Online discussion of Animal Others

“Hypatia is trying something new and exciting by hosting an online discussion that features a published invited symposium from the Animal Others special issue. We are inviting you to join this free online discussion forum scheduled to run July 9 to 13.  The invited symposium “Feminists Encountering Animals,” which has just been published in the Animal Others special issue, will be open for public comments and live debate. Co-editors Lori Gruen (Ethics and Animals:  An Introduction) and Kari Weil (Thinking Animals:  Why Animal Studies Now) invited six feminist scholars to voice their thoughts, concerns, and hopes about current debates within animal studies.  The co-editors and symposium authors will take part in the online discussion forum providing commentary and real-time interaction among participants and authors, creating a lively discussion that extends beyond the printed page.  Links for free access to the entire special issue will also be provided. The first posts will go live at 11 A.M. EST on Mon, July 9 and can be found at the following address: No registration is necessary.”


Dress Code After Mastectomy

Jodi Jaecks is a Seattle woman, a breast cancer survivor who underwent a double mastectomy. She needed to swim for her recovery. A bathing suit top caused her pain.  She had no breast tissue and asked for permission to swim topless.

Jaecks, who has neither breasts nor nipples, says she wasn’t looking for a fight, simply a way to be active and perhaps get some temporary relief for her chest pain.

She was denied.

Why?  There are some clothes that women are just supposed to wear:

“And that’s when they said it was a policy that they required gender-appropriate clothing … regardless if I had nipples or whatever,” Jaecks said. 

And of course, there are the children to think of:

“We’re trying to protect children,” Potter [spokeswoman for the Seattle Parks Department] said. “A public pool isn’t necessarily the place to be carrying out an agenda.”

Eventually, Jaecks was granted an exception to the policy, during adult swims.  The Seattle Times says,

Jaecks says that’s not good enough. She wants the dress code changed for all women with mastectomy scars. She’ll keep on pressing for such a policy change, she says, and Wednesday night was not sure whether she would take advantage of the decision in her favor.

“It’s absurd and ludicrous that they would give one person permission because it puts the onus on a specific person to ask for permission individually,” Jaecks said. “It’s going to be harder for a more reserved, self-conscious woman to have the guts to stand out and be different.”

According to Jaecks

“It started as a personal fitness issue but once they said no to me, it became a far greater overarching political issue,” she says. “I’m hoping this will change their policy,” she told the paper. “Ultimately, I want to remove the stigma that women with breast cancer have to endure. We should be so far beyond that at this point.”

Quantifying the Gender Gap

Hypatia‘ s most recent issue [UPDATED: This article is now available for free online in “early view”] includes research on women in philosophy conducted by Molly Paxton, Carrie Figdor and Valerie Tiberius, whose work I’ve heard presented at conferences here and there, and whom I am eager to cite! I have already begun refering in recent work to the “intro-major cliff,” as they characterize it.  From their abstract:

Our study looks at gender representation in philosophy among undergraduate students, undergraduate majors, graduate students, and faculty. Our findings are consistent with what other studies have found about women faculty in philosophy, but we were able to add two pieces of new information. First, the biggest drop in the proportion of women in philosophy occurs between students enrolled in introductory philosophy classes and philosophy majors. Second, this drop is mitigated by the presence of more women philosophy faculty.

An important lesson in the UVa firing of President Sullivan

John Dickenson of CBS NEWS has an interesting observation on what can be learned from the UVa debacle. I think stated in general terms, the lesson may be obvious, but applying it in ordinary academic life may be less easy. What I like about it is that it encourages taking risks, but points out that the most important part may be what happens afterward.

The advice comes in fact from Atul Gawande whose commencement speech is one Rector Dragas was sending around.

Dickenson says:

What we know for sure is that Dragas and Kington did not get the central message of Gawande’s address to the graduating class at Williams College. Gawande concluded by saying:

So you will take risks, and you will have failures. But it’s what happens afterward that is defining. A failure often does not have to be a failure at all. However, you have to be ready for it–will you admit when things go wrong? Will you take steps to set them right?–because the difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks. It’s about mastery of rescue.

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that Dragas, Kington, and their anti-Sullivan cabal blew the rescue. They stood up in the lifeboat, they threw gas on the fire, they put the oxygen mask on the child first, and forgot themselves…

At an institution founded on intellectual inquiry, it is a bad idea to respond to questions with stonewalling. But it would be a mistake to think the board just mishandled the aftermath or that a different statement confected by a team of PR wizards would have helped. The calamity in the post-risk period of Sullivan’s firing was baked into the initial risk-taking act. This is where the incomplete analogy in Gawande’s speech is important. You must have a plan if your risk goes awry, but you also can’t do things in the risk-taking that doom your clean-up effort. So when you’re climbing a tricky pass on El Capitanwithout a rope, don’t wear an anvil. When you launch a start-up, don’t sign on with venture capital firms too fast or the money you get will cause you to grow too quickly, amplifying the early failures you’ll inevitably have and putting you on the hook with merciless investors. Don’t think because you’ve been successful making one kind of risky decision that you will be successful making others…

Risk takers are actually highly cautious. They squeeze every ounce of chance out of their actions because they know what they’re doing may fail. Dragas and her accomplices did the opposite [through their secret plotting].

“The Harm of Hate Speech”. What Say You?

Women are well-acquainted with hate speech, most of which goes entirely unnoticed.  In a recent book by Jeremy Waldron, The Harm of Hate Speech (Harvard University Press), he argues for hate speech legislation, realizing that Americans are unlikely to go for it.  (Book is reviewed in today’s NYT Sunday Book Review.) So, what do feminists think about the possibility of hate speech legislation?  Personally, I’m inclined towards it.  What say you?

Thanks For the Dadflys

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, which was signed into law by then-President Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972, six days after the Watergate break-in.


The law is an astoundingly simple 37 words:


 “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”


Note that this says nothing about sports.


And yet the world of sports is the arena in which the Title IX political game has been played – with an overwhelming victory for female athletes. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, about 294,000 girls competed in high school sports the year before Title IX became law. Last year, the number was nearly 3.2 million, an increase of about 980%.


One of the great ironies of the Nixon administration might be the fact that the Watergate week marked a watershed moment for the future of, literally, hundreds of millions of American women.


Things seem to be so solid for women’s sports as Title IX reaches the four decade mark that it is tempting to say the job is done. Every girl who wants to play a sport, or two or five, is playing them. Title IX, schmitle IX, who cares? Let’s say thanks, and move on.



We should say our thank yous, but I don’t think it’s time to move on. In fact, I think the struggle to enforce Title IX is more relevant than ever.


(Again: who ever said it was about SPORTS? Why are we content with giving our daughters balls and bats, without also using looking for ways to use Title IX to wage a political war against the other forms of discrimination that are apparently rampant at U.S. educational institutions – all of which receive Federal financial assistance, through Pell grants, Stafford loans, and so forth?)


But since the 40th anniversary should be a time for celebration, and not for griping, let me say thanks.


Respect and thanks are of course due to the early pioneers: to Bernice Sandler, who used President Johnson’s Executive Order 11375 to wage a legal battle for her job at the University of Maryland in 1969, and then joined Representative Edith Green in the congressional hearings where the idea for Title IX was born; to Representative Patsy Mink, who prepared an early draft of the legislation; to Senator Birch Bayh, who was the author and chief sponsor of Title IX, etc.


But I think thanks are also due to the legions of gadfly fathers – “dadflys” is the term Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff recently coined – who took the legislation to heart and pushed for change in sports programs and stadiums across the country.


One of my favorite dadflys is a retiree named Herb Dempsey, a 75-year-old grandfather from Battle Ground, Washington, who is a self-proclaimed “nasty old man”, and has spent the past 20 years making Title IX enforcement his full-time hobby. He uses Google Earth to identify possible shoddy sports facilities – and, if his investigation turns up an underfunded girls’ program, he uses Title IX to force change.


Dempsey has filed more than 1000 complaints with the Office of Civil Rights challenging inequities in high school athletics. One example was a case in Castle Rock, Washington, where girls’ soccer games had to be shortened to 32 minutes from 80 minutes because there were no lights on the field—even though a football field with lights was available not far away.


“It’s hard to believe how bad it still is,” Dempsey told Sports Illustrated, “because people want to celebrate how good it has become.”

Anna Morandi: 18th C Anatomist and Sculptor

I just came across these absolutely amazing wax sculptures made by anatomist Anna Morandi.

Here’s her self-portrait (with dissected head, of course.)


“Medical Venuses” were a popular attraction among the anatomical wax models of the day, life-size figures of reclining, naked women, sometimes wearing pearls, whose stomachs were flayed to reveal the female reproductive system. Instead, Morandi tore away the fig leaf of the opposite sex, mastering the anatomy of the male reproductive system.

I am so ordering the book.

How not to encourage girls to do science

UPDATED again: Thanks, SeanH! The video is still viewable here. I recommend reading the Washington Post story, too, but that video is, as everyone’s saying, funnier/sadder than parody!

4:50pmEDT: The video no longer plays at the Washington Post site linked below.  It now says, “This video is private.” Too much criticism to take?

Oh, heavens to Betsy, this is really cringe-worthy.

And why didn’t they just show images of females actually doing science? Or show what genders look like together, doing science?

Sigh. Thanks, Samantha, I guess, for the tip. Sigh.