Hypatia 25th anniversary conference

The conference was such a large, important, informative and exciting experience that anything like a report on it is going to seem selective in ways that cannot be well justified.  That was just so much!

So I dearly hope others will join in with comments on this post or others.  If you’d  like to, consider sending us a piece on it; it would be great to do a compilation of perspectives.

One thing a number of participants commented on is that feminist philosophy is now without doubt a full field in philosophy.  There is a body of foundational literature, leading current issues, a history of the issues in the field, questions that are just being raised, new directions, and so on.  As with any field, there may not be complete agreement on the answers to questions about such topics, but one would expect wide agreement on what are sensible answers. 

Though feminist philosophy does not start with Hypatia, its role in providing a center for the field has been very important.   The conference opened with a panel on the founding of Hypatia, which was riveting.  Hypatia’s history is one of great effort by a number of women, accompanied by support – and sometimes outrage – from various administrations of involved colleges and universities.  Hypatia has had the honor of having been a target of Rush Limbaugh’s! 

And some of the ideas?  One idea that came up a number of times was first articulated by Helen Longino in the second panel.  It’s the idea of moving beyond a focus on knowledge and picking up instead on more intimate relations of understanding, caring, loving and respecting.  Just imagine a foreign policy founded on caring  and respecting.  Even trying that might get one a Nobel Prize!

Of course, my concerns  about being selective are starting up as soon as I mention a particular speaker.  So let me assuage them by mentioning other speakers of that panel.  Sandra Harding has been working on themes that will appear in a book in 2010, Science and Technology Beyond Postcolonial Theory.  Nancy Hartsock picked up on the current economic crisis and the virtual world and virtual workers, such as the workers for Disney in  Haiti whom  Disney does not employ.  Libby Potter talked about practices, such as moral practices, particularly material embodied practices.

Two last notes:  Quite a bit of attention was paid to whether there is a genuine division between analytic feminist philosophy and the rest of feminist philosophy.   As someone acutely pointed out, we do listen to each other.

A paper by Carole Lee addressed the general professional consequences of the strong  negativity in philosophy, one that  shades off into a quite distinctive nastiness (what one might call the asshole factor).  This feature shows up in reviews and hampers professional development in interesting ways that affect both men and women in the field.

Now, please, other reactions and observations!!  I’ve said so little!

Why boys need barbies and girls need footballs

That’s the title of an article in Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail. The article begins: “Are sex differences hardwired into children’s brains? Not according to neurobiologist Lise Eliot, who tells Anne McIlroy that small differences between girls and boys are magnified by parents – not to mention same-sex schools.” It’s an interview with Eliot who set out to write a book that would chart how the brains of boys and girls develop differently. However, she found surprisingly little evidence of sex differences in the developing brain. Instead, she found very small differences that were amplified by gender socialization. I’m looking forward to reading Pink Brain Blue Brain.

book cover
book cover

The Sunday Cat honors an early theme in feminist philosophy

Having been to the conference  celebrating Hypatia’s 25th anniversay, the Sunday Cat is feeling overwhelmed, and astonished at the richness of themes  that have been developed in Hypatia.   Today she wants to celebrate an early issue of the journal on motherhood.


The Sunday Cat also recognizes the contribution to the conference made by Ginger, a service dog, who participated in many sessions with nary a bark.   Without  wishing to register any  antagonism toward the canine, the  Sunday cat points  out that  felines’ contributions as travel companions are largely unexplored.

RIP Byrd and Shepard

The Senate passed groundbreaking legislation Thursday that would make it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

And Obama has Pledged to sign the measure into law. Huzzah!

This month, Obama told the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest gay rights group, that the nation still needs to make significant changes to ensure equal rights for gays and lesbians.

“Despite the progress we’ve made, there are still laws to change and hearts to open,” he said during his address at the dinner for the Human Rights Campaign. “This fight continues now, and I’m here with the simple message: I’m here with you in that fight.”

Among other things, Obama has called for the repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He also has urged Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and pass the Domestic Partners Benefit and Obligations Act.

(N.B. It’s possible this is all just a beautiful dream we’re having.)

Choosing a Halloween Costume

Now this is a fraught time of year for feminists. Any good Halloween costume ideas out there? Jezebel warns us off non-creative sexy costumes here. And reprinted on Angry Black-White Girl’s blog here is the Top 10 Reasons Not To Wear A Culturally Appropriating Halloween Costume list that got its start on facebook. (Thanks sex geek for the pointer.) So given that the skanky tribal theme is off, what’s on? What would be a funny and feminist Halloween costume? Or feminist and really scary?

Sex (Trafficking) Panic?

Two stories today contending that something has gone wrong in all the attention to sex trafficking in the UK. I’d already been concerned that people were losing sight of the horrors of other sorts of trafficking. But I had pretty much uncritically accepted the high figures I read in the media about sex trafficking, and the reports of police crackdowns on it. Until I saw these (thanks, Sam!):

1. Inquiry fails to find single trafficker who forced anybody into prostitution.

2. Prostitution and Trafficking– The Anatomy of a Moral Panic.

Neither of these stories should be taken to suggest that there is no sex trafficking, or that sex trafficking doesn’t matter. But facts matter, and being right about the facts matters. These stories show that some of the things I took to be facts were not. The second story also draws attention to the views of prostitutes themselves, who have been vocal (though generally unheard) opponents of proposed laws penalising “men who pay for sex with women who are “controlled for gain” even if the men do so in genuine ignorance.

Repeatedly, prostitutes’ groups have argued that the proposal is as wrong as the trafficking estimates on which it is based, and that it will aggravate every form of jeopardy which they face in their work, whether by encouraging them to work alone in an attempt to show that they are free of control or by pressurising them to have sex without condoms to hold on to worried customers.”

Rape victims denied insurance coverage

For example:

A 38-year-old woman in Ithaca, N.Y., said she was raped last year and then penalized by insurers because in giving her medical history she mentioned an assault she suffered in college 17 years earlier. The woman, Kimberly Fallon, told a nurse about the previous attack and months later, her doctor’s office sent her a bill for treatment. She said she was informed by a nurse and, later, the hospital’s billing department that her health insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, not only had declined payment for the rape exam, but also would not pay for therapy or medication for trauma because she “had been raped before.”

From here. (Thanks, elp!)