Critique and Rebellion?

Or just conspicuous consumption? Maybe both. Whatever it is, trashing bridal dresses for muddy, wet post-wedding photo-shoots is apparently all the rage. The letters in response to the article take a variety of views: (1) Why make such a big deal about brides letting off steam after a wedding? (2) It’s stupid, shallow, and excessive to spend lots of money on a wedding dress, whether you trash it or not (3) Quit with the reverse snobbery already and stop judging people who shell out for their weddings! (4) It’s terrible for women to attach such importance to their wedding days as if they have no worth on other days (5) It’s fun to do these photos! (6) The dresses aren’t really trashed– a bit of dry cleaning would fix them (7) Stop treating trends among a few wealthy elites as if they were an important social phenomenon! (8) There are some really lovely photos, and it’s great that people are actually starting to do some interesting wedding photography.

I find myself thinking each of these views holds appeal.  Despite my indecision about the phenomenon, I feel the need to note this development, if only because the web site devoted to it shows such good taste in choice of WordPress theme. Those who’d like to do something useful with used wedding dresses might like to consider donating them to this charity. (On an irrelevant note, my first taste of this phenomenon was in the movie The Wedding Director, a scene in which a famous film-maker intervenes to make a wedding video far more dramatic and interesting.)

Apology to gay and lesbian armed forces

From the UK Ministry of Defence, more here. US readers will be shocked to hear that the UK military has not fallen apart since allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly, in 2000. This suggests that perhaps the gay bomb the US considered developing in the 90s might not have been as effective as its proponents hoped. The brilliant idea behind that one was that a bomb which would turn people gay could destroy an enemy’s forces.  (Gayness and tampons: the weapons of the future?)

No more vs. Ms?

Interesting article here on the need to ditch ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’. But problems with getting ‘Ms’ to be properly understood: Eve Kay reports that when entering her info for a CRB check, she discovered they assumed that ‘Ms’ meant ‘divorced woman’. Perhaps more widespread usage would help with avoiding such confusions… But:

Kay anecdotally notes that that she found women under 30 to be  unfamiliar with the title ‘Ms’. We need more high profile ‘Ms’s’, clearly! Here‘s one.

For discussion of the ‘Ms, miss, mrs’ issues, see Saul (2003), Levin (he’s pro miss/mrs 1981), Soble (1981) and Purdy (1981).

UK Doctors Call for Abortion Reform

UK doctors have voted that women should no longer be required to obtain the consent of two doctors in order to have an abortion. Currently, two doctors must agree that continuing the pregnancy poses a greater threat to the woman’s physical or mental health than terminating it. This has been a serious barrier for many women, slowing the process and making it more difficult to obtain abortions in some places. So the proposed change (the law still needs to be altered) is good. Unfortunately, more than this is actually needed to speed things up. As things are now, it is common for women to be approved but still have to wait weeks simply due to NHS waiting lists. Doctors considered increasing the availability of abortions by allowing them to be carried out at GP surgeries and by midwives and nurses, but rejected these ideas. Too bad. More here.

Gender Savings Gap

Fawcett have recently reported on the gender savings gap – the inequality in the value of the savings of men and women, women’s savings being worth 33% less – being even greater than the pay gap (17%). Stats suggest that although men and women are as likely to save, women who do save have less money to put aside for savings – due to pay gap – and more financial commitments – caring, putting more spare income into the family rather than towards personal consumption. They also suggest that women are more likely to rely on male partners for saving for the future.

Another factor that leaves women economically and socially vulnerable – esp mothers and divorced women, the report claims. PDF downloadable from here, as well as summaryof key findings.

The Beach Harem

Report here on the women’s only beach – the first of its kind – in Italy. What grabbed my attention was the following comment:

“Here I can allow myself to be less than perfect,” said Cinzia Donati, 43, of Milan.

I have found that, when discussing norms of appearance, students often claim that women adhere to norms of appearance to meet expectations of other women, as much as those of men (as well as in accordance with their own expectations). A similar thought prompted this post, on ‘labiaplasty to impress the girls’. At least some anecdotal evidence, then, against such claims; this woman feeling able to relax, in the absence of men (or the ‘male gaze’) but presence of women, from the stringent standards of appearance (see Bartky 1991 for more on norms of femininity). And that seems like a good thing…

However, for a more critical perspective on the ‘pink beach’, or at least, the way it has been presented , see here, over at Feministing (filed under June 25th). The article discussed there reports on some pretty awful claims: e.g. “The lifeguard must be a man. You clearly need a man to save women in the sea. It’s a question of muscles.”

Finally, an unfortunate ambiguity in meaning:

“Calling it a “beach harem”, Italian newspaper La Stampa said the woman-only beach reflected a growing demand for female rights in Italy.”

OED tells us, for ‘harem’

1. ‘part of a Muslim dwelling-house appropriated to the women, constructed so as to secure the utmost seclusion and privacy’, 2. ‘The occupants of a harem collectively; the female members of a Muslim family; esp. the wives and concubines collectively’…

Just what feminism needs? A beach harem?

10 year old rape victim “provocatively dressed”

More on the “asking for it” front…. JP, in comments, called my attention to this appalling story. Two men, aged 24 and 34, raped a ten year old girl (one in a park, the other later in his home). One was given a 9 month sentence and the other will be free in four months (though his sentence is longer than that). The judge’s reasons for leniency? She “dressed provocatively” and looked older than her age. Bizarrely, “Judge Hall said in sentencing he faced a moral dilemma as the fact they had sex within 45 minutes of meeting was an absolute crime.”  Raping a 10 year old?  No problem. Having sex soon after meeting someone?  Now that’s a crime.  Perhaps the BBC took his quote out of context.

Feminist Philosopher Betsy Postow

Many of you will remember Betsy Postow, from the SWIP conference in Stirling, in April of this year.  I was utterly shocked and saddened to learn, this morning, that she has died.  The following is an obituary, which I received on the SWIP listserv:

Betsy Carol Postow (1945-2007)
Betsy Postow suffered unexpected complications from a blood clot and died on the morning of Friday, June 22. Those who knew her even slightly will remember her as one of the most brilliant, yet also gentle and generous, and one of the most delightfully excitable, individuals they will ever know. Perhaps fostered by her devoted practice of Buddhist meditation (not to mention obsessively healthy diet, circle dancing and performance with the recorder), her youthful charm and angelic complexion will also be remembered, along with a somewhat childlike innocence: in the words of a former colleague, “when she encountered dishonesty, she was surprised. Evil astonished her.”
Betsy lived her first years in the Bronx, New York City: across the street, as it happened, from the paternal grandparents of her eventual colleague Sheldon Cohen. She graduated–summa cum laude–from Harpur College of the State University of New York, Binghamton, in 1966, and received her Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1970 from Yale. After a year of teaching in the University of Wisconsin system, she spent the rest of her career at the University of Tennessee, where, outside of her extremely conscientious devotion to the Philosophy department, her impact was by no means limited, but was strikingly characterized by early and consistent dedication, to the advancement of women in academics and society at large. Her first public presentation was a talk on “Philosophy and Women” in 1973; one of her last was as a discussion leader on “Feminist Ethics” for the Association of Women Faculty. In between, she published an influential anthology of articles on women in sports; a major book on reason and action; sixty academic papers and reviews, several of which have been reprinted (and one translated into Russian); and she gave 80 professional presentations in addition to numerous appearances on campus and before local organizations, besides service to the Faculty Senate, numerous committees, and the local chapter of the AAUP.
During the late 1970s and 80s, Betsy’s scholarly presentations and publications in ethics and social philosophy (including nine papers in “Analysis”, “Ethics”, “Philosophy and Phenomenological Research”, and “Philosophical Studies”) combined with participation in workshops and seminars on teaching philosophy, on which she published five pieces. Her very influential anthology on “Women, Philosophy, and Sport” (Rowman and Littlefield) appeared in 1983: a volume to which she contributed four substantial introductory essays and an Afterword, and for which the participating authors will recall her tireless efforts toward improvement of their own contributions. Beginning in the mid-80s there came a growing focus on rationality and reasons for action, continuing through the 90s alongside ongoing publication and presentations on classical issues in ethics, and culminating in 1999 in “Reasons for Action: Toward a Normative Theory and Meta-Level Criteria” (Kluwer). With the new century came the perception of duty’s call to help meet the department’s growing demand for higher-level courses in Business Ethics. This was something entirely new to Betsy, but she characteristically volunteered to learn the issues and did well enough to present several papers dealing with them. Characteristically as well, she was able to see the theoretical import of problems in the area for her developing work on ethical pluralism.
Betsy was particularly active throughout her career in the Society for Women in Philosophy, beginning with service on the SWIP Steering Committee for local meetings in 1976 and 1979 and on the Executive Committee as representative of the Southern region 1976-1977. She was also president of the Tennessee Philosophical Association in 1977, member of committees and of the Council of the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology 1991-1996, and of committees of the American Philosophical Association 1994-1995. Needless to say, she was also a frequent contributor to programs of the APA.
Betsy was of course still working at the very highest level to the end. Of her most recently published article, “Toward Honest Ethical Pluralism” (“Philosophical Studies” 132 [2007]) one of its referees had predicted that the journal would be particularly proud to have published it, as it was a first-rate contribution and likely to be widely anthologized. In Fall 2006, she was a Visiting Scholar at the Ethics Institute of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, where she gave three scholarly presentations on rational decision-making (and from which she returned with a particular love for Dutch licorice in its various forms). She returned to Europe in April of this year to deliver a talk on “Care Ethics and Impartial Reasons,” in Stirling, Scotland, before the Society for Women in Philosophy.
Betsy believed in the power of human reason unlike few others, and she was in her own person as fair-minded and reasonable a friend and colleague as one could possibly imagine. In the words of a colleague, “Although for years she turned away practical ethical questions with the caveat that she did not do ‘applied ethics,’ she nonetheless tried in every way to make her daily living conform to what she rationally saw as the good way to live.” To her colleagues in Philosophy both at UT and afar, and to her students, she will also be long remembered for the generous time that she was ever willing to contribute to individual collaboration, instruction, and commentary. Her loss has been a shock and a sorrow from which it will be difficult to recover.
A Memorial Fund has been established in Betsy’s name through the UT Development Office, to be used by the Philosophy Department to fund scholarships and fellowships for students, with special focus on the recruitment and retention of women students: Betsy Postow Memorial Fund, University of Tennessee Office of Development, 600 Andy Holt Tower, Knoxville, TN 37996-0165.
Richard E. Aquila, The University of Tennessee