Oh look! 9 male speakers

Which probably isn’t the cultural crisis under discussion.


The speakers:

Ian Angus (Vancouver, Canada)

Thomas Arnold (Heidelberg, Germany)

Diego D’Angelo (Würzburg, Germany)

Eddo Evink (Groningen, the Netherlands)

Cees Leijenhorst (Nijmegen, the Netherlands)

Corijn van Mazijk (Groningen, the Netherlands)

Ovidiu Stanciu (Paris, France)

Christian Sternad (Leuven, Belgium)

Claudio Tarditi (Torino, Italy)


Why am I telling you about this?  Find out about Gendered Conference Campaign here.

Kimberle Crenshaw: Say her name

When she speaks at public meetings, Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw has a trick. She asks everyone to stand up until they hear an unfamiliar name. She then reads the names of unarmed black men and boys whose deaths ignited the Black Lives Matter movement; names such as Eric GarnerMichael BrownTamir RiceFreddie GrayTrayvon Martin. Her audience are informed and interested in civil rights so “virtually no one will sit down”, Crenshaw says approvingly. “Then I say the names of Natasha McKennaTanisha AndersonMichelle CusseauxAura Rosser, Maya Hall. By the time I get to the third name, almost everyone has sat down. By the fifth, the only people standing are those working on our campaign.”

Read the whole article!

Pogge, Trial by Internet, and Professional Norms

Some really excellent careful reflection on the Pogge case and related issues has been appearing.  First, we have Leigh Johnson:

Absent the conditions for “ideal” knowing– which are rarely, if ever, present– we make do with what we have for forming careful, considered, albeit incompletely-informed judgments.  Given what I know, and given what anyone else who has bothered to pay attention to the scandals of our discipline over the last half-decade or so should know, there is more than enough sufficient reason to suspend the requirements of ideal epistemic standards in one’s judgments about the verity of female philosophers’ accounts of sexual exploitation.

Where there is smoke, there is not always fire.  But where there is smoke, there was, at least, very recently a fire.

And almost everywhere in professional Philosophy, the smoke is suffocating.

Next, Eric Schliesser:

The way we treat plagiarists — ejection, shunning, publication bans, etc. — reveals that we recognize harms against the profession and that we are willing to act rather severely against  violators of professional norms. It shows, in fact, that we tacitly recognize that even if the world is wholly corrupt and fallen, we treat norms of the profession with utmost seriousness (a seriousness that seems ridiculous to outsiders). This is not hypocrisy.  But rather an acknowledgment that we take the collective pursuit of knowledge (wisdom, truth, etc.) as a fundamental collective good. It is collective not in so far as we expect society to endorse our commitment to a substantive good, or to echo our sanctions of violators, but it is collective in so far as we remove norm violators as members in good professional standing.

As it happens, the Buzzfeed story accuses Pogge of treating letters of recommendation as a form of currency to elicit more favorable behavior from young women he encountered. Even if the accusation were true it does not follow that Pogge’s letters of recommendation are not to be trusted; it is compatible with the accusations that Pogge only wrote actual letters of recommendations for people whom were not involved in any (proposed) quid pro quo.

I have no idea if these accusations about treating letters as currency are true. In an ideal world, some of the institutions that proudly list Professor Pogge’s name on their website (Yale, Oslo, London, etc.) would investigate this charge. The more likely, utterly imperfect, response is that wholly innocent junior folk start scrubbing traces of Pogge from their CV, when possible, and removing his letter from dossiers. As is usual, the downside risks are unevenly distributed and fall on the less powerful. Here withholding public judgment is tantamount to buck passing professional norm enforcement to those with least professional influence and status. To accept the previous sentence, does not entail that public judgments must go against Professor Pogge without a ruling authority (which may be very imperfect,  too) individuals will come to their own imperfect judgments. One option is to use the occasion to rethink the role letters of recommendation play in the discipline and to make them instruments that allow for less abuse.

I urge you to read the entirety of both of these.


Diana Meyers on Yazidi Women, human rights, and individual experience

A sample:

It might seem counterintuitive that commitment to human rights rests on imagining distinctive individual experiences of abuse. Yet, we don’t really get what’s so bad about abrogating human rights if we haven’t registered that it prompts derring-do in one person, hopelessness in another, and countless nuanced alternatives. The variations in human suffering constitute the poignancy of human rights abuse because they are the shadow side of the dazzling individuality that respect for human rights promotes and protects. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2016/05/human-rights-isis-yazidi-women/#sthash.sQnlhHIi.dpuf

For the whole post, go here.


Why memes matter for feminism

Memes are a staple of contemporary popular culture, but most people would be hard pressed to define what exactly they are.  Simply put, memes are widely recognizable yet variously replicated symbols of ideas.  In the twenty-first century, most people associate the meme with social media, in which a photo or picture is posted, circulated, annotated with a brief quote or slogan, then re-circulated and re-edited into new iterations of the original meme.

Within feminism, one of the most famous recent examples of such an internet meme is “Feminist Ryan Gosling,” a series of adorably sexy images of the “sensitive” male actor emblazoned with woman-friendly invitations such as “Hey girl, keep your laws off my body, but keep your hands on it.” As this example suggests, internet memes can be vehicles for irony and wry discontent with the status quo. They can also be more straightforward means for conveying information, supporting causes, and spreading awareness. “Feminist Ryan Gosling” achieves the latter goals by educating people about basic feminist ideas in a funny and memorable way.  While directed at an imaginary female audience, these feminist memes are not only for women. A recent study has shown that men are more likely to support feminist ideas after viewing the original “Feminist Ryan Gosling” memes. Danielle Henderson, a graduate student in gender studies, created the memes in order to make the finer points of feminist theory more accessible and understandable to a broader audience.

Read the rest of what Eileen Hunt Botting has to say over at Yale Unbound.

Fiona Vera-Grayon Situating Agency


The absence of a framework which recognizes both that women have agency and that it is limited by the context in which it is exercised can have devastating real world effects. An illustration can be found in the independent inquiry on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, which revealed systemic failings in the statutory response—many of them rooted in a misunderstanding of what appeared on the surface to be young women’s agency. Instead of being seen as making choices in a context of coercion and constraint, young women were imagined as free and autonomous agents who were effectively choosing their own exploitation.

For more, go here.

Synthese: Letter on Special Issues

From the Editors of Synthese:

We have concluded our investigation of the reasons a special-issue article of Synthese, which caused offense to people in the community, was published without our approval. We have also concluded our deliberations on the future of special issues in Synthese. Before sharing the results with you, we would like to affirm, once again, our commitment to feminist and LGBT values, our responsibility for every article published or accepted for publication in Synthese during our tenure, and our dedication to high professional and humanistic standards in our editorial work.

Read More »

Philosophers on the gap between sexual assault law and morality

Philosophers weigh in at Quartz on the misalignment between sexual assault law and morality. Here’s Tim Kenyon (Waterloo):

“When you get a legal system that’s pathological in some sense, either because it’s unfair to people or it’s incomplete or re-victimizes victims, it’s particularly foreseeable that the law and the morality are going to come apart,” he says. “You’re going to see people looking for alternative ways to find legal or extra-legal remedies.”

Check out the whole article here.