On requiring unnecessary, invasive exams

I think I have a new hero.

To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.

“We need some gender equity here,” she told HuffPost. “The Virginia senate is about to pass a bill that will require a woman to have totally unnecessary medical procedure at their cost and inconvenience. If we’re going to do that to women, why not do that to men?”

Dissolve the APA?

I thought readers may want to know that the question as to why the APA ought to continue to exist has been raised; sure, many American philosophers have privately pondered this, but the question is posed and defended in a serious way by a philosopher tasked with exploring ways to keep the APA afloat.  Our readers are welcome to comment here, but I recommend reading the original post and the responses at the source.

I should note my own bias: Although I’ve been a dues-paying member for fifteen years, I’ve long considered the end of the APA as a good (that is, likely, perhaps even desirable) possibility.

One More Gender Stereotype Smashed to Bits

Women are better at parking than men, contrary to common belief.

“Stereotyped views on driving have been shaken after new research that finds women are more efficient parkers than men. The experiment, conducted by UK’s National Car Parks, showed that women’s spatial awareness has been underrated, or perhaps that males’ spatial awareness has been overrated.” More here: Women Top Men in Parking Skills, UK Study Asserts.

Men were, however, happier with their parking job than were women (even though objectively it was worse) and generally more confident about their abilities.

“I never heard of, of rape and a man.”

Joe Paterno said that, admitting that even if he’d been given more detailed reports of the rapes at Penn State, he wouldn’t have known what to do. There’s a good article here, about widespread lack of understanding of the fact that men may be victims of rape. A nice example for those working on Miranda Fricker’s hermeneutical injustice. Also just something important to remember when teaching or writing about rape. Men are silenced too, and arguably more than women– it wasn’t until this year that the US federal statistics on rape began including male victims.

(Thanks, C!)

Feminist Philosophy of Science Prize

PSA Women’s Caucus Prize – Call For Nominations

Nominations are now open for the 2012 Philosophy of Science Women’s Caucus Prize. The Prize is awarded biennially for the best book, article, or chapter published in English in the area of feminist philosophy of science within the five years prior to each PSA meeting. The winner will receive a cash award of $500, which will be presented at the November 2012 PSA meeting in San Diego, California.

The deadline for nominations is May 1, 2012. To be considered, works must have been published between May 1, 2007 and May 1, 2012. Articles posted electronically on journal websites in final (accepted) form prior to May 1, 2012 are eligible for consideration. Self-nominations are allowed but are limited to one per person.

To make a nomination, please provide information about the article, book or chapter you are nominating by clicking here.

Femmes et Philosophie au Québec

Si votre Français est meilleur que le mein, et/ou vous habitez en Montréal ou Québec, this looks well worth getting involved with. Femmes et Philosophie au Québec, who have a Facebook page here, describe themselves as follows:

We are women and pro-feminist men in philosophy (also from psychology, cultural studies, History-society-culture interdisciplinary program, also participants from outside universities, etc.), who have formed a Salon (inspired by the format of 18th century salons in France, one of the only and last places that were feminine but in which men and women engaged in intellectual exchanges, etc.) called “Salon Femmes et philosophie”. We are from all Montréal universities but mostly meet at UQÀM.

We meet once a month, and have many really interesting and creative actions and projects planned for 2012 – to denounce the absence of women in philosophy in Québec, to promote and network between feminist philosophers, to put forward and under the noses of teachers and authorities the works of women in philosophy, to push for more feminine content in classes, and be means to each other’s ends in the individual struggles we face alone, each solo in our seminars, surrounded by men who find that “man” is a generic term, that language, sexist as it is, is fine as it is, and that women do not quite “get” the philosophical mindframe, etc. Notably, we try to bring academia’s attention toward invisible biases, glass ceilings, stereotype effects, etc. that affect the experience of women in philosophy, in academia, and as intellectual authorities in Québec.  We are aged 18 – 45, some are parents, some queer, some are activists, some are employed and we are trying to become a diverse yet resolutely pro-feminist group.

In fact, even if your French isn’t above what a Canadian friend calls “cereal box standard”, the Facebook page seems like a useful source of news and views. I like the profile picture.

Something to think about this semester…

Philosophy teachers:  What kind of discussion might you aim for in your classes. Here are some comments I’ve heard over several decades:

a. “You know how it is, if you’re going to say anything in a seminar, it has to be brilliant.”

b. “This is the philosophical method: someone puts up a position and everyone tries to knock it down.”

c. A dialogue:
Speaker One: It’s as though you stand on the top of a hill, and say to your students: This is my position, and anyone who wants to have their own position has to knock me off first.
Speaker Two: Yes, that’s what I do best.

First, some obvious things to say: There’s been a lot of discussion of aggressive philosophy and the antagonist philosophical style. But there’s something else that’s more moderate, and that one suspects a lot of us find attractive. That’s the vigorous “exchange of ideas” that is actually carried on with quite a bit of evaluation. If you pursue this as a professor, you might find yourself saying, “Well, that’s not a bad idea, but it isn’t as strong as the first one, and it doesn’t really answer these other questions.” Or,” yes fair point, but most people nowadays have learned that doesn’t cut much philosophical ice.” Students can be very good at summing such remarks up.

Secondly, the less obvious:  Research we looked at earlier this week strongly suggests that there’s a danger that such an environment dumbs down some students, and these students form identifiable groups.  White women and Hispanics.  It really shouldn’t be a surprise that styles in classes can have discriminatory effects, but now we are moving beyond the anecdotal to some ideas about how deeply seated the dumbed down reaction may be.

An opposite strategy:  to try to find as much worthwhile in each comment as you can, and leave off evaluating the rest.  Should one try something like that?  Do the results we reported on before show that those of us who like to stir up a vigorous and challenging debate have obligation to reconsider?  What do you think?