Rational Agency and Feminist Philosophy

Do posts on rational agency or new behavioral econimics count as feminist?  Does feminist philosophy have to address issues explicitly about women or gender?

One thing going on behind the scenes here is that we see wordpress’s daily tally of the main search terms bringing  readers to this blog.  And sometimes one is “kyriarchy,” which Jender wrote about.   And that’s the pyramid structure of power relations that constrain and oppress so many.

 Looking recently at the search terms and that  post, I realized that feminists’ work that isn’t explicitly about women or gender may none the less have a very closely related topic, the kyriarchy.  Writings about the conception of rational agency or the domination of traditional economics can certainly be in many ways about the kyriarchy.  For example, the European self-conception of rational agency is  very present still in discourse about the “conquered” or enslaved.  

Three questions arise.  Please join in on them.  To some extent they raise the question of whether professional philosophy has often to present itself as politically disengaged.  Perhaps the answer to that  is easy.

1.  If we counted papers on  the kyriarchy as feminist, would there seem to be more feminist papers in the top journals?

2.  If  papers and books on the kyriarchy were candidates for feminist works, would we end up with works in the feminist corpus which really are not feminist at all, maybe to the point of being hostile to women?

3.  Are there many papers in philosophy which do criticize the products of the kyriarchy as unfortunate ways of thinking but don’t seem to contain any awareness of their political significance?  Relatedly, is bringing out the political significance of one’s criticism of the ideas of rational agency a way of inviting rejection by Phil Rev?

I would think that a lot in virtue ethics and some neo-Wittgensteinian work does undertake tasks very congenial to criticizing some of the cultural artefacts of  the kyriarchy.  Is Alva Noe’s work on perception covertly relevant  to the kyriarchy?  Any other candidates?  Specific or more general?

Why are the boys still behind in reading?

That’s what one wonders, baffled, reading this article. After all, the school had segregated the classes by sex and assigned each class perfectly gender-stereotyped books to read.

At the end of the pilot last year, assessments of reading and writing showed that the boys’ marks had increased by a full grade. But the girls’ reading and comprehension skills had improved even more.

What could have gone wrong? Oh… I don’t know… maybe it has something to do with assigning the boys COMIC BOOKS to read instead of literature. Nah….

Pleasingly, there’s quite an uproar over this in the Science Fiction blogosphere, with bloggers wondering why they boys are getting age inappropriate comics while the girls get to read about midwives. A sample. (Thanks, Jender-Brother!)

A great conference-FEMMSS

It is useful once in a while to reflect on our successes and celebrate the progress that we have made. While indeed there are too many spaces that exclude women, there is also a growing(?) list of spaces that do not.

Last month I had the pleasure of participating in the third annual conference of the Association of Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies, Metaphysics, and Science Studies (FEMMSS) which was held in conjunction with The University of South Carolina Women’s and Gender Studies Conference. The conference program is here – lots of excellent women philosophers.

FEMMSS is a relatively new organization. FEMMSS conferences feel safe to me. They are spaces where feminism, in a wide range of forms, is a starting point for discussion.

Does anyone else have suggestions of blogs, conferences, departments or what have you, where women or feminists are actively embraced?

Lesbianism Explained

Or, “Why women are leaving men for other women”. Despite the hilarious title, some good people get interviewed like feminist philosopher Susan Bordo:

“When a taboo is lifted or diminished, it’s going to leave people freer to pursue things,” she says.

“So it makes sense that we would see women, for all sorts of reasons, walking through that door now that the culture has cracked it open. Of course, we shouldn’t imagine that we’re living in a world where all sexual choices are possible. Just look at the cast of ‘The L Word’ and it’s clear that only a certain kind of lesbian — slim and elegant or butch in just the right androgynous way — is acceptable to mainstream culture.”

Thanks, Jender-Parents!


Here’s an interesting article about the perils of tenure. It’s not great for women as the years when one needs to get tenure are also one’s prime years for reproducing. Unsurprisingly, the system developed in the ‘olden’ days when only men were professors. However, the current alternative doesn’t look too hot either: low-paid, sessional teaching which lacks sick pay, pension benefits, and job security. I’m not in the US, so my department has no formal tenure arrangements. But I see the latter phenomenon – people given ten month contracts so they can be continually employed on a temporary basis (someone in continuous employment has to be permanently hired after a certain amount of time); people paid by the hour to teach, resulting in more work, less pay, less security, less benefits; and so on. Some of this seems unavoidable, given the way that jobs are funded – lots of teaching posts come up because someone has obtained research funding, but that only covers teaching replacement for a limited period of time. But it’s certainly the case that the system could be fairer. What do you think?

I should also point out that the low-paid, temporary job thing isn’t great for men either.

Zapata’s legacy

The trial for Angie Zapata’s murder has ended with a very significant result:

A Colorado man was convicted of first-degree murder and a bias-motivated crime and sentenced to life in prison for killing a transgender teen he met on an online social networking site…

It was the first time in the nation that a state hate crime statute resulted in a conviction in a transgender person’s murder, the advocacy group Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said.


God, Religion, but not women: Update

Update:  Email addresses have been removed at Dr. Nagasawa’s request.


Do any women do philosophy of religion?  Of course.  And one thing we know of them:  none is  an invited participant at the conference described below.  What’s wrong with that?  Well, at least three things (readers are warmly invited to add to the list or to correct  my entries):

1.  Such conferences perpetuate epistemic injustice by leaving out the women’s voices in the field.

2.  They create cadres of privilege; without access to one such event, women suffer the sort of small disadvantage that adds up  significantly damaged professionally over time, as V. Valian has argued..

3.  They send a very bad message to women students and university administrators at a time when philosophy is becoming marginalized.


The Concept of God and the Cognitive Science of Religion Conference

The University of Birmingham, UK

Sunday 14th – Tuesday 16th June 2009


Sponsored by the Cognition, Religion and Theology Project at the University of Oxford, funded by the John Templeton Foundation

 Invited speakers: Richard Swinburne (Oxford), Graham Oppy (Monash), T. J. Mawson (Oxford), David Leech (Oxford), Graham Wood (Tasmania), David Efird (York), Klaas Kraay (Ryerson), Robin Le Poidevin (Leeds) 

Please visit the conference website for registration details: http://www.philosophy.bham.ac.uk/events/cogsci.shtml or contact Yujin Nagasawa (Y.Nagasawa@bham.ac.uk)  —

Dr. Yujin Nagasawa

 Department of Philosophy/University of Birmingham/Edgbaston, Birmingham/B15 2T/United Kingdom


Careers outside academic philosophy

Reader Bakka has contacted us with this question, which I’m sure is becoming increasingly widespread in the current academic job climate.

I have a question for the feminist philosophers. I am finishing up my PhD in philosophy, specializing in feminist ethics and health care ethics. Throughout my studies I was pretty sure I wanted to continue on the academic path and try to land a tenure-tack job. During the course of writing my dissertation, however, I have become unsure that I want to continue down this path. Further, I think many of my colleagues are in a similar position. For some this is in part because the job market does not look very good for those of us about to graduate.

I noticed that in your description of yourselves in the “our policies” section you list that some of you are philosophers who are working outside the academy. I was wondering if anyone would want to share what kinds of careers they have pursued beyond the academy? What are the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing non-academic careers?

I know many of our readers are also working outside academia. It would be great to hear from you in response to this question!