Weight discrimination is costly for women

From the Guardian:

Being thin, it seems, is an unspoken requirement if you’re after a fatter paycheck. And the thinner you are, the better you fare, financially speaking. If you are deemed to be heavy, on the other hand, you suffer, as a 2011 study made clear. Heavy women earned $9,000 less than their average-weight counterparts; very heavy women earned $19,000 less. Very thin women, on the other hand, earned $22,000 more than those who were merely average. And yes, those results are far more visible on women’s earnings than on those of men.

You may also struggle for promotion. It turns out that about half of male CEOs are overweight, but only 5% of female CEOs carry extra pounds. Add an extra layer to that glass ceiling.

The patchwork quilt of achievement

This is just wonderful, the wonderful Athene Donald reflecting on Mary Catherine Bateson:

Consider the following sentence:

‘We see achievement as purposeful and monolithic, like sculpting of a massive tree trunk that has first to be brought from the forest and then shaped by long labor to assert the artist’s vision, rather than something crafted from odds and ends, like a patchwork quilt, and lovingly used to warm different nights and bodies.’

[Bateson’s] sympathies are all with the crafting of a life from bits and pieces rather than those (few?) who simply move from A to B, knowing that B was always where they wanted to be, probably even having set a timescale to achieve this pinnacle of their aspirations. Some people may start off like that. Few I would wager actually manage such a straightforward passage, far fewer than the young setting out are likely to believe. For most of us, however successful we may look to others, there has been a substantial amount of crafting, reshaping, thinking again once one’s heart desire is snatched away and picking oneself off the floor amongst the detritus….

Here’s to patchwork quilts.


Happy Halloween, ya’ll

The Chronicle of Higher Education gives us, in festive mood, A Brief History of Academics Writing Seriously About Zombies. Unsurprisingly, philosophy takes center stage:

In philosophy, zombies are confined safely to the theoretical realm. Contemporary philosophers use thought experiments involving zombies to “illuminate problems about consciousness and its relation to the physical world,” according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, whose entry on “zombies” includes priceless passages such as this:

“Suppose a population of tiny people disable your brain and replicate its functions themselves, while keeping the rest of your body in working order (see Block 1980); each homunculus uses a cell phone to perform the signal-receiving and -transmitting functions of an individual neuron. Now, would such a system be conscious? Intuitively one may be inclined to say obviously not. Some, notably functionalists, bite the bullet and answer yes. However, the argument does not depend on assuming that the homunculus-head would not be conscious. It depends only on the assumption that its not being conscious is conceivable—which many people find reasonable. In [the philosopher David] Chalmers’s words, all that matters here is that when we say the system might lack consciousness, ‘a meaningful possibility is being expressed, and it is an open question whether consciousness arises or not’ (1996, p. 97). If he is right, then the system is not conscious. In that case it is already very much like a zombie, the only difference being that it has little people where a zombie has neurons.”
And this:

“Suppose I smell roasting coffee beans and say, ‘Mm! Roasting coffee: I love that smell!’. Everyone would rightly assume I was talking about my experience. But now suppose my zombie twin produces the same utterance. He too seems to be talking about an experience, but in fact he isn’t because he’s just a zombie. Is he mistaken? Is he lying? Could his utterance somehow be interpreted as true, or is it totally without truth value? Nigel Thomas (1996) argues that ‘any line that zombiphiles take on these questions will get them into serious trouble.’”

Serious trouble, indeed. In some corners of academe, real zombies are unnecessary: the brains eat themselves.

Big burn, Chronicle. Now in the spirit of the season, I think we’re all honor bound to leave burning bags of dog poop on the Chronicle’s door step. . .

CFP: New Encounters in French and Italian Thought

20th Annual Conference Sponsored by the Philosophy Graduate Student Union (PGSU)
March 13-14, 2015
Villanova University
New Encounters in French and Italian Thought
Keynote: Jason E. Smith

The negotiation between French and Italian activists and intellectuals in the mid-twentieth century opened a field of theoretical experimentation, the effects of which pose a challenge for contemporary politics. This encounter materialized through various collectives, traversing the neat intellectual and practical boundaries of the academy. Whether through the images of intellectuals in the streets, or through radical activist groups extending from the Situationist International to Tiqqun, the laboratory of French and Italian thought poses a constellation of conceptual weapons that remain vital for any contestation with the state of things. These implements have been successful in intervening within contemporary struggles on the level of theory, practice, and the construction of history in the present.

Under the inheritance of this tradition, this conference invites submissions from the interstices and margins of recent French and Italian philosophy. Possible paper topics include feminist recapitulations of post-workerism, the theoretical legacy of biopolitics as it is taken up in Agamben and Esposito, and the ongoing challenges for theory and practice posed by social movements extending from Latin America to the Mediterranean in the wake of events such as Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation.

Other topics include, but are not limited to:

Post-Althusserian philosophy
Decolonial challenges to eurocentric thought and strategies
Wages for Housework and care economies
Realism and contemporary ontologies
Re-interpretations of the Gramscian legacy
Philosophies of life and the problem of vitalism
Lacanian psychoanalysis and its heritage
French and Italian receptions of Spinoza, Hegel, and Marx
Affect theory and imagination in cultural productions (e.g. film and media)
Collective organization and social ontologies

The Philosophy Graduate Student Union at Villanova University welcomes graduate students and junior faculty to submit any of the following to be considered for our conference: paper abstracts of 250-350 words, papers of approximately 3000 words (including co-authored work) suitable for a 20 minute presentation, or proposed panels. Authors of accepted abstracts should send completed papers by March 1, 2015.

Please send submissions, prepared for blind review, to vuconf2015@gmail.com.

This conference is committed to accommodating people with disabilities. Conference participants and attendees are encouraged to contact the above email address to discuss accommodations.

Sexy Regalia?

Delicious Women's PhD Darling Sexy Costume, Blue, Large/X-LargeYes, you read that right. Amazon is selling–alongside the equally plausible “Sexy Nemo” and “Sexy T-Rex,” the “Delicious Women’s Phd Darling Sexy Costume.”

Just in time for Halloween!

And for once, read the reviews.

This is just one:

First things first, I am a lady Ph.D.

Like all lady Ph.D’s, I frequently ask myself: “How could I be sexier?”

Delicious costumes has come to my rescue! I can now lecture in my 5 inch gold spiked heels and “barely there” regalia while giving nary a thought to the male gaze and it’s implications on the prevalence of rape culture in our society.

I fully expect my chili pepper rating on RMP to go through the roof once I begin to greet my students in this costume. Hopefully I can keep my post structural hegemony’s from engaging in some wardrobe malfunctions. Then again, who cares?

I’m sexy! Forget about the 7 years I spent sweating out a dissertation and engaging in innovative research!


“It’s About Your Predatory Friends.”

“This is, I think, what we’re really talking about when we talk about bystander intervention. It’s not about protecting your friends from predatory strangers — which is often how these scenarios are framed. It’s about your predatory friends. What are you going to do about them?

There is, I think, a real fear people have about being wrong if and when they believe women. And so a reflexive tendency to doubt women when they come forward begins to look a lot like caution. But what it amounts to, and this is what Pallett and Bady both made clear, isn’t the presumption of innocence or a respect for due process, but a process through which we can ignore what’s in front of us to protect ourselves, to protect the ideas we have about our friends, the ideas we have about rape and the kinds of men who hurt women.”

From “Jian Ghomeshi is My Friend, and Jian Ghomeshi Beats Women” at Salon.

MAP advertises for UK Director!

MAP is a collection of students in English-speaking philosophy departments that aims to examine and address issues of minority participation in academic philosophy. Though primarily led by graduate students, MAP also relies on faculty support and encourages undergraduate participation.

For more about MAP, go here.

They now have a number of UK chapters, and are in need of a UK Regional Director. Do consider applying, and do tell your friends, colleagues, students, etc!

Contessa Responds to Worries About LCC

You can read his post here.

“About a week ago I wrote a post in which I proposed a Languaged Conference Campaign to highlight the underrepresentation of non-native English speakers in the line-ups of philosophy conferences and volumes. I was expecting this to be a relatively uncontroversial move, since many support the Gendered Conference Campaign, whose aims and methods the LCC was supposed to co-opt. Boy, was I wrong!”

Another perspective on ESL philosophy

We recently posted about a campaign – modeled on our GCC – to raise awareness of the underrepresentation of non-native English speakers in philosophy. Sara Protasi has a different perspective on this issue, and she’s given me permission to share her thoughts here:

There are two senses in which something can be “unfair”. First, something can be *unfortunate*, an event or action that we would to exclude from any ideal world. Falling and breaking one’s neck is unfair in this sense. These are things that we regret, and try to prevent from happening.

Second, something can be *unjust*. When something is unjust, indignation and resentment are the appropriate reactions. Fighting for social justice is what we do in this case.

Then there are borderline or vague cases (not committing to any philosophical view here! Just using the terms loosely). Maybe being perceived as ugly, or being short, are like that. You are disadvantaged in many domains, and people may have different views about whether that’s unjust or simply unfortunate. The domain clearly matters: a TV show, a beauty pageant, a court, etc.

{I think there is some philosophical literature on notions of unfairness, but I don’t recall any specific reference right now. Apologies if this sounds trivial and not in need of being repeated}

I think *one* (only one) of the problems affecting the recent heated discussion on the disadvantage suffered by non-native English speakers in philosophy is that some people confuse these two meanings, or anyway are not careful enough in trying to distinguish them. I am among the lucky non-native English speakers who learnt English fairly early on (starting with some trips to the US when I was a teenager), went to graduate school (a second time) at (in?!) an Anglophone institution, and who speaks English with a lighter accent than the average Italian (and Italian is closer to English than Mandarin or Turkish, which gives me a further advantage). And yet, I know all too well how hard it is to do philosophy in a language other than yours. When I came to the US, the first few years were exhausting in good part because of this. As a kid in school I used to be considered an excellent writer, and now I wasn’t. I could not use what I thought were the appropriate words. I was a grammar fetishist and suffered for not being able to speak properly. I could not understand people at social events, where the noise level is higher and people speak all together. I had a hard time following seminars discussions.

Today, after seven years living in anglophone countries and having a partner with whom I speak mostly English, I am still frustrated by what I perceive as a suboptimal level of fluency. I had to hire a proofreader for my dissertation. I check online dictionaries *every single day*. I worry about prepositions, idioms, pronunciation *all the time*. I could go on and on, but let me instead add that some of these issues are not merely due to language but also due to having been raised and educated mostly in Italy. My education was quite good in general, but analytic philosophy is relatively young in Italy, and even though I had good teachers my philosophical Italian education simply does not compare to what I got at Yale, or I could have gotten at Michigan (where I was a visiting scholar a couple of times) or at other US institutions. This is obviously a purely contingent fact, due to a… (looking for the right word here!) wealth of factors: cultural, historical, economic, etc. Italians, like any other people from around the world, can be great philosophers. But it simply isn’t the case that they have the best analytic philosophy departments at this time in history. {Proviso which probably won’t spare me the wrath of some Italians, but here it goes: there are some excellent Italian analytic philosophers, and many good ones, who work and teach in Italy. I think they correlate with those who have had at least a partial education abroad, but I don’t have hard data on this, just anecdotal evidence. One might say that my perception of who is excellent is primarily driven by my knowing that they have been abroad. We can talk more about whether that’s the case, but I don’t think it’s a fruitful avenue of discussion.}

This, as the fact that analytic philosophy journals and conferences and even Facebook discussions take place in English, is very unfortunate. But it doesn’t seem to me to be unjust. That it is not unjust doesn’t mean that we should not try to alleviate the difficulties of people like me, or people who fare much worse than me. We should help non-native speakers to achieve the level of fluency required to succeed at philosophy in the context in which they want to do philosophy (I am partially repeating points made by commenters at Feminist Philosophers, such as “louisechanary”). But it’s not an injustice in the same way that racial and sexist and ableist and homo/transphobic discrimination is. Being able to speak good English is essential to do good philosophy. Being White, or male, or straight, or gender-conforming, or able-bodied is completely irrelevant.

There remains some space for actual, unjust discrimination in this area, of course. Discriminating or being inadvertently biased against people who speak English with an accent, or who speak and write in good but not fully idiomatic English is obviously something we should be aware of, and condemn. But even that is not as widespread or harmful as other forms of discrimination, in my experience, both from a first- and third-personal perspective (although since this is an empirical matter, I would be interested in scientific evidence that proves otherwise). Also, as it has been said by many, it seems to me that speaking with a certain accent is a lot more disadvantageous than being a non-native speaker in itself, so there are different nuances to be considered even within the language discrimination issue. But if the accent worry is already covered by the race or ethnicity worry, then maybe we can be less concerned with accent in itself.

What worries me the most, of this discussion, is that we seem to be slipping all too easily in the usual wars about who is the most disadvantaged, but at the same time forgetting that *it does make sense to worry about who is the most disadvantaged*! What I mean is that it is a psychologically harmful tendency: we should all unite to fight injustice of all kinds!

On the other hand, a perceived injustice may not be an injustice, or may be a minor injustice, and it is important to keep that in mind. We have finite resources (we have finite span of attention, funding, etc.). Worrying about poor kids who don’t have toys is worthwhile, but worrying about starving kids is more worthwhile. Similarly in this case: we have to figure out what our priorities as a community are. I think some of us think that, based on evidence and experience, some forms of discrimination are in more need of attention than others. And some other *very real* (I have lived them!) events and actions, while unfortunate and regrettable, are not forms of discrimination at all.