The Independent on Sexism in Philosophy

An excellent article by Luke Brunning, an Oxford PhD student. And yes, it is partly on McGinn (and very good on the topic).

In the most revealing post, however, McGinn states he has received lots of support from women and proffers an explanation of the controversy shadowing his resignation. He suggests that men leap to conclusions on the basis of poor evidence, or conflate their fantasies with the actions of others, because the male mind ‘tends to be crude (in several senses) and dichotomous’. Women, by contrast, ‘understand the varieties of human relationships better than men; they appreciate the subtleties and nuances of different kinds of affection between people’. According to McGinn, this explains his support.

This argument, to me, juxtaposes crude and dichotomizing sex and gender essentialism with a subtler contraction, for implicitly McGinn casts himself as subtle and nuanced, and his student as less so (and he claimed that America failed to understand irony…).

Finally, we are told that McGinn values people who are provocative, shocking, and who use irony to jolt people out of complacency within our culture. John Paul Sartre, Phillip Larkin, Martin Amis, and Bertrand Russell are named as inspiring men with characters that stand ‘against stifling social norms and dull conformity’. McGinn names no women as sources of inspiration, nor catches the irony in appealing to known misogynists in defending himself against allegations of improper conduct.

Some further reflections on the Healy data

Kieran Healy has posted some interesting further discussion of his citation data here. Some particularly interesting (especially for readers of this blog) discussion pertains to post-2000 patterns of citations. Healy writes:

Several of the authors are relatively young. Here, “Young” means they got their Ph.Ds in the 1990s or later. Working down the list, these younger people include: Sider, Hawthorne, Stanley (several times), Pryor, DeRose, Fantl, Noe, Hitchcock, Hajek, Cappelen, Merricks, Dowe, Rysiew, O’Connor, and Paul. (I may have missed one or two: please email me corrections.) There is one woman amongst the lot. The only other item published in the 2000s and written by a woman is by an established philosopher, Lynne Rudder Baker. Some of this recent work by relatively younger men—John Hawthorne (Ph.D ‘91), Ted Sider (Ph.D ‘93), Jason Stanley (Ph.D ‘95), Keith DeRose (Ph.D ‘90) and Jim Pryor (Ph.D ‘97)—even manages to crack the twenty-year Top 100, and in three cases the Top 50. That’s pretty impressive. Notably, the most-cited work by a 90s-cohort Ph.D is not on this list, because it was published in 1996. This is The Conscious Mind by David Chalmers (Ph.D ‘93).

By contrast, we have to go down to joint 440th to find a well-cited paper authored in the 2000s by a—in fact, the only—woman from a comparable Ph.D cohort. This is by Paul (Ph.D ‘99). One of the reasons this is a little awkward is that I am married to this particular data point. I hope I don’t need to emphasize that my wife has had no involvement in the data collection or analysis presented in any of these posts. Incidentally, I didn’t expect there to be so few women in the Top 500. I thought the prevalence of women would be poor, but not terrible.

If we look further down the dataset to the next 500 most-cited items, there are quite a few items written by women from the 1990s-era Ph.D cohort that all of the highly-cited younger men come from. One clear example, brought to my attention by Brian Weatherson, is the case of Delia Graff Fara (Ph.D ‘97). A prominent and very well-respected philosopher, Graff Fara is a full Professor at Princeton working in one of the general areas regularly published in our four journals. She is an obvious case of a very successful woman with a Ph.D from the 1990s who—to Brian’s and many people’s surprise—failed to have an item in the top 500. She is not the only such case. It’s not that her work isn’t cited. She has one paper in the dataset with eight citations, and another with seven. It just isn’t cited enough.

She isn’t alone. Just below the threshold in the data are items by senior women philosophers such as Jennifer Hornsby, Margaret Gilbert, Rae Langton, Karen Neander, Elizabeth Fricker, and Robyn Carston, together with more work by Ruth Millikan, Christine Korsgaard, Linda Zagzebski, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Nancy Cartwright, Susan Haack, and the linguist Angelika Kratzer. Restricting ourselves to items by women with Ph.Ds from the 1990s or later, we find the lower 500 contains work by Nomy Arpaly (Ph.D ‘98), Tamar Gendler (Ph.D ‘96), Miranda Fricker (D.Phil ‘96), Rosanna Keefe (Ph.D ‘97), Helen Beebee (Ph.D ‘96), and Karen Bennett (Ph.D ‘00).

This pattern of results cannot demonstrate, but in my view does suggest, the hypothesis that the process at work here—even in recent years—is not one where women cannot be cited because they simply don’t exist in the relevant subfields favored by journals. Rather, women publish, yet their work is not cited. Citation is not the only measure of success. One can be highly placed without necessarily being highly cited. And, of course, by definition not everyone can be a citation star. But given how easy it is to cite people, this only makes the gender disparity all the more stark. It is very surprising to see only male philosophers from the ’90s cohort so well-represented in the Top 500, and even the Top 100. The 1990s were not the 1950s. And yet essentially none of the women from this cohort are cited in the conversation with anything close to the same frequency, despite working in comparable areas, publishing in comparable venues, and even in many cases having jobs at comparable departments.

And while we’re busy reflecting on all this data and what it does or doesn’t mean, I’d like to take the opportunity to publicly thank Kieran Healy for providing such a fantastic resource for philosophy and philosophers. You’ve done us all a massive favor, Prof. Healy!

Gendered Citation Campaign

Acting as a timely supplement to the recent Healy data, a group of female philosophers has begun an analogous effort to our Gendered Conference Campaign – the Gendered Citation Campaign (they’re calling it the GCC2). It’s an effort to raise awareness about the apparent under-citation of female philosophers, and to encourage philosophers to consider gender when compiling a reference list. (Unlike the sciences, there is little pressure in philosophy to be completeist about referencing, so it’s easy to just reference to first few articles that come to mind – and that’s a strategy that’s likely to favor male authors, given what we know about implicit bias.)

The GCC2 has begun compiling information here. Three important points that should be emphasized about this information. The first is that the methodology here is not that of random representative sampling. Instead, the data gatherers decided to look, at least to begin with, only at the first issue of 2010 for journals that they easily laid their hands on. The second point is that the intent is not to suggest that the authors of papers with few or no citations of women are blameworthy. The goal, rather, is to raise awareness of the issue of gendered citation as a systematic phenomenon. And finally, one helpful thing about this information is that it gives some indication that the under-citation of women isn’t a phenomenon that’s limited to Mind, Nous, Philosophical Review, and Journal of Philosophy.

I should perhaps further add that, though we’re helping to publicize this venture, the GCC2 isn’t organized by this blog. We’ll link to any updates to this information as and when they come to us, but we’re not compiling the information ourselves.

Depressing court decisions

for those who care about harassment and discrimination.

Monday was a great day for sexual harassers and for bosses who retaliate against workers claiming discrimination. The rest of us did not fare so well in the Supreme Court. While most Court watchers will likely focus on the narrower-than-expected decision in the Fisher affirmative action case, the most lasting impact of today’s decisions likely will be the twin blows struck against women and minorities in the workplace. Taking advantage of employees just became a whole lot easier.
The first case, which we previously labeled the “scariest pending Supreme Court case that you’ve probably never heard of” made it significantly easier for many people’s bosses to racially or sexually harass them and get away with it. Though the law provides fairly robust protection to workers harassed by their supervisor, the Court’s 5-4 decision in Vance v. Ball State University defined the term “supervisor” very narrowly. Under today’s decision, your boss is only your “supervisor” if they have the power to make a “significant change in [your] employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits.”

Thanks, L.

A Beautiful Body

Go check out this HuffPo article on photographer Jade Beall’s project documenting the beautiful, un-photo-shopped bodies of mothers (there’s a slideshow at the end with some photographs from her series–it’s stunning).

“We are facing an epidemic of women who feel unworthy of being called beautiful,” Beall told HuffPost, describing a world in which “nearly all of us struggle to feel beautiful in our own skin.” And the expectations faced by women who have given birth are particularly harsh. “Shaming mothers for not ‘bouncing back’ after childbirth can cause feelings of failure when being a mother is challenging enough and when a big number of us have already lived a life of feeling un-beautiful prior to giving birth,” she says.

It’s also worth watching her video on the Kickstarter page for the project.