Lesbian parents: legal fiction?

Or not.  Though that’s what some think of the very excellent step to allow lesbian parents who have had a child by IVF treatment both to be registered on the birth certificate.

critics say the change would be detrimental to family values.

Boo to those family values; hurrah to the inclusive ones:

Home Office Minister Lord Brett said: “This positive change means that, for the first time, female couples who have a child using fertility treatment have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts to be shown as parents in the birth registration.

“It is vital that we afford equality wherever we can in society, especially as family circumstances continue to change. This is an important step forward in that process.”

Madonna booed for opposing discrimination

I’ve never been one to jump on the Madonna bandwagon, though I’ve been mildly interested in the various feminist discussions of her. But I think it’s good that, when performing with Roma (Gypsy) musicians in Romania she made a note of the discrimination that they suffer:

“It has been brought to my attention … that there is a lot of discrimination against Romanies and Gypsies in general in Eastern Europe,” she said. “It made me feel very sad.”

And that was enough to get thousands booing her. I can’t begin to say how disgusting I find that.

(Many non-Europeans probably don’t know much about anti-Roma discrimination. Amnesty has information here.)

Roundtable: Feminism and Politics

The Centre for Ethics, Social & Political Philosophy of the Higher Institute for Philosophy of the K.U.Leuven presents:

A Roundtable Discussion On

Feminism & Politics:
Gendering the Contemporary Debates in Political Philosophy

With Judith Squires (Bristol), Etienne Balibar (Nanterre/Irvine), and Margaret Moore (Queens)

Wednesday September 16th at 4pm
Kardinaal Mercierzaal, H.I.W, K.U.Leuven

In a world of rapid changes and deep transformations with consequences we cannot yet begin to oversee, one thing appears unchanged: deep and persistent inequalities structured around the nexus of gender, race, class and capital. Although there have been some major steps forward in some realms of our lives and some parts of the world, this deep-seated inequality continues to exist on many levels. In this roundtable discussion, three political philosophers who have made it their business to address the political state we are in, will focus on gender, and its multiple intersections with contemporary politics. Each one of them has engaged deeply with feminist thought and practice, considering feminism not only as a useful but as a necessary perspective when discussing politics. However, current debates in political philosophy pay little attention to this perspective, in spite of the work that is being done by feminist academics and activists alike. This discussion does not just aim to put feminism on the map, but rather to demonstrate the urgency and importance of doing so in the face of the political challenges posed to us by globalisation.

Registration Required by September 10th (free) : anya.topolski@hiw.kuleuven.be

The website is here.

The Importance of being familiar

In academia and elsewhere, as we have noted  many times, there are biased reactions that one can trigger through being identified as a woman.  The general mechanism might be the same for, say, Asians, but the specifics might well be different.

There are other biasing reactions that women and Asians together might trigger that would have  much more of the same content.  We’ve looked at these less, but we did note that insiders have considerable advantages over outsiders at least because the good performances of insiders tend to be remembered more positively for longer periods of time.

We’re grateful to reader L.A. for sending us another example.  Things that are easier to process are ranked better on scales of truthfulness, liking and so on: 

Uniting the Tribes of Fluency to Form a Metacognitive Nation

Alter  & Oppenheimer

Processing fluency, or the subjective experience of ease with which people process information, reliably influences people’s judgments across a broad range of social dimensions. Experimenters have manipulated processing fluency using a vast array of techniques, which, despite their diversity, produce remarkably similar judgmental consequences. For example, people similarly judge stimuli that are semantically primed (conceptual fluency), visually clear (perceptual fluency), and phonologically simple (linguistic fluency) as more true than their less fluent counterparts. The authors offer the first comprehensive review of such mechanisms and their implications for judgment and decision making. Because every cognition falls along a continuum from effortless to demanding and generates a corresponding fluency experience, the authors argue that fluency is a ubiquitous metacognitive cue in reasoning and social judgment.

My library doesn’t have the article on line yet, and I’m hesitant to do much interpreting without reading.  But even the abstract is very interesting.  Facility in processing causes (to some extent) more  positive reaction. I’m pretty sure this has been found to hold true in other areas, such as art.  Over some range of cases, the brain’s reaction to the familiar  and the pleasurable can be at least very similar, if I’m remembering correctly. 

In any case, women giving papers, for example, might be well advised to try to think about how to present their work to moderate the  problems the lack of familiarity of their person and their ideas present.

Or not.  At what point does one decide it isn’t worth it?  What do you think?

Edward Kennedy 1932-2009

During years of political madness, Kennedy often enough remained sane and  insightful.  Heart-sick at his responsibility for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, we liberal boomers knew he could not be the true hero we’d hoped his brothers would be.   We’ve since learned, I think, that there are far fewer of those than we may then have thought.

I like these comments from the NY Times:

Born to one of the wealthiest American families, Mr. Kennedy spoke for the downtrodden in his public life while living the heedless private life of a playboy and a rake for many of his years.  Dismissed early in his career as a lightweight and an unworthy successor to his revered brothers, he grew in stature over time by sheer longevity and by hewing to liberal principles while often crossing the partisan aisle to enact legislation. A man of unbridled appetites at times, he nevertheless brought a discipline to his public work that resulted in an impressive catalog of legislative achievement across a broad landscape of social policy.  …

In 2002, he voted against authorizing the Iraq war; later, he called that opposition “the best vote I’ve made in my 44 years in the United States Senate.”

It is quite a blow not to have his strong voice during the health care debates.

Why does airline security need to know if I’m male or female?

I’m increasingly irked at the number of times I’m asked to check boxes that say “male” or “female.” Sometimes, there’s a rationale. My university tracks this information in order to see how we’re complying with gender equity rules. This makes sense to me. Other times, such as my driver’s license, it makes no sense. Nor can I figure out why it matters to US airline security. According to CNN, “many air travelers will be asked their birth dates and genders when making airline reservations….It’s the latest “publicly visible” expansion of Secure Flight, a program that transfers responsibility for checking air passengers’ identities from the airlines to the federal government.” The full story is here.

The Glamour of a Real Stomach


I learned from Broadsheet about the above photo in Glamour Magazine, which has prompted a groundswell of positive reactions, and even prompted Glamour’s editor to say this shows a huge demand for real-looking women, which they plan to meet. Broadsheet is skeptical about whether this represents the beginning of a real change. I tend to think that change is slow, but it’s got to be a move in the right direction. Let’s hope they follow it up with women who differ in *lots* of ways from the usual models.

We knew this already but…

…the Observer provides some up to date statistics on the dismal underrepresentation of women in top FTSE 350 jobs in the UK (perhaps useful for the start of term if you want to present your feminist philosophy class with some empirical stuff on gender inequality).

I found interesting the tactic Harriet Harman is using to press for more equal representation:

A company in the grip of the old-boy network is never going to be successful in the modern world. If they can’t see half the population as worthy of a say, then they are in the grip of structural prejudice. What does it say about a company that they have an all-male board? It is backward-looking and old-fashioned.”

Bad on the gender equality front = bad PR.