The debit/default fiasco: It was a fifty’s sitcom!

(I am wondering whether to apologize for putting this up.)

As I read the newspapers and listened to some of the rants, I had an overwhelming sense that it was all  familiar.  So I went to YouTube and found some shows that prefigured it.  From the 1950’s!

What is particularly discouraging is that the blatant tropes of the 50’s are pretty much still on the surface over 50 years later.  E.g., “If you don’t do what the powers that be want, you’ll get fired,” and “You have to put up with the crappy stuff, which I can go off to have the good stuff.”

Although it is hard to remember, I think that in the fifties, (a lot of the sitcom-watching) people used to laugh at perfectly obvious things.  I suspect a lot of our comedy is better, though HBO may be spoiling my sense here.  Will politics catch up any time soon?

Tell us your positive stories

The following query was submitted to What It’s Like:

I’ve been thinking of attending a graduate program in philosophy, but the experiences of the women I know who attend graduate school, and the stories I have encountered here have made me reconsider. I was wondering if it might be possible to reach out to women who are in philosophy programs they love, who feel supported and respected by their mentors and peers?

The stories over at What it’s Like are a very important part of raising awareness about gender issues in philosophy, and showing just how far we still have to go for true equality in the profession. But they aren’t the whole story.* Many of us have had very positive experiences in philosophy. And even for some of us whose experiences have been very much a mixed bag, we’re still happy that we ended up in philosophy. And it’s important that we emphasize this spectrum of experience, because the last thing we want to do is discourage talented, capable women from going into philosophy.

This thread is an open call for positive stories – whether stories of good experiences in grad school, stories of being taken seriously and respected, or just stories of ultimately being really glad that you wound up a philosopher, gender bullshit notwithstanding.

Help us out!


*What it’s Like of course encourages stories of any kind, including positive stories. But as it happens, positive stories are rather thin on the ground over there.

Subjectivity in Question Call for Papers

Duquesne Women in Philosophy 2014 Conference
Duquesne University
February 8, 2014

Subjectivity in Question

Keynote Speaker: Lisa Guenther, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University

Duquesne Women in Philosophy (D-WiP) invite philosophical papers on the question of subjectivity. Given the tensions found within the traditional notions of subjectivity, we aim to facilitate a discussion on the future directions of feminist philosophy and the question of the subject. Papers are welcome from within contemporary philosophical discourse, as well as from perspectives grounded in and engaged with the history of philosophy. We invite full paper submissions to by December 1, 2013.  Allotted presentation time will be approximately 20-30 minutes. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

sexual difference and subjectivity
temporality, spatiality, and perception
corporeality, modes of embodiment
presentation, representation, and misrepresentation
agency, power, and vulnerability
political subjectivity
metaphysics and the political subject
affect and emotion
alterity and ethics
subjectivity in expression: art and language
gender and sexuality
racial subjectivity
vagueness and ambiguity
(dis)ability, crip theory
feminist materialism

The strongest graduate paper will receive a modest cash award from the Duquesne Women in Philosophy. We are an active group of female philosophy graduate students who are striving to improve the status of women in philosophy.

Women aren’t mathematically deep

“Mathematical Depth Workshop”

The Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of California, Irvine, is pleased to
announce a workshop on mathematical depth. In this workshop, we will be examining and discussing
examples of mathematics typically judged to be deep (or not deep) in hope of clarifying what’s at
issue in these judgments.

Speakers: Andrew Arana, Mario Bonk, Robert Geroch, Jeremy Gray, Marc Lange, John Stillwell, Jamie
Tappenden, and Alasdair Urquhart

CFP: The Philosophy of Slavery and Emancipation

Call for Papers: Anthology on the Philosophy of Slavery and Emancipation

Historically, the institution of slavery was the focus of a great deal of philosophical research. Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Mill, Wollstonecraft, Bentham, Locke, Rousseau, Paine, Wilberforce, Grotius, Pufendorf, Nietzsche, Marx, and many others, considered such topics as the definition of slavery, the rightness or wrongness of slavery, which sorts of people could or should be enslaved, and whether (and if so, when) they should be emancipated.

In recent years, by contrast, philosophers have shown little interest in slavery. This anthology seeks to remedy this by presenting new work on the philosophy of slavery and emancipation. Possible topics to be addressed include, but are not restricted to:
• What is slavery? How is slavery different from other forms of unfreedom/inequality/labour etc?
• What was mistaken about historical arguments for slavery?
• How do we best explain the wrongness of slavery? Why were the actions of slave owners, slave traders, or those involved in the initial enslavement, wrong?
• Do people not involved in slavery have obligations to oppose slavery?
• Are slaves who once consented to their own enslavement required to obey their masters? Do such masters have a right to such obedience? Should the state recognise, or even enforce, such contracts of slavery?
• What is the relationship between slavery and sexism/racism/ableism/heteronormativity etc?
• What is the relationship between slavery and bondage & discipline, or dominance & submission, or sadism & masochism?
• What do slave narratives tell us about the nature or wrongness of slavery or about the rightness of emancipation?
• What is emancipation?
• What does the history of emancipation tell us about contemporary abolitionism?
• Who can emancipate whom, when, and from what?
• Is emancipation all that is owed to slaves? Does the legacy of slavery and emancipation require further action?

The anthology will, in the first instance, be submitted to Cambridge University Press for possible inclusion in their new series, Slavery Since Emancipation. The description of this series can be found here.

Guidelines for submissions
• Deadline for submission of abstract (150-300 words): 1st December 2013
• Deadline for submission of paper: 1st February 2014
• Manuscripts should be in English and be between 6000 and 9000 words, including abstract, references and footnotes.
• They should be prepared for anonymous refereeing and sent by email attachment as a word document or pdf to both editors.
• They will be subject to a process of peer-review.
• Expected date for preliminary verdict on submitted papers: 31st July 2014

Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, uctynat [at] ucl [dot] ac [dot] uk
Simon Roberts-Thomson, serobertsthomson [at] gmail [dot] com

Hollywood is not doing enough to shame fat people, apparently

I think we’ve entered Bizarro world, because The Guardian film blog is running a piece today about how Hollywood films are guilty of normalizing – even celebrating – obesity and not doing enough to warn people about the dangers of being overweight. Some choice excerpts include:

Oddly, though fatness is smiled upon, undue thinness is decried on film. Keira Knightley (who’s believed to weigh around seven stone) has been continuously attacked on this count. After all, people could try to emulate a screen idol; that might lead to anorexia, a condition that can prove fatal. Yet obesity kills many more than anorexia.

While actors like Knightley arouse disdain, those who fatten up for a part are applauded. Renée Zellweger was congratulated for putting on 30 pounds (just over two stone), twice, for the two Bridget Jones films. After Robert De Niro put on 60 pounds for Raging Bull, critics acclaimed his“transformative” achievement.


Still, when producers suggested that Jennifer Lawrence might actually lose a bit of weight, they found her less co-operative. “If anybody even tries to whisper the word ‘diet’, I’m like, ‘You can go fuck yourself’,” she’s just told an admiring world. Yet a slim frame would hardly have been out of place in a film entitled The Hunger Games.

I know I haven’t had the most reliable meter on this in the past, but I am reasonably sure this piece is not intended as parody. The author seems to be genuinely bemoaning the plight of thin women who just can’t catch a break in Hollywood films. And implying that Renee Zellweger might’ve still been celebrated for gaining (a very moderate amount of) weight even if she hadn’t immediately become ultra-thin again once filming had ended. And suggesting that fit, petite Jennifer Lawrence really should’ve lost some weight for her role in the Hunger Games (come on honey, we need ‘a slim frame’). And ignoring the massive gender disparity between what mainstream film and TV says is acceptable for men, and what it says is acceptable for women. And. . .etc.

Because, as we all know, the dangerous message that Hollywood is sending to young girls is that it might be okay to feel good about their bodies, even if they aren’t skinny!

Reader query: transitioning and applying to grad school

A reader writes:

I’m a transgender woman who is in both the process of transitioning and applying to graduate school in philosophy. I have a few questions that I hope you could pass on to your readers so that I can handle my situation as well as possible. My situation is that of someone finishing their degree in one gender, starting their PhD in another, and hoping to move between all of that as smoothly as possible.

(1) I don’t want my time at my PhD school to be contaminated by my old ID, how can I work with the admissions committee or whoever in order to make sure that my status as a trans person is not shared and that information regarding the ID I applied with is kept under wraps?

(2) How can I communicate to graduate schools that I am transgender in order to make sure that they know what to expect and to make sure that that won’t be an issue for their department (and me)?

(3) I’d like to come out to my own department (or at least to people within it) in order to enlist their help with my applications, but I’m terrified of taking a wrong step and tossing all of my letters out the window. Any tips on coming out discreetly and carefully within my current department?

The fun ‘we’ can have when political correctness is not spoiling everything

The most recent instant of the “having to be PC is spoiling everything” complaint? I came across one yesterday when I followed a ping back to this blog. So let’s look at that sentiment in light of a very recent case from the French Parliament, which could certainly use a few lessons in PC for some of its members.

Now isn’t that fun? Of course, women in effect are not allowed to participate in the political process fully, but that certainly does not disturb the perpetrators it seems. Perhaps lessons in empathy would also be useful.