Against Meritocracy

Geek Feminism has a guest post entitled, “you keep using that word”, which argues, “…a meritocracy is not a real thing. It is a joke.”
(NSFW tag for expletives, including in the quote below.  Also p.s. the homepage of Garann Means is pretty spiffy.)

A meritocracy is not a system for locating and rewarding the best of the best. If it were, the “best of the best” in almost every goddamned industry or group on the planet would not be a clump of white men. I’m having trouble finding good stats on this, but white men are something like 8% of the world’s population. When you go to a fucking conference and you look around at all the white dudes, do you really honestly think, “Wow! What a bizarre fucking statistical anomaly it is that basically everyone with the special magic gift of computer programming happened to be born into a teeny tiny little demographic sliver of the population”? Of course you don’t. You don’t think about it. You focus on telling yourself that you’re supposed to be there, because you’re so fucking smart, and if other people were as smart or, if you prefer, they were “technically inclined,” they could be there just as easily.


Obviously the argument is glossing over issues of local demographics, but the point is still interesting even in that respect.  When we talk about department or conference demographics, we implicitly understand that there are parameters likes citizenship, age, formal education, etc. that limit the pool of people we are willing to look at.
Also, the experience of viewing something *as* an anomaly is really interesting   I remember when I first started reading research in psychology last year and I realized that about 40-60% of the stuff I was reading was written by women.  I then glanced over at a stack of philosophy books–ten or so with nine written by men–and for the first time I explicitly thought, “Huh, that’s looks really weird in comparison.”  It’s a powerful feeling when something no longer seems normal, but rather skewed.  Now when I look at philosophy syllabi where it’s all men, that *looks* weird/skewed to me. It’s interesting though that I still haven’t experienced this kind of visceral weirdness when I’ve walked into a philosophy conference where it’s 80-90% white men. That still feels ‘normal’.

Why Equality for Women Is a Real Election Issue

As if we didn’t know already, Romney’s ‘binders full of women’ comment was more than just a funny turn of phrase good for clever memes. First, even what he meant to say is a lie. And in any case employment and pay equity and equality do matter. Here’s more on why women’s equality is an important issue in the US presidential election from Daily Kos coverage of a panel discussion involving Mika Brzezinski and four men on Morning Joe. The very treatment of Brzezinski by her ‘peers’ makes the point here.

Just let her die (but it’s okay because science!)

Illinois congressman Joe Walsh has recently gone on record saying that “life of the mother” exceptions in abortion laws – you know, the ones favored by moderate (really?) Republicans – are unnecessary. But they aren’t unnecessary because we should just let the fetus-farm die. No, they’re unnecessary because, thanks to science, women just don’t die from trifling little things like pregnancy anymore. According to Walsh:

There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing, with advances in science and technology.

Huffpost has more details here.

Walsh is, of course, utterly wrong. Not only do American women still die from pregnancy-related complications, maternal morality rates actually rose significantly in the period of 1998-2005 (when they were higher than they’d been at any time in the previous 20 years).

CFP: Just Food *UPDATED*

This sounds amazing!  From IJFAB (call at bottom of page) —

Vol 8, No. 2: JUST FOOD: Bioethics, gender, and the ethics of eating

The deadline for submission for this issue is April 1, 2014.

Editor: Mary C. Rawlinson

Western ethics rarely makes eating a main theme. Food belongs to the often invisible domain of women’s labor. While obesity, malnourishment, and lack of access to clean water are regularly cited as global factors in mortality and morbidity, bioethics, even feminist bioethics, gives little attention to culinary practices, water rights, or agricultural policy or to their effects on the status of women and the health of communities.

What and how we eat determines not only our health, but also our relation to other animals, the forms of social life, the gender division of labor, and the integrity of the environment. If hunger is the hallmark of poverty, obesity and obesity-related diseases are ironically afflicting the poor at alarming rates. Hunger also attends war, violence, and catastrophic environmental events; thus, thinking ethically about food engages issues of war and peace, as well as calling into question the global dependence on fossil fuels. Food can reflect social inequity or economic independence and social justice. It can preserve cultural integrity or yield to the homogenizing force of global capital. Food encompasses the full range of issues arising at the intersection of health and justice.

The Editorial Office of IJFAB invites submissions for JUST FOOD: bioethics, gender, and the ethics of eating, vol. 8.2. Essays may investigate any aspect of the ethics of eating, particularly as it relates to health and gender.

Women are disproportionately responsible for food around the world, yet they are globally underrepresented in the ownership of property or decisions about land use or in determining environmental or food policy. As the spike in obesity among women and children in “low-income” countries under the shift to global food indicates, women, like other vulnerable and underrepresented populations, are disproportionately affected by the globalization of food, as well as by environmental degradation and climate change.

Research suggests, however, that women are also “key drivers of change,” necessary to improving food production and consumption, as well as environmental health in any community. “If you pull women out, there will be no sustainable development.” (Report of Regional Implementation Meeting for Asia and Pacific Rim, Jakarta, 2007.)

IJFAB 8.2 will investigate the bioethical problems that result from the industrialization and globalization of agriculture, as well as the role of feminist bioethics in reimaging agriculture and our culinary practices to be more life-sustaining and to better promote justice, community health, and agency for each and all. Only very recently have large populations been able to eat without any knowledge of how their food is produced. This issue explores the question of our responsibility for what and how we eat, as well as global responsibilities for hunger and diet-related disease.

Possible areas of research include:

hunger and poverty

hunger and violence

consumption and health

immobility, obesity, and agency

animal rights

environmental ethics

ethics of land and water policies

agricultural policy and economic independence

scale in farming

food security


local vs. global food

geopolitics of food

food as commodity


food and labor

eating and culture

the aesthetics of food

food and community.

All papers must be submitted in IJFAB style. Please consult this page for style guidelines. Authors who plan to submit are encouraged to contact the Editor ahead of time.

Well played

Mitt Romney doesn’t want to keep you from having an abortion, ladies. Except that he’d be delighted to sign a bill banning all abortions. All abortions.

Check out this stunning new ad from the Obama campaign


Mentioning motherhood?

A reader just emailed with this query: When applying for jobs, should one mention maternity leaves? Should one’s references? This is a question that comes up often enough that I think it really merits some discussion. On the one hand, there’s plenty of evidence that mothers’ CVs are judged especially harshly (and this is about mothers, not parents: fathers’ CVs do especially well). But on the other hand, there are sometimes delays or gaps to explain. How can one weigh up the costs and benefits? Is there some way of mentioning motherhood that doesn’t trigger the negative biases?