Does philosophy have a woman problem? (Snort!)

Collecting some news from comments and adding in a bit of our own, we draw your attention to:

1.  The Bad:  The four volumes of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics have no female authors.  At all.”But,” we hear frequentlly, “there aren’t any women doing metaphysics.  The lie is given to this by:

2.  The Good: A conference at Leeds on Ontology with excellent women metaphysicians from Cornell, Yale, Leeds and Toronto.  Cheers for the organizers, one of whom has been a frequent commentator here.

3.  The getting better.  First, the bad news.  The Society for Philosophy and Psychology is having its annual conference this week in Philadelphia.  There are no women philosophers among its invited speakers.  On the main program there are two women giving ‘contributed’ papers and one female commentator.**  The male philosophers on the main program total 29 (approximately).  There’s also a two-session workshop before the conferences in experimental philosophy, and there are no women philosopherss.

But then there’s good news.  When it was apprised of the problem of low representation of women, the Society’s executive committee determined to create a committee on diversity to try to understand philosophy’s exclusionary practices and to retify the problems they have caused, at least in the Society and in the field.

**There was a second woman asked to comment, we are told.  She declined the paper they offered, but said she’d consider a different one.  And that was the end of the correspondence. 

(Edited in response to Sally’s correction.)

Picturing America

Thanks to today’s Guardian, I learned about the US project, Picturing America.  Schools can apply for it and in return they receive 40 pictures of American arts/crafts for the school.  Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, it is spearheaded by John Updike. 

So the thought of Updike determining the national treasures sent off alarm bells.  I went and looked at the announcement and then the official site.  And then I tried to find some critical commentary other than the “great opportunity” boilerplate stuff.  There is none.  None?!?  The NY Times doesn’t even mention it.  Somewhere around 25,000 schools have the kit; NY City alone has about 1,700.  And no critical comment?  And I really searched, using both popular and university search engines.

It is not that it is really bad.  In fact, there’s enough there to mildly irritate the anti-PC people.  But the representation of women?  One women painter and one women photographer.  So suppose they allotted  2 places for women, 2 for blacks, 2 for native americans and 2 for Hispanics.  That would leave…. .  Well, I’m so sick of counting conference participants that I didn’t do the sums, but 2 out of 40 for over 50% of the human race.  OK, maybe so women have been typically as excluded from art as from philosophy, but still.  Not even a little Georgia O’Keefe? 

Too late?  Then why the 1963 Dibenkorn?

And then the pictures are taken to illustrate great American themes.  Forget “as American as motherhood and apple pie.”  Domesticity in any form isn’t one of them.  Nor religion in fact.  Of course, not wealth.  Well, have a look.

And let us know what you think.  I am particularly concerned that for many children it carries the messages I got as a child.  Which is that the production of American art is seriously disconnected from ordinary folk.  You know, the non-elitists, and particularly the mothers and sisters and daughters.


Here’s the announcement and here’s The website.

 And finally I broke down and did count.  Out of the list of 40 named artists, it is really true that only 2 are women.  Looks like a philosophy conference!


Maybe there are some nuggets of wisdom

in this article arguing that women just don’t want to do engineering and so-called “hard science”. But somehow I doubt it when the evidence draws on the “fact” that philosophy has tons of women in it, and when the list of the 5 countries offering women the most financial security and the most family-friendly policies includes the US (nothing says “family friendly” and “financially secure” like a lack of guaranteed health coverage, maternity leave, and childcare). Wow, that’s some nifty science for ya. And some spectacular journalistic fact-checking. (Thanks, Heg!)

“Homosexual-led persecution of church”

A joke, right? We all know the attitude of many Christian churches is too close to persecution of homosexuals; see here and here, for example.  How could such malign actions possibly be going in the other direction? 

And plenty of religious groups opposed even secular “gay acceptance” activities, thus trying to prevent efforts to diminish the cruel and sometimes lethal persecution gays do suffer.

But, no, some people apparently actually maintain that homosexuals are persecuting churches. And the nature of the persecution is quite ironic. Most persecution is at least ostensibly to get rid of something. But homosexuals are persecuting churches in order to join them and to get them to stop their discriminatory behavior.  As NPR, quoted by the blog linked to immediately above, put it:

In recent years, some states have passed laws giving residents the right to same-sex unions in various forms. Gay couples may marry in Massachusetts and California. There are civil unions and domestic partnerships in Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Oregon. Other states give more limited rights.

Armed with those legal protections, same-sex couples are beginning to challenge policies of religious organizations that exclude them, claiming that a religious group’s view that homosexual marriage is a sin cannot be used to violate their right to equal treatment. Now parochial schools, “parachurch” organizations such as Catholic Charities and businesses that refuse to serve gay couples are being sued — and so far, the religious groups are losing.

When suing for your civil rights is presented as persecuting, watch out! You may well be in the Orwellian land of the far right.

Update: the VA and health care for women vets

Thanks to Ms for this update on women vets’ health care,which we discussed here:

Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake said on Friday that the agency is working to improve the health care offered to women vets. The announcement follows an internal VA study that found that female veterans have more difficulty obtaining quality outpatient healthcare than their male counterparts.

“We are making a full-court press to ensure that women veterans receive the highest quality of care,” Peake said, according to the Associated Press.

There has been a consistent air of understatement in the announcements about women and health care. Have a look at travelvet’s comments in our previous post and see if that looks like a story about her having “more difficulty.” “Incapable of getting care needed to save her life” is more like it.

Where do emotions come from?

Theories of the mind can be regulatory and incorporate normative models that are used to evaluate and control.  So while theories of mind are not necessarily directly a topic of feminist inquiry, they certainly are indirectly.

The following, I have to say, is a pretty unexpected theory of emotion, at least from my point of view.  The idea is that emotions have to do with the control of sensory input.  Fear makes one much more capable of picking up cues in the environment, while disgust dampens down sensory input.

Add to this the fact that emotions are very easily shared – the sight of a frightened person can arouse fear in the viewer – and one has the interesting hypothesis that groups sharing an emotional reaction are also sharing changes in sensory experience.

Abstract from:  Nature Neuroscience
Published online: 15 June 2008 | 

Expressing fear enhances sensory acquisition

Joshua M Susskind, Daniel H Lee, Andrée Cusi, Roman Feiman, Wojtek Grabski & Adam K Anderson


It has been proposed that facial expression production originates in sensory regulation. Here we demonstrate that facial expressions of fear are configured to enhance sensory acquisition … when subjects posed expressions of fear, they had a subjectively larger visual field, faster eye movements during target localization and an increase in nasal volume and air velocity during inspiration. The opposite pattern was found for disgust. Fear may therefore work to enhance perception, whereas disgust dampens it. These convergent results provide support for the Darwinian hypothesis that facial expressions are not arbitrary configurations for social communication, but rather, expressions may have originated in altering the sensory interface with the physical world.

The authors are in the dept of psychology at the University of Toronto. The publication that has accepted the paper is about as good as one can get.

Reporting misconduct

Feminists say that sexual harassment in academia is underreported, but do we know it is?

I do not know if rigorous research on this issue has been done, but Nature reports today on scientific research integrity and some of the lessons revealed suggest something we feminists have long know:  whistle-blowers can have a very tough time.  Scientific misconduct and sexual harrassment are very different, but the report suggests academic cultures do not encourage the reporting of bad news and they can fail miserably in self-regulation. 

First of all, the conclusion:

Nearly one generation after the effort to reduce misconduct in science began, the responses by NIH scientists suggests [sic] that falsified and fabricated research records, publications, dissertations and grant applications are much more prevalent than has been suspected to date. Our study calls into question the effectiveness of self-regulation. We hope it will lead individuals and institutions to evaluate their commitment to research integrity.

And one of the researchers’ recommendation described against a background of concealment:

Protect whistleblowers

Careful attention must be paid to the creation and dissemination of measures to protect whistleblowers. Responders to our survey said that reporting would be most likely to improve if institutions and the federal government increased the whistleblower protection. Indeed, more than two-thirds of whistleblowers, in a Research Triangle Institute study, experienced at least one negative outcome as a direct result of their actions. Plus, 43% reported that institutions encouraged them to drop the allegation.

The article is fully available online.