Feminism philosophy and gender equity

An upcoming conference at the Australian National University poses an important question: What’s the relationship between a discipline’s incorporation of feminist perspectives and its progress towards gender equity goals?

I’ve often wondered about this in Philosophy. Sometimes we want to separate the questions about hostility to feminist work in Philosophy (usually as ‘not really’ philosophy) and under-representation and treatment of women in Philosophy (after all, not all women in Philosophy do work in feminist philosophy). But what if these issues are connected?

Looks like a terrific line up of speakers including several very well known feminist philosophers. I can’t attend the conference–too far away for me–but if someone who reads the blog does, I hope they report back.

Two day workshop: Gendered Excellence in the Social Sciences

Feminist scholarship has been central to the international success and prominence of the Australian social sciences. But how effective has feminist critique been in reshaping what counts as authoritative knowledge in the disciplines? This two day workshop interrogates the relationship between the disciplines’ incorporation of feminist perspectives and their progress towards gender equity goals.

Contributors: Jill Blackmore, Dorothy Broom, Lorraine Code, Raewyn Connell, Ann Curthoys, Joy Damousi, Claire Donovan, Moira Gatens, Fiona Jenkins, Carol Johnson, Helen Keane, Katrina Lee-Koo, Ann McGrath, Marian Sawer, Margaret Thornton. Hosted by the Gender Institute and RSSS.

Where: AD Hope Conference Room, Ellery Crescent, ANU

When: Thursday, 13 December 9am- Friday 14 December 5pm

Website: http://rsss.anu.edu.au/gendered-excellence

Access: ANU academics, attendance is free, however places are limited.

RSVP to Hannah.McCann@anu.edu.au

2 thoughts on “Feminism philosophy and gender equity

  1. What’s the relationship between a discipline’s incorporation of feminist perspectives and its progress towards gender equity goals?

    My research actually looks at (a generalized version of) a slightly different question: What’s the relationship between a scientific discipline’s incorporation of feminist perspectives and its progress towards its own epistemic goals?

    I argue that the relationship is positive, though not in a way philosophers are liable to expect. In 1984, Stephen Jay Gould wrote a review of Ruth Bleier’s A Critique of Biology and its Theories on Women. He pretty much agree with Bleier’s critiques, then said this in the last paragraph:

    I am also not convinced that many methodological improvements now slowly making their way within science are, as Dr. Bleier argues, especially feminist ways of thinking — the rejection of dualism, the focus on interaction rather thun dominance, the abandonment of reductionism for a holistic vision. Barbara McClintock’s “feeling for the organism” Is not, as Dr. Bleier supposes, a feminist modality … but the taxonomic way of thought that naturalists – most of them men – have been urging aguinst reductionistic biology for centuries.

    In short, incorporating feminist perspectives isn’t necessary for progress in biology, because other perspectives offer the same resources.

    Yet, over the subsequent decades, feminism was more effective in leveraging these general critiques into changes in scientific practice, compared to earlier non-dualistic, anti-reductionist movements. The narrative is complicated, of course, but as a first pass I suggest that feminist biologists were motivated to reject the status quo in biology in ways that members of previous movements had not been. They weren’t just fighting for better knowledge, as it were; they were also fighting for justice.

    I think something similar happened in certain areas of philosophy of science over the past 15 or 20 years, and I would hope that something similar can happen in philosophy more generally. The tricky part, however, is that the justification of the incorporation of feminism is basically retrospective: from our post-incorporation perspective, efforts to incorporate feminism were justified because they later moved the discipline forward.

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