“Virtual reality used to transfer men’s minds into a woman’s body”!!

Gosh! That sounds exciting.

Researchers projected men’s sense of self into a virtual reality woman, changing the way they behaved and thought…Scientists have transferred men’s minds into a virtual woman’s body in an experiment that could enlighten the prejudiced and shed light on how humans distinguish themselves from others…A man can have an experience of what it’s like to be a woman

So… One wants to know… What’s this experience like?

In a study at Barcelona University, men donned a virtual reality (VR) headset that allowed them to see and hear the world as a female character. When they looked down they could even see their new body and clothes.

The “body-swapping” effect was so convincing that the men’s sense of self was transferred into the virtual woman, causing them to react reflexively to events in the virtual world in which they were immersed.

Men who took part in the experiment reported feeling as though they occupied the woman’s body and even gasped and flinched when she was slapped by another character in the virtual world.

In the study, 24 men took turns wearing a VR headset that immersed them in a virtual room. Some men saw the virtual environment through the eyes of a female character who was sitting down, while others had a viewpoint that was just to the side of her.

During the experiment, a second virtual female approached and appeared to rub the person’s shoulder or arm. Researchers in the lab mimicked this sensation in the real world for some of the volunteers by rubbing their shoulder or arm, helping to reinforce their feeling of occupying the character’s body.

Later in the study, the second character lashed out and slapped the face of the character the men were playing. “Their reaction was immediate,” said Slater. “They would take in a quick breath and maybe move their head to one side. Some moved their whole bodies. The more people reported being in the girl’s body, the stronger physical reaction they had.”

Sensors on the men’s bodies showed their heart rates fell sharply for a few seconds and then ramped up – a classic response to a perceived attack.

As expected, the body swapping effect was felt more keenly by men who saw their virtual world through the female character’s eyes than those whose viewpoint was slightly to one side of her.

Wow! They’ve done it. That IS what it’s like to be a woman. Prejudice will soon be a thing of the past. (Big disclaimer: I haven’t read the study. It’s probably much better than the article.)

(Thanks, J-Bro!)

Congratulations Sally Haslanger!

We are thrilled to announce that Sally Haslanger has been chosen as the Society for Women in Philosophy Distinguished Woman Philosopher of 2010.

Sally is one of the very best analytic feminists in the country and her work in feminist epistemology is lauded. Her work on critical race theory is also highly praised. The DWP Committee recognizes Sally for her extraordinary effort in coordinating the Women in Philosophy Task Force following the impact of “Changing the Ideology” as well as her initiative to change the culture of MIT toward a ‘woman-friendly’ environment. What distinguishes Sally is not just that she supports individuals one-on-one, but has created groups for support that extends beyond what any one person can do for other individuals. Her generosity extends to real feminist political action, that is, creating relationships among women that empower them to create and maintain their own frames of support and meaning.

Sally Haslanger

We hope many of you will join us in celebrating Sally and her work at the Eastern Division meeting of the APA this December. Information on the panel and celebration will follow shortly.

Maeve M. O’Donovan, Ph.D., Executive Secretary, Eastern Society for Women in Philosophy
Lisa Yount, Ph.D., Treasurer, Eastern Society for Women in Philosophy
Rosie Tong, Ph.D., Co-Chair, Distinguished Woman Philosopher Committee
Jennifer Scuro, Ph.D., Co-Chair, Distinguished Woman Philosopher Committee

An argument for radical reform in the RC Church

 I’m inclined to say that there are some things that you’d better know by the time you are well into middle age or you shouldn’t claim to be any sort of moral authority.  Drawing up a list of such things might be hard, but an interesting partial list has just been published by Bishop Blase J. Cupich.  It’s a list of things the bishops have learned from the sex abuse scandals.

Let me stress this:  If you get to middle age and still need to ‘learn’ these items, you should not be a moral authority for millions of people:

T he Catholic bishops of the United States have learned many lessons from the sexual abuse crisis. These 12 are among the most important:

1. The injury to victims is deeper than non-victims can imagine. …

2. Despite the justified anger felt by victims toward the church, bishops still need to reach out to them as pastors. …

4. Catholics have been hurt by the moral failings of some priests, but they have been hurt and angered even more by bishops who failed to put children first. …

5. The counsel of lay people, especially parents, is indispensable in a matter that so deeply affects families. …

Of course, one might say that  they certainly knew all this, and what they’ve learned is that they had better be seen to act on it.  Whatever.  If a group wants to say that they just didn’t get how bad sexual abuse is and how angry parents would be when their children weren’t protected, then there is a big question about whether they should decide what the voice of the church says. 

As it is, the bishops are really upset with those pesky nuns who ignored their authority and came out for the health care bill.  We might instead see in all this a need to include more perspectives in what produces the moral voice of the church.

Don’t ask, don’t tell – in fact, stay firmly in the closet…

…if you’re seeking asylum in Britain after facing homophobic violence in Cameroon, that is.

Last year the UK Court of Appeal decided it was fine to deny asylum to a gay man on the grounds that, if sent back to Cameroon, he could live somewhere else in the country (where he hasn’t been outed) and ‘exercise a certain amount of discretion’.  Apparently, it is reasonable to expect him to tolerate having to ‘be discreet’ in order to stay safe.

What’s that you say?  What does it mean to be discreet?  Well, there might be  a clue in what led to the violence against him in the first place – he and his partner were apparently kissing in the garden and were seen by a neighbour.  The immigration tribunal felt this couldn’t be described as discreet.

Judgement is now awaited from the UK Supreme Court….

(Thanks to HP!)

**UPDATE** From my limited knowledge, I think that if the UKSC overturns the Court of Appeal ruling, it could mean the decision in Kiana Firouz’s case will have to be reconsidered.  Because the UKSC is looking at two appeals together – one the case I described, about someone from Cameroon, the other about someone from Iran.

**UPDATE 2** Stonewall (the UK’s principal LGBT campaigning organisation) has published a research report into homophobia in the UK asylum system.