So shall you reap.

This is widely covered in the blogsphere and newspapers, at least in the US, but it is  such a classic example, it might be useful to have a record here.  And it may also, for many of us, be a good case for thinking about moral emotions, particularly mixed ones.  The situation is both a sad case and a good cause for anger, all to be felt for or at the same person.

So enter US Senator Larry Craig, who has been a well-known Republican advocate of anti-gay measures.  And it appears he was caught soliciting sex from a man in a public restroom, in the Minneapolis airport.   His target, who was hanging out in a stall, was  a policeman and Craig was arrested. 

 Craig pleaded guilty.  That was a mistake, he says.  He  just wanted to make it go away, having in his life taken meaures to make sure it wouldn’t just go away for others.  One can hear right-wing talk show people argue that holding something is a sin and then sinning oneself does not constitute hypocrisy. That view misses the point. It is Craig’s use of power to shame and control others while indulging himself that is so objectionable.

You might well find it difficult to feel  sorry for Craig, but the police report, which requires Adobe Acrobat to read, is genuinely pathetic.

And his political career is likely finished

Googling around on the topic of hypocrisy, I found the following which is relevant only in so far as it features another US right-wing anti-gay public  figure, one this time found buying drugs from a gay hooker.  Look upon it and weep for rationality discourse.

richard dawkins and ted haggard:

Nature Neuroscience again


This is the premier science journal that brought  us “Alpha males win again.” Now we have an airbrushed model-perfect portrait on the cover.  “Why?” one might well ask.  Fortunately, there’s an “about the cover” link.  And there they say

People’s quality of life depends on the ability to experience emotions appropriately and to regulate them in response to stressful events. Consequently, it is important to understand how the brain regulates emotions and how this regulation becomes impaired by disorders of emotion. In this issue, we present a collection of reviews on the neurobiology of emotion and disorders of emotion.

So emotions and women go together? Gosh! I’m glad that’s clear. We want to be scientific and all.

Alternatively, you might ask some people. The first response I got from a frequent reader of Nature, “Men like to look at pictures of beautiful women.” That might also be a comment in the sociology of science.

Naked On The Internet

Sex in the Public Square reviews what sounds like a very interesting book. There have, of course, been loads of things written about sex and the internet. What’s interesting about this book is that it focuses on women’s experiences. It’s based on interviews with 80 women, including bloggers, internet daters, sex workers, and pornography consumers, among others. One interesting fact I got just from the review, which ties in well with some previous posts on tampon weapons: Adult oriented credit card billing services rejected porn sites featuring menstruation while accepting pretty much everything else.  There’s an interview with the author, Audacia Ray, at Feministing. There she talks about how important it was to her to capture the relationships between the internet, women’s sexuality, and women’s agency: “the ways that the Internet can be both freeing and restrictive, often for the same women at different times”.  Could be some good examples for folks working on autonomy.

CFP: Society For Analytical Feminism

Society for Analytical Feminism
Feminist Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition

SAF Session at the Central Division APA Meetings
Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois
April 16-20, 2008

The Society for Analytical Feminism invites submissions for a session at the 2008 Central Division APA meetings to be held in Chicago in April 16-20, 2008.

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. Reading time should be about 20 minutes. Authors should submit four copies of either (1) a paper, or (2) an extended abstract, as detailed as possible (up to 1000 words) accompanied by a bibliography. Please delete all self-identifying references from your submission to ensure anonymity. Submissions should POSTMARKED no later than November 1st, 2007 and be sent to:

Sharon Crasnow
925 Archer Street
San Diego, CA 92109

Or emailed as a Word attachment to:

All members of the Society are eligible to submit papers.

Graduate students or underfunded professionals whose papers are accepted will be eligible for the Society’s $250 Travel Stipend. Please indicate on a separate page (or in your covering letter) if you fall into one of these categories.

The Society for Analytical Feminism

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 as well. Information can be found on the SAF website:

Membership in the Society is open to all who are interested in and concerned with issues in Analytical Feminism. Annual dues are $15 for regularly employed members, $5 for students, unemployed, underemployed and retired members. To join, see the website.

O dear, Diana

The tenth anniversary of Diana’s death is upon us. The Nation has a discussion of the difference between, on the one hand, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana, and, on the other, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

The article encapsulates the differences between the earlier women and today’s in the following:

While Diana and Marilyn shared a number of qualities with today’s female celebs–notably a lack of sexual discretion and an appetite for public attention–Paris is, for better or worse, a new variety of feminine icon, defined not by victimhood and suffering but by self-sufficiency and self-gratification.

The conclusion of the article is that this difference explains why Paris and Britney are vilified, while Marilyn and Diana are not.

I’m reminded of a refrain from a song by Peggy Lee which was (I think), “Is that all there is?” 

Or:  what is going on here with pop iconography and its discontents?

Explaining non-facts

Note: this has been corrected in response to a good point by Anon Ymous.

A few days ago, reader Jeff mailed us a link to recent address by Roy (oh dear) Baumeister to the American Psychological Association, entitled “Is There Anything Good About Men?” , a long tedious paper filled with old standbys about how men have evolved to be the explorers and empire builders and women have evolved to be basically cuddly lumps who reproduce the species. We all looked at it and agreed that we didn’t have the time or energy to bother with it.  After all, it’s basically the same old rot we’d been hearing forever.  And who would care?  

Well, apparently lots of people.  John Tierney has written a column on it for the NY Times, and it’s now one of their most emailed stories.  So we’ve got to deal with it.   

Briefly: Baumeister’s argument is an argument to the best explanation. It gives us a “fact” and then tries to explain that “fact”, by invoking other “facts” and a lot of speculation. There are lots of ways such arguments can go wrong. Baumeister’s goes wrong at the start. The “fact” being explained is that, worldwide, most of the people at both the top and the bottom of the pile (in terms of wealth and power) are men. He “establishes” this by invoking stats on prisons and homelessness, to show that men dominate not just the top but also the bottom of the heap. Unfortunately, this neglects all the data on the feminization of poverty, which shows the claim to be simply false. 

No good will come of an argument to the best explanation attempting to explain something that isn’t even true. But just the same, what a remarkable load of rubbish along the way!

Two examples:

(1) We should expect inequalities of wealth, because men just work harder (Baumeister): 

Likewise, I mentioned the salary difference, but it may have less to do with ability than motivation. High salaries come from working super-long hours. Workaholics are mostly men. (There are some women, just not as many as men.) One study counted that over 80% of the people who work 50-hour weeks are men. That means that if we want to achieve our ideal of equal salaries for men and women, we may need to the principle of equal pay for less work.             

Yeah, that proves it alright. Women are just lazy. Let’s not consider all the work women do in the home, and all the discrimination they face on the job.  Anyone heard of glass ceilings?  Also, one might question the thought that employees who work longer hours are better– one reason for long hours might be inefficiency. Most importantly, perhaps, there’s no attempt to look at why women and men might work different hours– just an assumption that it’s “motivation”.

(2) Baumeister again:

Giving birth is a revealing example. What could be more feminine than giving birth? Throughout most of history and prehistory, giving birth was at the center of the women’s sphere, and men were totally excluded. Men were rarely or never present at childbirth, nor was the knowledge about birthing even shared with them. But not very long ago, men were finally allowed to get involved, and the men were able to figure out ways to make childbirth safer for both mother and baby. Think of it: the most quintessentially female activity, and yet the men were able to improve on it in ways the women had not discovered for thousands and thousands of years.            

Ah, yes, men were *excluded*– terrible discrimination they suffered there.   If only they’d had all the opportunities open to them that women did.  And look how brilliantly things improved when male doctors got involved:  as Digivordig has informed me, death rates in wards staffed by male doctors were much higher than in those staffed by female midwives, until the difference was noticed and doctors improved their hygeine practices. And there’s just a teeny bit of disagreement, still, over such male innovations as stirrups for deliveries, episiotomies, etc etc. (For one dissenting voice among many see here.) Even fans of medicalization (and I’m not really an opponent myself) just might want to consider the idea that the advancement of science was more important than sex differences.

The NY Times should be truly embarrassed to have one of its columnists endorsing such nakedly sexist ranting. Write and tell them so.  (Many thanks to Stoat, JJ and Digivordig for their help on this one.)

cfp: Hannah Arendt

From a message to swip-l:

The Departments of Philosophy and Comparative Literature at Emory University will be hosting the second independent conference for the Hannah Arendt Circle, March 28-30, 2008.

Papers on any aspect of Arendt’s work, as well as studies, critiques, and applications of her thinking, are welcome. 

Please send an abstract of the paper, by e-mail (750 word limit). Abstracts should be formatted for anonymous review and submitted to the program committee chair, Stephen Schulman, at on or before November 14th, 2007.

Please indicate “Arendt Circle submission” in the subject heading, and include the abstract as a “.doc” attachment to your message. Program decisions will be announced by mid-December.  

Program Committee:

Stephen Schulman, Elon University

Karin Fry, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point 

Adrian Switzer, Emory University

Our first independent meeting was outstanding, and we are looking forward to the same camaraderie and intense discussion of Arendt’s work at this year’s conference.  Like last year, the meeting will begin with an informal welcoming reception on Friday evening. There will be morning and afternoon paper sessions on Saturday, followed by a business meeting and dinner. The conference will conclude with paper sessions on Sunday morning. Each speaker will have approximately 35 minutes for paper presentation and discussion combined —papers should be a maximum of 3000 words (15-20 minutes).

Lodging has been reserved at the Holiday Inn Decatur: phone 404.371.0204.


Bad Evolutionary Psychology

I’ve sometimes been asked by people working in evolutionary psychology to explain why so many feminists hate the field.  It’s an understandable question, from a careful scientist doing serious work on (say) concepts, or the evolution of language, or vision. There’s a lot of completely legitimate good science done by evolutionary psychologists. But then there are the people out there giving the field a bad name:

(1) The folks making claims about innate sex-based colour preferences, based on studies of adults. 

(2) The folks making claims about innate sex-based food-finding abilities, based on a small study of shoppers at a farmer’s market.

It doesn’t take a degree in  women’s studies to make one think there might be some alternative, culture-based hypotheses to rule out in these cases.  At least make an effort– Geez, study babies for the colour preferences.  It won’t be perfect, since the girls will already have spend nearly every minute of their lives swathed in and surrounded by pink.  (I really never appreciated how strong and immediate all the colour-coding was until I became a parent and tried to not play the game.)  Maybe control for how much food-shopping individuals do for the second– perhaps with a cross-cultural study, as The F-Word suggests. Do SOMETHING!

There’s an excellent critique of the colour preference study at the Guardian’s aptly-named Bad Science column.  (Note, by the way, that the Guardian itself is what I linked to for breathless reporting of the study. Though I could have chosen from hundreds of options.) Bad Science points out, among other things, that pink was considered the boy colour until the 1940s.  A quote from Ladies Home Journal, 1918:

“There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” 

Come on, people, stop making your field look bad. And science journalists– what is wrong with you, giving a study like the colour preference one such huge press? The flaws are so obvious that one wonders how this could happen. Gives good support to claims by feminist philosophers of science that it is much harder than one might think to correct for pernicious biases.