Consent and tea

I have no idea how we managed to miss this public service announcement from Thames Valley Police, which has apparently gone viral since it was revealed to the world in October last year. But miss it we did. Which is unfortunate, as it’s completely hilarious.

The original video is here:

And here’s a version with subtitles:

Banksy uses new artwork to criticise use of teargas in Calais refugee camp

The artwork is here. I watched the video below until it was clear there was tear gas (or some sort of gas). I don’t especially recommend watching it all the way through, though I don’t know how bad it got. For more details about police actions and earlier use of tear gas, see

Did anyone know that tear gas was being used? A police spokesperson says it wasn’t. One wishes such spokespeople were kept more in the picture. From the Guardian:

The work is the latest in a series of pieces by the graffiti artist criticising Europe’s handling of the ongoing refugee crisis. It is a direct comment on the recent attempts by French authorities to bulldoze part of the camp in Calais – which has now been deemed unsafe – and evict about 1,500 refugees.

Speaking to the Guardian last week, a police spokesperson, Steve Barbet, denied that teargas was being used to clear the camps. “It’s not in our interest to use teargas unless it’s absolutely necessary to restore public order, and it is never used in the camp itself,” he said.

But the seven-minute clip posted on YouTube clearly shows teargas, rubber bullets and concussion grenades being used by the French authorities in an overnight raid in early January. Videos and reports of the repeated use of CS gas also emerged last Monday as French police attempted to create a 100-metre buffer zone between the camps and the motorway.

The video:

Philosophy as Fan Labor?

It isn’t that I mind academic detachment. After all, I was impressed and shaken by Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much with Us”:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—

I even remember some of the poem decades after I encountered it in high school.

Still, I do mind being in total ignorance of a vast kind of creative output. In case you share the ignorance and would like not to, try the Wikipedia entry on Fan Labor:

Fan labor is a term used to refer to the productive creative activities engaged in by fans, primarily those of various media properties or musical groups.[1][2] These activities can include creation of written works (fictional, fan fictional and review literature), visual or computer-assisted art, music, or applied arts and costuming.

Although fans invest significant time creating their products, and fan-created products are “often crafted with production values as high as any in the official culture,”[3] most fans provide their creative works as amateurs, for others to enjoy without requiring or requesting monetary compensation. Fans respect their gift economy culture and are often also fearful that charging other fans for products of their creativity will somehow fundamentally change the fan-fan relationship, as well as attract unwanted legal attention from copyright holders. The skills that fans hone through their fan works may be marketable, and some fans find employment through their fan works.

Of course, I should think we’re all aware of instances of fan labor; even much of philosophy could be counted as fan labor, I suppose. But the really vast output was somehow shielded from my ken. That stopped when I started to follow the links on Rachel Smith Corbleigh’s comments on Magic’s post here.

Now, is philosophy as it is done today often fan labor? If we borrow terms from descriptions of Fan Fiction, then surely a case can be made. The journals are full of articles that pick up a theme in someone else’s work and modify or expand (or both) them.

To see philosophy in this way might trivialize the whole idea of fan labor. Or it might give us some different ways of thinking about the disciplines. For example, what in philosophy might be the analogue of good fan fiction?

Petition on Behalf of Kurdish Civilians

Anna-Sara Malmgren is gathering signatures for a petition to President Obama with the following content:

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write you with a growing sense of alarm, and a simple request, concerning actions now being taken by the government of Turkey against its own citizens.

As you have no doubt been briefed, the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has in recent months been blockading and indiscriminately shelling ethnic Kurdish neighborhoods in eastern and southeastern Anatolia. The official rationale has been to fight domestic terrorism – specifically, to weaken the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or ‘PKK’ – eerily echoing the justifications routinely proffered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for barrel-bombing his own citizenry, and at best providing a partial explanation of the Erdoğan government’s actions. (These actions appear to be part of a wider intimidation campaign, the targets of which include advocates of Kurdish and other minority rights in Turkey who explicitly seek diplomatic conflict-resolution, including members and supporters of the People’s Democratic Party, or ‘HDP’).

However plausible or otherwise the official motivation may be, the Erdoğan government’s chosen means are grossly disproportionate to its professed end. They are causing avoidable and unacceptable civilian suffering, they are wrongful and illegal under domestic and international law, and – we fear – will only exacerbate existing tensions within Turkey, possibly pushing it towards full-scale civil war. And this at a time, ironically, when Kurdish citizens of  Iraq and Syriaseem to have established stable regional governments and, like their fellow Kurds in Turkey, have offered effective resistance against ISIS/Daesh.

The Erdoğan government’s actions have not gone unchallenged, either inside or outside of Turkey. Turks of multiple ethnicities, genders, and vocations have peacefully petitioned their government to cease making war on its own Kurdish citizens, to open dialogue with peaceful Kurdish advocacy groups, and to allow independent journalists access to Kurdish neighborhoods now under blockade and bombardment. The Erdoğan government’s response has been only the further persecution of dissidents, the detention of protesting academics, and, it now seems, the outright murder of opposition political figures – or at the very least, egregious security lapses that have enabled such murders to take place.

We recognize that options are limited where influencing the domestic affairs of other nations’ governments is concerned. We also believe, however, that the power of moral suasion – particularly when coming from you – is anything but trivial, and that it can even in some cases be transformative.

We therefore respectfully request that you consider both publicly calling for and privately urging upon President Erdoğan: (a) the immediate cessation of the indiscriminate shelling by government forces of Kurdish neighborhoods in eastern and southeastern Anatolia, (b) the immediate lifting of the blockades – Orwellianly referred to as ‘curfews’ – of those neighborhoods, and (c) the immediate opening of these same neighborhoods to journalists of all nationalities and political persuasions, who collectively still constitute the most effective form of ‘sunlight’ where exposing abuses of governmental power is concerned.

You have long been and continue to be a source of moral and political inspiration to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, Mr. President, including to us. We hope you will know that it is precisely in virtue of your unique combination of moral stature and political influence that we write you, in the confident hope that you will do what you can to spare Turkey’s Kurdish minority – as well as the tens of millions of other Turks who respect their own constitution and fellow citizens – any further depredations by the government of Mr. Erdoğan.

To sign, go here.

“If you want to be perceived as Competent and Influential, it sure helps to be a man over 35.”

That’s among the conclusions of a study using age to understand gender bias, based on over a million ratings of business profile photos.

The short version:

  • Both men’s and women’s perceived competence increases with age, but men’s increases 6 times faster.
  • Both men’s and women’s perceived influence increases with age, but men’s increases 2.5 times faster.
  • Women’s perceived likability declines rapidly with age while men’s stays about the same.

Not surprising, but perhaps particularly important during interview season, when academics are asked to assess job candidates for competence, influence (/reputation) and likability (/collegiality) in ways that cannot fail to be affected by perceptions of their age and gender.

The Teaching Workshop @ the APA Blog

The Teaching Workshop asks people to send in their questions about teaching!

“The Teaching Workshop is a new, regular feature on the Blog of the APA, run by the APA’s committee on the teaching of philosophy. Every other week, we offer answers to anonymous, reader-provided questions about teaching philosophy. This means we need your questions! Send us questions related to classroom management, student interaction, best pedagogical methods, assessment, or whatever else you struggle with as an instructor of philosophy. If you can, please tell us about the kind of environment in which you’re teaching (SLAC or large public university, for instance) and describe how you have tried in the past to tackle the issue about which you’re asking. Our e-mail is PhilTeacherWorkshop[at]”

Data on Sexual Assault at College

Thanks to CS for writing the following:

There has been some skepticism about the claim that 1 in 5 women is the victim of a sexual assault during college. The American Association of Universities came out with survey results from 27 schools in September 2015, which seemed to support the 1 in 5 number, but it was roundly criticized for a low response rate (19%) among other criticisms. A new survey has been released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. It has improved questions, a much higher response rate (over 50%), and some sophisticated analyses to adjust for non-response bias. It yields nearly the same finding: 21% of women in the 9 campuses surveyed were victims of a sexual assault during college.

The Chronicle story is here:

The actual report is here:

Jenny Saul on ‘racial fig leaves’

Jenny Saul has an interesting article in the Huffington Post about Donald Trump and the phenomenon she labels ‘racial fig leaves’. Many of us are familiar with the political use of ‘dog whistles’ – subtle political messages meant to appeal to biases without explicitly championing those biases, or in some cases to appeal to a target audience without being readily identifiable as such an appeal to those who aren’t the target audience. But, as Jenny points out, Trump’s rhetoric is a long way from the subtlety of dog whistle politics:

Donald Trump is no dogwhistler: he proudly tosses around racial terms, paired with the most hideous stereotypes. And he rises, and rises, and rises in the polls. Does this mean that the Norm of Racial Egalitarianism is no longer in place? I’m not so sure. Some of Trump’s supporters clearly reject this norm, openly advocating white supremacy. But there is no reason to believe that this group of voters ever accepted it–the norm was widely accepted, but not universal. So what of the other supporters? It seems to me that two important things are happening: First, Trump is employing another technique in place of a dogwhistle, one which still allows supporters to believe that he (and so they) are not racist. And second, he’s revealing just what a shallow and limited norm Racial Egalitarianism is.

The technique Trump has been employing is one I’ll call the “racial figleaf”. It involves uttering what would otherwise be clearly a racist claim, and then following up with something that just barely covers it. On some level, we all know what’s there–something you’re not supposed to show in public–but the figleaf lets us avoid acknowledging it.

As she points out, the phenomenon of fig leaf discourse probably doesn’t explain the whole of Trump’s racist speech, but it’s at least an interesting aspect of it, and a clear departure from previous political discourse.

So You Want To Be Inclusive

A reader is asking for guidance on creating inclusive events.  Their problem?  Not every attempt to be inclusive works.  So for those with experience, what strategies have proven reliable?  What can you do if your ideal conference line-up all decline the invitation?  What do you say if the colleague organizing this year’s colloquium series has pulled together a rather marginalizing list, despite your suggestions?  How do you translate the aspiration to be inclusive into actual inclusion?

A female colleague recently reached out to me about a lack of inclusivity in an academic setting. This got us talking about a variety of things. One thing was strategies for making conference/colloquium schedules more inclusive. I asked her for advice about this. She recommended that I reach out to you (all).

Context: We were talking about how there are a variety of ways in which even progressive departments and conferences (i.e., ones run by progressive people) fail to be inclusive. E.g., one otherwise inclusive department’s colloquium schedule does not feature any non-white non-male (etc.) speakers.

My own experience: Some of my attempts to be inclusive don’t pan out. And many of my second, third, etc. attempts don’t pan out either. In the moment, I felt like I am going out of my way to be inclusive and somehow not succeeding — I am sure there was more to it than this, as will become clear in a moment.

I am interested in brainstorming ways to be inclusive when putting together, say, conferences and colloquium schedules: anything that involves inviting scholars to participate in something, really. I have searched through this blog and gathered some ideas — I particularly enjoyed reading “I Dreamt Of An Inclusive Conference,” by the way. One idea is for conferences to be held online, eliminating some of the difficulties associated with attending a conference and thereby making it easier for people who might not otherwise be able to participate. Still, I imagine that there are all sorts of things that have not even occurred to me. (And in my more anxious moments, I worry about how I might be clueless to the fact that I am the (or part of the) problem).

Any guidance/correction/resources/etc. would be very much appreciated.

It seems to me that there are at least four separate stages worth considering:

  1. How are conference funds and organizing duties distributed within a department?  Who is making invitation decisions?  Are they responsive to criticism?
  2. If you have the opportunity to organize an event yourself, how should a desire to be inclusive affect the planning stages: the conception of the topic, the kind of event and how it will convene, the keynote selection, etc.?
  3. Once the event is in the works, how do you ensure representative participation?  Where and how do you advertise the CFA/CFP?  How are you evaluating the submissions you get?  Where and how do you announce the event to encourage outside attendance?  Should you engage in outreach?  Should some funds be reserved to facilitate attendance by those for whom attendance is difficult?
  4. As the event approaches, and as it’s underway, what should you do (and what resources should you set aside) to ensure that attendees are able to participate fully?  What instructions should chairs be given on managing the queue?  What can you do if the tenor of Q&A or discussion turns exclusive?

And a difficult question raised by the reader’s concern: what constitutes a good faith effort?  What should you do if attempts to be inclusive fail?  Can you reach a point where you’ve done all you can?

Thoughts?  Suggestions?