Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Reader Query: feminist critiques of evolutionary psychology? September 17, 2011

Filed under: science — Jender @ 7:28 pm

I’m a first-year grad student and today was my first day of discussion sections for the 101 course I’m TA-ing. Given that I’m not actually assigning the readings, there’s only so much I can do to encourage participation by members of under-represented groups, though I did what I could with my own syllabus and I intend to monitor power dynamics within discussions. Today one of my more active sections went from a discussion about why we care about piety to the subject of what drives us toward excellence, and one very vocal (female, interestingly) student was pushing a pretty hard evolutionary psychological line; so hard, in fact, that she was explicit about her belief that only men need to be excellent so that they can attract mates but women mostly need to worry about nurturing! I didn’t want to be heavy-handed and intervene so I mostly let the students discuss it amongst themselves, but at least one other student appeared visibly uncomfortable with the view we were discussing, though when I asked her after class if she had felt uncomfortable she said that she didn’t and she enjoyed arguing.

I haven’t read much philosophical literature on this topic (and I think Gender Trouble might be a little bit much), but if anyone can recommend something easy (easy for non-majors at a middling state university) and short that critiques EP from a feminist perspective, I would love to bring it up next week.

We’ve gone a fair few posts on the topic, here. But what else do you all know of? I like Natalie Angier’s _Woman_ but it’s dated. Cordelia Fine of course has some excellent stuff that’s very relevant, as does Rebecca Jordan-Young.


15 Responses to “Reader Query: feminist critiques of evolutionary psychology?”

  1. The Goldfish Says:

    Maybe no good if you’re in the states, but my Open University philosophy course spent a lot of time on this. The coursebooks, written by Rosalind Hursthouse are available on-line second hand. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Humans-Other-Animals-Philosophy-Situation/dp/0749287519

  2. Rob Says:

    Check out this recent special issue of SEX ROLES:

    Buss and Schmitt’s paper (“Evolutionary Psychology and Feminism”), which addresses all of the contributions to the special issue, is available here:

  3. John Protevi Says:

    Susan McKinnon’s _Neoliberal Genetics: The Myths and Moral Tales of Evolutionary Psychology_ is short, biting, and quite fun to read. Its basis is anthropology rather than philosophy, but it does tackle the modularity question, for instance. Notes on it here: http://www.protevi.com/john/Morality/McKinnon.pdf. I teach it in this course: http://www.protevi.com/john/Morality/index.html

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Sofia Elliott Connell’s paper, “Feminism and Evolutionary Psychology” is short, readable, and provocative (and convincing, but ymmv). At minimum it lays out the terms of the debate clearly, and I could see it working well to focus undergraduate discussions.

    ‘Feminism and Evolutionary Psychology’, electronic publication, 4th European Feminist Research Conference, Bologna, 2000. http://www.women.it/quarta/workshops/re-figuring3/selliot.htm

  5. […] here: Reader Query: feminist critiques of evolutionary psychology … This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged 101-course, discussion-sections, […]

  6. For fun and profit you could also go with Sex at Dawn.

  7. Apologies for not linking to the book: http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Dawn-Prehistoric-Origins-Sexuality/dp/0061707805

    Sex at Dawn is EP that goes out of its way to directly contradict many contemporary mores. Although it is a popular anthropology text, I found it useful as a way to fight the stranger bull-$h17 that comes out of EP.

  8. Just found this today in PhilPapers: Carla Fehr (2011). Feminist Engagement with Evolutionary Psychology. Hypatia 26 – http://philpapers.org/rec/FEHFEW

    Seems it could be a perfect antidote.

  9. Jack Samuel Says:

    Thanks everyone! I am the reader who queried, and I appreciate the suggestions. This is a literature I’d really like to get into some day when I have the time, and this looks like a good starting place.

    And Adam – I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Dan Savage talk about Sex at Dawn, so I’m glad to know it holds up to feminist philosopher-scrutiny.

  10. Bill Says:

    Evolutionary Psychology is another name for hand-waving.

  11. Katherine Hawley Says:

    ‘Human Nature after Darwin’ by Janet Radcliffe-Richards would be great for an undergraduate class (I think it started out as an Open University course text).

  12. crystal Says:

    Don’t know if this will be helpful, but one of the author of Sex at Dawn has a blog at Pychology Today that sometimes addresses these issues … http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-dawn

  13. Monkey Says:

    Sarah Blaffer Hrdy – has made several important contributions to evolutionary theory. Can highly recommend.

    Edited collection of papers ‘Alas Poor Darwin’ – I’ve not read all of this, but Anne Fausto-Sterling (biologist) has a good piece in it.

  14. Mark Says:

    Try Evolutionary Feminism by Edwin Fruehwald at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1929104.

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