Interview with Anita Allen

George Yancy interviews incoming Eastern APA President Anita Allen. It’s a wonderful interview– optimistic in places, but also scathing where it needs to be. Here is one of the appalling bits.

Is the denigration of black women philosophers a thing of decades past? Are we beyond being asked to fetch coffee for department chairs and worse? Regrettably, no. In October 2017 a very senior Harvard-educated white male philosopher, whose wife is also an academic, wrote to me seeking feedback on an op-ed he hoped to submit to The New York Times or The Washington Post. He did not like my feedback. He ended an email lamenting his failure to get anything more than “duncical shit” as feedback on his work by letting me know that he had recently imagined seeing my face in the photographs he used in masturbation! Incredible, right? I wrote back to explain why I was offended and to sever ties. I assume that if such a thing could happen to me, some very, very serious harassment and racism must be happening to young women in the field.

Read more.

UK: upskirting legislation blocked

Upskirting is a depraved violation of privacy. It is outrageous that a single Tory MP has been able to derail a much needed and universally supported change in the law. But that is exactly what has happened.

While the actions of one backwards, out-of-touch Tory anger me greatly, it is nothing in comparison to the hurt I feel for the women who have been harassed and degraded because they don’t have the protection they need from the law. The experiences of these women, such as Gina Martin who founded the campaign, are what inspired me to lodge my bill to make upskirting a specific sexual offence.

Read more here.

Interview with Helen De Cruz

Particularly interesting to read about how it was non-Western philosophy that drew her to the subject.

But when I was in my final two years, about half of the program’s credits (world art studies) could filled in with anything students liked. I chose courses such as Introduction to Indian Philosophy and Religion, Islamic Philosophical Theology, Chinese Philosophy and Thought, Comparative Study of Culture (with lots of Native American philosophy, especially as our professor had been studying Navajo culture for years). Our courses on African art and Oceanic art also looked at philosophical ideas, such as the Luba theories on memory and material culture, or the Polynesian concept of mana.

So I found my way slowly into philosophy through all this non-western material. My two absolute favorite courses were Islamic philosophical theology and Indian philosophy and religion. Both professors were passionate about the topic. With our Indian professor, we watched a 5-hour film of the Mahabharata with the class, and we went to a Jainism exhibition in Antwerp. We saw several of the classic darśanas (literally, points of view, of orthodox Hindu thought), as well as unusual heterodox schools such as materialism. Our Islamic philosophical theology professor loved the Mu ‘tazila school and greatly disliked Al Ash ‘ari and Al-Ghazali, blaming them for the decline of everything that was good and proper in Muslim philosophical thinking. He also was a very careful and thorough teacher, trying to impart some Arabic as we went along (always showing the root of each philosophical term as this would help us in our understanding—I am still not sure how that would work). I cherish those courses as they broadened my mind. In spite of my professor’s lack of sympathy for Al-Ghazali, I was, and still am, an admirer of his rigorous and engaging writing.

How not to react to a Title IX case

And– appallingly– feminist scholars are part of the problem. None of the considerations below should influence an investigation of this sort.

The letter, dated May 11 and addressed to NYU’s president and provost, said Ronell was under investigation by the university’s Title IX office. The signatories, worried that she had already been damaged by the proceedings and anxious that she would lose her job, asked that she receive “a fair hearing.”

It also listed her many accomplishments in the fields of philosophy and literature and seemed to suggest that her stature in those fields and at the university should be considered in the investigation. Though the letter’s signatories said they didn’t have access to a “confidential dossier” from a Title IX investigation, they stated their “objection to any judgment against her.”

“This is an example of a kind of misuse or abuse of Title IX.” “We testify to the grace, the keen wit, and the intellectual commitment of Professor Ronell and ask that she be accorded the dignity rightly deserved by someone of her international standing and reputation,” the letter said. “If she were to be terminated or relieved of her duties, the injustice would be widely recognized and opposed.”

Read about the letter here.

Incels and the Literary Canon

I’m recently back from talking about Kate Manne’s important book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny at the Canadian Philosophical Association (CPA) conference. It has a lot to say about the normalization of male entitlement to women’s attention. Women who do not provide in accordance with gendered norms are often criticized  as being cold, stuck-up, aggressive, etc. And there are many cases, correspondingly, of men reacting badly, sometimes violently, when women do not give them things to which they feel entitled.

This analysis applies extremely well to incel (involuntary celibate) culture online. So with this on my mind, I saw this interesting article linked on a friend’s Facebook page, which had a lot to say about how popular and canonical literature reinforces this mindset. (We should probably also include movies – I’m looking at you, romantic comedies!)

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/04/incel-movement-literary-classics-behind-misogyny

Reassessing the canon allows us to see that one of the reasons why “he was a lonely virgin” sounds like reasonable justification to us for a spree killing is that we have long valorized male isolation. Our literary canon treats such desire as if it is a (if not the) central topic in the lives of white men. It treats the frustration of male desire as if it merits exploration time and again. Maybe people like Jordan Peterson and Ross Douthat (two mainstream writers who have recently entertained the possibility that society would benefit from “sex redistribution”) wouldn’t think male isolation was a privileged social problem (rather than an individual psychological problem) if our literary culture didn’t also support that idea. Maybe Donald Trump wouldn’t have won the presidency in a country that didn’t worry so much about what white men think all the time.

CFA: Analytical Feminism at Central APA 2019 in Denver

Society for Analytical Feminism

Feminist Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS by July 6, 2018

SAF Session at the Central Division APA

Denver, CO, February 20-23, 2019

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 The Society for Analytical Feminism invites submissions of abstracts of papers or proposals for a session at the 2019 Central Division APA meeting in Denver. The Society seeks abstracts of works that examine feminist issues by methods broadly construed as analytic, or that discuss the use of analytic philosophical methods as applied to feminist issues. Authors should submit abstracts for papers of a length appropriate to a 20-minute presentation time. (If you are proposing an author-meets-critics session, involving multiple people, we welcome that information but expect an abstract-length proposal indicating that the author has confirmed to you their intention to participate, as well as indication of the relevance of the book/author to a SAF session, such as the themes to be discussed.)

Please delete all self-identifying references from your abstract to ensure anonymity. Send submissions as a Word or PDF attachment with the subject line SAF AT APA to Kathryn Norlock (kathrynnorlock at gmail dot com). Deadline for submissions: Friday, July 6, 2018. Graduate students or underfunded professionals whose papers are accepted will be eligible for the Society’s $350 Travel Stipend. Please indicate in your email if you fall into one of these categories and wish to be considered for the stipend.

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The Society for Analytical Feminism provides a forum for the discussion of issues concerning analytical feminism. Its purpose is to promote the study of issues in feminism by methods broadly construed as analytic, to examine the use of analytic methods as applied to feminist issues, and to provide a means by which those interested in Analytical Feminism may meet and exchange ideas. The Society annually organizes sessions for the Eastern Division, Central Division, and Pacific Division meetings. Membership in the Society is open to all who are interested in and concerned with issues in Analytical Feminism. Annual dues are $25 for regularly employed members, $15 for students, unemployed, underemployed, and retired members. For more information about SAF, including membership form, please visit our website.

Women’s contributions to philosophy

The following should be read as more like questions than it may seem. Are women’s theories really seen like this? Are these factors really at play? And so on.

And I am doing this in a rush.

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In my earliest days in philosophy, as one scanned the history of the subject, there seemed to be a near complete absence of women. This was scary, actually, because one seemed to be proposing that one could be one of the first to do something. And the idea that women couldn’t do philosophy did seem to have some evidence, however puzzling the idea was.

Thanks to many philosophers’ work, it has become clear that this picture of the absence of women in philosophy is simply wrong. But I wonder whether women’s work in general is brought into mainstream thought, despite wonderful efforts by some outstanding people. This does seem to be changing a bit for contemporary women, but much, much less so for historical women.

If it is true that women’s work largely remains footnotes to male philosophy, it is worth asking why. If we understand why, we might be able to mitigate it. I have three remarks to make about this. Then I have one depressing worry that there is an underlying cause that is very powerful.

1. For much of history, women’s entry into philosophy (and music, the arts) was through an advocacy by their fathers that they be let into the otherwise male activity.

2. Women’s work has been appropriated. I just recently saw work that claimed that Babylonian laments – most definitely the project of women – shows up finally in the choruses of male Greek playwrights’ plays.

3. There is in philosophy – at least today when we are evaluating historical texts – quite a lot of hostility to original thoughts. And women’s original thought may be particularly suspect. This leaves women with one alternative: accept as basic the framing of the problems in male philosophy. Otherwise, you are pretty much out on a limb which many will saw off.

If these are causes, then they point to something we can do in working with women’s texts, and that have been done already. One is to try not to introduce the women’s work through describing their fathers’ supports. It is with just about any woman until very recently remarkable that she learned to read and that she had any contact with topics taught in men’s schools. Still, this might not be the place to begin.

Since I am running out of time, let me cut to the chase. From one point of view, the facts I’ve mentioned may pale in comparison to another, which to some extent might be a separate cause and also something holding some of the factors in place.

This overriding cause may be: misogyny. As understood by Mann (Down Girl) one strong facet of misogyny is the deep expectation that women are supposed to serve men. So sure they can comment – maybe very well – on men’s texts, but they aren’t supposed to produce rivals.

In a rush, let me suggest that this would account for the remarkable appropriation of women’s work that occurs. I think nearly every women I know has seen this.