The Sunday Cat Does Bengal

Warning:  You might want to turn the sound down before viewing the video!

At a cat rescue place I recently saw a cat with a large amount of bengal in him; he was labeled “tabby.”  I wondered whether the person adopting  him would be surprised.  Here’s why:

Clinton redefines job of secretary of state

Or so the NY Times suggests.  She is mixing the political with the personal in a way past foreign secretaries have apparently not done, at least in their public persona.  (Madeline Albright certainly did share personal details,  but perhaps not in her official role.)  Thus:

In Indonesia on Thursday, Mrs. Clinton appeared on a popular variety show, “Awesome,” on which she told the young host, somewhat sheepishly, that her favorite musicians were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. She politely declined to sing, saying it would empty the room.

None of this is especially new to Americans, who watched Mrs. Clinton show her personal side in countless town hall meetings during the presidential campaign. But it is novel to people outside the United States, who expect foreign ministers — even American ones — to stick to a diplomatic script.

As she neared the end of her maiden voyage as secretary of state with a two-day visit to Beijing, Mrs. Clinton said she was determined to make a connection to people “in a way that is not traditional, not confined by the ministerial greeting and the staged handshake photo.”

“I see our job right now, given where we are in the world and what we’ve inherited, as repairing relations, not only with governments but with people,” she said to reporters on Friday.

To do that, Mrs. Clinton is exploiting both her megawatt celebrity and her training during the presidential campaign. On Friday, nearly 3,000 female students packed an auditorium at Ewha Womans University in Seoul to hear Mrs. Clinton deliver a speech that ranged from North Korea’s nuclear threat to the challenge women face in balancing work and family.

clintonasiaAnother standing-room-only crowd at the University of Tokyo listened to Mrs. Clinton discuss how the United States should rebuild its ties to the Muslim world. Toward the end, a nervous young woman, who said she played on a baseball team, asked Mrs. Clinton how to become as strong as she was.

“Well, I played a lot of baseball, and I played with a lot of boys,” she replied, to peals of laughter.

Of course, for a professional woman it is not all that unusual to find one’s audience can’t separate one’s official role from one’s personal details, even when they don’t have much trouble doing that with a man.  So I would worry a bit about the personal questions.  However, I’m overall relieved that  HC is  seeing this as a opportunity to repair relations, and hope the result eventually will be that mention of personal details will not be seen as reducing one’s credibility.  When I was involved with university administrators and regents  I used sometimes  to try to defend someone’s mentioning something personal by saying, “Of course, men seem to think that someone with no personal experience of a particular problem is the best person to solve it, while women tend to think that view is highly implausible.”  Perhaps not fair, but still … .

There is a possible problem with Clinton’s actions on this trip.  She is explicitly addressing issues such as climate change and  putting human rights concerns in the background.  Amnesty International is understandably upset, but I’m inclined to think her record on advocating for human rights won’t make this seem like a policy shift.  Not all problems can be addressed, and one hopes she and the Obama administration are clearly heavily concerned with human rights policies.

What do you think?

Video Games: the good and the bad.

We covered at least a good example of the ugly recently.  For the good and the bad, I’m  going to draw on the Scientific American site.  First, the  good:

research has shown that video games can improve mental dexterity, while boosting hand-eye coordination, depth perception and pattern recognition. Gamers also have better attention spans and information-processing skills than the average Joe has. When nongamers agree to spend a week playing video games (in the name of science, of course), their ­visual-perception skills improve.

Then the bad:

[There’s is] the popular theory that they are responsible for increasing real-world violence. A number of studies have reinforced this link. Young men who play a lot of violent video games have brains that are less responsive to graphic images, suggesting that these gamers have become desensitized to such depictions. Another study revealed that gamers had patterns of brain activity consistent with aggression while playing first-­person shooter games.

This does not necessarily mean these players will actually be violent in real life. The connections are worth exploring, but so far the data do not support the idea that the rise of video games is responsible for increased youth violence.

As for gender differences:

Video games activate the brain’s reward circuits but do so much more in men than in women, according to a new study. … the men showed more activity in the limbic system, which is associated with reward processing. What is more, the men showed greater connectivity between the structures that make up the reward circuit, and the better this connection was in a particular player, the better he performed. There was no such correlation in women. Men are more than twice as likely as women are to say they feel addicted to video games.

Given the other benefits, one wonders if games could be made which women got more pleasure from, and what they’d be like.  And of course we must forget another benefit for women we discussed before:  10 hours of video games virtually eliminates the difference between men and women in spatial acuity..

Children as Child Pornographers

Following on from Monkey’s post a while back, it seems there’s quite a disturbing trend going on back in my homeland. Teenagers who take naked pictures of themselves are being prosecuted as child pornographers. When they text them to their friends, they’re charged with distribution, and the friends are charged with receiving child porn. I’m not surprised, on reflection, that the images they make are classified as porn. It’s harder than I’d initially imagined to find ways to exclude these images from a porn definition. (Intent? Well they intend to share them and they intend to sexually arouse. The fact that no money changes hands? Quite rightly, this doesn’t matter in other child porn cases. Content? No reason to think that’s any different. Who’s taking the pictures? Well, a paedophile could get a child to take the pictures.) But it seems really obvious nonetheless that the kids shouldn’t be prosecuted. As noted in the comments to Monkey’s post, one of the things about child porn is that the kids are legally unable to consent. Surely that also means they are legally unable to blamed for the act.

Hmm.. I’m having doubts now… Teenagers who shoot people are rightly held responsible. Any philosophers of law out there want to help out?

Maybe a better fix would be to define ‘child pornographer’ and ‘recipient of child porn’ in such a way that only adults could fill this roles?

Sexuality Studies targeted.

From wmst-l (which I highly recommend, by the way):

Lawmakers in Georgia and Florida are beginning to use ‘budget cuts’ as an
excuse for targeting programs and courses on sexuality, queer and women’s
studies. Georgia State University is being forced to testify TODAY in front
of the state senate about ‘questionable’ faculty research and course
offerings on sexuality. At Florida Atlantic University, the administration
is trying to suspend the Women’s Studies program.

Please help us by signing this petition, and forwarding this to anyone
else who may be interested in signing on. We have the support of several
hundred academics so far, we need more.

McCarthyism is alive and well in these states. Your state could be next.

Is that cartoon racist? Yes.

That’s the one showing the police standing over the dead chimp and remarking about how someone else is going to have to write the next stimulus bill.

We mentioned Harvard’s videos from the Project on Law and the Mind before, along with Jennifer Eberhardt’s 3 on racism.  They have helpfully put her talk on the black-ape association up separately.  Here it is:

  That should answer the question of whether it is insight or paranoia that is behind the charges of racism.

The cartoon does employ a racial stereotype and to that extent it is definitely racist.

Quick Hits

Time is tight, and there’s so much to post…

Fricker on Philosophy Bites: An interview with Miranda Fricker about epistemic injustice. It’s from 2007, but I hadn’t known about it! (Thanks, CR.)

Paycheck Fairness Act: A petition:

The Paycheck Fairness Act puts the burden on employers to show that the difference in compensation between two similar positions is based on something other than gender. It gives the federal government a more proactive role in preventing wage discrimination, prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information, and sets aside money to train women on how to negotiate salaries.

(Thanks, Jender-Parents.)

Study shows that racial profiling is no more effective than random screening. For more, go here. (Thanks, Mr Jender.)

The Orgasm Gap: Studies show women are less likely than men to have orgasms during heterosexual sex and suggest a shocking explanation: lack of male effort. (Thanks, Kalbir.)

First Woman Cabinet Minister in Saudi Arabia, and also other moves toward moderation. For more, go here. (Thanks, Mr Jender.)

Conf Announcement: SWIP UK at Joint Sessions 2009


Of interest to readers I hope! Get submitting!




CALL FOR PAPERS At the 2009 Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association, there will be a SWIP organised session of papers devoted to topics in any area of interest to women in philosophy.

We solicit full papers (2,500 words), suitable to be delivered in no more than 20 minutes with a further 10-15 minutes for discussion. We encourage submissions from graduate students (As with all the open sessions, papers accepted for this session will not be published in the Supplementary Volume of the Aristotelian Society.) The closing date for submissions is *25TH MARCH 2009*.

We expect to make decisions on whether papers have been accepted by the end of April 2009. Please make sure that your submission is suitable for anonymous reviewing attaching a separate sheet with your name and contact details.

Email submissions are preferred; please send your full paper, with an abstract, as either .doc or .pdf attachment to: Dawn Phillips, at or send a hard copy to: Dr Dawn Phillips, Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK.

For further information, please contact Jules Holroyd at

Science and sex objects

A group of psychologists have discovered that when men (or perhaps I should say, the men involved in the experiment) look at pictures of scantily clad women, the pre-motor cortex lights up. This region of the brain has a role to play in action and lit up when the men looked at DIY tools. After looking at the pictures, some of the men had less activity in the pre-frontal cortex and other regions of the brain responsible for empathy and understanding others. Psychologists suggest that one explanation of the findings is that the men saw the women in the pictures as things to be immediately acted on, and that the pictures had an impact – for some of the men – on how they saw women afterwards. Rather than seeing them as humans to interact with, they were more inclined to see them as objects. This is pretty interesting stuff, but I have lots of questions about it. The first thing that strikes me is that the ‘mirror system’, which some theorists have suggested is what underlies our capacity to understand others’ behaviour is identifiable with/located in the pre-motor cortex. Neurons fire in the mirror system whether someone is preparing to act oneself, or watching another acting. The pre-motor cortex is thus – as I understand it – implicated in the functioning of at least certain forms of empathy. It is involved in seeing others as agents. The pre-motor cortex fires when people look at tools because they are objects for action. But the fact that it also fires when looking at people doesn’t in itself show that the perceiver also sees them as objects for action. The perceiver may be seeing them as an agent. Also, looking at a photo of a woman is not the same as looking at a woman. A photo is an image, it is not alive, it is not sentient, and one cannot interact with it. Even if the studies show that the men were reacting to the photos as objects for action – rather than people – this doesn’t show that they then view real live women in that way. But what do you think? Read the Guardian report here. Via Feministing.