AND sexual harassment. All at the recent American Society for aesthetics. Three attendees describe what went on here, and there is another discussion of it here One example: an African-American artist was asked to discuss his recent work on urban youth. The audience’s questions, in contrast, focused on the exotic features of the unknown culture. Such as the risks of baggy pants falling down.
If you don’t quite get this example, think of giving a talk about poverty in Uganda and receiving mostly questions about the styles of women’s hair.
One cause of the situation may well be, as various writers suggest, the Society’s rapid movement toward diversity and inclusion. The effects of the efforts have left some members unsocialized, at least as fas as dealing with a mixed program goes.
There may well be another problem: members of introspective fields are ill-positioned to detect how socially out of it they are. [West, R. F., Russell J. Meserve, and Keith E. Stanovich. (2012). Cognitive Sophistication Does Not Attenuate the Bias Blind Spot. Journal of personality and social psychology, Online First Publication. ].
Further, a fair number of our colleagues may doubt that being with-it brings any epistemic advantages. This might not be so bad but for the profession’s long term view, as it seems to me, that nothing distinctive about the excluded groups could be of professional interest to philosophers.
So what to do when one efforts at inclusion means that members of ill-represented groups are treated in ways reflecting too familiar racist and/or sexist clichés? Let me make one suggestion: one could try implementing something like bystander intervention. I’ve seen this done fairly recently a couple of times and it is a way of alerting a whole meeting to a problem. In effect one says during the Q&A, hopefully as nicely as one can, something like “Let me express a concern that so far questions are not bringing what our speaker really has to offer. Let’s try to address instead his art and its … “. There are probably at most conferences enough people interested in promoting diversity to change at least some of the meetings.
One warning, though: don’t be too surprised to find out that you may not initially have much support.