“Gender, Blah, Blah, Blah”

That’s the title of a new essay by writer Katherine Angel just published in the LA Review of Books, wherein Angel takes to task some of the weak arguments (especially those advanced by the London Review of Books) against taking steps to achieve greater inclusion of women in the field of literature.

There’s a lot of insightful commentary here. And many of Angel’s points carry across pretty straightforwardly to the world of academic philosophy.

For example:

The LRB states that it is

“not a pathetic excuse to say that the world is still sexist and that the feminist revolution is hopelessly incomplete. You can see evidence of this everywhere from the pay gap to rape conviction rates and a thousand things that are more important than the proportion of women who write book reviews.”

Those are my italics; it’s a highly charged sentence. Simultaneously plaintive and hand-waving, it dismisses the effect that who we see around us can have on the formulation of our own desires, ambitions, and confidence, as well as its effect on how we perceive individual women … And the plot thickens when the statement appeals to the greater importance of the pay gap. The statement invokes feminism, but invokes it in order to move the problem along elsewhere …

This is a curious strategy. For a start, it relies on an implicit framing of literary culture as a frivolous luxury. … It’s odd, not to say disingenuous, to insist on yourself as the magazine for literature, culture, and politics, and then proclaim your irrelevance when under criticism. Secondly, the shunting along elsewhere of the pressing issues of inequality sits oddly with the magazine’s left-leaning, progressive politics. … But the statement suggests that inequality matters enough to the magazine to make it inform some of its content — though not enough to let that affect its editorial or commissioning practice.

Inequality in literary magazines and inequality in pay are both important, and in connected ways. The visibility and status of women’s writing is important precisely because of a web of marginalization across all areas of life. If women’s voices are always peripheral to male voices intoning from the center of culture, then their voices are peripheral on all issues: the pay gap, consent, harassment, rape, domestic violence, reproductive freedom, the glass ceiling, childcare. The obscuring of women’s voices in media platforms, however elite, however niche, is part of the obscuring of their voices in general; and a lack of commitment to, or an inability to hear, their voices in literary culture is related to the same lacks and inabilities in relation to their voices in harassment, in sex, in courtrooms, and in the workplace.

What is clear is that proclaiming concern and invoking feminism while casting oneself as immune to criticism is an approach that is neither admirable nor strategic.


CFP: Global Gender Justice: New Directions

The Centre for the Study of Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham is pleased to announce ‘Global Gender Justice: New Directions’, a conference to be hosted on 21 and 22 May 2015.

Confirmed speakers include:

Alison Jaggar (Colorado, Birmingham)
Nicola Jones (Overseas Development Institute)
Sue Lloyd Roberts (BBC)
Theresa Tobin (Marquette)
Heather Widdows (Birmingham)

Further speakers will be confirmed next year.

As a part of this conference, we welcome papers for two panel presentations, one for postgraduate students and one for early career researchers (defined as within 6 years of receiving the PhD).  Accommodation and transportation will be guaranteed for invited speakers from the UK.  Every effort will be made to cover transportation costs for invited international speakers.

Possible topics include:
-gendered aspects of traditional topics in global justice including income inequality, climate change, the resource curse, international trade, international migration, war and conflict, labour exploitation, global food systems, financial crises, etc.
-gender-specific issues that arise in the context of globalization, including commercial surrogacy, international sex work, transnational causes of violence against women, international law and gender specific crimes against humanity,
-the way in which globalization and theories of global justice have shaped or changed standard conceptions of feminist issues, including the public-private divide, the politics of representation, reproductive justice, care work, intersectionality,

We welcome papers from a range of fields but especially encourage submissions that develop normative analysis of issues in global gender justice.  Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words, prepared for blind review, to s.l.wisor@bham.ac.uk.   Please submit a separate cover sheet with author name, title, institution, location from which you would be travelling, and whether you have access to travel support funds.  Abstracts are due 31 January 2015.

CFP: Taming Power in Times of Globalization: What Role for Human Rights?

Call for Papers
Taming Power in Times of Globalization:
What Role for Human Rights?

Monday, 30 November 2015, and Tuesday, 01 December 2015.
Irish Centre for Human Rights
National University of Ireland Galway

The ways power is exercised today at the global level seems to be qualitatively different, demanding new responses from international law and other relevant disciplines. In particular, it seems that today the exercise of power at the global level is less controllable, less subject to restraints and checks than some decades ago. Global governance, international or global constitutionalism, legal pluralism are terms indicating some of the ways developed in the scholarship to comprehend, analyse and respond to challenges posed by the contemporary forms of exercise of power at the global level.
Human rights are featured prominently in the Western thought as hallmarks of protection of individuals against the arbitrary exercise of power.
Human rights form today a core of any Western constitutional order. However, the role of international human rights as mechanisms for controlling exercise of power at the global level is articulated only rudimentarily. The conference aims at providing a forum for discussion about the place of human rights in current discourses on globalization. Instead of assuming that human rights are a proof of the possibility to control power at the global level, the conference aims at examining this premise from a variety of perspectives.
The following are some of the questions the organizers would like to see addressed.
•       What human rights are part of international constitutional order?
•       How legal pluralism/global governance/various theories of constitutionalism conceive the role of human rights as a mechanism for limiting exercise of power at the global level?
•       What are the consequences of different answers?
•       How precisely human rights as guarantees against arbitrary exercise of power function within different visions?
•       Are there any alternatives available to the human rights language?
•       Can other mechanism of control over arbitrary exercise of power at the international/global level be imagined?

Contributions can address these and other related issues from a variety of perspectives, both theoretical and empirical. Critical and interdisciplinary approaches are particularly encouraged.  Contributions examining relavant issues from a historical perspective, or integrating experience of non western legal traditions are also welcome.
Contributions will be selected following a peer-review process. The selection will be based on the following criteria: relevance to the conference theme, originality, overall coherence of selected papers with a view of producing engaging discussion. The organizers have publication plans for the presented papers. The precise format of publication will be discussed during the conference. Therefore, all selected contributions must be original and not published elsewhere. All presenters will be required to submit full papers in advance.
Accommodation for presenters will be provided. There are limited funds available to cover travel expenses. Please indicate while applying whether you would like to be considered for reimbursement of travel expenses and indicate if possible the approximate amount.

Submission guidelines:
Abstracts should be no more than 500 words long; contain the name, institutional affiliation and contact details of the author; indicate a title of the presentation, questions to be addressed, methodology and overall approach. Abstracts should be sent by 15 March 2015 in Word format to Ekaterina Yahyaoui ekaterina.yahyaoui@nuigalway.ie and Zoi Aliozi zoi.aliozi@nuigalway.ie
For inqueries, please contact Dr Zoi Aliozi at zoi.aliozi@nuigalway.ie
Important dates:
Abstract submission: 15 March 2015
Communication of decisions: 10 April 2015
Submission of draft papers: 1 November 2015