Lochte lied about being mugged in Rio won’t make me any less likely to believe a friend the next time they post about being robbed on social media. We won’t suddenly become suspicious of swimmers generally, or of white men with badly died hair. Ryan Lochte isn’t seen as a representative of anything systematic – he’s just Ryan Lochte. In contrast, we remember high profile instances of false accusations of rape, not as ‘Jane lied about rape’ or ‘Anna lied about rape’ but as ‘women lie about rape’.

*Caveat: we might have good reasons to approach the testimony of rape victims differently, even if we don’t – in epistemic terms – treat their testimony differently. Asking a victim of rape to recount their story over and over and probing that story for details can be extremely traumatizing for a rape victim in a way that it might not be for a robbery victim.

UPDATE: A friend send me a link to this editorial from Anna Rhodes making basically the same point.

CFP: Yale Journal of Law & Humanities

Special Issue Call for Papers:
Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities: Philosophy’s Practical Turn

Deadline: December 31, 2016

The Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities (YJLH) is seeking full submissions for a symposium section of the Spring 2017 issue. The journal seeks submissions that employ methods of philosophy (broadly construed) to investigate practical legal issues. We hope to publish articles representative of an array of philosophical traditions and contemporary issues. The special section aims to exemplify how philosophical approaches and insights provide distinctive and significant contributions to practical legal debates.

Example topics include:
Bioethics, biolaw, and technology
Feminist philosophy of law
Law and philosophy of race, gender, sexuality
Mass incarceration and prisons
Neuroscience, law, and philosophy
Philosophical analyses of legal evidence or standards of proof
Philosophy of disability and the law
Practical just war theory and philosophy of war
Topics in practical ethics (e.g. abortion, capital punishment) with a legal-philosophical angle

Please submit papers prepared for anonymous review to yjlh at yale.edu by December 31, 2016. If it would be useful to receive informal feedback on the appropriateness of a proposed topic, feel free to email kevin.tobia at yale.edu.

We also aim to accept and publish standard submissions for Volume 29(2) (in addition to articles chosen for the special section of the issue). Please send regular submissions to yjlh at yale.edu.

CFP: SWIP Ireland

Society for Women in Philosophy, Ireland
5th Annual Conference and General Meeting
Conference dates: 2-4 December 2016, NUI Galway, Ireland

CFP deadline:  September 10, 2016

Conference Theme: Feminist Ethics in Theory and Practice: Challenging practices in contested domains

Recent decades have seen increasing interest in feminist perspectives in ethics. Alternative approaches to ethical theory and practical moral concerns have led to the questioning of traditional approaches and have enriched the landscape of ethical reflection in both established and emerging areas of interest.

The Society for Women in Philosophy Ireland is inviting contributions to a conference on the topic of “Challenging practices in contested domains: feminist ethics in theory and practice”, December 2-4, 2016. Papers might address, but are not limited to, feminist considerations with regard to the following topics:

– Care ethics and relational ethics
– Narrative Ethics
– Moral imagination
– ethics and vulnerability
– ethics and philosophy of literature
– The ethics of empowerment and marginalisation
– Ethical concerns with regard to disability, reproduction, genetics, information technologies, the environment, animals, biology

Professor Alice Crary (New School for Social Research) will be a keynote speaker at the conference. Papers related to any aspect of her work are also welcome. Other invited speakers will be announced soon.

The focus of the conference is primarily philosophical, however, interdisciplinary papers combining philosophy with, among others, healthcare perspectives, sociology, gender studies, cultural studies, politics, or medical humanities are welcome. People of all genders are welcome to contribute!

The most recent conferences in the SWIP Ireland conference series addressed “Ways of Knowing: Feminist epistemology and philosophy of science” (2015) and “Women’s Bodies” (2014). For further information on SWIP Ireland, see here. Galway is a university town in the West of Ireland with good travel connections from Dublin and Shannon.

Presentations will be 20 minutes plus discussion. There is the possibility of submissions for shorter panel presentations.

Abstract submission: September 10, 2016, to heike.felzmann at nuigalway.ie, with the header “CFA SWIP Ireland conference”

Individual abstracts: Please submit an anonymised abstract of 250-400 words and provide separate contact details.

Panel submissions: Please submit an anonymised panel description of 400-600 words, including the proposed individual contributions on the panel theme. List the proposed contributors and the corresponding author’s contact details separately.

Notification of acceptance: October 2, 2016

Trump’s reboots VS Clinton’s flip-flops

More great points from Susan Bordo.

With Trump, the media inhabits the postmodern world of performance and image, in which the relevant question is rarely “is what he’s saying true or false?” but “how is it playing?” In this world, there is no “real” Trump—or more precisely, few people seem to care to distinguish the “real” from the “image.” There are only a series of performances, “reboots,” “resets,” and “pivots” which will be sustainable or not, will do the trick or not, will win the election or not…

For other politicians—Hillary most notably—“complete reversals” are called “flip-flops.” “Showing” is contrasted to “being transparent” or “authentic.” And a pledge such as the one Donald made in his restyled speech—“I promise you this: I will always tell you the truth”—would be met with laughter, derision, and disbelief. (He then went on to tell several lies—or what, in the criteria applied to Hillary, would be described as lies—including reference to her “illegal email server.”)

CFP: SAF Session at Pacific APA 2017

Society for Analytical Feminism

Feminist Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition


SAF Session at the Pacific Division APA, Westin Seattle, Seattle, Washington, April 12-15, 2017

The Society for Analytical Feminism invites submissions for a session at the 2017 Pacific Division APA meetings.

Deadline for submissions: September 30, 2016.

The Society seeks papers that examine feminist issues by methods broadly construed as analytic, or discuss the use of analytic philosophical methods as applied to feminist issues. Authors should submit full papers of a length appropriate to a 20-minute presentation time. Please delete all self-identifying references from your submission to ensure anonymity.

Send submissions as a word attachment to Kathryn Norlock with the subject line, SAF AT PACIFIC APA, to (kathrynnorlock at gmail dot com).

Graduate students or underfunded professionals whose papers are accepted will be eligible for the Society’s $250 Travel Stipend. Please indicate in your email if you fall into one of these categories and wish to be considered for the stipend.


The Society for Analytical Feminism provides a forum where issues concerning analytical feminism may be openly discussed and examined. Its purpose is to promote the study of issues in feminism by methods broadly construed as analytic, to examine the use of analytic methods as applied to feminist issues, and to provide a means by which those interested in Analytical Feminism may meet and exchange ideas. The Society meets yearly at the Central Division meetings of the APA and frequently organizes sessions for the Eastern Division and Pacific Divisions.

Membership in the Society is open to all who are interested in and concerned with issues in Analytical Feminism. Annual dues are $25 for regularly employed members, $15 for students, unemployed, underemployed, and retired members. For more information about SAF, including membership form, please visit our website.

Christia Mercer on incarcerated women

The United States contains 5% of the world’s women and 33% of its incarcerated women, more per capita, and in absolute terms, than any other country in the world. Though that’s only 7% of the US prisoner population overall, the statistics don’t reflect the uniquely horrible circumstances many incarcerated women faced before their convictions.

They’re girls who were victimized as children, ignored in substandard schools and unprotected by social services. Girls who dropped out of high school, self-medicated with alcohol or illegal drugs and then made mistakes that got them caught up the in the prison industrial complex.

Read on.

Reductress and sexual assault

The link is NSFW as a casual glance can admit of negative interpretations, and since they’re going for bitter levity, I’m providing this content-warning that the site is not for everyone who might suffer. I enjoyed an appreciative laugh at the headline, “I Anonymously Reported My Rape For the Anonymous Attention.” Thanks to Justin Weinberg at Daily Nous for the alert:

The humor site Reductress has currently dedicated its main page to stories about sexual assault. Some excellent work here.

Deliveroo, Casualization, and Feminist Analysis

After a week of protests, UK workers for the takeaway delivery firm Deliveroo have won the right to continue their old contracts rather than being forced onto a new contract. Whereas the old contract guarantees an hourly rate of £7 plus £1 per delivery, the new contract has no hourly rate and only pays per delivery. The Guardian reports that:

Riders, who believe that the new deal could result in them earning less money and remove the certainty that they got from an hourly rate, cautiously welcomed the deal.

This is certainly good news in terms of worker’s rights, and I also think it is interesting from a feminist perspective. This is not for the obvious reason, however: it’s not the case, as far as I know, that workers in this type of job are disproportionately women (in fact I suspect there are more men than women, though I don’t have figures).

But feminists have had some very relevant insights to offer into the ‘gig economy’ – jobs undertaken on a self-employed, casual basis co-ordinated through technology such as apps – into which category Deliveroo riders fall (another big example is Uber). These jobs are presented as offering ‘flexibility’, which in practice means that workers cannot rely on fixed hours and that risks and costs of such work are placed squarely on the workers rather than on the (often large and extremely profitable) companies that co-ordinate the services. For example, Deliveroo riders supply their own bikes or motorbikes and are not eligible for sick pay or holiday pay. This is a pattern of work that was predicted by  Maria Mies in her 1986 monograph, ‘Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale’:

The new strategy of obscuring women’s productive work for capital is propagated under the slogan of ‘flexibilization of labour’. Not only are women pushed out of the formal sector – as happened some time ago to Indian woman – they are reintegrated into capitalist development in a whole range of informal, non-organized, non-protected production relations, ranging from part-time work, through contract work, to homeworking, to unpaid neighbourhood work. Increasingly, the dual model according to which Third World labour has been segmented is re-introduced into the industrialized countries. Thus, we can say that the way in which Third World women are at present integrated into capitalist development is the model also for the reorganization of labour in the centres of capitalism. (126)

Mies links this shift to ‘the growing fear of an increasing number of marginalized people in the rich countries that they might all become as expendable as women in Third World countries’ (127).

In other words, the model of casualized labour presented under the banner of ‘flexibility’ (which Mies terms ‘houswifization’, since it developed from the idea of a housewife earning a little bit of money alongside her unpaid domestic work) proved so effective as a mode of exploiting Third World women that it has spread to other groups. (Nina Power explores a similar idea in her 2009 book One Dimensional Woman.) Another reminder that the relevance of feminist analysis is not restricted to women.

The Job Candidate Mentoring Program for Women in Philosophy is Recruiting Mentors and Mentees

We’d like to draw readers’ attention to the following excellent initiative.

The Job Candidate Mentoring Program for Women in Philosophy is recruiting both mentors and mentees for the 2016-2017 job market season.

Women who are interested in serving as mentors should fill out this form before September 1, 2016. Mentors should currently hold a permanent academic post and have had job market experience at the junior level in the past seven years.

Women who are interested in being mentored should fill out this form before September 1, 2016. Preference will be given to job candidates who have not participated in this mentoring program before. Job candidates seeking mentorship who do not identify as women are encouraged to participate in the Cocoon Mentoring Project (https://sites.google.com/site/cocoonmentoringproject/).