Not Your Grandpa’s APA

There’s an article out in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the APA that singles out some feminist philosophers as showing the exciting new directions that philosophy is taking:

To be sure, the panel on “Philosophical Perspectives on Female Sexuality” was not your grandpa’s APA. Indiana University’s Elizabeth Lloyd, in her paper on “Analyzing Bias in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Orgasm,” crisply outlined how male assumptions ludicrously distort “Darwinian” explanations of this explosive adaptation.

And the University of South Florida’s Rebecca Kukla – a professor of obstetrics and gynecology as well as philosophy – offered a brilliant analytic comparison, in her “Depression, Infertility and Erectile Dysfunction: The Invisibility of Female Sexuality in Medicine,” of male-directed ads for Viagra and ads aimed at female sexual dysfunction, demonstrating the ongoing belief that female sexuality, unlike male, cannot be located in a specific body part

Of course, the article is elsewhere criticised as merely seeking out titillating tidbits. Unsurprisingly, I agree with Romano, the journalist, about the quality and interest of Lloyd’s and Kukla’s work. But I’ve also found that more and more philosophers who I meet and converse with– even those whose own work is squarely traditional in style and content– would agree with Romano that there’s something very exciting going on right now in the way that more and more philosophers are connecting traditional work up with issues of real-world political significance. (I think a great example of this comes from another philosopher who did a session at this APA– Miranda Fricker’s work connecting epistemology and injustice. Her book has a nice preface that touches on the idea of reconnecting philosophy to the world in this sort of way.)

Commenters are asked to scrupulously observe our rules on being nice, which can be found in more detail here.

Holiday Conversation

Philosophers often make the mistake of expecting people to at least seek coherence in their thoughts. We fall all too easily into assuming that humans want to think things through really carefully. Family events can be a useful reminder that this is not so. Jender-Mother-in-Law (JML) gave a useful demonstration at dinner the other day. JML has gay and lesbian friends, once suggested naming Jender-Son after either or both of a lovely gay couple she’d befriended*, and she supports gay marriage. She has also always voted Republican (except in 2008). We were discussing her friend J, who is lesbian, and JML remarked on how strange it was that J had never explicitly discussed her sexuality with JML. And, she said, “We’ve always known. Even when she was a kid we knew something was wrong!” Mr Jender and I suggested that perhaps J feared a negative response. JML insisted this was impossible– as J knew her attitudes! We gently reminded her of the phrase “something was wrong”, and its possible implications. JML remained baffled. We got less gentle, and more explicit. All to no avail, resulting only in a discussion of J’s aggressive basketball style (“like a man”). “Argh” we both said once alone. “Go blog about it”, Mr Jender suggested.

*We did consider it, but decided that Jender-Son might later resent the name ‘Kevin Fernando’.