Lori Gruen on Samuel Dubose, Cecil the Lion and the ethics of avowal

In her Al-Jazeera America post today, Lori Gruen, author of Entangled Empathy, says: “I’ve always been leery of the zero-sum mentality that suggests if you protest against one injustice that means you privilege it over another injustice. This is a convenient and distracting narrative that weakens efforts toward social change. Who benefits when those struggling for a better world end up fighting with each other?” Her article brings to my mind those occasions on which I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be a feminist because men have problems, too. Feminist-interested folks should give this a read.

CFA: SWIP Ireland

Society for Women in Philosophy – Ireland
4th Annual Conference and General Meeting
November 27-28, 2015
Dublin, Ireland

Ways of Knowing: Feminist Philosophy of Science and Epistemology

Call for Abstracts

The 4th annual conference of SWIP- Ireland is on the theme of Feminist Philosophy of Science and Epistemology. The conference will investigate the ways in which issues relevant to gender influence conceptions of scientific knowledge, its methodology and justification. The conference will also be a forum for investigating the idea of situated and gendered knowledge and its connections with the theories and practices of the natural sciences.

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

– The social situatedness of knowledge

– Gendered ways of knowing

– Gender, power and knowledge

– Feminist perspectives on science

– The social and cultural dimensions of science

– Gender and the ideals of objectivity and value-neutrality

– Diversity in Science

– Science and the question of implicit bias

-Expert testimony and epistemic injustice in a scientific context

– Feminist standpoint theory

– The role of social and biological location in shaping knowledge

– The role of ethical and political values in science

– The epistemology of ignorance

– Gendered peer disagreement

The focus of the conference is primarily philosophical, however, contributions from scientists interested in gender issues are strongly encouraged and are very welcome.

Invited Speakers:
Professor Linda Alcoff (City University of New York, USA)
Professor Maria Baghramian (Universitiy College Dublin, Ireland)
Professor Helen De Cruz (VU University Amsterdam,​ Netherlands​)
Professor Kathleen Lennon (University of Hull, UK)

Papers directly relevant to the work of the invited speakers are also very welcome.

Please submit abstracts of not more than 500 words, prepared for blind review, by September 1, 2015 to maria.baghramian@ucd.ie. Successful applicants will be contacted by 25th September 2015.

Professor Maria Baghramian, MRIA
Co-Chair: Society for Women in Philosophy – Ireland
School of Philosophy
University College Dublin

Rising Discrimination in the UK Against Pregnant Women and Mothers

Notwithstanding its rather clunky title, “Pregnancy and Maternity-Related Discrimination and Disadvantage“, the paper included some shocking findings. Interviews with more than 3,200 women about their experiences of being pregnant at work, or returning to their jobs after giving birth, found that 11% reported having been dismissed, forced to take redundancy or treated so badly that they felt they had no choice but to resign.

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which co-commissioned the research, assuming that these trends are replicated across the entire workforce means that as many as 54,000 new mothers in the UK may be forced out of their jobs each year.

But what few seemed to notice was that the new figures showed we are moving in the exact opposite direction of progress. Ten years ago, the Equal Opportunities Commission produced a similar report on maternity rights in the workplace, with the much more snappy title of “Greater Expectations”. That report estimated that the number of pregnant women and new mums forced out of their jobs was around 30,000 each year. Ten years on, the number is close to twice that.

It’s really interesting to look at what brought this about– some entirely gender-neutral changes (though with gendered effects that were predicted).

In the last Parliament, the Tories decimated civil legal aid, making it harder for working women to get advice on even their most basic rights. Next came the introduction of tribunal fees, which required women to pay up to £1,200 just to have their case heard, followed by several hundred more for an appeal if necessary. What this has meant in practice is that women who are members of a trade union are generally protected, while the 80% who are not union members are basically left to fend for themselves.

As predicted, sex discrimination claims took the biggest hit from these changes, with figures released earlier this year confirming an astonishing 91% reduction.

(I have no idea, by the way, why anyone would predict that sex discrimination claims would take the biggest hit. I’d expect e.g. racial discrimination claims to be equally hit.  Though I suppose if they’re just talking numbers, there are more women than members of other groups likely to be victims of discrimination.)

For more, go here.

Dozens of fathers amongst migrants being forcibly deported tonight from the UK

The Home Office is preparing to deport dozens of west African migrants on a specially chartered aircraft leaving Stansted tonight, bound for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gabon. Immigration officials have reportedly detained hundreds of people this month ahead of the flight.

Many of the men booked on the flight are being separated from pregnant partners and young children, according to volunteers at the Unity Centre, Glasgow, who have spoken to deportees. They say that the the men, being held in London immigration lock-ups, expressed “terror and desperation at the prospect of being separated from established lives in the UK”.

Anthony* has a wife and two-year-old child who both have the right to remain in the UK. “We lost a baby in 2008, we visit the burial site regularly. They are trying to take me away from this,” Anthony told the Unity Centre. “Every time I call my wife my son is crying. It is very disheartening that a country that preaches human rights all over the world can do this. How can you split me from my family?”

The Home Office claims Anthony poses a risk to society, after he was arrested for working without permission in 2010. Anthony said he was just trying to support his family.

Another man booked on the flight, George, said: “I have been here for 11 years and I just don’t know what to do. I have nowhere else to go and I am not leaving my fiancée.” His partner is three months pregnant. She is an EU citizen, and the couple have an ongoing application to stay here under European laws.

Read more here.

Thanks KJ for the heads-up.

First Parliamentary Inquiry into Equality for Trans People

MPs have launched the first-ever inquiry into trans rights.

The portrayal of transgender people in the media and the access to gender reassignment treatment on the NHS will be investigated by MPs holding the first ever Commons inquiry into equality for trans people.

The newly-formed Women and Equalities Committee will examine the obstacles transgender people face to getting the same rights as everybody else against facing “discrimination and unfair treatment”.

Labour MP Jess Philips, who serves on the committee, told The Huffington Post UK it was time the “fairest, happiest and healthiest” lives could be offered to the trans community.

The 11 MP-strong committee will look at the language used to define trans people, how transgender equality issues are dealt with by Whitehall departments and agencies, as well as how they are treated by schools, the NHS and the criminal justice system.

Hopefully, this will be a thoroughly good thing which will improve the lives of trans people.  Sadly, I have trouble believing that with this government.  And however good the inquiry may be, the gutting of the NHS and general slashing of the welfare net will surely hit trans people very hard.  All that I can find regarding the record on this issues of Maria Miller, the chair, is this tidbit from Wikipedia: “In May 2012 she urged the Prime Minister to continue with proposals to introduce same-sex marriage in England and Wales, despite either voting against or being absent for “all major LGBT rights votes” since becoming an MP.”

Do you need balls to play snooker? EDITED

ADDED: This post is in part a testimony to my bad memory. It turns out that Papineau does explicitly cite Davis, who appears below in the quote. See also comment three below.

I am a bit inclined to think this actually makes it worse. There in fact isn’t very good reason to think that Davis does understand the bottom line of his own motivation, still less that that understanding should be transferred to philosophy to explain a dearth of women. It is entirely possible, for example, that snooker involves employing and increasing 3 d geometrical understanding. It is actually very possible that that is quite pleasureable. It’s also the case that some of the enjoyment comes from the competition, which may transfer all too problematically to philosophy.

Please let us know what you think of these suggestions.

It turns out that that Papineau’s claim about snooker, and by analogy philosophy, being too trivial for women has some precedent:

It is the type of claim to drive the mildest mannered folk potty and send ripples across the smoothest of green baize surfaces. The fact it came from a master of the art only made it worse. The normally hushed reverence that surrounds the sport of snooker erupted into a fierce row last night after six-times world snooker champion Steve Davis said women lacked the “single-minded obsessive type of brain” to compete with men at the highest level of the sport.

Davis said he could not envisage a woman competing in the final stages of the World Snooker Championship, even though it is open to female players. He was backed by the world’s leading women snooker players last night, but Sally Gunnell, the Olympic 400-metre hurdles gold medallist, said it was not the case that women lacked single-minded determination to compete at the top flight of any sport.

Davis, who will be a BBC pundit in today’s World Championship final, told the BBC World Service’s Sports Hour: “The male of the species has got a single-minded, obsessional type of brain that I don’t think so many females have.”

Women lacked “that single-minded determination in something that must be said is a complete waste of time – trying to put snooker balls into pockets with a pointed stick”.

In fact, i would not especially want to join an all male competition like snooker because it is likely, I would have guessed, to have some of the worse faults of philosophy. Recently I’ve seen yet another case of refusing merit to justify discrimination. AKA, cheating, IMHO.

Or, dare I say it, borrowing someone’s words without any attribution. (This last crack is not about Papineau. Again, see comment three below.)

Republicanism for men

The Review of International Social and Political Philosophy has a nice special issue on “Freedom and Domination: exploring republican freedom” with the following contributors:

Cillian McBride
Philip Pettit
Arto Laitinen
Andreas Busen
Christian F. Rostbøll

Fabian Schuppert
Colin M. Macleod
Keith Breen

For those of us who’ve spent some time and effort arguing that no, republicanism did not need to exclude women, this is a little disheartening…

More on Women in Philosophy

Kate Manne and Amia Srinivasan have written excellent letters in response to David Papineau’s article, which we discussed last week.  They’ve been published in the TLS (behind a paywall) and in the Daily Nous here.  Here’s a small taste of what Manne has to say:

Papineau opines that in philosophy, as in snooker, men will tend to “relish the competitive challenge and enjoy the game for its own sake”, whereas women will be drawn to pursuits with more instrumental value. False modesty about the worth of our discipline aside, Papineau ignores the fact that many women clearly want to play the game – or would do, were we not subject to hostile and punitive reactions in doing so. As a result, being a woman in philosophy is often stressful and unpleasant – as the experiences shared on the well-known blog “What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?” amply demonstrate.

Srinivasan notes:

David Papineau writes that “good practice in [politics, law and medicine] often demands familiarity with the problems of marginalized groups”, but that “this line of thought has no obvious application to philosophy”. This is news to me. I would have thought that theorizing well about, say, inequality, pornography or racial hate crimes – to take a few central topics of philosophical interest – might require one to know something about being poor, a woman, or non-white. Insofar as philosophy is in the business of getting the world right, it would seem useful to have more philosophers who are acquainted with some of its less savoury aspects.

In the Guardian today, Mary Warnock and Julian Baggini take up the topic for a brief debate.

Warnock’s view:

I think that academic philosophy has become an extraordinarily inward-looking subject, devoted not to exposing and examining the implications of the way we think about the world, but to exposing instead deficiencies in the arguments of other philosophers. If you pick up a professional journal now, you find little but nitpicking responses to previous articles. Women tend to get more easily bored with this than men.

Baggini references implicit bias, hostile climates, and an unwilingness to acknowledge the pervasiveness of bias.   He closes with a discussion of Haslanger.

Seven years ago, Haslanger, wrote: “In my experience it is very hard to find a place in philosophy that isn’t actively hostile towards women and minorities, or at least assumes that a successful philosopher should look and act like a (traditional, white) man.” Haslanger persevered, but if other talented women are either giving up or being overlooked, that is as much philosophy’s loss as it the sisterhood’s.