Wonderful interview with Alexis Shotwell

A taste:

In her book Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times, Alexis Shotwell argues that “personal purity is simultaneously inadequate, impossible, and politically dangerous for shared projects of living on earth.” Focusing on maintaining your own innocence or goodness is counterproductive, she says, to actually fixing the world’s problems.

Instead, “if we want a world with less suffering and more flourishing, it would be useful to perceive complexity and complicity as the constitutive situation of our lives, rather than as things we should avoid,” she writes. We can’t help that we’ve inherited these problems—a warming Earth, institutional racism, increasingly antibiotic-resistant bacteria—nor can we help sometimes perpetuating them. Better to stop pretending at purity, own up to our imperfections, and try to create a morality that works with them.

Reader query: feminist applied ethics papers

I teach philosophy at a community college,  and I’m looking for suggestions about accessible papers in applied ethics that could be used in an introductory ethics course. I teach a Feminist Philosophy course in which we talk about a variety of feminist theories and their application, but I’d like to find a paper for my Ethics course that (a) is on an applied issue of contemporary interest, (b) makes an argument from a feminist perspective, (c) is accessible to students who are relatively new to philosophy, and (d) is self-contained – i.e. doesn’t need lots of previous explanation of the ideas and concepts in it.

I’m wondering if you or your readers have any suggestions. I’d greatly appreciate any help you could offer!

SWIP Ireland: Ann Cahill Workshop, 7th February, Dublin

The Society for Women in Philosophy Ireland invites you to a workshop with Prof. Ann Cahill (Professor of Philosophy, Elon University). Prof. Cahill’s work is situated at the intersection of feminist philosophy and philosophy of the body, where she develops new analyses of common concepts, such as sexual violence or objectification. For full details of the talk she will be giving, please see the below abstract and register here:

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/swip-ireland-workshop-with-ann-cahill-unjust-sex-vs-rape-tickets-31292404424

“Unjust Sex vs. Rape”

This talk will address a persistent philosophical conundrum, what I call the problem of the “heteronormative sexual continuum”: how sexual assault and hegemonic heterosex are conceptually and politically related. I will respond to the work of Nicola Gavey, who has argued for the existence of a “gray area” of sexual interactions that are ethically questionable without rising to the category of sexual assault, but whose analysis did not explicitly articulate what these two categories share or what distinguishes them from each other. I will argue that the two categories share a disregard for women’s sexual subjectivity (focusing particularly on the factor of sexual desire) and are distinguished by the different role that women’s sexual agency plays in each. 
All welcome!

Contribute to APA diversity fund!

Sally Haslanger is urging us all to contribute to the APA diversity fund, and to urge our colleagues to contribute!  It’s currently running out of money.  She suggests– as a starting place– that all US philosophers should try to get 50% of their colleagues to commit to $50 year for three years (with adjustments depending on financial situation, of course.)

The fund is here.

 

A comment in support of pro-life inclusion at the Women’s March on Washington

A few news organizations reported over the last couple of days that pro-life organizations have been excluded from official partnership with the Women’s March on Washington (e.g., here’s a piece from The Atlantic which includes interviews from folks on both sides of the issue). One pro-life group, New Wave Feminists, was recognized as a partner by the march, but then later removed.

Now, I’m not an organizer of the march, so this isn’t my decision to make. I’m not even going to the march in D.C. (though I’ll be at my local march the same day, and I encourage those who can participate to do so). Moreover, the pro-life position is at odds with the policy platform those who did organize put together. That platform reads:

We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education. We understand that we can only have reproductive justice when reproductive health care is accessible to all people regardless of income, location or education.

That said, I’m a pro-choice feminist, and I think excluding pro-life groups from partnership status is a mistake.  I’m grateful that some of my pro-life fellow citizens will march regardless, and I’d be glad to march alongside them.

To be clear, I think reproductive freedom is essential to women’s health and equality (and I don’t think we have to get into substantive debate about agency or the metaphysics of personhood to recognize this; banning abortion gambles with women’s lives – and that’s true even when there are meant to be exceptions for the life of the mother). I think arguments like this rely pretty straightforwardly on sexist notions (I don’t think men are some kind of depraved creatures who can only be reined in if women find within themselves to set a moral example — to live our lives in such a way as to make the potential consequences of action salient to men — and I don’t think valuing caregiving need be at odds with sexual agency nor a recognition of the value of reproductive freedom). Further, I don’t think there is intrinsic value in unity or collaboration (there’s no value added to racism, for example, when instantiated in unity with others).

But I also think that abortion is an issue on which reasonable people disagree, and in the coming years we will need reasonable people to work together given the unreasonable have taken the helm. If pro-life groups are willing to set aside that the official platform of the march directly challenges their organizing mission for the sake of working together to protect those values which we do share, then I’ll be happy to work with them. As Richard Rorty said, “Solidarity is not discovered by reflection but created.” For those of us whose conscience permits it, it’s time to be creating.

Michigan: Workshop for students considering grad school

COMPASS Workshop Call for Applications

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Michigan is thrilled to announce “COMPASS at Michigan: a workshop for students considering graduate school in Philosophy.” This workshop will bring together students from a diversity of backgrounds for a weekend of philosophical discussion, networking and mentoring. Advanced undergraduates and M.A. students (first and second year) are eligible to apply.

Applicants should meet one or more of the following criteria:

– Be part of a group/demographic underrepresented in academic Philosophy

– Have demonstrated a sustained commitment to diversity in Philosophy

The Workshop will take place on September 29 and 30, 2017. Workshop participants are expected to have read in advance 4-6 papers from a range of subfields (depending in part on the interests of accepted participants). In addition to sessions discussing the papers, there will be two sessions devoted to mentoring and advice from faculty members and graduate students on graduate school applications and graduate student life.

All transportation, accommodation (Sept. 28 through Oct. 1, 2017), and food costs will be covered for the students selected. The deadline for applications is April 15, 2017, and the students selected to participate will be notified by the end of May, 2017.

To apply, please send the following documents to compassatmichigan@umich.edu

Academic statement: What is your level of studies? What areas of Philosophy interest you the most and why? What are your future plans in studying Philosophy? If you are writing a senior or MA thesis please include a brief description of it. (maximum length: 2 page double spaced)

Personal statement: Describe your experience in Philosophy as member of an underrepresented group and/or describe your sustained commitment to diversity in Philosophy. (maximum length: 2 page double spaced)

We look forward to receiving your applications.

Sexism as a political force

Sady Doyle has written a fantastic article, arguing that:

Political commentators parse elections in terms of the gender of candidates or voters, divide issues into “economic” and “social,” divide causes or actors into “right” and “left,” rather than considering that repressing women’s participation in public life may be its own coherent political ideology, shared by men and some (admittedly self-destructive) women across the political spectrum.

The article discusses sexism as the unifying commitment behind the arguably strange alliance of Assange, Putin and Trump.  And it gives a great example of far-reaching consequences of testimonial injustice:

Of course, there was the minor detail that Assange had been arrested for the rape of two Swedish women…Which leads one to the unpleasant hypothesis that if more people had actually listened to women at the time, Assange might never have built up the credibility necessary to sway the election in the first place. And if these women had been taken seriously, the unlikely alliance of Assange, Putin, and Trump might not seem that surprising after all.