Rick Perry on what Wendy Davis should have learned

You read that right. Rick Perry think he knows both what Wendy Davis has or has not learned from her own experience, and what Wendy Davis should have learned from her own experience. He must have some amazing (and, seemingly, impossible) epistemic skills.

“Who are we to say that children born in the worst of circumstances can’t lead successful lives?” Perry asked in a speech at a convention held by the National Right to Life organization. “Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She’s the daughter of as single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas Senate. It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example: that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential, and that every life matters.”

Of course, this quote illustrates that he has fundamentally missed the point, and is trying to change the subject.

Gendered Citation: a case study

I thought it might be interesting to do a small ‘case study’ of gendered citation. Amount of citations gives us part of the picture, but as most women in philosophy can tell you, it certainly doesn’t give you the whole picture when it comes to whether and how women’s ideas are discussed. So here’s what I did. I picked up a famous philosophy book by a prominent male philosopher that was published in the last five years. No, I’m not going to tell you which book. That would be entirely unfair to the author – the problems we’re encountering here are systematic problems, not individual problems.

The book is on a topic that many talented, successful, well-known women have had things to say about. Here is what I found. (Epistemic warning: I did these calculations by hand, so they could be off by a bit).

Out of approximately 200 cited authors, 6% are women.

Our of approximately 400 total citations, 5% are to work by women.

The highest number of items cited written by a single man is approximately 4 times greater than the highest number of items cited by a single woman. There are six men with more than twice the number of cited items than that of the woman with the most cited items.

Then I looked for names of people in the index. In total, 10% of the names found in the index are the names of women. In this case, that’s 2 occurrences of women’s names.

So then I followed up the indexed items. In one case, the page referred to contains a citation of the woman, but no discussion of her work in the text. In the other, the woman’s name is mentioned, but she is not cited. (Indeed, though her ideas are appealed to I can find no citation to her work in the reference section.) In contrast, the male names in the index frequently take the reader to substantial, detailed, multi-page discussion of that man’s view.

Unless I have missed something, there is nowhere in the text where a woman’s ideas are discussed in any detail. Interestingly, though, in the acknowledgements section 19% of the people thanked are women.

Now, obviously this little rough and ready case study doesn’t show much. Induction on a case of one, after all, doesn’t tend to work out that well. The reason I bring it up – and the reason I found it interesting – is that it shows that there’s more to including women in the conversation than citing them. Not only are women’s ideas discussed or referenced less often than men’s, they can also be (as this case shows) discussed differently than men’s. And that’s a point that I hope can be part of our ongoing discussion about including women in the in-print conversations we’re having as philosophers.

Citation tells us part of the story – and the story it tells is a grim one. But there’s more to including women in a conversation than merely citing women. There’s also having the work of women truly engaged with, discussed, talked about the way we discuss the work of men. Hopefully that’s something we can strive for as we try to cite women more often.

Racism and Adoption

The NPR article “Six Words: Black Babies Cost Less to Adopt” is one of the most shocking things I’ve read recently (and that is saying a lot). If you want a bleak portrait of contemporary racism in America, look no further.

[Adoptive parent Caryn] Lantz says she remembers a phone call with an adoption agency social worker. “And [she] was telling us about these different fee structures that they had based on the ethnic background of the child. And … they also had, sort of a different track for adoptive parents.”

Moving through the process would be quicker if the family was open to adopting an African-American (not biracial) child, the social worker explained to her. “And that is because they have children of color waiting,” Lantz says. Adopting biracial, Latino, Asian or Caucasian children could be a slower process, she was told, because there were more parents waiting for them.

“And I remember hearing this and just sort of being dumbfounded that they would sort of segregate — to use a loaded term — segregate these children by ethnic background before they were even in this world,” Lantz says. “That’s when I started realizing that, OK, being a parent to a child of a different ethnic background — this is gonna be some work. There’s going to be a lot of work on our end in order to be successful parents and to get our child ready for this world.”

The Race Card Project spoke with social workers, adoption agencies and adoptive parents about adoption costs based on ethnicity. We discovered that this is not widely talked about, but it is common.