Is 17 gendered?

Scientific American has an article (poorly titled) on the role of gender in thought. Much of it I knew before, but I hadn’t known that there is a widespread tendency to consider odd numbers masculine and even ones feminine. (And it shocked me, partly because I realised to my astonishment that I was absolutely certain odd numbers were female! Especially 17! And despite claims that it is Julius Caesar.)

Thanks, Mr Jender!

“Independent” Pre-Abortion Counselling to be required in UK

The head of the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned that government moves to shake up pre-abortion counselling for women could create new barriers and set the system back 25 years.

Clare Gerada defended abortion charities, disputing accusations that they are biased in their counselling and encourage women to have abortions because they are subsequently paid to carry out the terminations.

The government has announced a change in the rules to ensure that women are also offered counselling provided independently of the charity-run services, such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Marie Stopes.

MPs who are backed by anti-abortion groups claim the move justifies the argument that there is a conflict of interest in the way services are run.

So the proposal is that we need independent counsellors because charities that provide abortion can’t be trusted. And the fact that this proposal is being made is the evidence that is being used to support the claim that the charities can’t be trusted. Nice one.

For more, go here.

(Thanks, Mr Jender.)

Accessible conferences – where to start?

Trying to design an accessible conference can be a confusing, even intimidating, process. The experiences of disabled people are so varied that there’s no way you can predict the appropriate accommodations for everyone, and sometimes an accommodation for one disability can be actually be hindrance for another. It can be hard to know where to start. But while we probably won’t get things exactly right, I suspect that in philosophy we could be doing much better.

Here are a few basic recommendations from my own (extremely limited) conference-organizing experience, plus a bit of a priori extrapolation (I have more experience with that).

Ask ahead: I’m a longtime vegetarian. It used to be very uncommon for conference invitations to include a proviso that said something to the effect of “If you have any dietary restrictions, please let us know so that we can accommodate them”. I would always feel awkward about requesting that my vegetarianism be accommodated if the invitation hadn’t included such a proviso. So I’d often end up not attending conference dinners, going hungry, etc. These days, almost every conference I go to asks about dietary requirements. Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, lactose or gluten-intolerant, eat kosher, etc, they’ll try to work something out for you, and they make that clear. It’s amazing the difference that a simple proviso (“Dietary restrictions? Just let us know!”) makes to the conference-going comfort of us non-standard eaters. But I have never – ever – gotten a conference invitation that contained a similar proviso about disability accommodation. It would make such a difference – even if the difference is just to signal a helpful, understanding attitude – if conference organizers proactively asked about disability accommodation.

Invite disabled speakers first – Have a speaker that you want to invite to your conference, and you know that they’re disabled? Invite them first – before you’ve set the schedule, the venue, whatever. Say to this person: “We really want to have you at this conference. How can we make this conference as accessible to you as possible?” Then build your conference around what’s best for your speaker, rather than designing your conference and expecting your disabled speaker to conform themselves to what you’ve set up (or, perhaps more likely, being a bit sad that the disabled speaker turned you down).

Allow flexibility – If at all possible, don’t force all conference-goers to do everything the same way. Is your conference in an urban area where most people walk, and you’re assuming that everyone will walk from the conference venue to dinner? That’s fine, but have info about cabs or public transportation available. And have other people ready and willing to use these options with a conference-goer that needs them. You don’t want to put your disabled conference-goer on a bus by herself and say “we’ll see you at dinner!” Can you have the conference sessions near the conference accommodation, so that conference goers who need breaks can easily and non-obviously take them? (They’ll appreciate this, trust me.) And is that beautiful old stone building that has narrow hallways, twisty staircases, and no elevators really the only place you can hold your conference? Really?

Take advantage of university services – Once you find about about the accessibility requirements of the people attending your conference, talk to the people at your university (if you’re holding the conference at a university) in charge of accessibility. You probably associate these people primarily with those endless, often highly impractical emails you get about making your classes more accessible to dyslexic students (I remember in particular a very long one I got about the importance of minizing the use of symbols and technical jargon the semester I was teaching intro logic. . .), but they really do have a lot to offer. You’ll be surprised at the range of software, presentation aids, even furniture and equipment that many universities can provide for you.

These are just some starting thoughts. More suggestions?

International Social Philosophy Conference in Boston, 2012

Personal note: I’ve always found lots of feminist work on the program of the social philosophy conferences, lots of women attending and giving papers, and a very friendly, supportive atmosphere.

Twenty-Ninth International Social Philosophy Conference

Sponsored by

The North American Society for Social Philosophy

July 26 – July 28, 2012
Northeastern University
Boston, Massachusetts

Special attention will be devoted to the theme:

Civic Virtues, Divided Societies, and Democratic Dilemmas

but proposals in all areas of social philosophy are welcome.

The Program Committee members are Professor John Koolage of Eastern Michigan, Professor Gaile Pohlhaus of Miami University, and Professor Theresa Tobin of Marquette University.

A 300-500 word abstract should be emailed to all of the program committee members. We welcome submissions from both members and non-members, but we do expect that all presenters will join the North American Society for Social Philosophy if their papers are accepted.

Submission Deadlines:

For those living in Canada or the U.S.: March 15, 2012.

For those living outside the United States and Canada: Jan. 15, 2012.

Submit proposals to all of the following members of the program committee:

John Koolage

Gaile Pohlhaus

Theresa Tobin

NASSP Travel Grants for International Presenters

The NASSP has limited funds for travel to Boston for presenters living outside the U.S. and Canada. If you are interested, please indicate this at the time that you receive the acceptance e-mail.

NASSP Conference Awards for Graduate Students

To promote new scholarship focusing on social philosophy and to encourage student participation, the North American Society for Social Philosophy has established the NASSP Awards for Best Graduate Student Papers. These awards give special recognition to papers to be read by a graduate student at the NASSP annual conference. The winners of the annual prizes will each receive $300 upon attendance at the annual International Social Philosophy Conference, and will be honored at the conference. The prizes are awarded only to conference attendees, though there is no obligation to use the money for conference-related costs. Any graduate student enrolled in a program towards a degree beyond the B.A. or first university diploma is eligible. The paper should be consistent with the framework of those presented at the International Social Philosophy Conference, addressing any topic in social philosophy. The papers will be evaluated by a three-member committee. The evaluation criteria include originality and quality of philosophical writing. Papers may be drawn from thesis work or intended for eventual publication, should be no more than 3,000 words (include word count with submission), and conform to the requirements set out by the APA for colloquium submissions to annual Divisional meetings.

Deadline: March 15, 2012.
Both abstracts and completed papers should be submitted to the program committee as directed above for anonymous review. Please indicate that you wish to be considered for the Graduate Student Award in your email. Please also include a word count for your submission.

CFP: Disabled Mothers

Co-editors: Gloria Filax and Dena Taylor

Publication Date: 2014


While there are several books on raising children with disabilities, the literature is scant on experiences of disabled women who are raising children OR the experiences of those parented by a woman with disabilities. Bringing together disability with mothering has the potential to challenge dominant narratives of both mothering AND disability. Noticing dominant ideas, meanings, and/or stories/narratives (normative discourses) regarding both ‘mothering’ and ‘disability’ expose the limits beyond which disabled mothers live their daily lives.

The goal of this edited collection is to add to literatures on mothering and disability through providing stories by disabled mothers or their children as well as chapters of scholarly research and theorizing. We intend that both stories and research in this collection will raise critical questions about the social and cultural meanings of disability and mothering. Whether a birth mother, an adoptive mother,a foster mother, a co-mother, someone mothered by a disabled woman, or someone whose research explores disabled mothering, we invite you to submit to this collection.

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

How are disabled women discouraged from having children? How does the medical model of disability shape the meanings assigned to disabled mothers? How do chronic illnesses affect mothering? Are disabled mothers healthy mothers? How do the social and cultural models of disability shape how we understand disabled mothers and mothering? Are disabled mothers oppressed? How doissues of race,class, and sexuality affect disabled mothers and their families? Should disabled mothers ‘pass’ as normal? How are pregnancy and birth experiences shaped by disability? How do children experience and understand a disabled mother? What support is needed and received by disabled mothers? How does the built environment, both public and private, shape the experiences of disabled mothers? What kinds of issues are there with children’s schools, health professionals and/or children’s attitudes? What form, if any, does social and political activism take? Do legal remedies work to assist disabled mothers (for example, disability as a protected category in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Americans with Disabilities Act)? How does a mother’s disability expose the expectations of mothering? How does a mother’s disability expose the assumptions about disability? How is society disabling of mothering? How can we ‘do’ disabled mothering differently?

Submission Guidelines

Abstracts should be 250 words. Please also include a brief biography (50 words) with citizenship.
Please send to and
Deadline for Abstracts is December 31, 2011
Accepted papers of 4000-5000 words (15-20 pages) will be due October 15, 2012

Inspirational Women

Check it out.

Parvin Ardalan
Ardalan is a feminist activist writer based in Tehran, Iran. In 2007 she was awarded the Olof Palme Prize for her struggle for gender equality. Along with other feminist writters, ignoring the threats of the Tehran religious-police, she has helped set up the Women’s Cultural Centre in Tehran. This is with the aim to promote women`s issues in Iran. She has been imprisoned for her work. Ardalan is one of the founding members of the One Million Signatures campaign, attempting to collect a million signatures for women’s equal rights.

(Thanks, C!)

For you who face Irene

Be as safe and careful as you can.  Many of us will be watching as much as we can and hoping for good outcomes.  I suppose a few of us may pray, but you know what philosophers are like.

I  saw my second home town, Galveston, on CNN today as an example of what a hurricane can do.  Ike was so very destructive, and it sounds as though you may have something similar or even worse.  It is frightening, and the devastation you see afterwards can be very depressing.  Houston was without electricity for about 8 or 9 days.  We weren’t even allowed on Galveston; I went there on the second day we could get on the island.  Driving down the main street was like being in a funeral procession.  You may be in for something not easy to imagine.  I was in tears; it was hard not to be.

I hope you have read all the standard advice, and followed what you could.  The only advice I hadn’t seen, and wished I had, was to charge up fully everything that you can.  There are few things more vexing than to finally turn on one’s computer and see that you have little power left and no source of power anywhere near.

Colleges and universities may get power early; ours did.  In addition, of course, you may be able to charge things while you drive about.    It turns out that ipads are not entirely easy to charge, and yours may well require more power than a car can offer.   Well, there have to be some drawbacks, in addition to the name.

If you are in an area that is not used to hurricanes and floods, do be prepared to discover that a lot of retrospectively stupid decisions were made, such as not providing for sealing off the elevator mechanisms.  Or putting the generators in the basement.  Builders who skimped may be revealed, as sides and roofs of new houses come off.  You or other people in your area may be visited with equal stupidity such as, for example, being refused aid for homelessness because their second floor or higher apartment is in tact.  This despite the fact that the elevators do not work and they have to use a wheelchair.

So we will watch and hope.