“That pretty flat stomach”

In the summer of 2004, I weighed 92 pounds. I was very sick and doing everything in my power to put on weight. My doctor went so far as to prescribe an appetite stimulant, derived from cannabis, which was supposed to give me the legal munchies.

It may have helped me put on a pound or two, but that wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t just that I was too thin; I needed a lung transplant and had to weigh a minimum of 100 pounds before I would even be considered for the surgery. I was left with one option: a feeding tube for high-calorie protein shakes every night while I slept, in addition to a high-calorie diet every day…

On the operating table, I was prepped for the procedure by a female nurse and a male doctor. When the nurse lifted the hospital gown above my abdomen, she exclaimed, “Look at that pretty flat stomach!”

I processed this statement for a moment. A medical professional had complimented me on my thinness, which was so extreme as to prevent me from having life-saving surgery, while prepping me for a procedure intended to help me gain weight.

To his credit, the doctor quickly snapped, “That’s the problem!” but her message couldn’t have been clearer.

We live in a culture that so values thinness, that values such extreme thinness, that I received a compliment about my body when I was on an operating table, when I was so ill and weighed so little that doctors feared I might not survive major surgery.

From here. (Thanks, C!)

CFP: Resistance

Crisis – Creation – Action – Critique

Thursday 9th June 2011, Goldsmiths, University of London

Day 1 of ‘Whose University?’, a two-day symposium organised by Goldsmiths and Birkbeck, co-hosted by GLITS, Goldsmiths Literature Seminar and
InC, Research Group in Continental Philosophy. 9-10 June 2011.

In the wake of the government’s plans to drastically alter the funding of higher education, the very ethos of the university is undergoing transformation. The result of withdrawing public funding will be that higher education is no longer seen as a public good. If universities are controlled by market mechanisms that replicate existing distributions of economic power, they will only perpetuate social inequalities. Differential fees will intensify the financial disparity between universities, forging a two-tier system. With universities becoming service providers and students acting as consumers, learning experiences can only be diminished, reduced to quantifiable preferences. The arts and humanities will suffer deeply; how are we to respond to these measures?

Resistance is a one day interdisciplinary event held in conjunction with ‘The Idea of the University’ (Friday 10th June) that will foster debate on the current crisis in higher education. The intention of Resistance is twofold: to defend the role of the arts and humanities in academic learning and forge discussion around the issue of resistance. Why is the study of the arts and humanities indispensable? How are these fields crucial to critical reflection on human values and principles? What are the most effective modes of resisting the changes to higher education? How can literature itself operate as a mode of resistance?

Possible themes include but are not limited to:
• The commodification of the university
• Violence on the streets and systematic violence
• Reified subjectivity in the university
• Activism and the arts
• The arts as resistance to instrumental reason
• Resistance as creation, action and/or critique
• Literature and/or language as a mode of resistance
• The relationship between ethical responsibility and political action/ singularity and universality

To enhance energy and debate, we are open to presentations which depart from the traditional format of 20 minute papers; we welcome collaborative pieces as well as work from the creative arts.
There will be a roundtable discussion for all participants at the end of Day 2.

Please send abstracts/proposals of no longer than 300 words to
resistance-glits AT gold.ac.uk by Friday 13th May 2011

Three Little Girls You Wouldn’t Want to Mess With

(or, ‘with whom you wouldn’t want to mess’?). From YouTube Trends

Lately, we’ve seen an interesting “trend” develop with three separate videos drawing blogger attention in the past few weeks that each feature tough young ladies performing some cool — and very unusual — physical feats.

There’s no true link between the videos themselves, the sole connection — aside from the obvious one — seemings to be our own fascination with their unusual, gender-stereotype-defying interests and abilities. Take a look.

Women in Philosophy of Religion

Are women even more poorly represented in philosophy of religion than elsewhere in the discipline?

I ask because I’m currently putting together a syllabus for an upper level metaphysics class. I’m doing my best to ensure women philosophers are well-represented. For the most part I’ve found it quite easy to identify great work by women philosophers on the central topics, but I’m really struggling with philosophy of religion – specifically arguments for and against theism. I’m planning to focus most of my effort on the ontological argument, and it is quite striking how poorly represented women are in most of the reading lists and encyclopedia entries I’ve found. (Although I haven’t checked every single name for gender, it looks like the bibliography of the Stanford entry on the ontological argument might even be exclusively male). Also, the great Women’s Works site doesn’t seem to have a page for religion yet (I just get a blank screen).

Anscombe’s response to Hume’s argument about causes is excellent, but obviously not quite in the right ballpark. If anyone can suggest work by women that’s either specifically about the ontological argument, or bears upon it in a student-friendly sort of way, I’d be very grateful. General information about the state of affairs for women in Phil Religion is also welcome.

“Calm Down, Dear”

That’s what David Cameron said to Angela Eagle, Shadow Treasury Secretary. There has rightly been criticism. Eagle’s own response:

she had been “patronised by better people than the prime minister”, adding that Cameron should instead be apologising for the economy, which had “effectively flatlined for six months”.

She told BBC News: “I don’t think any modern man would have expressed himself in that way.

“The prime minister is responsible for what he says in the Commons. I think if there is an apology to make it should be for the dreadful growth figures we have seen today, which demonstrated that the economy has effectively flatlined for six months.”

She said it was up to Cameron “as to whether he wants to annoy 51% of the population”.

(Thanks, Jender-Parents.)

Jason Stanley on how feminist philosophy has influenced him


My first book, Knowledge and Practical Interests, was in fact squarely in epistemology, arguing for the thesis that epistemic properties and relations have a practical dimension to them. I was helped in thinking through this project by my acquaintance with debates in feminist theory by scholars such as Genevieve Lloyd, who, at least on one reading argue that properties such as rationality are gendered, and hence not “pure” or “objective.” Thinking through this work when working with Chris Sturr at Cornell exposed me to the conceptual options for a thesis of the sort I advanced in this work, that epistemic properties and relations are not “pure” (to use the vocabulary of Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath).

Jason Stanley is very much a mainstream philosopher of language and epistemologist so this surprised me. It also pleased me greatly, both to see feminist philosophy having having such unexpected influences, and to see it being discussed. It seems to me that this sort of thing is especially important for fighting the impression that feminist philosophy is a fringe endeavour.

On defending the arts and humanities

Jo Wolff:

The best we can do, I think, is to adapt an argument from GE Moore. Suppose we have to choose between two worlds. In one of them, universities have flourishing departments of arts and humanities. You, your children, your grandchildren, can study literature, language, fine art or ancient history, and, talent permitting, can contribute to scholarly debates. In the other, only the rich can do this, but technical progress is a bit faster. Which world you would prefer to live in?

Talking about stereotype threat

The undergraduate philosophy classes I teach are often in technical, male-dominated sub-disciplines (metaphysics, philosophy of language, logic, etc). More men than women take these classes, and the male students usually outperform the female students — at least if we’re judging performance based on grade distribution — even though all the grading is done anonymously, as far as possible. The male students also tend to be much more vocal in class discussion.

There’s a lot not to like about this, obviously. In an attempt to be proactive, I’ve started talking about gender and stereotype threat in these classes. Basically, I introduce the concept of stereotype threat, and explain to the students ways it might affect them. I talk through some of the cool experiments (the math test study, the chess player study, etc) involving gender and stereotype threat. Then I put up a bunch of information (including links to these and more studies, and links to further reading) on the course webpage. But I’m worried that, at least for some of my students, this effort may have backfired.

I’m reasonably confident that I managed to communicate the information clearly, because several of the *men* in theses classes have responded very enthusiastically — thanking me for bringing up the issue, wanting to talk about the cases further, etc — and they all seem to have understood what I was saying without any trouble. The most confident and successful female students in the class have responded similarly. What I’m worried about are the less confident female students — precisely those that are perhaps most vulnerable to stereotype threat in these kinds of classes. On several different occasions, some of these students have come to my office to talk over an exam or a paper, and ended up saying something like “I’m so bad at this — it’s like you were saying in class, how women just aren’t as good at making arguments.”

No! Not what I said! At all. But I tried to talk about stereotype threat in a context where the threat levels were (for at least some students) pretty high. So I said something like “You’ve probably been told at some point in your life that women are emotional and men are rational, or that men are better at making logical arguments. But that’s just not true. . .” [Proceed with discussion of stereotype threat.] But what some of my most vulnerable students heard was “Men are better at making logical arguments.”

Does anybody have thoughts about how to avoid this? That is, does anybody have ideas about how to talk about stereotype threat in a context where the threat levels are running pretty high without it backfiring on your most at-risk students?

Gail Dines on the Royal Wedding

The British and American press have run stories about the way William’s friends make fun of Kate for coming from a family that has actually had to work for a living. Evidently especially humorous is that fact her mother was once a flight attendant. William’s family is the richest welfare family in the world yet you won’t hear David Cameron attacking them for being lazy freeloaders. No one seems to be questioning why the British tax payer should be paying for a family that likes to party all the time. Especially as the average person is being told that their days of partying are over and now it is time to tighten their belts. As if it was their parties and not the parties of the rich that led to the economic meltdown.

Ever since Cameron got into power I have been waiting for millions of people to take to the streets of London. A royal wedding wasn’t exactly what I had in mind!

For more, go here.