CFP: SWIP UK Conference

You’ll notice that this conference is listed as “women-only”, and that may puzzle you because as we’ve reported SWIP UK conferences are now open to both women and men (both to attend and to give papers). Given the policy, the only explanation would seem to be that some sort of exception was made for this conference. It may be worth noting that most of us (possibly all) here at FP strongly oppose such restrictions. (SWIP conference themes, by the way are decided by the individual conference organisers.) Anyway, here’s the CFP:

13th February 2009—SWIP UK/International Association of Women in Philosophy (IAPh) Joint Conference
Venue: To be announced

Feminist Philosophy Made Simple

Feminism claims women are oppressed, and aims to free them. Like any liberation movement, feminism is dogged by propaganda. But anti-feminist propaganda has been astonishingly effective. Despite endemic and persistent serious harms to women including abuse of girl-children, rape, domestic violence, economic, legal and political disadvantage, and despite centuries of work by feminists, most men and women today will say “I’m not a feminist” or “feminism goes too far”.

The aim of this conference is to affirm the unity and simplicity of feminism in the face of the propaganda. The unity is captured well in Simone de Beauvoir’s phrase “absolute feminism”, which points to necessity as well as unity. The liberation of women is necessary, not something a just society can do without. At the conference we will explore how the apparent complexity and diversity of feminism may be no more than a superficial effect of oppression. Feminists face sceptical, even hostile, standards of evidence and argument. They are expected not only prove there are problems, and suggest solutions. They are also expected to prove feminist solutions are possible, will work—and are not just covert attacks on men. In epistemic conditions like this, it is no wonder feminists modify their claims, distance themselves from each other, and make distinctions so fine they tend to paranoia.

Pace the propaganda, feminism is simple. It needs just a couple of concepts to hold it together. At its core, it needs the idea that there are women, who are being harmed and need help. But it seems the propaganda has found a way to undermine even this most fundamental feminist idea. The concept “gender” used to be a feminist tool for exposing the wrongs of sex roles. But it can also become a patriarchal Trojan horse, smuggling into the heart of feminism tools for the dismantling of the core concept, “woman”. Proposals are invited for philosophical ways to re-affirm women, without affirming oppressive sex roles.

Please send abstracts of up to 400 words by 9th January 2008 by email to Soran Reader with the title “SWIP UK Spring 2009” in the header line. Please note this is a women-only event.

Venue to be announced. For further information and updates see SWIP UK website & the IAPh website.

6 thoughts on “CFP: SWIP UK Conference

  1. Indeed, the women-only restriction is odd; given that, from what I have been told by a few feminist philosophers that young males are the some of the most needed and most valuable assets to feminists and the future of feminism.

    On a related note, I was once told by a well-known feminist philosopher (I’m sure that nearly all here know her or know of her) that, upon denying my request to attend a meeting about women in philosophy and increasing their numbers, the meeting in question was, she laughed, “off-limits to males” and “perhaps [I] could show up only if [I] show up wearing a wig and a dress.”

    I kid you not.

  2. It seems especially bizarre that a conference about affirming unity is excluding many feminists! But as you say the FP mostly (or all) oppose those restrictions. Also, a minor and pedantic point but you’ve put that abstracts have to be in by the 9th Jan 2008 rather than 2009, which i presume you didn’t intend =)

  3. This seems to me to be an argument for not having a joint conference of two organizations with seemingly different membership restrictions.

  4. Interesting thought Asta, which hadn’t occurred to me. It might make sense as a compromise between SWIP, which allows men at conferences and another organisation which doesn’t. But checking the IAPH by-laws ( it turns out that they actually allow men to be members. I wondered if, despite this, maybe they didn’t allow men to attend, since the form for their last conference only gives ‘Ms’ and ‘Dr’ as title choices ( But since Jaakko Hintikka spoke they clearly don’t ban men from attending:

  5. The semi-slogan “feminism is simple” seems to me singularly unappealing. It seems to incorporate advertising standards that are quite inappropriate. But perhaps I misunderstand.

  6. My general reaction to such restrictions (as long as they don’t hit trans-issues) is, personally, “Ok, that’s cool, I hope it goes really well and that the papers appear online”.

    Kevin, I worry about the sense of entitlement that seems to go with such lines as “I have been told by a few feminist philosophers that young males are the some of the most needed and most valuable assets to feminists and the future of feminism”. I would hope that pro-feminist men, whether young or old, would recognize that 1) separatism has a place and, arguably of course, is an effective tool for a variety of purposes, 2) fighting oppression doesn’t and shouldn’t depend on the oppressed class making you feel included, and 3) working against separatism (e.g., by criticizing or crashing) is an area where members of the dominant class are least able to do any good.

    My general advice for men who see separatist events like this is to take it as a challenge to make other events (such as, oh, “regular” conferences) so much more inclusive and effective than they are now that everyone who wants to feel welcomed in feminism does.

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