Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Could feminists believe women are inferior? August 26, 2007

In looking at recent comments on posts put up some time ago, I came across the following remark, (which is in the fifth comment):

It seems to me to be an admirable goal to try and get more men interested in and working in feminist philosophy. In some ways, it’s more important that men be feminists than it is that women be. (For the same reasons that the people you’d *really* like to convince that blacks aren’t inferior to whites are white supremicists, not black people who most likely believe that anyway.)

Do blacks reject the idea that they are inferior to whites?  Could a real feminist believe women can’t do as well as men in, say, science?

I was reminded immediately of reading Malcolm Gladwell’s comment that he came out as biased against his own race on the implicit attitude test on race (Blink, pp. 81ff).  There are versions for a number of different subjects, including race, women in science and hetereo-homosexuality. 

What becomes clear is that many, many of us have picked up biased attitudes  in our society and consequently have automatic associations that favor one group over another.   It is controversial just what the associations result in, but, as Gladwell says in Blink, the differences hit you on the head as you take the test.

I tried it on race (European vs. African American) and women in science. On both these, I have pretty strong conscious beliefs about equality, and so I was very pleased when I took my first one to find out that the submerged associations I have were in line with my beliefs. I suspected, though, that it might be just that I was very good at taking tests. So I’m glad I took the second one. It hurt my head! And I came out biased against what I believe.

Please consider taking some of the tests, if you haven’t already.  They are short.  When you’ve had a chance to do so, I’ll confess in the comments to what I found out.

 

More on Prosperity, Sex Selection and Language

Jender relayed the dismal news that sex selective abortions have risen with the rise in prosperity in India.  According to a report in MS, there may also be a mitigating trend.

Cable television may promote gender equality and reduce domestic violence in rural India, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper. Women who were exposed to cable television over a 6- to 7-month period in India were less likely to report a preference for sons or complacency with domestic violence, and more likely to report autonomy in household decision-making, according to the working paper. In addition, more girls enrolled in school and fertility rates dropped.

The NBER working paper, based on surveys conducted in 2,700 households in the years 2001, 2002, and 2003, indicates that television alters behavior by exposing individuals to a new set of worldviews and lifestyles.

The researchers register the worry that part of what they are seeing is just a change in what the respondents think they are supposed to say, but they think that’s still progress. This observation may remind one of Jender’s comments about the language used to report the original finding. Is changing the language – or what counts as the right thing to say – progress?

My vote is “yes.” To make years or centuries of denigrating language publicly impermissible is a way of problematizing issues. My reasons for saying that are based on experiences with political-geographical areas where racist and sexist language and comments have not been disallowed, and the underlying attitudes remain relatively unexamined.

Changing what one will say to an interviewer may then be a start in the reexamination of views.  It is a small change, but, according to the NBER working paper, one accompanied in this case by positive changes in both girls’ schooling and fertility rates.

What do you think?

 

 
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