Query from a Reader

I’m teaching a course on procreation and parenthood soon and need readings on whether and how parents should instill gender roles. I thought I might use the Canadian couple who are concealing their child’s gender as an entry point, but need one or two readings–by philosophers, preferably contemporary, and at least one with a feminist outlook. Any help much appreciated.

Completely irrelevant silliness

As we wade back into discussion of the Pluralist Guide, I’m sure the question on the forefront of everyone’s mind is “what does the noble honey badger think of all this?” Well, let me assure you: honey badger don’t care.




Possibly NSFW, depending on your workplace’s tolerance for profanity and/or honey badgers who just don’t give a shit.

Stay sane, everybody!

Statement about the Pluralists’ Guide

We have been asked by Nancy Tuana to post the following statement from a group of feminist philosophers. Readers may wonder whether this blog takes a position in the debates over the Pluralists’ Guide. The answer is that the blog takes no position on this debate: this is a group blog and the individuals who blog here take a wide variety of positions as individuals. The blog, however, is strongly committed to respectful and collegial discussion of issues like this, so we welcome the call for constructive and civil discussion. To that end, we are opening the blog for comments for the next 24 hours, but during that period *all* comments will be moderated. (WordPress does not allow us to moderate comments from just one post.) Please bear in mind that all of us are unpaid and doing this in our spare time. Our moderating is therefore likely to be occasionally slow and, due to different moderators, may be inconsistent. We will be trying our best, and we ask you to do so as well. To that end, we remind you of our comments policy, and in particular our Be Nice rule, which will be strictly enforced. In addition, we will not allow speculation about intentions; discussion of particular philosophers’ private lives, whether by name or by description; discussion of particular departments, whether by name or by description. In addition, we ask commenters to refrain from inflammatory language. We also want to call attention to the fact that this statement is not about Brian Leiter. Discussion of Brian Leiter is off-topic and will be deleted as such.

We ask that commenters make every effort not to conflate issues about the climate for women with other issues that have been raised, such as questions about the methodologies permissible in philosophy or those concerned with the factual accuracy of claims that have been made.

Statement of Feminist Philosophers concerning the Pluralist’s Guide to Philosophy

We, the undersigned, publicly support the efforts of the new Pluralist’s Guide to Philosophy in both of its endeavors: to provide new sources of information on areas of philosophy that are still underrepresented in major doctoral programs and to provide information on the conditions for women and minorities in those programs. Philosophy has lagged behind the humanities and social sciences in its level of inclusiveness and diversity, a problem that adversely affects the caliber of all philosophical work. For decades now, feminist philosophers have been at the forefront of efforts to address sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and the general climate for women and other minority groups in philosophy, and to develop new and innovative areas of philosophical work. We know from many years of experience how difficult these efforts can be, and how often those who engage in these efforts are attacked, mis-characterized, and preemptively dismissed. In light of this experience, we have been dismayed at the level of vitriol and misinformation being perpetrated against some named and some unnamed feminists. We welcome constructive input about how to strengthen these efforts to provide more information on areas of philosophy that are underrepresented in major doctoral programs and urge all who work in these important areas of philosophy to contribute. And we call on the philosophical community to support initiatives, such as the Pluralist’s Guide, to make our profession more hospitable to women, and to women and men from underrepresented social sectors.
Debra Bergoffen
Susan Bordo
Joan Callahan
Claudia Card
Linda Fisher
Nancy Fraser
Sandra Harding
Nancy J. Holland
Eva Kittay
Hilde Lindemann
Ladelle McWhorter
Sharon M. Meagher
Phyllis Rooney
Ofelia Schutte
Laurie Shrage
Nancy Tuana
Georgia Warnke
Alison Wylie

Comments now closed, a bit later than promised. I think we’ve managed an extremely cordial discussion, but I don’t want to push our luck.

English riots

And so it continues. Round here, the police helicopters were out all night, and I can still hear sirens now at half past nine in the morning. The news is showing photos of devastation across England. As far as it’s possible to tell from the news reports and the word on the ground, the riots are about getting rich by looting shops, attacking the police and the fire service, and setting fire to things – including cars, shops, and houses with people inside them. The police are reporting that many of those arrested are people known to them as petty criminals. The few brief interviews with rioters shown on the news (and there really aren’t many) confirm the impression that the looters consider themselves to be gangsters – a criminal ‘class’ out to get what they can, with little respect for anyone or anything. Groups of people have been trying to defend their neighbourhoods – often, although not exclusively, people who arrived here as immigrants in the not too distant past. Three such men were killed last night when rioters drove a car into them in Birmingham. They had just left a mosque. Others, of many different backgrounds, have been organising to clear up the mess.

There is, of course, much speculation about the causes of the current riots. I suspect Daniel Hind, writing for Al-Jazeera is right when he says ‘civil disturbances never have a single, simple meaning…only a fool would announce what it all means’. But at risk of being a fool, it seems there are one or two remarks one may make.

First, those who claim the rioters have a political agenda are surely wrong. Whilst I don’t think that having a political agenda is an easy thing to capture (I doubt, e.g., that it must involve having explicit political motives and a detailed understanding of why one is doing what one does – which of us ever has such self-knowledge of, or control over our own actions?), I suspect it must involve at least some sort of political consciousness, which it’s not clear the rioters possess. People are rioting because breaking things is fun, and looting is a quick way to make some cash.

But second, those who think the rioters are merely mindless thugs, and there is no political dimension to the riots are surely also wrong. The rioters are (wannabe) gangsters, from some of the poorer neighbourhoods. It’s fairly easy to predict – if you know a city – where there will be rioting. And let me give you a clue, no-one’s predicting riots in the nicer suburbs. It’s no surprise either when the police announce they’ve arrested people from neighbourhoods x, y, and z because x, y, and z are poorer, rougher places.

So what does this mean? One part of the answer seems to be that to people in poorer, rougher areas, being a gangster looks like an attractive option. Not only is it attractive, it’s also a live option. What makes it an attractive and live option is surely that (i) one’s other prospects are bleak, (ii) one has been conditioned since birth (like everyone else living in a consumer capitalist society) to want the latest whatever, and to believe that one has the right to have it; (iii) one is surrounded by others living the gangster lifestyle. The roots of (iii) are no doubt fiercely complicated, but surely there’s some importance to the fact that being poor is stressful, stress breaks families apart, dysfunction creeps in, and once there, it reaches down the generations.

Things will no doubt become clearer with time. But for now, on behalf of all the families, shopkeepers, and other folk battening down the hatches after dark, let’s hope it’s true that the rain is coming, and rioters don’t like getting wet.

A few sensible stories:
Aljazeera, Telegraph, Nomadic Utopianism.