RIP Louise Bourgeois, artist and sculptor

Lousie Bourgeois died at the age of 98 on May 31, 2010.

From the NYTimes:

Louise Bourgeois, the French-born American artist who gained fame only

Louise Bourgeois - "The Accident"

late in a long career, when her psychologically charged abstract sculptures, drawings and prints had a galvanizing effect on younger artists, particularly women … Ms. Bourgeois’s sculptures in wood, steel, stone and cast rubber, often organic in form and sexually explicit, emotionally aggressive yet witty, covered many stylistic bases. But from first to last they shared a set of repeated themes, centered on the human body and its need for nurture and protection in a frightening world.

Among her most familiar sculptures was the much exhibited “Nature Study” (1984), a headless sphinx with powerful claws and multiple breasts. Perhaps the most provocative was “Fillette” (1968), a large detached latex phallus. Ms. Bourgeois can be seen carrying this object, nonchalantly tucked under one arm, in a portrait by the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe taken for the catalog of her 1982 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (In the catalog, the Mapplethorpe picture is cropped to show only the artist’s smiling face.)

The Times has a short slide show of her work here.

From the Guardian:

It was not until the Museum of Modern Art gave Bourgeois a retrospective in 1982, when she was already 70, that she at last took her place as queen of New York, one of the most inventive and disturbing sculptors of the century, and later of course the first artist to to tackle a commission for a temporary work to command the vast spaces of the new Tate Modern’s turbine hall.

Combating stereotypes: A Quinean moment

Though the following is an anecdote, it is analyzed more seriously in a professional science-education journal.  It illustrates the Quinean point that there is more than one way to adjust one’s beliefs in light of a recalcitrant experience:

In many ways, it was typical of the kinds of things that NSF-funded researchers do to fulfil [sic] their broader-impacts requirement. [Diandra Leslie-Pelecky] took three female graduate students on weekly visits to local classrooms, where they spent 45-minutes leading nine- and ten-year-old children in practical activities designed to teach them about electricity and circuits. The visitors also talked about their lab work and careers. In addition, Leslie-Pelecky did something less typical of broader-impacts efforts: she brought along education researchers to study the effect of this interaction on the children’s perception of scientists.

Those assessments were startling, she says. After three months, most of the students said that they still weren’t sure who these young ‘teachers’ were – except that they couldn’t possibly be scientists. In their minds, scientists were unfriendly, grey-haired old men in white lab coats.

In addition to the Quinean moment, we can see that cultural stereotypes can trump personal experience.  This may be part of what is behind student incivility toward women profs.

the anecdote appears in a fuller discussion of NSF funding requirements in NatureNews.

h/t to female science professor.

Fathers set up to fail?

Ok, maybe I’m irritated by having spent a sunny Bank holiday marking, but the views discussed in this article gets my back right up. Apparently, ‘male involvement in pregnancy can weaken the paternal bond’:

The disappointment and feeling of failure experienced by men expecting to have an intimate and proactive role as their baby gestates, only to find their function is largely one of passive support for their partner, can cause emotional shutdown, according to Dr Jonathan Ives, head of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Birmingham.


Men should instead be told that it is not their duty to attend antenatal classes and be encouraged to wait outside the delivery room as their child is born, said Ives.

Or, how about trying to do more to make sure men – or women with pregnant partners (who don’t get a mention in the report (though admittedly, I’ve not read the research referred to)) – support their partners without unrealistic expectations?

Or perhaps there’s less reason to worry about the feelings of failure after all:

Adrienne Burgess, head of research at the Fatherhood Institute, said: “That experience of helplessness that Ives is saying is so dangerous, is, in fact, the perfect preparation for fatherhood: there are times as a parent when you can’t do anything to help your baby, when it’s crying all night and can’t be soothed.”

The Sunday Cat is Planning a Vacation

For the summer.

The thing is, trips are very tricky for cats.  They can travel over 2300 miles from home (hint, hint) and then be returned without so much as a ‘by your leave’. 

So she’s thinking she might do some virtual traveling in a Japanese animations.  But the problem here is that the cats can be so incredibly rude.  Really!


So she’s now thinking a surreal animation might be fun.  Especially if she can understand it.

The video above, Cat Soup, is Part I on a three part award winning short.  Parts Two and Three are here.  Both the short film and the series – the second entry above – are called (in translation) “Cat Soup”.

Some good news: Malawian couple to be freed

Earlier this month a gay couple in Malawi were imprisoned having been found guilty of crimes of sodomy and indecency. At the behest of the UN, they have now been (albeit begrudgingly) pardoned and will be freed. Ban Ki-moon is apparently pushing for the repeal of these anti-gay laws at the Malawian national assembley later this month. More here.

Intelligent article on Tiger Woods

I didn’t really think that could happen any more. (Of course, arguably the article is much more about race than about Woods.) Read it here. It makes me kind of happy that this article is in the Sports section. I like the thought of people seeking sports news but ending up reading a really intelligent essay on race.

Sadly, another article provides a stark contrast. The Woods article is all about the gradual evolution of our thinking about our categorisation of people; this one reminds us that not everyone has been evolving. And that some of the people not evolving are really very scary. (I don’t think it represents progress that the hatred involved is, at least for some, a hatred of Muslims rather than a general anti-Asian sentiment. Though it is startling that one of the English Defence League spokespeople is named ‘Guramit Singh’.)

The NY Times gets sort of serious about Beauvoir

Some of us were unhappy when the NY Times’ first notice of the new translation of The Second Sex focused on Beauvoir’s body and her sexuality.  Now there’s a review of the book that is supposedly an assessment of its intellectual merits.

Readers may find themselves, as I did, suspecting the particular reviewer, Francine du PLessix Gray, was not the best choice, despite her 1952 BA in philosophy from Barnard.  Thus she says:

The other pivotal notion at the heart of “The Second Sex” — a more problematic one, which Beauvoir came to on her own — is her belief that, in Parshley’s translation, “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” This preposterous assertion, intended to bolster her argument that marriage and motherhood are institutions imposed by men to curb women’s freedom, will be denied by any mother who has seen her toddler son eagerly grab for a toy in the shape of a vehicle or a gun, while at the same time showing a total lack of interest in his sister’s cherished dolls. It has also been disputed by certain feminist scholars, who would argue that many gender differences are innate rather than acquired.

Mothers’ observations, acute though they may be, are not going to tell us what is carried by the genes and in utero hormones.  The fact that some feminists would  agree with Gray’s conclusions indicates the diversity of views within feminism, if not a uniform competence.

I don’t think the reviewer is actually hostile to Beavoir or feminism.  But as her discussion of the “preposterous assertion” above indicates, she may not be engaged  enough with the relevant  issues.  Further,  she may be sufficiently in love with her gender role that she misses too much in what Beauvoir is saying:

“What a curse to be a woman!” Beauvoir writes, quoting Kier­kegaard. “And yet the very worst curse when one is a woman is, in fact, not to understand that it is one.” No one has done more than Beauvoir to explain the conditions of that curse, and no one has more eloquently, irately challenged us to turn that curse into a blessing.

CFP: (Re)Branding Feminism

A conference hosted by the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies (IGRS), Stewart House, 32 Russell Square, London, WC1B 5ND.

1st -2nd March 2011.

There has been a general recognition, if not acceptance, of many of feminism’s key concepts. But does this mean that it has ceased to assert itself as a unique movement? Indeed, should feminism be (re)branded in an age when all ideologies are subject to market forces? And what should this rebranding consist of?

Two years on from the stimulating ‘Where are we now? A workshop on women and heterosexuality’ hosted by the IGRS, this conference will address some of the issues raised then to question the place of feminism in the twenty-first century. While there has been ambivalent press and general apathy towards those issues that once encouraged women to put the political into the personal, it is increasingly women themselves who think there is nothing more to discuss. Why has there been a decline in the link between the personal and the ideological? Do we need a different kind of feminism to meet the cultural, political and academic needs of a younger generation?

Topics might include but are not limited to:

Are sisters doing it for themselves?

Feminism on the frontline

I can be a real bitch

Family romances

Home-makers and career women

God was/is a woman

Feminism and the sex industry

Feminist renaissance

Feminism is bollocks

Rebranding feminism

Pub talk

Abstracts between 200-300 words that explore any aspect of (re)branding feminism are sought as are poster submissions of 200 – 300 words on any topic related to rebranding feminism. Submit poster ideas and abstracts in a word document or .pdf.

Please send abstracts and poster ideas to both Jean Owen ( and Elisha Foust ( by 5pm 1 October 2010.

Fellowship Opportunity: Philosophy in Public Life

Jack Weinstein writes:

I was hoping you would post the following call for applications. We have set up our fellowships precisely so those with families and faculty who do not have the luxury of going places for six months have research opportunities. And while the institute fellows program, being new, has not been fortunate enough to attract a significant number of women applicants, our radio show Why has highlighted numerous women and feminist topics. I hope you will consider passing the following announcement to your readers. Thanks!

And indeed it looks like a great opportunity! Do consider applying:

Applications for 2010-2011 Visiting Fellowships at the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life are now being accepted.
The deadline for applications is July 1, 2010.

The Institute for Philosophy in Public Life is dedicated to two project: cultivating philosophy amongst the general public and bridging popular philosophy with academic research. This includes not only providing resources and opportunities for those interested in engaging with general audiences but also providing a venue for the presentation of their work. IPPL hopes to advance public philosophy by advocating the position that such work ought to count towards tenure and promotion.

IPPL Fellowships are both invited by the director and chosen via open competition. Any interested party is encouraged to apply, and prospective applicants are welcome to contact the director informally to ask for advice or to “test the waters” for their suitability and competitiveness.

An IPPL Visiting Fellowship is intended for philosophical professionals who seek an intensive short-term period to work on a specific project free from the intrusions of daily work and family responsibilities, and who wish to translate that same project into language easily understood by general audiences. Visiting fellows are in residence at the institute for two weeks. They receive travel, meal, housing allowances, a $1,000 stipend, access to the University of North Dakota library and all relevant university resources, a $500 grant to purchase research materials to be housed within the UND Chester Fritz Library, and an office within which to work. In exchange, visiting fellows are expected to make at least two public presentations suitable to lay audiences and write a ten to fifteen page article for publication either online or in the North Dakota Humanities Council magazine On Second Thought. Normally, IPPL grants three – four visiting fellowships per year.
Regional applicants are encouraged to apply, but are not exempt from the two-week residence requirement.

For application information, go here.

For more information, contact