Yep, an international conference on Feyerabend , speakers from the whole wide world, and all of them are men. The growing list of gendered conferences is really starting to get me feeling bad.
If you are new to the Gendered Conference Campaign please take a look at this post that describes why we bring gendered conferences to your attention. Especially important is the part about us focusing on the harmful effects of gendered conferences, rather than the intentions of the conference organizers.
Also, here is a link to FAQ‘s about the Gendered Conference Campaign. It would be great if you took a look at them so that we don’t have to cover old ground in the comments.
Update: As Matt Brown points out below, this conference generated the following post here in December: https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/gcc-related-query-women-on-feyerabend/
48 thoughts on “International Feyerabend conference, 14 invited speakers, no women”
As an invited speaker and someone who was involved in the early planning phases of the conference, I might have more to add later, not in trying to make excuses or avoid blame, but just in the spirit of the GCC, in trying to get at what went wrong. I just wanted to point out that this is the same conference that generated this post:
And a number of suggestions were generated for women speakers. What happened? What we are left with are some rather surprising reactions on HOPOS-L.
Sorry to be slow on adding to this post. I sent this message to one of the organizers in December:
Hello, again. I write just to forward to you the suggestions sent in
as to women whose scholarship includes discussion of Feyerabend:
Elisabeth Lloyd (U of Indiana)
Hanne Andersen (http://firstname.lastname@example.org)
Karin Knorr-Cetina http://www.soziologie.uni-konstanz.de/knorrcetina,
Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach (Konstanz University).
Helen Longino has discussed Feyerabend in her work
Sarah Roe (UC Davis)
Catherine Elgin at Harvard
Juliet Floyd, Boston U. Published an excellent paper on Feyerabend a
few years ago:
“Homage to Vienna: Feyerabend on Wittgenstein (and Austin and Quine)”,
in K.R.Fischer & F.Stadler (eds.), Paul Feyerabend (1924 – 1994) – Ein
Philosoph aus Wien, Springer Verlag.
(So those were the suggestions, compiled from comments on the old post Matt links to above, as well as private emails in response to it.)
(Also, at least in Juliet Floyd’s case, I gave her the heads-up that I passed along her name as Feyerabend-appropriate, and commented that they may contact her; to my knowledge, she never received a query from them as to her availability, so I don’t know what steps were taken.)
Here is a question for you, “If you were one of the organizers of this conference, and had lots and lots of goodwill, what would you do now?”
I don’t know what steps were taken after that post, since I was not involved at that stage. I would be surprised if the organizers didn’t make any use of this list, but I cannot say because I wasn’t a part of that conversation. (Hopefully Eric or Matteo can tell us.)
I must admit I share a significant amount of the blame for this problem. The original list of invited speakers that Eric and Matteo started with was the set of invited contributors for a collection on Feyerabend that I am co-editing. We were focusing a little more narrowly than the conference, just on Feyerabend scholars, and though we had several women on our list (including some of the above), none of them agreed to contribute. We should have pushed harder at this point, but already had a large number of people who had agreed, and so I let it drop. 6 months or so after that, when Eric brought up the idea of the conference, we sent him our proposal for the collection and they started from there (the idea being in part that the conference would be an opportunity for the contributors to get together and talk about their essays before finalizing the volume).
Not long after that, Eric, Matteo, or one of the other organizers of the conference sent the request to this blog, but the inviting of additional speakers to the conference was not something I was involved with. (I’m not trying to shift the blame, here, I just can’t speak to what happened at that point.)
My co-editor and I are talking about whether it is too late in the process to try and expand the volume to respond to the issues that have been raised here and on HOPOS-L. Speaking for myself, I think the complaints are spot on, and I’m glad that they have been raised, despite the massive chagrin I’m feeling.
Anyone willing to share the issues raised on HOPOS-L (at least, those that have not been raised here)? I gather there were some salient observations there, but like many I’m not a subscriber.
Lots of things have been raised on the HOPOS-L, too many , but I am interested in what people think about the following bit from the exchange:
“If you do not cancel this conference (it is too late for tokenism), I am inclined to start a blog campaign in which I will call on the keynoters to withdraw from the conference.You can be assured that I will contact your university and your grant agency to make my concerns known. I will also try to find a German language scholar to try to get FAZ to publish a short editorial on this.”
Does this seem like the right approach to GCC issues? (Not trying to be snide; I earnestly want to know what people think.)
I forward below my circular email to HOPOS-L, assuring that in the next few hours we will be making any attempt to amend our mistakes.
as a member of the organizing committee of the international conference FEYERABEND 2012, I would like to thank you very much for your critical comments. But, as a post-doc and a sort of guest of academia, with neither special allegiances to anybody – dead or alive – nor an agonizing ambition for an academic career, I feel like making the following utterly frank and straightforward remarks.
I take my share of responsibility for having set up an all-male list of invited speakers, from four continents, including Asians, Israelis, Italians, Hispanics, and scholars of a female persuasion, but unfortunately no Africans or women. As it is pretty clear from the link indicated by FEHR (https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/international-feyerabend-conference-14-invited-speakers-no-women/#comments), we did consider the gender problem already eight months ago and we did make an effort to solve it. Unfortunately, intervening events – which can also account for the delay with which the conference announcement and call for papers were issued – prevented us from finding an ideal solution. However, we did not want a semblance of gender bias to spoil a good opportunity for intellectual debate. These are, as it were, mitigating circumstances that can at least partly explain, though probably not excuse, the final outcome of our original intentions. Thus, from this point of view, I plead guilty and throw myself on the mercy of the court, solemnly promising that I shall do my best to fix what went wrong.
On the other hand, I am quite appalled by the following aspects of this thread:
1. If one looks at the (incomplete) list of all-male conferences compiled by the Gendered Conference Campaign (https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/gendered-conference-campaign/), a number of recent HPS- or HOPOS-related conferences can be found, most of which were advertised on this mailing list. To my memory, in no other case a kangaroo court of this sort has assembled. This may have something to do with the power of Feyerabend’s name to ignite philosophical polemics, though I suspect other reasons are involved.
2. Jumping to conclusions is not something I expect from professional philosophers and/or professional historians, all the more so when this involves spreading slanders such as that both the organizers and the invited speakers of this conference are “willingly perpetuating a pattern of gender exclusion”, where the stress is on “willingly”, of course. Contrasted with the polite and positive attitude of the Feminist Philosophers’ remarks, I find this allegation strikingly shameful and demand explicit and public apologies.
3. Meddling into the decisions of a conference organizing committee is something I have already witnessed on this mailing list and found not particularly amusing, let alone professional, especially if put in terms of whom should have been invited and whom not. The structure of our conference was designed so that its two aims are meant to be mainly pursued in different sections: the invited papers and the contributing papers respectively. While the invited papers section is strictly connected to a forthcoming collection (see again: https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/international-feyerabend-conference-14-invited-speakers-no-women/#comments), I hope that a number of proposals from feminist philosophers of science will be submitted to the contributing papers section and a full session exclusively devoted to the issues raised by this philosophical current can be set up. Were this not the case – for one reason or another, including cancellation or boycott – I look forward to the foreseeable 2014 Feyerabend conferences – on the ninetieth anniversary of his birth and on the twentieth of his death – wishing my best well in advance to their organizing committees.
This situation is severe, but not serious. I strongly hope that all this fuss is for the better.
Yours in discourse,
O dear. Some of us were inclined to say things a bit milder but not a lot. We decided to shift tactics, and to focus on effects rather than blaming, etc. I can see at least two questions: what sort of actions are we comfortable with? What sort of effects do various approaches have.
One could worry that the “let’s work together to solve this approach” is reaching a stasis in its effects; I have no idea whether that it true but I can see worrying about that.
What would happen with a sledge hammer approach? That’s going to create a lot of resentment, etc., the evidence suggests. But that might be a short term approach, even if an academic generation is what we think of as “short term.” Since I don’t have money for research spending, and since I don’t like to do things entirely a priori, I do think of other liberation movements. I love the idea of non-violent demonstrations and strategies, which the approach on hopos-l approach may instantiate.
I do hope the Feyerabend volume is changed. Philosophy may change a lot; it would be a shame for a volume on him to illustrate philosophy’s past. And maybe a disservice to him.
BTW, it is fun to think of what non-violent but disruptive activities might include. Apparently, miniature horses are great for people who have trouble with vision, and I think presenting the organizers and speakers each with a trained miniature horse for the conference might be great fun.
One might put up posters of left out women. Too often conferences are all planned and then someone tries to fit in a few women. That’s not the best approach. If you wanted to give a conference with, e.g., Wittgenstein scholars, you’d start surely with finding out about their availability, what you can do to solve their problems with coming, etc.
In NYC, there are some giant rats that are taken around to business with unfair labor practices. We might think of a similar icon (perhaps Philippa Foot at her most disapproving) that gets inflated for such conferences. Or perhaps recordings of an Anscombe voice amounting some of her famous statements of disapproval. Perhaps, “On the face of it, that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard; what could you mean” or “Come, come, that is too silly to repeat” or “Are you following the argument at all?”
Of course, I’d try to fit in some cats; perhaps we could get the building declared to have a serious rat problem and see if good people would donate their cats for a few days. With the organizers responsible for containing the problematic cat smell. We could call it the Ikea project, and maybe get their help.
I find myself of more than one mind about the passage that Matt Brown asked about. It does seem that calling for a conference to be cancelled seems quite drastic. Getting a conference up and running and funded and all is an enormous amount of work and a significant contribution to the profession. So I do wonder if this is not a rather draconian penalty to insist upon–out of the blue–as it were. As Matteo Collodel point out, no other conference has been subjected to this treatment. (Although I also think that the reference to “kangaroo courts” was not well taken. But I also ask myself, why shouldn’t the participants in such a conference be asked to withdraw? Don’t they also need to confront the implications of participating in an all-male event?
Dear Margaret Atherton,
I understand your criticism about my reference to “kangaroo courts”, which does not make much sense if taken out of its original context. It was referred to a certain stage in the HOPOS-L discussion; certainly not to the way in which the issue is approached in this blog or by the activists of the GCC. (In my email I made a remark on your positive, or – as I should better have said – constructive attitude as opposed to someone else’s merely polemical and destructive attacks).
I would like to assure you that most likely our conference won’t be an all-male event since we expect proposals from female scholars for the contributing paper section, and some such proposals have already been submitted.
Anyway, I would be pleased to transform what is admittedly a flaw in the invited papers section of our conference set-up into an opportunity both for us and for the Feminist Philosophers movement. To this purpose I ask for your help and collaboration in encouraging your fellow activists to submit papers to the conference on the themes of gender bias in science and philosophy that are so dear to you and which are clearly relevant to a conference that has the relation of science and society as one of its main focal points. I, for one, will do my best to make sure that this theme is given the relevance it deserves.
again, my demand for explicit and public apologies in my email to the HOPOS-L can be easily equivocated if taken out of context. It was addressed to one of the list members who was jumping to conclusions on the basis of the conference list of invited speakers and, in so doing, spreading slanders; not to any activist of the GCC, who have a completely different attitude, as I have already emphasized. I think you can agree that public and explicit apologies are the right thing to demand against explicit and public slander, but I’m open to suggestions.
I sincerely appreciate your desire to look for a constructive solution.
C\However, conferences with invited speakers set up a hierarchy. Women who attend as contributed speakers are automatically lower in that hierarchy. To see women, and in particular women with feminist topics, in such a position, is not something all of us would feel comfortable in recommending.
Matteo, I have genuine sympathy for your distress at Eric’s ultimatum. I also have genuine sympathy for Eric’s making that ultimatum. But I’d like to ask you to take this up with Eric, not with us. We’re happy to talk to you about strategies for improving things, but I think it would be a big mistake for us to enter into the dispute between you and Eric. So can I ask that you not request our views on Eric’s demands? Our area of expertise is strategies for inclusion, and we’ll talk about that all you like.
This comment concerns me (from post #9): “If one looks at the (incomplete) list of all-male conferences compiled by the Gendered Conference Campaign (https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/gendered-conference-campaign/), a number of recent HPS- or HOPOS-related conferences can be found, most of which were advertised on this mailing list. To my memory, in no other case a kangaroo court of this sort has assembled.”
That’s true. But it’s also true that some of us were plenty upset about those all-male conferences. Perhaps a bigger stink should have been made, since the smaller stinks don’t seem to be sufficient, i.e., the same problem keeps occurring.
Twelve invited speakers / volume contributors and not one woman among them – it’s ridiculous and embarrassing. I am a (male) graduate student in Berlin and I will certainly not be attending the conference, and will do what I can to dissuade others from attending.
A few remarks on the comments so far:
First: the unnamed HOPOS contributor (one Eric, I gather) was not demanding that the conference be canceled. He/she was announcing three things (s)he intends to do, assuming the conference is not canceled – all three of which seem to me perfectly reasonable and indeed called for.
Second: Is Matteo Collodel suggesting that he and the other organizers are _unwillingly_ perpetuating a pattern of gender exclusion? If so, may I ask who is bending their will in this way?
Third: the assurance that there will likely be some place for women in the submitted papers section is a non-response to the problem and suggests a non-solution to it. The references to “feminist philosophers of science” (as though the complaint was the absence of such, rather than the exclusion of women) and to “your fellow activists” suggest that someone is somewhat out of touch here. It’s really not that complicated.
I am happy to discuss about strategies of inclusion rather than personal confrontations or personal allegiances – that’s why I prefer to drop names and focus on the issues at hand. In this connexion, I would like to clarify that I did not mean to confine the discussion on feminist philosophy of science and related matters to an alleged ghetto – first of all, because I do not consider the contributed papers section of a conference a ghetto in any way. But, more importantly, I am not either interested in paying lip service to the feminist cause by mere tokenism at the invited speakers level: this I would find even more offensive than having no women among the invited speakers; something that wasn’t meant in the first place, anyway. At this point, to make a sensible and significant difference I think that our conference should have both one plenary session and one parallel session which focus on these themes. As a member of the organizing committee I am committed to doing my part in order to amend the list of invited speakers in this direction. I need your help to make it possible that a contributed paper session can be set up. I would also like to have your expert opinion about this emergency tactic of inclusion, other possible options, and, eventually,your endorsement on a final agreed solution. Thanks again for your kind attention and collaboration.
Quick expression of menschen-liebe: I’ve participated in conference organization by committee, and it’s messy; I always drop more than a few balls in the process even though I’m a principled cat with good explicit intentions. So, like many feminist philosophers, I do not impute ill-willed _intent_ to organizers, as any number of circumstances might collude to result in non-pursuit of suggested speakers.
Still, one strategy for inclusion that I wish to recommend is to avoid perceiving attempts at improved conference programming as tokenization. As I mentioned above, Juliet Floyd, to give one example, was suggested by me, yet didn’t hear from organizers — but we wouldn’t actually think that a scholar of her relevance and caliber who authored “Homage to Vienna” is a token by any stretch. If she were added to a program later than any man, she would still be highly appropriate, and the belatedness would seem to reflect on the organizers more than on the woman, right? Right.
I’m sure Matteo is correct that ultimately women would be conference participants via competitive anonymous submissions, but of course, this is the minimal access to conferences that women already have. As I see it, the purpose of the GCC is to move us all to take conscientious steps to do more than this, early and often, which I would emphasize does not happen automatically for most any of us. (And now I must go to belatedly band-aid on some sort of child-care support language to a conference program that I published without doing this. See what I’m saying?)
I recognize Matteo Collodel’s good intentions, but I don’t think the tack he is taking is at all productive. It’s amazing how many times I’ve heard the remark he makes in the comments here, along these lines “…I am not either interested in paying lip service to the feminist cause by mere tokenism at the invited speakers level: this I would find even more offensive than having no women among the invited speakers”. This seems to suggest that inviting women is mere tokenism, and so lets people who organize all-male events off the hook, since at least they don’t offend women by tokenizing. We should applaud all all-male conferences then, since at least they don’t tokenize us!
Somewhere in the past few years, there an all-male event in a field where the organizers said, in their defense, that they invited all women who were listed in that specialization under philpapers and that all declined. Now, I am listed on the *first page* of that specialization in philpapers with several papers, and I know for a fact they did not contact me. I am recognized as a specialist in this area. Another woman I know who was able to go to that conference is also a specialist in that area, and was not invited either. So when I hear people say they invited all possible relevant women, I am just a little bit skeptical. A gendered conference in many cases betrays a lack of awareness to the problem.
Noticing the sharp tone of my previous comment – which partly grew out of shocked disbelief – , I would ask Matteo Collodel not to take that as being directed at his person. I think it’s commendable that he turns to this forum with requests for advice. That demonstrates a concern that is absent in many similar cases. It goes without saying that the concern (or at least its expression – I dare not yet say its effective translation into action) comes very belated.
Dear anonymous graduate student,
First, if someone can tell me what are the good reasons why our conference has been picked out of the crowd of all-males conferences and so heavily targeted I might come to agree with you that the ultimatum that was launched against it is both reasonable and called for. What I can see are only mean reasons, unworthy to be even mentioned: I beg to be enlightened.
Second, to answer your question: what I am suggesting is that no will of perpetuating a pattern of gender exclusion was involved in the chain of decisions that brought about the list of invited speakers, quite the contrary. This should already be clear by now, given what has been pointed out in the course of this discussion by Matt Brown and myself.
As for your third point(s), I perfectly agree with you: it’s really not that complicated. So, how does it happen that you so easily conflate different aspects of the matter? First, an all-male list of invited speakers does not imply an all-male event: women are not excluded, nor any other gender, neither willingly nor unwillingly. Second, feminist philosophers of science (being they males, females or whatever else) are among the most qualified scholars to discuss problems of gender biases in science and/or philosophy; a topic that is relevant to our conference – that’s why their contribution is welcome and encouraged. That’s it.
Dear Anonymous 23.,
I am afraid you misrepresent my proposal of amendment. Moreover, elements for a sketchy reconstruction of how this conference came to light have already been provided by Matt Brown and myself in the course of this discussion, and others can be deduced from the date of the conference announcement: the present circumstances do not at all conform to the example you give.
But all this has little importance in comparison to what is now our common interest: having the cause of the GCC promoted in our conference. What are your suggestions as to how this can be done most effectively at this point? It is not clear to me whether you think that having both a plenary lecture given by a (female) invited speaker and a parallel session devoted to the topic of gender biases in science and/or philosophy is a good solution.
But Matteo (re: #25), to say “an all-male list of invited speakers does not imply an all-male event” really misses the point of the GCC. All philosophers are aware that they can submit proposals to competitive anonymous review; this is the minimal access available to women regardless of effort to include us. However, when one has the opportunity to invite over a dozen scholars, then one has the opportunity to do something more concerted than allow the minimum access available; one can take the initiative to deliberately include a female scholar, conscientiously pursuing inclusion in order to offset the effects of unconscious bias in a male-dominated field.
All this is compatible with my totally agreeable assumption that you’re right, that “no will of perpetuating a pattern of gender exclusion was involved in the chain of decisions.” Of course it wasn’t involved in explicit decisions, for you have good explicit commitments; the GCC is motivated by the aim of offsetting our implicit biases, not our explicit commitments.
(Why this conference is of more interest than the others about which we’ve blogged may merely be a threshold effect, but hardly seems a worthy focus. Why not all the others, would be my question.)
There is a significant list of scholars who work on issues of the ethical and epistemic causes and consequences of gender inequity in the academy (and some particularly on the sciences and on philosophy) and how this relates to implicit biases. An invited panel on this as it relates to this conference itself seems like it would fit very nicely with the second theme of the conference. One place to look for these folks is among the participants of Jenny Saul’s Implicit Bias Project: http://www.biasproject.org/participants.
[…] International Feyerabend conference, 14 invited speakers, no women (feministphilosophers.wordpress.com) […]
I accept your criticism and I am happy about how much I am learning from this discussion. My point was simply that, in order to avoid misunderstandings and misleading generalization we’d better call things with their proper names. But, as you pointed out and as I am happy to emphasize, this sharpens the formulation of the problem, it does neither solve nor dissolve it (and it wasn’t meant to). However, I am working hard to an effective solution in the special case of GC where I am involved along the lines illustrated above, and I hope we can soon issue an update to our conference announcement and call for papers.
Thanks for the update, Matteo Collodel, and working hard to an effective solution is certainly what we should all do.
I can’t say I read the whole thread (who would want to!) but I do think it would be good to call out more of the blatant gender inequality intentional or not – it certainly gets people thinking about the issue and that alone might help. I bet these conference organizers will think about being more inclusive next time!
The reason that the conference engendered–er, sorry, stimulated–comment on the HOPOS-L list was that the absence of women from the list of invited speakers was noted by a reader of the list who is not a professional philosopher or historian of science but is instead a retired science writer. That is me. The list often publishes calls for conferences and calls for participation that are issued by conference organizers at various stages of the pre-planning. I frequently read these to see if anyone I know and follow in these fields is going to speak. I do not recall reading about a woman-free conference on the HOPOS-L list in the past few years, perhaps because most of the conference
calls and advertisements are for conferences in North America. I knew nothing about the GCC list (and was glad to learn about it from Carla Fehr), and perhaps I had just missed other egregious examples. This one I caught, and all I did was ask if it were possible to hold such a conference and invite no women… I was amazed, and pleased, by most of the reactions. These are badly misrepresented here by Matteo Collodei’s very clipped quotation of Eric Schliesser’s request (mainly directed at prominent North American scholars) that the principal speakers withdraw or the conference be cancelled. I share his view that the publication of an advertisement for a complete conference program with no women on it is an extremely backward, reactionary, and foolish thing to do, and while I appreciate the fabulous reasonableness of the leaders of the GCC effort, I sympathize utterly with the scholars (male and female) who ask, “Why not do something stronger since this very thing keeps recurring?”
Not only does it recur, apparently, but matters have slipped far backward since the late 1970s, the 1980s, and the early 1990s. I am told that Europe never ever caught up, but I don’t believe it. Those of you who think so are just too young to remember how it was.
I would urge all of you to go over to HOPOS-L and read the conversation there. There are about 24 posts, fewer than here now. Perhaps there is something that can be done to salvage this conference and turn Collodei into a whited sepulcher. Perhaps not. I am not sorry to have been the agent of this scrutiny, however unusual it may seem to some.
Dear Merry Maisel,
what you call “very clipped quotation” is also a faithful paraphrase. This is the exact quotation:
“There is a pattern of exclusion, which is especially pronounced on the European continent, of women scholars in philosophy. I think it is shameful the organizers of this conference and those that have accepted being key-note at it willingly perpetuate this pattern.”
I let the readers judge.
PS: My concern was not with the fact that the announcement of the conference stimulated comment on the HOPOS list – something which, quite in general and in line of principle, I strongly appreciate. It was with the quality of the comments and of the ensuing debate and with the reasons behind this particularly aggressive, destructive and ultimately violent attitude in problem-posing and problem-solving. We shall overcome it.
Dear Matteo Collodel:
(1) “what are the good reasons why our conference has been picked out of the crowd of all-males conferences and so heavily targeted?” The good reasons for “targeting” this conference are the ones that really don’t need repeating; they have to do with a pernicious pattern of gender-based exclusion to which this conference contributes. They are exactly the same reasons for which the GCC has been “targeting” many other conferences, and rightly so – although this one seems to be to be a particularly egregious instance, given the numbers involved, and hence particularly in need of vocal protest.
(2) “no will of perpetuating a pattern of gender exclusion was involved in the chain of decisions that brought about the list of invited speakers, quite the contrary.” Never mind the “quite the contrary”, which is unintelligible in this context. Let me grant you the rest. It is in no way in contradiction with the fact that to go ahead with the conference as it is – now that you have finally been “enlightened” about the social meaning of an all-male lineup of these dimensions – is to willingly perpetuate a pattern of gender exclusion.
(3) And as many others have pointed out, allowing women to submit papers (meaning: less time for presentation, less discussion time, parallel sessions, not being featured by name on the conference announcement, not being featured by name in the call for papers, not being recognized as worthy of receiving an invitation, etc. etc.) is a non-response this problem. Your recurrent excuses along the lines of “an all-male list of invited speakers does not imply an all-male event” are a silly evasion, and I’m inclined to think that you must be aware of that, which makes it no less offensive.
Now for why the three measures suggested by Eric are perfectly appropriate:
(1) Calling on the keynoters to withdraw: I highly doubt they would. But making them aware of the issue and of the public perception of it seems only fair to them. They have a right to know about the nature of the collective outcomes which they participate in bringing about, and in this way to make more informed choices. If given this information they judge that there is no reason to withdraw, then being called upon to do so will make no difference (it’s a request, not an order).
(2) Contacting the university and grant agency to make these concerns known: what can I say? Of course they should be made aware of these concerns. Why shouldn’t they? Either they are unaware of the gender imbalance of the conference: in which case they should be made aware of it. Or they are aware of it but unaware of its problematic nature: in which case their attention should be drawn to the latter, since it seems they are in need of “enlightenment” no less than the organizers. Or they are aware of both: in which case they may only learn what they already knew. In either case, what do you find “aggressive” or “destructive” about this?
(3) newspaper editorial: that would be a very good thing, if you ask me – unlikely as it is to happen. Its purpose obviously shouldn’t be to shame the organizers or attribute bad motives to them, nor to present this conference as an unusual exception (though perhaps, like I said, as a particularly egregious instance). It should serve to raise awareness of the fact that there is a pervasive pattern of exclusion perpetuated by people who _may_ be oblivious of their part in this. It could thereby contribute to eliminating that obliviousness, and to the obliviousness excuse becoming less and less credible in the future.
As a person who has been (and sometimes still is) victim of implicit (or even explicit) biases and exclusion patterns myself (both in the academic and in the non-academic world) I am sympathetic with the reasons put forward by the GCC. What I do not understand, though, is why people are always fighting against the all-males conferences as opposed to the women-and-males conferences only. There are many other types of “exclusion” which are not discussed at all.
Does anybody ever mention the implicit obstacles faced in the academia by people who are openly gay, lesbians, bisexuals or transgenders (GLBT)? Of course, it is easier to spot an all-males conference: you just look at the list of contributing speakers and check whether there is any female name at all. By looking at such a list, however, you cannot understand the sexual preferences of the contributing speakers. But the fact that “you cannot see it” does not mean that “it does not exist”. Also, the problem of exclusion is not just at the conference level. One should wonder why not there are not many people who are openly GLBT in the academia in the first place.
And what about issues of race? The Feyerabend’s conference has an Asian scholar as invited speakers. I am not sure about the organizers “willingly and shamefully perpetuating an exclusion pattern” but the presence of an Asian speaker is surely a sign of their “willingly and laudably perpetuating an inclusion pattern” which, although not related to the gender problems, would deserve much more attention. Yet it seems to me that people here are just seeing the organizers’ faults (and, perhaps, “willingly” so), without noticing what else could be good in that conference.
I think that, sometimes, focusing only on the gender exclusion pattern excludes the other kinds of exclusion pattern. I wonder how many GCC’s supporters who are arguing so adamantly against the organization of the Feyerabend’s conference would fight with equal force against the implicit biases against the openly GLBT scholars. (Or how many people are actually aware of such a problem; or how many people would not just find laughable the very idea of GLBTs in the academia.) I also wonder how many Western GCC’s supporters actively promote the inclusion of Asian, African and South-American intellectuals in the so-called “international debates” – which, mostly of the time, rather than being international are just “European, North-American, Canadian and Australian debates”.
I am sure that people who are not totally blind would agree about the thorniness of these issues. But I also consider this: in order to fight against the gender exclusion, some people, both here and in the HOPOS-lists, propose both some “extreme measures”, such as boycotting the conference, and some other more milder but not less effective demonstrations of disappointment and complain. It also seems that, the presence of AT LEAST one female scholar in every conference is now regarded as a “necessary condition” in order to not “willingly” perpetuate the pattern of females-exclusion. But does anybody expect similar “necessary conditions” to be met in order not to exclude openly GLBTs or non-Western scholars? If so, the vast majority of international conferences is, as a matter of fact, willingly perpetuating a shameful pattern of exclusion (though not a pattern of exclusion of women)!
Do people propose the same things any time a conference seems to be biased against GLBTs or non-Western scholars? Do people argue so forcefully against these types of exclusion, or we have to speak only about the gender exclusion because that is the “most important” (or advertised) issue?
I am not arguing against anybody, I am just observing things from an external point of view. Please, do not tell me that the exclusion of openly GLBTs or non-Western scholars is not as important or as widespread as the exclusion of females scholars, as I would find such a claim extremely offensive – as well as utterly ridiculous!
Dear anonymous graduate student,
let me put you some questions to see if I understand your points and you understand mine.
1. Besides being an egregious instance of a conference with an all-males lineup – and a long one at that – isn’t this conference also an egregious one – among other things mentioned above – for the the fact that early attempts were made to cope with this very problem through a public request of help addressed to this very blog?
2. Doesn’t this fact – that was mentioned very early on in this discussion – make intelligible my phrase “quite to the contrary” in sentence you quote from one of my previous posts and explain why going ahead with this conference has nothing to do with willing perpetuating a pattern of exclusion, though – admittedly – the announced conference happens to conform to such a pattern, and therefore to be liable to be easily misunderstood for another instance of it, maybe even an egregious one?
3. And doesn’t this fact again singles out this conference as one that would deserved a milder rather than a harsher treatment with respect to the many others where similar attempts were not even made (or not so evidently made), so that very special causes or reasons – besides the length of the lineup – are to be evoked in order to justify such an unprecedented call to arms (not here, but in the HOPOS list)?
I have already admitted that something went wrong in the chain of decisions which led to the definition and announcement of this conference, and I want to repeat once again that I am deeply concerned with the issues raised by the GCC and that in these hours I am doing my best to transform this unfortunate situation into an opportunity to promote its cause.
(I must confess that being one of the few guys – possibly the only one – who has devoted a 300-page dissertation to the work of one of the very few female philosophers of science of the mid-twentieth century, I find the position I am founding myself in particularly ironical – but instructively so!)
PS: sorry for the many typos of my last post, which was written in a hurry.
Thanks, Matteo. It’s great to hear that you’re taking steps to deal with the issue.
Excludedofanotherkind – you’re right – all of these other forms of exclusion are bad. But we had to start somewhere, and as this is a feminist philosophy blog, we started with gender. We’d love to see the campaign extended.
re: your comment 38. I appreciate the GCC’s concerns (as I think made absolutely clear at the beginning of my post). Also I am aware that I am writing on a feminist blog. What many people from this very feminist blog do not appreciate, however, is the other respects under which the Feyerabend conference has been “inclusive” (i.e., the Asian invited speaker). Is it, perhaps, that feminists have to speak all the time only about feminists’ issues? As my nickname says, I am myself victim of patterns of exclusion, but “of another kind”. Now, if I can fight in defense of feminists, I don’t see why feminists cannot discuss my points just because this is a feminists’ blog – aka, because this is not the “right” place for discussing other types of exclusion.
As I said, this “wizards hunt” against the organizers of this conference is really obscuring the other nice things that those very organizers have tried to do – once again, including an Asian speaker and, also, inviting speakers from several different countries and “cultures” – Uk and Italy, for instance. Ok, women were not called, but honestly, how many other times have you people witnessed such an “inclusiveness of another kind” (both in Europe and in US)?
Also, I would like to go back to the issue of the “willingness” of perpetuating an unjust pattern. In his original post in the HOPOS list, prof. Eric Schliesser charges both the organizers AND the invited speakers of such a shameful willingness. Right. I suppose that no one here or from the HOPOS list has ever been to a conference were one of the organizers or invited speakers was blatantly homophobic, or notoriously nepotist or was know to have the habit of sleeping with his own students (or even with her own students, for that matter). I assume, then, that we are all innocent and that none of us has ever explicitly or implicitly, willingly or unwillingly, contributed to the perpetuation of such annoying patterns. The only “criminal” is, has been and always will be dr. Matteo Collodel – despite the fact he tries to reply with a diplomacy and politeness which seems to be rare among his many (and aggressive) critics; he deserves to be kicked out from the academic world, so pure and so just, and even if there are other problems let’s speak about them somewhere else because this blog is for feminist and nothing else matters apart from feminism (or TO feminists)!
Matteo, thank you for working toward a constructive solution.
Excludedofanotherkind: Sorry not to be very clear. I wasn’t suggesting that feminists shouldn’t discuss your concerns, or that this wasn’t the right place to talk about exclusion of other kinds.
What I meant was the following. The reason we started the Gendered Conference Campaign (rather than the Exclusion-of-another-sort/Exclusion-more-generally campaign) was because it was gendered injustice, in particular, that brought the bloggers on this board together. The only things, in fact, that we have in common, are an interest in feminism and philosophy. Apart from that, we’re pretty different.
We do, though, all have full-time jobs and lives beyond the blog. And running the GCC is a difficult task, to say the very least. It takes up a lot of time and energy. Moderating the blog is also time-consuming and angst-producing. We do our best, but things aren’t always easy, we often disagree about moderation decisions, and there’s not always time to stay on top of things.
We’ve tried very hard to make the GCC campaign to do with drawing attention to all-male conference line-ups, and contacting organisers, bringing it to their attention and politely asking if they’d noticed, and whether they had considered whether there were any women that could be invited. We try very hard to make it clear that this isn’t about blaming folks, or attributing bad intentions to them. We certainly don’t want to initiate any wizard hunts or demand that someone be kicked out of the academy.
I, for one, find it dismaying when discussions take such a turn, here and on blogs elsewhere that have picked up on the GCC. (I often don’t have time to moderate discussions here, and other bloggers may disagree with the decisions I would make on that score, anyway.) What goes on elsewhere, we have no control over.
I guess, what I’m trying to say is that (i) the GCC isn’t supposed to be about starting wizard hunts. It’s supposed to be about bringing the huge amount of all-male line-ups to folks’ attention, and working constructively together to make things better, and (ii) we just don’t have the time and the energy to run a campaign focusing on other sorts of exclusion at conferences. And the reason we picked gender wasn’t because we think it’s more important than other sorts of exclusion, but just because that happens to be the focus of this group. It would be great, though, if someone else did.
Having said that, though, thanks for drawing attention to the fact that the Feyeraband conference is inclusive in other ways. I think it would be good for the GCC to take note of such things in future, where possible.
thank you very much for your very kind reply and for taking note of the “inclusiveness of another kind” of the Feyerabend’s conference.
The reason why I brought up issues which apparently do not pertain to the aims of this web-page is because, GCC being feminist in spirit, I thought that some people may have been interested on considering other types of exclusions/inclusions. I take that one of the main contribution of the feminist epistemology, as developed in recent debates in the philosophy of science, is the defense of a pluralistic epistemic standpoint which goes well beyond the issues concerning the “men-only” vs. “men-and-women” diatribe. We all owe to the feminist epistemology a clear understanding of the importance of the “perspectival knowledge” – the more perspectives, the better. It would be a shame if this wonderful pluralism would relapse on just the women exclusion issue without taking note of other perspectives.
Surely, I don’t have to forget that GCC is indeed a campaign against gendered conference – and, obviously, people supporting such a campaign are mainly interested to fight the gendered conference! I was just offering other topics for a constructive discussion, also in reply to some people who, both in here and in other lists, have proposed to boycott the Feyerabend conference. Basically, my point was that when a conference does not conform to GCC one should not: (i) point the finger, ridicule the efforts and question the morality of the organizers and contributed speakers; and, more importantly, (ii) boycott a conference which could be otherwise valuable for other types of inclusiveness, thus failing to recognize that pluralism which is at the basis of the very feminist spirit in philosophy. I am absolutely sure that you agree with my (i) and (ii) – you made it clear in your appropriate replies – but I think that it is better to restate these points even for the other readers of this site.
Perhaps, although in a more subtle way, my points could be also discussed from a strictly gendered perspective. In particular, I wonder, how many men who happily and forcefully defend the feminist cause (intended as fight against the gender exclusion) would defend as happily and forcefully the cause of “other excluded”? Is there a difference between men’s and women’s approach toward this “other types of exclusion”?
I appreciate your attention to my (inexcusably long) posts.
Have a nice day and kind regards!
Yesterday in a response to what was then posting 40 in this thread, by one “Carolyn,” Prof Big K used the name “Juliette”. This was an error. Juliette Kennedy has asked that the readers of this thread be informed that she is not Carolyn.
Excluded of another kind: i do feel great sympathy with your concerns. I do think there are limits on what we can do on a blog. The objections to different forms of inclusion are sadly as diverse as the many things that create exclusions.
However, happily, those involved inthe GCC ( including, I hope, many more than those who post here) may take broader action in different venues. For example, I believe there is an upcoming very large US conference that is often white male. But many women have worked to change this, and a forthcoming version should be about 20% African American voices. That’s not going to make everything all better, but it does suggest that the GCC addresses sensibilities beyond what’s explicit here.
My comments on here invited to think about other types of exclusion. Implicitly, I was also inviting to consider how the Feyerabend conference, despite (willingly or unwillingly) excluding women speakers, also included other usually under-represented categories (i.e., Asian speakers).
I must say that the response on here have been absolutely great: clear, lucid and, above all, very sensible. Unfortunately, the same is not happening on the HOPOS list. Recently, one person commented, in very kind and non-provocative terms, that although being indeed “gendered” the conference should be at least praised for including (!) the discussion of an often neglected topic – namely, Feyerabend’s ideas about Quantum Mechanics in general and, in particular, his criticism of quantum entanglement.
Another person (a woman, I perhaps should say) replied as following:
“Why don’t you stop reading until you get more entangled with the point of
How about not going to the Berlin conference because prominent women
have been excluded?
Entangle yourself with some other conference. Multiply your fun.”
It really seems that in the HOPOS list there is an ongoing crusade for boycotting the conference. I don’t think that the aggressive terms of the HOPOS thread is actually the appropriate way for discussing GCC-related issues (or any issue whatsoever, really). I think it would be just nice if someone made clear in the HOPOS that the people working for the GCC are not as aggressive/repressive as some “extremists” writing in that list.
My kindest regards.
A promise is a debt and I hope that everybody will be pleased with the results of this, in many ways, extra-ordinary situation.
We have now three female names in the list of invited participants and keynote speakers (out of 16, or better 14). A special plenary session will be devoted to the issue of implicit bias as a threat to pluralism, with particular emphasis on the problem of the exclusion of women from academic philosophy, with lectures of Carla Fehr (University of Waterloo) and Vera Tripodi (University of Barcelona), and an adequate time for debate. An explicit reference to the GCC is made in the conference presentation on the conference website http://www2.hu-berlin.de/feyerabend2012/. Hopefully, a further contributed paper session could be set up on these themes. To this purpose, I strongly encourage you to submit proposals about patterns of (gender, ethnic, etc.) exclusion in science and academia.
I would especially like to thank Carla Fehr, Jennifer Saul, Martin Kusch and Matt Brown for their constructive contributions to this collaborative effort under such tense circumstances. I am also very grateful to Miranda Fricker, Jules Holroyd, Kristina Rolin, and Miriam Solomon for their support and encouragement, and to this blog and the participants to this discussion for their stimulus and generally positive attitude.
Let’s hope that the intensity of the conference debate matches that of the pre-conference discussions.
All the best,
This is such outstanding news that I am reposting it in a new post. Well done, way to go, and thanks!
Comments are closed.