To count or not to count

Brian Leiter helpfully lists some new books in philosophy and one is an anthology. That means there will be a collection of papers, and it will contain some number of papers by women, given we allow “0” to count as a number. So how many are by women philosophers? Do we really want to know? Still more, does anyone really want to count? Further, it is a Routledge Companion; we already put some effort into discovering that another companion volume in ethics contains 68 essays, with 4 from women.

Still, having counted, let me share the fact that the The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth Century Philosophy edited by Dean Moyar (2010) contains 30 essays, with two by women.

Ethics and history of philosophy are traditionally areas that women are more highly represented than others, and Routledge’s figures here are remarkably low.

And we might as well add in information that otherwise remains in a comment by Wahine:

There were no plenary women speakers (out of 5 speakers in total) at the BSPS (British Society for the Philosophy of Science) Conference last week, and only two female speakers out of something like 12 at the Joint Session this weekend.

(My stress.)

The new Claude Steele book, Whistling Vivaldi, described here by Jender, suggests a way these cause harm that deserves our attention. Products and occasions of the marked under-representation of women do not just contribute to what Steele would label “the stigmatization of women in philosophy;” they also function to women as reminders of that stigmatization, thus producing stress that makes performing at our best harder.

Is philosophy finally a field toxic for women?

Hurray for Argentina!

From the NY TIMES:

Argentina’s Senate narrowly approved a measure early on Thursday authorizing same-sex marriages, making Argentina the first country in Latin America to allow gay couples to wed.

After 15 hours of debate, the Senate voted 33 to 27 in favor of the measure, which was sponsored by the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. For weeks, she waged a bitter war of words with the Roman Catholic Church over the measure.

Whistling Vivaldi: Read it.

Claude Steele has written a wonderful book on stereotype threat, Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us. Stereotype threat is a powerful phenomenon working to suppress the performance of those from stigmatised groups. (Where ‘stigmatised’ must be understood in a highly context-dependent way: women in maths, black people in academia more generally, whites in athletics, and so on.) In particular, it suppresses the performance of those who really care about doing well in the activity their group is stereotypically considered less good at. What seems to happen is that awareness of stereotypes makes the victim of stereotype threat tense up and focus on the negative expectations for their performance (and desire to overcome these expectations) rather than at the task at hand. (This is reflected physiologically, in heart beat and blood pressure.) This makes the victim underperform. But if something is done to relieve the threat the victim performs well. The results of Steele’s (and others’) studies are dramatic, and the book gives incredibly valuable guidance on how to alleviate stereotype threat. Just a few dramatic illustrations:

1. If you have 5-7 year-old girls colour in pictures of a girl holding a doll (which reminds them of gender stereotypes) before they do a maths test, they do much less well than if you have them colour in a landscape (Steele 170).

2. If you tell black students that the difficult test they’re about to take is a test of ability, they do less well than white students. But if you tell them you just want to study problem-solving processes they do just as well as white students (Steele 51).

3. If you get beginning black undergraduate students to read survey results showing that other black students felt ill at ease at first but then settled in well, they get substantially better grades. The stereotype threat is dissipated by narratives of success by others who are like them (Steele 165-166).

The book is also incredibly well-written and a fascinating narrative of the way that scientific discovery proceeds. One of the things that’s nice about it from a feminist epistemological perspectives is the way that it intermingles personal anecdotes with research studies, showing the way that each can affect the way that we understand the other.