RIP: “best books of YYYY” lists based on the idea that women’s books appealed only to women.

This blog has run for about 7 and a half years; I joined 3 or 4 months after it started. During those years I have counted the number of women in all sorts of lists. Seven years ago it was pretty depressing. This went for conferences, book authors’ list, lists of directors of plays and movies, and so on and so forth for a seemingly endless number of items. I remember vividly an at least very feminist friendly commentator suggesting that maybe women did not have the big ideas for world-class fiction. And though it would seem very wrong to say all those lists were drawn up to inculcate the sense of women as outsiders in cultural production, that certainly was their impact on many.

That, thank goodness, is changing. I’ve been informally counting the number of women in the “best of 2014” lists that are coming out. Women easily come out at well beyond the earlier 0% to 20%. One of the most enjoyable signs of this is to be found in the following remarks in the NY Times:

In nonfiction, it was a year for young women writers to expand the possibilities of nonfiction: Leslie Jamison’s searching personal essays in “The Empathy Exams”; Olivia Laing’s group portrait of alcoholic writers mixed with memoir in “The Trip to Echo Spring”; Eula Biss’s “On Immunity,” a literary investigation into the anxieties surrounding vaccination; Kerry Howley’s “Thrown,” a tale of mixed martial arts fighters that is mostly true, probably.

The fiction list has its share of veterans — Lorrie Moore, David Mitchell, Haruki Murakami, Marilynne Robinson — but it also has a remarkable number of debut books: 10. Smith Henderson’s “Fourth of July Creek,” about a social worker’s quest to help a boy in off-the-grid Montana, and Yelena Akhtiorskaya’s “Panic in a Suitcase,” the comic tale of a Ukrainian family in Brooklyn, are joined by work from first-timers Boris Fishman, Kathleen Founds, Bret Anthony Johnston, Phil Klay, Eimear McBride, Celeste Ng, Matthew Thomas and Nell Zink.

Falsity, inaccuracy, and rape allegations

There is an increasing amount of evidence that the central case in the Rolling Stone article about sexual assault at UVA may not be accurate. People seem to be jumping from ‘may not be accurate’ to ‘is a totally fabricated’ fairly quickly, which, as Think Progress helpfully points out, is a mistake:

False rape allegations are difficult to quantify because so many sexual assault go unreported. But the best research in the field estimates that they are extremely rare. Estimates put the rate of false rape reports around 2.2 percent, and the women who file false claims often receive punishments that are far worse than the consequences for actual college rapists.

For victims of sexual assault who choose to speak out, the proverbial deck is often already stacked against them. They’re up against the societal assumption that they must just want to take down popular frat boys — a narrative solidified by the infamous Duke lacrosse case — and, on top of that, they often aren’t able to tell their stories in believable ways.

Research has found that victims of sexual assault often display erratic behavior, like expressing no emotion, mixing up the chronological order of events, or laughing at inappropriate times. Police officers often interpret that as evidence that they’re not telling the truth. But that behavior actually reflects the disjointed way that the brain processes trauma, not a carefully constructed lie.

Think Progress also offers a useful reminder that whether or not this particular story is a factual story of gang rape, gang rape happens on college campuses. (As noted, some of the skepticism about the story seems to be founded simply on the idea that it’s too terrible to be believed – a bizarre thought, given the reality of sexual assault on college campuses.

CFA: Casualization in Academic Philosophy: SWIP UK Panel at the Hypatia 2015 Conference: Exploring Collaborative Contestations (28-30 May, Villanova University, Pennsylvania)

There is at least anecdotal evidence that casualization—increased use of adjuncts, part-time and temporary academic faculty—disproportionately disadvantages members of underrepresented groups (women, working class academics, disabled academics). For example women, on average, are more likely to have carer responsibilities during their careers, and are on average more likely to be the more junior members of their marriages/partnership, career- and earnings-wise; and because of this are often less mobile and less able to take up insecure temporary employment than their male counterparts.

We would like to explore the implications of this for academic philosophy. Should we conceptualise casualization as an equality issue, or is casualization’s disproportionate affect on women and other underrepresented groups better understood as simply a knock-on effect of wider social inequality? Can we justify the hiring of adjuncts and temporary teaching cover even in the face of inequality concerns? What could departments do to counteract the exclusionary effects of casualization? What structural aims should we have, in the academy, in order to foster equality ‘from the inside’? What would structurally-inclusive academic hiring practices look like, optimally or in the ideal?

We invite 300-word abstract submissions for our panel on casualization in academic philosophy at the Hypatia 2015 Conference: Exploring Collaborative Contestations (28-30 May, Villanova University, Pennsylvania). Presenters might draw insight from areas such as Political Philosophy, Legal Theory, Ethics, and practical experience. We welcome both theoretical and practical approaches to the issue, and encourage both junior and senior members of the profession to submit.

Please email your abstract, prepared for anonymous review, in .pdf, .doc or .docx  format, to Lindsey Porter at  by 15 January, 2015. Please include biographical information (affiliation, past or present, etc) in the body of the email. We intend to arrange at least partial funding for travel & accommodation to those in need of such funding.

Another UVA gang-rape victim speaks out

Much of the backlash against Rolling Stone’s story about the mishandling of rape allegations at UVA seems to be predicated on the idea that the story which opens it – the brutal gang rape of a young woman named Jackie at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house – is just too awful or outlandish to be believed. That’s more than a little eyebrow raising given that another case of gang rape at UVA involving the very same fraternity made national headlines in 2005.

In 1984, Liz Securro was gang-raped at the Phi Kappa Psi house at UVA. She discusses her experience – and her frustration with the way conversations about rape continue to be carried out – in an opinion piece in Time:

Over 30 years ago, I told my own story to then student journalist Gayle Wald, who wrote extensively of my rape in the now defunct UVA newspaper, theUniversity Journal. I asked that she use a pseudonym (Kate) for me, and, like Jackie, I begged her not to interview the one man I knew had raped me, as I feared repercussions. There were two other attackers whose names I did not know. When I went to the dean of students at that time, Robert Canevari, I was covered in bruises, still bloodied, and had broken bones. He sat at his big desk across from me and suggested I was a liar and had mental problems for reporting my rape. Some of my new friends told me not to tell, that no one would believe me, that I would ruin my own reputation and that of “Mr. Jefferson’s University.” Almost a quarter-century after my gang rape, one attacker was arrested and jailed for his participation in it, for about six months. He had written me a letter of apology in 2005, which became the basis for a case against him. I wrote about the crime, the investigation, the plea deal, and its effects on my life in my memoir, Crash Into Me, which Bloomsbury published in 2011. I have become a victims’-rights advocate. The similarities between my experience and Jackie’s story are astounding because the culture has remained almost identical in the three decades separating our rapes.

Do you believe me?

. . .

Wholesale doubt or dismissal of a rape account because it sounds “too bad to be true” is ridiculous. Is it easier to believe a rape by a single stranger upon a woman in a dark alley? What about marital rape? What if a prostitute is raped? Just how bad was it? We should not have a rape continuum as part of the dialogue, ever.

Of course nobody wants to believe that an ugly gang rape could happen at a venerated institution of higher learning, even though our rape statistics provesomething is rotten in Charlottesville, in South Bend, in Tallahassee, in Boulder. But Americans are still a puritanical and repressed bunch who would prefer to see the only rosiest picture of our sweet land of liberty.

It’s also why we have struggled to comprehend the allegations leveled against Bill Cosby by 20-something (and counting) different women. Why couldn’t it just be the one, 10 years ago, who we believed? Cliff Huxtable, with his goofy faces, goofier sweaters and lovingly imparted life lessons, could never drug and rape women. But, allegedly, Cosby could, and has.