Who should take the notes?

Yesterday, I posted the following note on my Facebook page. It has generated considerable enthusiasm, much more than I anticipated for a modest bit of administrative advice. Since folks seem to find the advice useful, I am posting it here too, for a broader readership.

Earlier this week, I told a bunch of female colleagues that, for many of the meetings I attend, I don’t bring paper/pencil because, too often, a woman with writing tools is seen as the best candidate to be recorder for the meeting. The colleagues — especially the more junior ones — were very excited about this tactic, and many resolved to start doing the same.

Today, I was at a consultation at which each table was provided with a note pad and pens and asked to assign a recorder for the table. I was the only woman (and the most junior person, from the puniest department) at the table. I told the table that, on principle, I do not take notes when I am the only woman in a group, and that one of them would therefore have to take notes. After some kerfufflement, the most senior person at the table (a quite senior admin) took the notes for the table. I feel good about this result.

Friends, let me recommend that when a note-taker is needed, you try to identify the person at the table whose perspective is least likely to be overlooked, and have them take notes. That way, those (women, racialized people, junior folks, etc.) whose perspective is most likely to be overlooked can put all of their energies into sharing their perspective rather than recording the alpha dogs’ perspectives. If you are the alpha dog, or think that you might be, consider volunteering to be the note-taker so that others’ voices can emerge. This saves the more junior/marginalized folks from the sometimes scary task of refusing to be recorder.

Postscript: A couple of further notes in response to comments folks made under my Facebook post.

  1. Note-takers are important. We shouldn’t diminish the important work that careful recorders do, nor neglect the power that a recorder can have to influence what goes on record. For some folks, in some contexts, recording may well be a better, more powerful, way for them to contribute than talking.
  2. Having said that, it is quite likely that for some folks — women in particular — regarding recording as more powerful than speaking is an adaptive preference. That is, if the context isn’t conducive to their full participation in a discussion, then recording — and valuing recording — may be a way to feel empowered rather than disempowered in an otherwise disempowering situation.
  3. The aptness of the above advice varies by context and purpose. Junior folks can learn a lot from senior folks if the former record what the latter are saying, and in some contexts that’s desirable. After all, typically students take notes while profs explain stuff. In such a case, the work of recording helps the junior person to learn. However, in a meeting intended to survey a range of perspectives — as opposed to a context in which expert knowledge is being passed on — it makes sense for someone whose perspective is over-represented to record.
  4. The distinction in #3 between contexts in which a range of views is sought and those in which expertise is transmitted is a fuzzy one. As standpoint theorists, such as Sandra Harding, have been telling us for decades, a crucial but oft-neglected question in inquiry is who gets to count as an expert and why.

Summer program: Philosophy of Science for Underrepresented Groups

The Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh (www.pitt.edu/~pittcntr) is pleased to announce a call for applications for the 2017 PSP1: A Summer Program in Philosophy of Science for Underrepresented Groups, which will be held in the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh from July 10 to July 14, 2017 (www.pitt.edu/~pittcntr/Events/All/psp/psp1.html).

 

We invite applications from North American female undergraduates, LGBT undergraduates, disabled undergraduates, undergraduates from racial and ethnic backgrounds, and other undergraduates from groups underrepresented in philosophy of science. Exceptions may be granted to undergraduates not in these groups on a case-by-case basis (please explain your situation in your cover letter). Past coursework in philosophy of science is not a prerequisite for application to the Summer Program.

 

The Summer Program will feature two daily graduate seminars and some shorter lectures about core issues and cutting-edge topics in general philosophy of science and philosophy of the special sciences (physics, biology, cognitive science and neuroscience, social sciences). The seminars and lectures will be given by the internationally recognized faculty in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh as well as in the Department of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University. Visiting lecturers include Quayshawn Spencer (U. Pennsylvania, Philosophy of Biology and on Race) and Serife Tekin (Daemen College, Philosophy of Psychiatry).

 

Housing, meals, and transportation costs will be covered, and all course materials provided. Applications are due March 15, and participants will be notified by April 15.

 

To apply, please send the following materials to cjo13@pitt.edu:

  • Cover letter describing your interests in philosophy of science (including the philosophy of physics, biology, cognitive science, neuroscience, social sciences, etc.). Please briefly indicate relevant demographic information (racial/ethnic heritage, gender, etc.).
  • CV (including College/University affiliation, major, GPA, high school, awards & recognition, any philosophy courses taken).

 

A faculty member should also send separately a letter of recommendation on behalf of the applicant to the same email address: cjo13@pitt.edu.

 

For further questions, please contact Edouard Machery (machery@pitt.edu), the Center’s Director, or Joyce McDonald (pittcntr@pitt.edu).

Karen Stohr on Contempt

Karen Stohr has a wonderful essay on contempt and the current political discourse in the NYTimes Stone section today.  An excerpt:

It may seem as though the best response to Trump’s contempt is to return it in kind, treating him the same way he treats others. The trouble, though, is that contempt toward Trump does not function in the same way that his contempt toward others functions. Even if we grant that Trump deserves contempt for his attitudes and behaviors, his powerful social position insulates him from the worst of contempt’s effects. It is simply not possible to disregard or diminish the agency of the president of the United States. This means that contempt is not a particularly useful weapon in the battle against bigotry or misogyny. The socially vulnerable cannot wield it effectively precisely because of their social vulnerability.

The better strategy for those who are already disempowered is to reject contempt on its face. Returning contempt for contempt legitimizes its presence in the public sphere. The only ones who benefit from this legitimacy are the people powerful enough to use contempt to draw the boundaries of the political community as they see fit. Socially vulnerable people cannot win the battle for respect by using contempt as a way to demand it. In an environment where contempt is an acceptable language of communication, those who already lack social power stand to lose the most by being its targets. The only real defense against contempt is the consistent, strong and loud insistence that each one of us be regarded as a full participant in our shared political life, entitled to hold all others accountable for how we are treated.

Mentoring: Call for Applications

The 4th Biennial Mentoring Workshop for Pre-Tenure Women in Philosophy
June 11 – 13, 2017
University of Utah, Salt Lake City UT

Directors: Louise Antony (U Mass Amherst), Juliet Floyd (Boston University), and Susanne Sreedhar (Boston University)

Local arrangements: Matthew Haber (University of Utah)

Application Deadline: March 1, 2017

The Mentoring Workshop is the centerpiece of the Mentoring Program, an ongoing effort to foster mentoring relationships between senior women in the field and women just beginning their careers. The program follows a model designed by women in the American Economics Association, one which has proven remarkably successful in helping academic women advance their careers. As in past editions, the fourth Mentoring Workshop will involve small-group intensive working sessions interspersed with plenary panel discussions on professional development and work/life issues. The Workshop this year will be hosted by the Philosophy Department of the University of Utah. Information about local arrangements will be available soon, and will be posted on the Mentoring Program website:

http://www.bu.edu/philo/people/faculty/mentoring-project/.

To apply for the workshop: Send an email to Mentoring2017@umass.edu, stating your intention to apply, and indicating at least two areas of specialization, in
ranked order. Include as attachments (in .docx or .pdf format) your CV, and an abstract of the paper you would like to workshop. In choosing a paper to discuss, you should take care to choose a paper that is squarely in the area of philosophy that you work in. [But see the next paragraph.]

We will place you in a mentoring group according to the topic of your paper, and that means that the papers you will read and comment on will also be in that area of philosophy. We will do our best to match members of the cohorts and their mentors,
subject to availability and space in the workshop. That said, if we cannot form a cohort around your primary AOS, we might still be able to offer you a place in a cohort focused in one of your secondary areas of specialization. In that case, you will have the option of workshopping a different paper from the one you originally specified in your application.

Inquiries may also be sent to this email address. Please do not send inquiries to the
individual email accounts of any of the directors.

• Eligibility: Any woman entering or holding a faculty position in Philosophy at a college or university. We would especially like to encourage applications from members of groups underrepresented in Philosophy.

• Cost: There is no charge for participation in the workshop, but we expect mentees’ home institutions to cover the cost of their transportation, and room and board. Details about local arrangements and costs will be available soon.

• Accessibility: The Mentoring Project is committed to making the Workshop completely accessible to all philosophers. All meeting, dining, and guest rooms are wheelchair accessible. Philosophers needing ASL interpreters, assistive technology, or any other accommodation are asked to communicate their needs as soon as possible to Matt Haber (matt.haber@utah.edu) who is handling local arrangements.

The Mentoring Project Workshop is a project of the Women in Philosophy Task Force. It is funded this year by a grant from the Marc Sanders Foundation, and by the Department of Philosophy at the University of Utah, the University of Utah College of Humanities, the University of Utah Office of Equity and Diversity and the Department of Philosophy, the Department of Philosophy and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University. The Program has been supported in the past by seed grants from the American Philosophical Association.

Feminism and Racism

No one will be surprised to hear that many women of color experience feminism as exclusionary.  There were some efforts at a number of levels to make the March yesterday be inclusionary.  Women of color, for example, were dominant in the final roster of lead organizers.  Now might be a very good time to work on inclusion.  In doing do, the kinds of injustices effectively addressed will be increased.  And given such efforts, we can all end up in a backed by a more powerful unity.

There are some articles recently looking at racism and the march.  Following a recurring line of advice, I suggest we try to listen very respectfully to what people who feel excluded are telling us, perhaps especially those of us who may well not fully understand what checking our white privilege could or should consist in.

Colorlines has some wonderful relevant articles.  I’m going to give some snippets from one of the most direct.  Everyone really should read the whole piece.

… On the other hand, I’m really tired of Black and Brown women routinely being tasked with fixing White folks’ messes. I’m tired of being the moral compass of the United States. Many of the White women who will attend the march are committed activists, sure. But for those new-to-it White women who just decided that they care about social issues? I’m not invested in sharing space with them at this point in history.

Thus, I am affording myself the emotional frailty usually reserved for White women and tapping out this time. I’m not saying that I will never stand in solidarity with masses of White women under the umbrella of our gender, but it won’t be this weekend. Managing my depression is a complicated daily task, one that will certainly be exacerbated by the presidential inauguration festivities. It won’t serve my own mental health needs to put my body on the line (a body that I believe will invite more violence from Trump supporters than paler attendees) to feign solidarity with women who by and large didn’t have my back prior to November. Not yet. Eventually? Perhaps. But not now.

I’d like to see a million White women march to the grave of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth or Audre Lorde, or perhaps to the campus of Spelman College to offer a formal apology to Black women. It’s time for White women to come together and tell the world how their crimes against Black women, Black men and Black children have been no less devastating than the ones committed by their male counterparts. Perhaps the Women’s March on Washington will provide the grounds for the level of catharsis required to make that happen. If anyone can plant the seed, it’s Mallory, Perez, Sarsour and Janaye Ingram, the march’s head of logistics. But I just can’t make my way to Washington D.C. this weekend to find out.

Maybe next time.

[Jamilah Lemieux is a writer and the vice president of Men’s and News Programming for InteractiveOne. Follow her on Twitter: @jamilahlemieux]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonderful interview with Alexis Shotwell

A taste:

In her book Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times, Alexis Shotwell argues that “personal purity is simultaneously inadequate, impossible, and politically dangerous for shared projects of living on earth.” Focusing on maintaining your own innocence or goodness is counterproductive, she says, to actually fixing the world’s problems.

Instead, “if we want a world with less suffering and more flourishing, it would be useful to perceive complexity and complicity as the constitutive situation of our lives, rather than as things we should avoid,” she writes. We can’t help that we’ve inherited these problems—a warming Earth, institutional racism, increasingly antibiotic-resistant bacteria—nor can we help sometimes perpetuating them. Better to stop pretending at purity, own up to our imperfections, and try to create a morality that works with them.

Reader query: feminist applied ethics papers

I teach philosophy at a community college,  and I’m looking for suggestions about accessible papers in applied ethics that could be used in an introductory ethics course. I teach a Feminist Philosophy course in which we talk about a variety of feminist theories and their application, but I’d like to find a paper for my Ethics course that (a) is on an applied issue of contemporary interest, (b) makes an argument from a feminist perspective, (c) is accessible to students who are relatively new to philosophy, and (d) is self-contained – i.e. doesn’t need lots of previous explanation of the ideas and concepts in it.

I’m wondering if you or your readers have any suggestions. I’d greatly appreciate any help you could offer!

SWIP Ireland: Ann Cahill Workshop, 7th February, Dublin

The Society for Women in Philosophy Ireland invites you to a workshop with Prof. Ann Cahill (Professor of Philosophy, Elon University). Prof. Cahill’s work is situated at the intersection of feminist philosophy and philosophy of the body, where she develops new analyses of common concepts, such as sexual violence or objectification. For full details of the talk she will be giving, please see the below abstract and register here:

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/swip-ireland-workshop-with-ann-cahill-unjust-sex-vs-rape-tickets-31292404424

“Unjust Sex vs. Rape”

This talk will address a persistent philosophical conundrum, what I call the problem of the “heteronormative sexual continuum”: how sexual assault and hegemonic heterosex are conceptually and politically related. I will respond to the work of Nicola Gavey, who has argued for the existence of a “gray area” of sexual interactions that are ethically questionable without rising to the category of sexual assault, but whose analysis did not explicitly articulate what these two categories share or what distinguishes them from each other. I will argue that the two categories share a disregard for women’s sexual subjectivity (focusing particularly on the factor of sexual desire) and are distinguished by the different role that women’s sexual agency plays in each. 
All welcome!

Contribute to APA diversity fund!

Sally Haslanger is urging us all to contribute to the APA diversity fund, and to urge our colleagues to contribute!  It’s currently running out of money.  She suggests– as a starting place– that all US philosophers should try to get 50% of their colleagues to commit to $50 year for three years (with adjustments depending on financial situation, of course.)

The fund is here.

 

A comment in support of pro-life inclusion at the Women’s March on Washington

A few news organizations reported over the last couple of days that pro-life organizations have been excluded from official partnership with the Women’s March on Washington (e.g., here’s a piece from The Atlantic which includes interviews from folks on both sides of the issue). One pro-life group, New Wave Feminists, was recognized as a partner by the march, but then later removed.

Now, I’m not an organizer of the march, so this isn’t my decision to make. I’m not even going to the march in D.C. (though I’ll be at my local march the same day, and I encourage those who can participate to do so). Moreover, the pro-life position is at odds with the policy platform those who did organize put together. That platform reads:

We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education. We understand that we can only have reproductive justice when reproductive health care is accessible to all people regardless of income, location or education.

That said, I’m a pro-choice feminist, and I think excluding pro-life groups from partnership status is a mistake.  I’m grateful that some of my pro-life fellow citizens will march regardless, and I’d be glad to march alongside them.

To be clear, I think reproductive freedom is essential to women’s health and equality (and I don’t think we have to get into substantive debate about agency or the metaphysics of personhood to recognize this; banning abortion gambles with women’s lives – and that’s true even when there are meant to be exceptions for the life of the mother). I think arguments like this rely pretty straightforwardly on sexist notions (I don’t think men are some kind of depraved creatures who can only be reined in if women find within themselves to set a moral example — to live our lives in such a way as to make the potential consequences of action salient to men — and I don’t think valuing caregiving need be at odds with sexual agency nor a recognition of the value of reproductive freedom). Further, I don’t think there is intrinsic value in unity or collaboration (there’s no value added to racism, for example, when instantiated in unity with others).

But I also think that abortion is an issue on which reasonable people disagree, and in the coming years we will need reasonable people to work together given the unreasonable have taken the helm. If pro-life groups are willing to set aside that the official platform of the march directly challenges their organizing mission for the sake of working together to protect those values which we do share, then I’ll be happy to work with them. As Richard Rorty said, “Solidarity is not discovered by reflection but created.” For those of us whose conscience permits it, it’s time to be creating.