Undecided? You might be wrong about that.

 From the AAAS’s Science,** (ht to the NY Times):  People who declare themselves undecided may have non-conscious biases that are inclining them to a particular decision:

When deciding between choices, people usually feel as if they’re completely in control. They evaluate the criteria and weigh the available information before committing. And when that information doesn’t seem to tip the balance, they report that they are undecided. But psychologists know that decision-making is strongly affected by the unconscious mind. Might the unconscious mind of an undecided person already know what it will choose?

The answer is “Yes.”  By using an implicit associations test, the researchers were able to predict the undecideds decisions with 70% accuracy. 

So is this news to any feminist who has watched supposedly neutral people decide admissions, prizes or jobs?  Probably not.  But there are at least two points here worth noting:  Now when a colleague talks about neurtrality, we can whip out Science!  And it’s strong and recent evidence that the implicit association tests are connected to actual decisions. 

For standard implicit association tests, try here.

(Note:  for accuracy’s sake, I should note that the Times reports the study as principally concerned with the difference between people who could decide on examining the evidence and those whom the evidence left undecided.  I read the report just as I was thinking of how I could convince a group of people to take seriously the idea that they might really be bigots (of the nicest, least conscious sort, of course).  Hence, my take concerns evidence of bias of which one is not aware.)

**This is a press release; an editorial and the actual study require subscription or library access.

Grab your whistle and don the striped shirt

Feminist philosophers are not usually hurting for work.  Especially at the early career stages, we’re infamous for prioritizing teaching and service above scholarship, we’re often drafted as token women or feminist-friendly men on committees and panels, and as so many can attest, learning the ropes of the profession from the edges can keep us busy as well. (Hey, reinventing the wheel takes time!)

Yet I find that I resemble the remarks in recent online discussion about philosophers who don’t contribute to the labor of anonymous refereeing for journals, even as I have become a more active writer. I’m struck by the suggestion that perhaps we should referee twice as many articles as we submit.  How annoyingly sensible.  And as it turns out, philosopher-editors appreciate it when I volunteer.  So, my feminist friends, although you’re disproportionately likely to have service coming out of your ears, consider improving our discipline for all our sakes: Most importantly, submit feminist philosophy to journals!, and depending on what journals are in your area, volunteer to referee!

A message from your friendly neighborhood service-hog.

Surgical Tools and Hand Size

It seems many surgical tools are still being made with male hands (generally larger than female ones) in mind. A new study argues that tools for smaller hands are needed (which would of course also help males with smaller hands). Strikes me as a nice example of the way that non-obvious barriers to women’s advancement may remain in place even once obvious ones have been removed. Also makes me really appreciate the additional barriers that a surgeon friend of mine undoubtedly had to face even once she got past the people (surgeons, in the UK) telling her that she shouldn’t be a surgeon because she’s a woman, and even after she’d convinced them (a lengthy battle) to allow her to work part-time in order to get some time with her daughter. (Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

The Two-Body Problem

Stanford,CA. August 20, 2008 – Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research presents its latest research,

Dual-Career Academic Couples: What Universities Need to Know,

available for download at http://www.stanford.edu/group/gender/ResearchPrograms/DualCareer/index.html .


Dual-career issues are increasingly important in higher education today.  Over 70 percent of faculty are in dual-career relationships; more than a third are partnered with another academic.  This trend is particularly strong among women scientists and people in more junior positions.  As the number of women receiving Ph.D.s continues to rise, U.S. universities will see an increasing number of high quality candidates for faculty positions partnered with another academic.  This presents universities with a challenge, but also a great opportunity to access new candidates and diversify their faculty.


Based on a major survey of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty at thirteen leading US universities, plus interviews with administrators at eighteen universities, Dual-Career Academic Couples explores the impact of dual-career partnering on hiring, retention, professional attitudes, and work culture in the U.S. university sector.  It also makes recommendations for improving the way universities work with dual-career candidates and strengthen overall communication with their faculty on hiring and retention issues.  It is vital reading for anyone interested in the continuing strength and competitiveness of US universities.


Lead author Londa Schiebinger, Director of the Clayman Institute and Professor of the History of Science, welcomes questions and comments on the research at gender-email@stanford.edu

Maureen Dowd: fiction writer?

Do you get this?  An supposed opinion piece in the NY Time by MD  is really a short bit of fiction that contains a comspiratorial meeting between H. Clinton and McCain.  They toss back vodka and congratulate themselves on have done down Obama.  Georgia was part of the plot, it turns out, since Bill convinced Putin to go for it. 

At the end, Jesse Jackson shows up to get reassurance that it’s over.

Now, for sheer Hillary hatred MD gets top marks  with, for example,

It would have been better to put this language in the platform: “A woman who wildly mismanages and bankrupts a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar campaign operation, and then blames sexism in society, will dampen the dreams of our daughters.”

So now she’s run out of opinons in which she can invest her ire, so she’s trying fiction?

(If you want to see our discussions of MD and HRC, you could try the search engine or just start here.  It is not a pretty picture.)

My bet on what is going on?  I think it’s the same ‘blame the woman” trope that we saw visited on Elizabeth Edwards.

Iowa’s “Open-air prison” for women and children

According to Democracy Now, an immigration raid ended up with 400 people arrested at a meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa.  What happened to the families of those carted off?

And for those left behind–namely the wives and children of the men taken away–the town has been turned into what some have described as an open-air prison. Dozens of immigrant women remain in Postville without status or a means of support. Many of them are even forbidden from leaving and have been made to wear electronic monitoring bracelets.

According to the broadcast, the government helpfully supplied packets for those picked up, with scripts for them to use when entering their pleas and so on.  There was a problem, though.  The scripts presumed they were guilty of a series of crimes, including fraudulent use of government documents, identity theft and so on.

Why not just suppose them guilty, now that Habeas Corpus and all that no longer applies to non-citizens in the US, does it?

The Feminist Religion

An attorney named Roy Den Hollander has caused a stir recently by filing a suit against Columbia University, alleging that by offering courses in women’s studies, the university discriminates against men (NYT report here). Den Hollander describes himself as an anti-feminist, and has tastefully declared himself to be on a “jihad” against feminists. You can read more about his colourful background and campaign here and here.

There’s not much point in wasting time on the substance of his suit, but I was rather taken with his accusation that Columbia uses government money to promote a “religionist belief system called feminism.” I suppose it’s probably just hyperbole; he can’t possibly think that feminism actually is a religion. But it did make me think of the advantages that might accrue if it were established as such. In the UK, we could look forward to charitable status for all feminist organisations; a regular slot on Thought for the Day; and, most excitingly, the chance to run feminist faith schools. Maybe, one day, we could even cement our status as a mature religion with internecine wrangling and eventual schism over the ordination of male clergy. Any suggestions for an appropriate deity?

Let’s Blame Elizabeth Edwards

Because she let John run for President. Really. (And while we’re at it, let’s throw in quite a disturbing violent fantasy about John, just because that’s always fun.)

I think Sally Quinn has identified a rich new vein to mine for woman-blaming. (Just blaming them for their husbands’ affairs is so cliched.) Iraq war? Laura Bush should never have let it happen. That guy Dick Cheney shot in the face? Why did Lynne ever let him leave the house with a gun? But let’s not stop with recent history. Surely Neville Chamberlain’s wife is one of the great unsung bumblers of history. Reader contributions much appreciated.