Querying and illustrating an exclusion at one and the same time! New Correction/amendment

New:  In our gendered conference campaign we try to recognize that the absence of women on a program may have from any of a variety of causes.  We  do not think that an underrepresentation of women philosophers shows anything at all about its cause.  In particular, we do not think it shows any general hostility to women or any conscious denial of  women’s contributions.  Given that the following post has been read to contain very negative allegations about  SPP, I deeply regret I did not address this issue earlier. 

Further, Rob Wilson, in a comment on a later post on the topic, argues that  including women philosophers invited to speak at the preceding workshop shows that  positive progress has been made since 2008.  I agree, though note that the workshop is organized by different people.  I also cited the workshop numbers for this year in a comment, but here are the figures for women speakers, with the first figure for the workshop and the second for the conference: (a) 2008: 0,  0; (b) 2009:  1, 3;  (c) 2010: 2 (or 3?), 1.  

Let me stress again this point:  It would be completely in error to come away from this reading this post thinking it in any way addresses issues about the climate for women.   And however it is read,  it is wrong and unfair to infer that members of SPP are  somehow people of ill-will toward women.


NEAT TRICK!  But a philosopher can do it. 

The Society for Philosophy and Psychology has a way to go with gender.  The opening address  of this years’ conference is problematic; here the description is, followed by a few relevant facts: 

4:20-4:30 SPP 2010 Conference Welcome Council Chambers
4:30-5:45 Invited Speaker Council Chambers
Chair: Ron Mallon, University of Utah
Speakers:  Stephen Stich, Rutgers University, & Wesley Buckwalter, CUNY Graduate Center,
 Gender and Philosophical Intuitions: Why Are There So Few Women in Philosophy? 

1.  Some of the material referred to in the title  is interesting work on the question of whether so-called ‘philosophical intuitions’ are actually gendered.  (We discussed this a bit here.  There are links to some of the work.)  

2.  But Stich and Buckwalter are to relate this material to the very vexed question of why there are so few women in philosophy. 

3.  The society’s conference  have a dismal record of women philosophers as invited speakers; in two out of the last three conferences, no women philosophers were invited speakers.**  Accordingly, no women are asked to join Stich and Buchwalter in addressing the question of why there are so few women in philosophy. 

4.  Hence, the session enacts the exclusion it seeks to explain. 

5.  It is just possible that the systemic exclusion of women is at least as relevant as gendered intuitions in explaining why there are so few women in philosophy. 

Perhaps there just aren’t any senior women philosophers to ask to respond to the talk?  [groan, groan.] 

Here’s the list of the SPP’s officers; Jen Cole Wright and Ron Mallon are this years program chairs.  I expect comments made here will find their way to the executive committee.

**Correction:  thanks to RW in comments  for pointing out that Adina Roskies, a philosopher, was an invited speaker.

The Nation’s editor asks a good question

The Nation’s editor and  publisher, Katrina vanden Heuvel, asks:  Isn’t There Some Room for Helen Thomas?

On the one hand, Thomas, who is Lebanese, recently  made a serious anti-Israeli comment, saying that ‘they’ should get the hell out of Israel and go back home to Poland, Germany or America. 

There’s a video on youtube of her comments; it’s pretty ugly.

On the other hand, as KvH points out:

Columnist Helen Thomas, a trailblazer for women journalists and one of the few in the White House press corps who courageously questioned President Bush and other officials in his administration on war, torture and U.S. policy toward Israel, announced her retirement Monday. It comes in the wake of a controversy triggered by offensive comments she made about Jews and Israel last week.

It is a sad ending to a legendary career. Thomas was the dean of the White House press corps and served for 57 years as a UPI correspondent and White House Bureau Chief, covering every president since John F. Kennedy. During the run-up to the Iraq war, Thomas was the only accredited White House correspondent with the guts to ask Bush the tough questions that define a free press.

You can read the rest of the  editorial here. 

So what would cognitive neuroscience and philosophy of mind tell us?  We should not think our beliefs form a single consistent set.  People who actively oppose the oppression of some group may still show up on implicit attitude tests as biased against  that group.  Being our best selves is not necessarily easy, still  less automatic.  And she is 89 and has been outspoken her whole life who has never been a supporter of Israel.

And what would a feminist say?  Well, there isn’t one way for feminists to think.  This feminist notices that it’s becoming clear that for some time Thomas has been one of those ‘impossible’ old women.   And now a lot of people are going after her for, e.g., grandstanding sometimes, such as here and, more nicely,  here.

What do you think?

“Too hot to be a banker”??

Kitchen Chick sent me a link to this article, about Debrahlee Lorenzana who was fired for refusing to change the way she dressed (among other things). Her employers, Citibank, said that she should not wear revealing clothes (including, bizarrely, turtlenecks!) because when SHE wore them it was too distracting for her male co-workers. The story’s gone viral now.

It seems very clear that Lorenzana was a victim of discriminatory behaviour and a hostile work environment, but the packaging of the story is really problematic. One way it’s problematic is that the “too hot” storyline being foregrounded leaves out lots of other important details, like a refusal to send her on necessary training sessions. But another is that the HOT HOT HOT angle is being pushed so hard, with photos clearly chosen as sexy, and quotes like this:

Everything about Debrahlee Lorenzana is hot. Even her name sizzles. At five-foot-six and 125 pounds, with soft eyes and flawless bronze skin, she is J.Lo curves meets Jessica Simpson rack meets Audrey Hepburn elegance—a head-turning beauty.

I’m glad to see a sexual harassment case getting attention, and Lorenzana was clearly badly mistreated. But it would be so nice if they could manage to cover the story in a less exploitative way.