CFP: Workshop in Feminist Political theory

Call for Papers: Workshop in Feminist Political Theory

Manchester Workshops in Political Theory
2-4 September 2009
Manchester Metropolitan University

Politics has always been at the heart of feminism. The wide variety of traditions of feminist thought and activism have engaged in diverse and rich ways with politics and the political. But the landscape of feminist political theory is marked by the divide between analytic and continental philosophy, and by the different strands in women’s and gender studies. This workshop aims to engage constructively with these differences, by inviting papers from all traditions in feminist political theory, both from the centers and the margins, on any topic. Furthermore, it invites papers that address and challenge the traditional divisions, or that focus on their intersections.

Please send a 300 word abstract to Annelies Decat (K.U.Leuven) or Janice Richardson (University of Exeter) by June 30th: or

This workshop is part of the sixth annual series of Workshops in Political Theory, at the Manchester Metropolitan University. For more information, visit the conference website:

Keep UK libel laws out of science!

You may have noticed our shiny new widget over to the right: we’re supporting the campaign launched by the charity ‘Sense about Science’ to keep UK libel laws out of science. 

What’s this about?

Well, last year the British Chiropractic Association decided to sue the science writer Simon Singh for libel after he criticised them for promoting the use of chiropractic to treat children with conditions such as asthma and colic – treatments which he described as “bogus”.  Whatever you believe about the efficacy of “alternative medicine”, if you care about freedom of speech you should support the open discussion of evidence rather than the silencing which results from libel cases.  (And this isn’t the first relevant case – Ben Goldacre, author of the Bad Science blog and column, was sued by Matthias Rath for expressing concerns about Rath’s promotion of vitamin pills to treat AIDS in South Africa. Rath withdrew his case, but for more than a year Goldacre was unable to discuss the issue and had to omit an entire chapter from his book ‘Bad Science’.) 

There’s been lots of discussion about this case: the legal blogger Jack of Kent has set out the legal issues; you can read Simon Singh’s own account of the last year; journalist Nick Cohen provides some background and puts it in the context of ‘libel tourism’, where the UK’s libel laws are used by (for instance) Saudi businessmen against US publications simply because content is available online.  Things have got so bad the states of New York and Illinois are drafting legislation to protect people from the decisions of UK courts on libel.  

All this matters because people need access to information about science and health, open discussion improves the quality of evidence, and blogs like this one need freedom of speech to be protected.  We should all be worried about the chilling effect of UK libel law.

Education and aspiration, gender and class.

An important report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission draws attention to the low aspirations that it appears schools (amongst myriad other factors, surely) are fostering in girls from working class backgrounds (reported on here):

Trevor Phillips [chair of the commission] said: “The majority of young women who come from working-class backgrounds believe they will fail. They believe the best they can do is to be a hairdresser or work in one of the three Cs: catering, childcare or cleaning. These are proper careers and I don’t want to do them down. The problem is we have a society where young girls who aren’t from well-off professional families can’t see themselves as successful in anything but a limited range of jobs

And from the report:

Girls’ attitudes to career choice remain traditional despite moves towards gender equality in wider society. Regardless of socio-economic background, the top three jobs girls believed they would be working in were teaching, childcare and beauty. Four times more boys compared to girls believed they would go into engineering, with similar percentages of boys over girls choosing building, architecture, trade and IT careers.

Poor career and subject advice was also highlighted as a major problem, with information provided to young people often reinforcing class, gender, ethnic and disability stereotypes.

Importantly, a range of recommendations are made to try to alter these failings:

Recommendations made by the Commission in the report include:

  • Reviewing the current £30 a week Education Maintenance Allowance with a consideration to increase the maintenance.
  • Further Education colleges to consider offering vocational courses to young people who have no GCSEs as a way of re-engaging 16 year olds who leave school without any qualifications.
  • The Department of Children, Schools and Families to introduce work experience and vocational options earlier to students
  • The Commission to work with the National Apprenticeships Service on initiatives to open up apprenticeships to women, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities.