Ways to Make some lives better

This is advice from Nicole Silverberg at the Guardian. I can think of places where this list might be posted, with some highlighted. On the other hand, I know a lot of men to whom these suggestions are hardly unfamiliar, and some women who ould learn from it..

Does anyone find any of this controversial?

[This article ended with “These also apply to how to better treat transgender and non-binary people, who are in more danger than cis women.”]

Talk to your friend who is “kind of a creep” at work.
Don’t talk over women.
If you are asked to be on a panel/team and see that it’s all men, say something. Maybe even refuse the spot!
When you see another guy talk over a woman, say: “Hey, she was saying something.”
Learn to read a fucking room.
Don’t call women “crazy” in a professional setting.
Don’t use your “feminism” as a way to get women to trust you. Show us in your day-to-day life, not in your self-congratulatory social media.
Don’t touch women you don’t know, and honestly, ask yourself why you feel the need to touch women in general.
Do you feel that any woman on earth owes you something? She doesn’t. Even if you’re like, “Hm, but what about basic respect?” ask yourself if you’ve shown her the same.
Don’t send pictures of your penis unless she just asked for them.
If a woman says no to a date, don’t ask her again.
If a woman has not given an enthusiastic “yes” to sex, back the hell off.
If a woman is really drunk, she cannot consent to you and she also cannot consent to your buddy who seems to be trying something. Your buddy is your responsibility, so say something and intervene.
If you do the right thing, don’t expect praise or payment or a pat on the back or even a “thank you from that woman”. Congratulations, you were baseline decent.
Involve women in your creative projects, then let them have equal part in them.
Don’t make misogynistic jokes.
Don’t expect women to be “nice” or “cute” and don’t get upset when they aren’t those things.
Don’t make assumptions about a woman’s intelligence, capabilities or desires based on how she dresses.
Pay women as much as you pay men.
If a woman tells you that you fucked up, and you feel like shit, don’t put it on that woman to make you feel better. Apologize without qualification and then go away.
Don’t punish women for witnessing your vulnerability.
Don’t get defensive when you get called out.
Don’t need to literally witness a man being horrible in order to believe that he’s horrible. Trust and believe women.
Don’t use your power to get women’s attention/company/sex/etc.
Be aware of your inherent power in situations and use it to protect women, especially via talking to other men.
Stop thinking that because you’re also marginalized or a survivor that you cannot inflict pain or oppress women.
If women’s pain makes you feel pain, don’t prize your pain above hers, or make that pain her problem.
Don’t read a list like this and think that most of these don’t apply to you.

Let me add that there are items I find too simplistic, and so maybe controversial. For example, the list seems to assume at times that women have little or no power. By and large, for example, I can take care of being talked over, so someone’s intervention in the situation may make me look weaker than I am.

Me too: But What About You?

If you’ve been on social media much in the last few days, you might have seen a lot of status updates saying “Me too” with or without explanation. The idea is to raise awareness of the magnitude of the problem of sexual assault and sexual harassment, particularly of women, though my personal take is this ought to be something for people of all genders. While it seems likely that the nature of the violence would vary depending on the genders of the people involved, we do ourselves no favours in framing sexual violence as exclusively a women’s issue.

But now that we see each other as survivors, what are some next steps? One, I think, is to know that many people do not feel comfortable speaking up about their own experiences, for a variety of reasons, and that we ought not make assumptions.

But another piece of this: who has been causing the violence? There are huge numbers of people speaking up about their experiences of harassment and assault, but let’s not ignore the fact that these wrongs have all been committed by someone. And who are those people who have perpetrated these wrongs? The hard truth is that in many cases it is also us. I think that the common narrative of perpetrators as predators, deviant, outsiders, and others, has resulted in a great deal of harm. It does not help us see that in a world run through with injustice, it is very easy to be ignorant of ways in which we harm one another and perpetuate injustices.

Perpetrators of assault and harassment need not be monsters. They can be us, having watched too many movies portraying the relentless pursuit of an unwilling romantic partner as charming rather than terrifying. Or having internalized women’s resistance to sex as obligatory behaviour, and not necessarily reflective of a woman’s actual desires. Or having accepted an ideology of pity, that disabled bodies are inherently undesirable, and anyone who is disabled (or otherwise not-conventionally-attractive) should be grateful for sexual attention of any kind. It is not that hard for us to hurt each other without being monstrous in moral character.

So perhaps instead of just feeling heartbroken and helpless in the face of wrongs perpetuated only by others, it would be a good time to wonder about situations in which we have ignored boundaries to which we ought to have attended, or interpreted situations in line with our desires rather than another’s. But the point isn’t just to feel bad about this, either, or to treat it as just a sign of your own bad moral character. The point is that there is a reason that this behaviour is easy to ignore on your part, as well as on the part of others. It is easy to disbelieve that a friend has committed sexual assault because you know them to be at heart a good person, and think that the two things are incompatible with each other.

All of this needs to go. Guilt and shame are not ends in themselves here, and the mere recognition of our own wrongdoing is not enough. Recognizing wrongs in retrospect at times like these does not change the fact that many of these wrongs did not seem so wrong at the time. And it is this last fact that needs to change before these problems can be solved. Without that work, these confessions seem (as many other things do to me) like just more yelling into the void.


Massimo Pigliucci has a piece in Aeon that presents a stoic account of anger. He is, we could say, anti-anger. I enjoyed reading his thoughtful work, though I ended up with a serious question.

Some of his recommendations are about avoiding getting angry:

Engage in preemptive meditation: think about what situations trigger your anger, and decide ahead of time how to deal with them.
*Check anger as soon as you feel its symptoms. Don’t wait, or it will get out of control…
*Play a musical instrument, or purposefully engage in whatever activity relaxes your mind. A relaxed mind does not get angry.
*Seek environments with pleasing, not irritating, colours. Manipulating external circumstances actually has an effect on our moods.

I started to wonder on reading this whether anger is getting a treatment similar to that which Paul Bloom gives to empathy in his recent book, Against Empathy. In each case, in thinking about the felt reaction, the author seems to think of feeling as at best poorly constrained by thought. For Pigliucci anger contrasts with indignation, which can be good. And for Bloom, empathy contrasts with compassion, which is really good.

Philosophy has for much of her history struggled with puzzles about reason and emotion, and we might ask whether this ancient conflict s simply reappearing in these authors. Or is what we see here a response to some other situation?

The morality of feeding the ducks and gulls

Outside my apartment, the Oxford canal looks calm on a lovely Sunday afternoon.

Yesterday a similar scene inspired me to get some stale bread (organic, wholemeal) to see if there were any ducks or gulls who felt like some bread crumbs. 50 or 60 birds later, i was overseeing what, it seemed to me, was a horrible combination of greed and disappointment.

I’m not sure I could have enough for everyone, since the group was getting larger all the time. As it was, some birds were bound not to get a share. Occasionally a little gull would get up on the railing I was leaning on and make a terrrible noise. I’d put a piece of bread on the railing and move away quickly, hoping a big gull wouldn’t beat the little one to it.

So I left wondering whether my inciting this behavior was really morally ok. What do you think?

Balliol College opts for inclusion

As its leading web page says

Academic excellence
Balliol College is a place where people of exceptional potential study with academics who are experts in their field.
Social responsibility
In this community in the centre of Oxford, Balliol generates ideas and educates people who seek to change the world for the better.

And now: Dame Helen Ghosh

THE head of the National Trust has stepped down to take on the role of Master of Balliol College.

Dame Helen Ghosh will be taking up the post at Oxford University in April 2018.

It will be a blast from the past for Dame Helen as she returns to the University after she studied Modern History at St Hugh’s College in the 1970s.

She said: “I am honoured to have been chosen by the Fellows of Balliol as their new Master.

“The college has a remarkable tradition of outstanding scholarship, research and teaching, which I believe will be as important in helping society meet the challenges of the 21st century as it has been at any time in its 754-year history…

The above is from the Oxford Mail. More telling is the Guardian’s input:

Dame Helen Ghosh is to leave her job as director general of the National Trust to become the first woman master of Balliol College, Oxford. She will join 11 other women who currently head Oxford colleges, under the leadership of the university’s first female vice-chancellor, Prof Louise Richardson.

The announcement came as a surprise to colleagues at the National Trust, where her tenure has not been without controversy. During her leadership, the trust found itself drawn into debates about fracking and windfarms. Earlier this year it also found itself at the centre of a row over the use of the word “Easter” in publicity for its egg hunt.

Critics have argued that the charity has become distracted from its main purpose of conservation, and in its efforts to be inclusive has been accused of dumbing down.

Good on you, Balliol, for taking on a criticized champion of inclusion as your new head.

There’s one thing this author gets wrong

There’s nothing cowardly about failing to speak up when sexually harassed.  It is extraordinary and brave when people do speak up.


It must have been my fault. It must have been something I said. Was I flirting with him? I shouldn’t have told that story. I shouldn’t have gone to his hotel room. What can I do about it? Who do I tell? I don’t have enough money for a lawyer. I don’t want to suddenly become unemployable because of something he chose to do to me. Was it that big of a deal? Did I make it up? It wasn’t an assault — it was just, like, an aggressive mirror hold. There are no laws against forcing people to look at themselves in the mirror. I’m fine. I’m tough. I’m one of the guys. It was just a weird thing that happened, and now it’s over, and I’m fine. What if I said something and he stopped me from getting another job? So I made a decision: I chose to stay quiet. I kept working with him. As I said, I’m a coward.

Read the whole thing here.

Women are People

The newest song from feminist singer-songwriter Rachel Lark (also daughter of philosophers Louise Antony and Joe Levine!).  It’s from her “Easy to understand feminism” series.  But do start clicking through the other songs!


Feminist Philosophy Quarterly 3.3

On behalf of co-editors Samantha Brennan, Carla Fehr, and Alice MacLachlan, I am pleased to announce the publication of Volume 3, Issue 3, of Feminist Philosophy Quarterly!
Table of Contents:
1. Hermeneutical Injustice and the Problem of Authority, by Komarine Romdenh-Romluc
2. Dismantling Purity: Toward a Feminist Curdling of Hawaiian Identity, by L Brooke Rudow-Abouharb
3. Objectivity, Diversity, and Uptake: On the Status of Women in Philosophy, by Michelle Ciurria
4. Are Second Person Needs ‘Burdened Virtues’?: Exploring the Risks and Rewards of Caring, by Katharine L. Wolfe