Houston, Harvey, and survivor guilt

from Houston:

It is very difficult to live in the middle of a catastrophe even if you have survived relatively unharmed. The grief feels palpable, though that sense may be due to the fact that you know too many people who are suffering. The television is full of images of very stressed people who are helping out on a volunteer basis. The elderly, the very young, pregnant women are trying to escape circumstances that they might well not be able to survive without help. And the animals. Not so much cats, I worry, but dogs of all sizes are being carted around, carried down ladders, sheltered in the GRB Convention center and help tightly. None of them is finding it fun.

There are some sweet reminders that we are, after all, in Texas. Thus down the street of some adjacent area 50 cows are herded to higher ground by lots of dogs, men on horseback, and police cars. And Lousiana cajuns – the “Cajun navy” – have appeared with boats to rescue people. There is a Dunkirk look to many scenes, though the Dunkirk rescue may have been better planned.

What is so stunning is that so much is done by volunteers who seem often to be working outside any official parameters. They get a phone call, head off down a particular street, and find hundreds of people at corners looking to be rescued. A lot of fairly robust people, sometimes with young children, are walking on the edges of flooded freeways, hoping to get to their friend’s home five miles away. One young man, who was featured in many reports, had walked 12 miles hoping to find his father. He did and was crying as he talked on the phone to him, one presumably lent by the press people who had interviewed him.

News reporters are joining in rescues, flagging down people with boats to tell them of others trapped in their cars.

So what about survivor’s guilt? Well, my partner and I and our three cats are just fine. No flooding and full electricity. The waste water processing is way overworked, so we’re not supposed to create a lot more of it. No showers, no washing machines running. But if we do take a shower, any damage we cause will be to our house, so it we’ve tried some quick ones.

So why do I feel so horrible about being just fine? Part of it may be the sort of emotional contagion Hume described, where proximity is a big factor. Just knowing that there is a lot of fear and pain very, very near is awful. That sense is close to grief.

Of course, I whipped through some search engines to see what I could find. Survivor guilt can be caused by a sense that one is responsible. It would, however, be hard to feel that even irrationally in this situation. There is so little control anywhere. Relatedly, it can feel just wrong that you survived and another did not. Nothing explains the difference.

In fact, I suspect it is the lack of explanation that may be at the heart of it. The ill-feeling that can feel like guilt is closer to fear as one realizes that there are things influencing results and one has little to no idea of what they are. However much you try and work toward goals, nothing is remotely guaranteed. It can all be quickly undone.

As a young Roman Catholic I was told that God, being just, never left a good deed unrewarded. Hence, if you were going to Hell, you had to get the rewards while you were alive. There are no rewards in Hell.

That view could explain how this situation feels. Surviving nearly untouched by this horrible, terrible catastrophe feels like a huge reward. God knows why I got it. Omigod, am I heading for Hell?

PS: let me acknowledge that we might feel better if we got out and helped. But we are still truly flooded in. The official word is that the situation is life-threatening, with snakes, spiders, alligators and rafts of fire ants in the water we would need to get through. I believe that.

“Evidence of a toxic environment for women in economics”

A “very disturbing report” has been published on how women and men are discussed in an anonymous online economics forum. From today’s New York Times coverage:

“The 30 words most uniquely associated with discussions of women make for uncomfortable reading … hotter, lesbian, bb (internet speak for “baby”), sexism, tits, anal, marrying, feminazi, slut, hot, vagina, boobs, pregnant, pregnancy, cute, marry, levy, gorgeous, horny, crush, beautiful, secretary, dump, shopping, date, nonprofit, intentions, sexy, dated and prostitute.”

The forum is defended by an economics professor at Harvard, who has described it on his blog as “a throwing off of the shackles of political correctness.”

Read more in the New York Times.

Men’s sexual history and rape cases

Rape cases, particularly those involving people who know each other, or who have been drinking/taking drugs, are difficult to prosecute. Juries essentially have to decide whether or not the sex was consensual. The usual way to do this – notoriously – is to consider (amongst other things) the woman’s past sexual history, to try and decide whether she is the sort of woman who is likely to have consented. Now – in what is an obvious, and welcome move – Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has instructed prosecutors to focus more on the man’s sexual history, to assess whether he is the sort of man who is likely to have forced sex on someone without her consent.

This may include situations where an alleged rapist exercised controlling or coercive behaviour towards other women, including previous girlfriends.

There has been growing concern that many male rapists are getting away with their crimes because they are able to convince juries that the sex was consensual.

Victims who are too drunk to consent or give a lucid account of events are also often not believed when they give evidence under cross-examination.

The new move will see evidence collected from a variety of sources including CCTV, social media accounts and testimonies from witnesses, who may have seen the attacker’s behaviour in the hours leading up to the rape.

Ms Saunders said she wanted to see more attention being given to events leading up to an attack, so that juries were able to assess the whole picture.

She said: “We are looking at how to prosecute certain types of cases, the more difficult ones. They tend to involve drugs or drink and people who know each other.”

She said exploring the background of an alleged rapist, would also be key, with their social media history and habits likely to be relevant.

She told the Evening Standard: “Some of it will be if you have already been in a relationship, understanding the dynamics of coercive and controlling behaviour and presenting cases in a way that doesn’t just look at the individual incident.”

She added: “If it’s about drink and drugs in some of them there will have been a targeting element, either by buying drinks or standing back until you pick someone off.”

You can read more here.

A national movement? An addition

Sheet cake for flags and guns?

Maryscott O’Connor on Facebook draws our attention to an extended line of criticism of Fey’s piece. The idea is that it is the height of white privilege to look at the the scene in Charlottesville and start eating cake.

I think I see it differently, but that doesn’t delegitimize people who have found it very offensive.

Sex and socialism: what happens when women’s needs matter

Among the other effects of socialism: twice as many orgasms. In a quite riveting piece, we are told

“.. it was so easy for women before the Wall fell,” Daniela Gruber, East Germany, told me, referring to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989. “They had kindergartens and crèches, and they could take maternity leave and have their jobs held for them. I work contract to contract, and don’t have time to get pregnant.”

This generational divide between daughters and mothers who reached adulthood on either side of 1989 supports the idea that women had more fulfilling lives during the Communist era. And they owed this quality of life, in part, to the fact that these regimes saw women’s emancipation as central to advanced “scientific socialist” societies, as they saw themselves.

The author of this fascinating piece, however, thinks we cannot achieve the same situation today. I myself am doubtful of her explanation of the obstacles:

Some liberal feminists in the West grudgingly acknowledged those accomplishments but were critical of the achievements of state socialism because they did not emerge from independent women’s movements, but represented a type of emancipation from above. Many academic feminists today celebrate choice but also embrace a cultural relativism dictated by the imperatives of intersectionality. Any top-down political program that seeks to impose a universalist set of values like equal rights for women is seriously out of fashion.

Registration Open: Bias in Context (#4): Psychological and Structural Explanations of Injustice

Registration is now open for Bias in Context (#4): Psychological and Structural Explanations of Injustice

Bias in Context Edited Poster_2.jpg

October 26 – 27 2017, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Confirmed speakers:

Ásta (Sveinsdóttir)
Glenn Bracey
Jacqueline Chen
Clifton Granby
Adam Hosein
Theresa Lopez & Bryan Chambliss
Meena Krishnamurthy
Kate Manne
Jennifer Mueller

Confirmed poster presenters:

Saray Ayala-Lopez
Rima Basu
César Cabezas
Gabbrielle Johnson
Annette Martin
Katherine Tullman
Nadya Vasilyeva
Jennifer White & Alex Madva

Organized by Erin Beeghly & Jules Holroyd

What is the relationship between psychological and structural explanations of persistent social injustice?

This conference—the final in a series of four (see here and here for earlier events) —considers recent empirical and philosophical work that frames social injustice in terms of individualistic psychological explanations.  Such explanations appeal to phenomena such as prejudice, implicit bias, stereotyping, and stereotype threat, in order to understand persisting inequities in a broad range of contexts, including educational, corporate, medical, and informal social contexts.

A key challenge to these explanations, and to the discourses that incorporate them, maintains that the focus on individual psychology is at best obfuscatory of, and at worst totally irrelevant to, more fundamental causes of injustice, which are institutional and structural. Yet structural explanations face difficulties accommodating the extent to which individual agency is implicated in those problematic structures or institutions. Nor are they well placed to articulate how individual agency might be directed towards changing these structures.

This conference will generate more fully worked-out understandings of the interaction between these two kinds of explanations.  It will also investigate the normative and practical implications of one’s explanatory mode on attempts to address bias via institutional policy, interpersonal intervention, and collective action.

To register and to see specifics of program, as well as to get details about accessibility, go to: http://biasincontext4.weebly.com/programme.html. Deadline for registration is September 24th.

This event is sponsored by the University of Utah’s College of Humanities & the Philosophy Department.

If the UK Media Wrote about the UK like it writes about Latin America…

Some light satire for your Thursday afternoon, but the central point is well-taken.

As the May regime collapses into economic chaos and repression, what hope now for the British people?

Following a disastrous and disputed General election in which she could not secure a democratic mandate, the United Kingdom’s increasingly unpopular authoritarian leader, Theresa May, has resorted to side-stepping the constitution to protect her deeply corrupt and weakened regime.

A massive bribery scheme to buy the loyalty of Far-Right Northern Irish lawmakers and the support of pariah state Saudi Arabia are now all that keep the embattled Autocrat in her Downing Street base.

You can read the full article here.

Hypatia: Why We are Not Weighing In

Many of us have been asked why Feminist Philosophers is not taking a public stance in the Hypatia controversy.  There are several reasons.

 1. We are a group blog.  As individuals, we hold a wide range of opinions on the topic.  There is no view that would be the blog’s view.

2. Some of us are associated in various capacities with either Hypatia or other feminist philosophy journals, and therefore feel it would be inappropriate to weigh in.

But also:

3. Some of us do not feel that online discussion of this issue is doing any good for anyone.  A variety of carefully thought-out positions have already been articulated, and we do not feel that we would have anything useful to add.  Much of the online discussion has only served to cause more pain to people on all sides who are trying their best to do what is right.  We do not want to add to this.  In short, even though we are a blog, we don’t think that online discussion is always useful.  In this case, we think further online discussion is counterproductive, and we’re not going to contribute to it.