The kind of post that keeps me going

Over on the What We’re Doing blog, I’ve just put up a post that really moved me and made me feel good about what we’re accomplishing through this blog and through What It’s Like.  It’s about a senior male philosopher who became aware of the problems for women in the profession through the Gendered Conference Campaign and the What It’s Like blog.  He’s now going out of his way (in many ways) to support female colleagues.  Here’s one of the things he says:

“The reason I am where I am today is that my best competitors were women who graduated the same year as me. They have all left the profession. You should not.”

I found this both very sad and very heartening.  Sad, obviously, because of all the women who left the profession.  But heartening that he realises his success is partly due to this fact (the sort of thing that’s very hard to acknowledge about oneself), and even more heartening that he’s doing something to keep women in the profession now.

Global Feminist Petition: Take Strauss-Kahn charges seriously

Feminists Demand Freedom from Sexual Assault and Harassment

We agree:

Rape is always about power and domination; it is sexualized violence.

Rape and sexual harassment of women are pervasive at all strata of society and in all corners of the globe. Women will never be fully free and able to enjoy equality with men until this ends. As feminists, we see the arrest of former International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sexual assault charges as an opportunity to increase public awareness and as a wake-up call to renew action against sexual violence, not only in the US where his arrest occurred and in France, where media and many public figures are portraying him as the victim, but around the world.

We join French feminists in saying that just as Strauss-Kahn is innocent until proven guilty, his accuser must also be respected and believed to be credible unless proven false. We commend her employer, Sofitel, and the action of the NYC Police for taking her complaint seriously. We call for feminists around the world to join with her union (New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council Local 6) in collecting funds for legal and daily expenses, as her work is now curbed and life circumstances vastly altered. Contributions can be sent to Judson Memorial Church (attention Women’s Fund) 55 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012-1018.

We also share French feminist indignation at the deliberate and opportunistic confusion of seduction and sexual violence, from Strauss-Kahn’s declaration that he “loves women,” to the journalists and politicians who rally behind this “Great Seducer.” It is outrageous that the allegation of attempted rape during the course of a housekeeper’s work day raises issues about any woman’s life story and sexual history. And portraying powerful Strauss-Kahn as “too civilized” to commit a violent crime plays upon colonial and racist stereotypes vis-à-vis an African immigrant woman.

We adamantly oppose all harassment, sexual violence and rape, and we know that when there is a large discrepancy between the power, the wealth and racial hierarchy of the parties involved, justice is even harder to come by. All rapists and harassers believe they are entitled, and often when they are part of the power elite they assume that influence will outweigh the legal protection and freedom from coercion all women should enjoy. Feminists around the world demand that justice be done.

Women of all countries, unite!

To sign, go here.

Thanks, S!

MP attacks Anne Phillips for encouraging critical reflection

Here’s what Dr Denis MacShane (PhD in Economics from Birkbeck!) said:

Mr MacShane: My hon. Friend mentioned the London School of Economics. Is she aware of its feminist political theory course, taught by Professor Anne Phillips? In week 8 of the course, students study prostitution. The briefing says:

“If we consider it legitimate for women to hire themselves out as low-paid and often badly treated cleaners, why is it not also legitimate for them to hire themselves out as prostitutes?”

If a professor at the London School of Economics cannot make the distinction between a cleaning woman and a prostituted woman, we are filling the minds of our young students with the most poisonous drivel.

Of course, it’ll come as no surprise to readers of this blog that Phillips was not by any means lacking ability to draw this distinction, but instead asking her students to reflect critically on similarities and differences.  The full context:

One might expect feminists to unite in opposition to prostitution, seeing it as the ultimate symbol of male domination. In fact, there has been a more complex debate, part of which takes us back to the discussion of contract. Does a contract make something OK? Or are there certain relationships that remain exploitative, even if the parties voluntarily enter them? On the other side, if we consider it legitimate for women to hire themselves out as low paid and often badly treated cleaners, why is it not also legitimate for them to hire themselves out as prostitutes? If we treat these two occupations differently, does that involve an illegitimate paternalism or moralism? Again, does it mean endorsing some view of the body as sacrosanct, or of women as having a ‘special’ relationship to their body?

Students should divide themselves into two groups, one charged with making the case that prostitution is not significantly different from other forms of labour (ie, that it may be poorly paid and highly dangerous, but isn’t especially exploitative just because it involves sex/ the body); the other charged with opposing this. You should meet together before the session to work out your arguments and how you wish to present them… Each group will have 20 minutes in which to present its case. You may choose to elect two or three people from the group as spokespersons or may prefer a more collective presentation. For this week, we all meet together as a single group for a combined two-hour session.

Sigh.  And, no shock, The Daily Mail has used this as an occasion to ask how we dare to offer Gender Studies courses in a time of budget cuts.

[Expletives deleted.]  Thanks, S!

For more, go here.

Want to earn the big bucks? Don’t be fat and female

From the Grindstone: A new study shows that overweight women are more likely to be paid less in their positions than overweight men. It was also found that overweight women are also more prone to being unemployed. The initial study was conducted in Iceland where the “greatest level of gender equality in terms of health, education, business opportunities and political participation” exists. But the trend isn’t just in Iceland, it’s worldwide.The same study found that overweight men are far less affected by the trend. “If anything, larger men were paid more,” said Michigan professor, Edward Norton. “There is something in western society that seems to penalize women for being overweight,” he continued.

The paper, “Do body weight and gender shape the work force? The case of Iceland” is published in Economics & Human Biology
Volume 9, Issue 2, March 2011, Pages 148-156.