SUNY Geneseo Colloquium: Perhaps not what it seemed

Today we have been hearing from Heidi Savage, a feminist philosopher at SUNY Geneseo about the talk many have recently posted on by Ted Everett. She tells us that the event has been very much misrepresented:

The talk was misrepresented in the assumption that Ted was seen as some kind of rape apologist, simply in virtue of the title, which he certainly isn’t. But this is how it’s been portrayed on jezebel and in a petition started to ask the president of SUNY Geneseo to condemn the talk. In fact, even the media represented the issue itself far more neutrally and reasonably! I’ve seen the talk and it raises legitimate issues, issues that are controversial within feminist discourse itself. To represent the issue as one between THE feminists and the anti-feminists is an embarrassment to me at least as a self-proclaimed feminist.

Moreover, in a somewhat ironic twist, the critics have failed to notice that there is a feminist woman responding to him. Here’s the full schedule.

Topic: Political Perspectives on the Sexual Assault Awareness Movement

Speaker: Dr Theodore Everett
Title: Against “Sexual” “Assault” “Awareness”

The quotes in the title indicate that I am not against SA awareness, but that I am against much of what’s *called* SA awareness. My central concern is that the sexual assault awareness movement counts too many borderline cases (for example, badgering somebody into letting you give them a kiss) as true sexual assault, when they are not really sexual and not really assault. This diverts attention away from the truly damaging core cases of rape and sexual assault that everybody cares about and toward borderline cases that no one believes are equally important, even though they also shouldn’t happen. The presentation of sexual assault as systemic to American culture rather than pathological behavior, together with the zero-tolerance mentality that it supports , both do more harm than good to college women, who in my view would benefit most from an honest, unpatronizing, genuinely respectful, and two-sided discussion of these issues.

Commentator: Dr Heidi Savage
Title: “No” means “no”: feminist and victim understandings of sexual assault awareness

While there are many different motivations for raising questions about the Sexual Assault Awareness Movement, at least one motivation comes from feminist controversies about what counts as consensual sex. Historically, this controversy arose between those known as “anti-pornography feminists”, and “sex positive feminists” whose proponents had very different understandings of what counts as sexual autonomy for women. It is important to understand that questioning the current definitions of what counts as an instance of sexual assault does not entail an anti-feminist agenda. There is not a unified feminist front on this topic. To assume otherwise is to risk silencing victims of sexual assault even further by imposing a particular conception of sexual assault upon them that they might themselves reject. If we are to properly address sexual assault as feminists we must listen to victims of sexual assault and develop a theory of consent in tandem with victims’ own understanding of that concept.

I’d like to ask that everyone be super-careful about being nice in their comments.

One Perk of NYC E-Hail Taxi Apps: Reducing Discrimination

a taxi cab

In a case about whether to allow New York City Taxis to use E-hail apps, which allow passengers to summon a taxi by using the app on their phone, the judge points out how this app may reduce the degree to which taxi drivers  discriminate by passing over some fares.


“At least on its face, the program appears better aimed at avoiding discriminatory passenger selection,” she wrote. “The driver must accept an e-hail without knowing the passenger’s identity or destination.”



Gender discrimination at Dutch universities

Women demonstrating in The Hague in 1978Two weeks ago at the launch of SWIP-NL, there was an interesting discussion about how universal gender discrimination is. The discussion was triggered by Jenny Saul’s presentation, and particularly the overwhelming number of responses and the often shocking reactions she received on “What it is like to be a woman in philosophy”.

The number of female professors in the Netherlands is appallingly low, so there definitely is a problem there. Recently a website got launched by het Proefprocessenfonds Clara Wichmann to collect accounts of gender discrimination at the Dutch universities. The number of complaints about discrimination in general is on the rise in the Netherlands, so it is surprising that not many stories have come in yet. So maybe it is good to mention it here: find it at (all in Dutch) and if you have an incident to report, please do so, as it will strengthen our case.

Favouritism and discrimination

Discrimination today is less about treating people from other groups badly, DiTomaso writes, and more about giving preferential treatment to people who are part of our “in-groups.”

The insidious thing about favoritism is that it doesn’t feel icky in any way, Banaji says. We feel like a great friend when we give a buddy a foot in the door to a job interview at our workplace. We feel like good parents when we arrange a class trip for our daughter’s class to our place of work. We feel like generous people when we give our neighbors extra tickets to a sports game or a show.

In each case, however, Banaji, Greenwald and DiTomaso might argue, we strengthen existing patterns of advantage and disadvantage because our friends, neighbors and children’s classmates are overwhelmingly likely to share our own racial, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

For more, go here. (Thanks, S!)

Making a distincion between culure and values

I’ve been thinking about workplace diversity recently and about collegiality and exactly what that means. I like the distinction this blog post draws between workplace culture and workplace values.

Lauren Bacon writes:

One of the real challenges of diversifying your team is that – at the risk of stating the obvious – your workplace is going to feel different, because it will include more difference. And that’s not always a comfortable feeling.

I see small companies struggle with this all the time. For a small team, every new hire risks being disruptive, and if you branch out from your demographic norms, whatever those are (age-wise, ethnicity-wise, gender-wise, ability-wise, and so on), that can feel higher risk.

When we feel uncomfortable with a prospective new hire, it can be easy to fall back on “culture fit” as an excuse for sticking with same-same demographics. And I’m not talking here about overt bigotry – I’m talking about its subtler cousin, cognitive bias. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering whether someone who doesn’t fit the usual profile is going to fit in, be it because they’re an immigrant with an accent, significantly older or younger than the rest of the team, a woman of colour, seemingly oblivious to your sense of humour, or otherwise different from the other folks on your team.

The key distinction here is between culture and values. You don’t need people to fit your culture – but you do need them to reflect your values.

Read the rest of “Diversity Messes wit Your Culture and That’s a Good Thing” here.

Thanks DF.

Micro-Inequities: 40 Year Later

There’s a good discussion of micro-inequities over at Psychology Today, cross-posted on NewAPPS. The post starts with the history of the concept, then moves on to adducing examples of micro-inequities (drawn from What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?), and to drawing connections with implicit bias research. It’s worth the read.

Here’s a taste:

Rowe noted that micro-inequities often had serious cumulative, harmful effects, resulting in hostile work environments and continued minority discrimination in public and private workplaces and organizations. What makes micro-inequities particularly problematic is that they consist in micro-messages that are hard to recognize for victims, bystanders and perpetrators alike. When victims of micro-inequities do recognize the micro-messages, Rowe argues, it is exceedingly hard to explain to others why these small behaviors can be a huge problem.

Thanks, S!

Philosophy professor argues against ‘sexual’ ‘assault’ ‘awareness’

From Jezebel:

“Dr. Theodore Everett, a philosophy professor at SUNY Geneseo, is honoring the campus’s Sexual Assault Awareness week in an unconventional way: by holding a lecture about how sexual assault is not a real issue on college campuses or the nation in general. The talk is entitled “Against ‘Sexual’ ‘Assault’ ‘Awareness'” — infuriatingly, it has not one but three sets of air quotes in its name. Because, you know, infringing on a woman’s bodily integrity and sense of safety and self-worth in a sexual manner is neither sexual nor assault; it’s mostly just women making a big deal out of nothing and/or lying for the fun of it. Against ‘Sexual’ ‘Assault’ ‘Awareness’: The Lecture is set to take place this Monday at 7:00 — which, not coincidentally, is also half an hour into the Womyn’s Action Coalition’s Take Back The Night walk. Awesome.”

Read the full story here,

Other fields retain women. Therefore…

Maybe it’s just that spring awakens my optimism, but I am renewed in my conviction that we can improve philosophy for everyone.  Let us proceed with an explicit commitment to holding that retaining and recruiting women and minorities is not a mystery, or rocket science, or magic.

I say this partly because a colleague in philosophy recently asked for “anything useful to a department looking for best practices for recruiting and retaining women undergrads to a major – any major.”  I liked the way she put that, because why would we look to philosophy, right?  Scholars in other departments have already done what philosophers still struggle to do.  So I sent her examples from Physics, from Computer Science, and from Dartmouth’s Women in Science program (involving science, math, and engineering). There are more like these, many sources to show that whenever a field or department really commits to doing something, they succeed.  What doesn’t work is waiting for improvement to happen on its own.

There are clear patterns in all the success stories.  The bulk of a department has to agree that recruitment is necessary and desirable, and there has to be a wide and deep cultural commitment to it.  Outreach has to occur before the students get to higher education.  And the intro class comes up in EVERY study. Philosophers can do this.  We don’t have to have an “intro-major cliff.”  Faculty commitment.  Early outreach.  Intro class.