What we’re up against

The CFP: An International Conference on Human Rights and Biomedicine.
The invited speakers: 10 men and 1 woman.
So, Robin Fiore wrote in expressing her disappointment at the sex/gender imbalance, and calling attention to the fact that women might have particularly important insights on topics in biomedicine (especially since, though she didn’t call attention to it, one of the suggested topics was “the protection of foetuses”.)

The reply:

Dear Robin (if I may),
Thank you for the interesting opinion. The conference organizers have extensively discussed the conference themes and speakers in advance. We agreed to select academics with an outstanding scientific reputation in their field of expertise. Secondly, for dialectic reasons we invited speakers with rather controversial ideas. Although the organizers recognize the scientific relevance of e.g., organ donation and clinical trials from a feminist perspective, our aim is – with all respect – to discuss the themes from a broader perspective. To comfort you, I can say that we have also had some suggestions to include shamanism and health care rights as a conference theme, but I
fear that the response would not be that overwhelming as it is now. Secondly, two other invited speakers were women but to capable/willing to write a contribution for the conference book, a precondition for invited speakers. Nonetheless, I feel confident that our colleague and friend Deirdre Madden will intrigue the audience, which exists for 61 percent of women! Finally, the organizers are open for your suggestions to organize a parallel session on femenist ethics.

Now, obviously part of the problem is linguistic. But linguistic error does not explain the apparent equation of feminism and shamanism. Or the thought that feminism is not a sufficiently broad perspective to be represented when discussing such things as “protection of foetuses”. If you’d like to share your thoughts on the CFP and the way that the Fiore’s email was handled, write to m.ghari@erasmusmc.nl and let him know. Fiore tells me, by the way that in the past conferences like this have been responsive to complaints of this sort. And she advises that it’s important not to provide cover for their lack of high-profile women speakers by organising a panel presentation with women and/or feminists. (And definitely not shamanists.)

The organisers are being invited to respond to this post in comments.

Update: As you can see in the comments, the organisers have now responded very positively. Hurrah! Well done everyone.