Fillosophie at Montreal

Look at this fantastic initiative by philosophy students at the University of Quebec at Montreal, Fillosophie:

fillosophie-noir-blanc[1]Our goal is to foster the active presence of women in philosophy and encourage them to do research in the field. […] Women have an important role in philosophy and this is what Fillosophie would like to show. We would love for female undergraduates, especially those who intend to continue their studies in philosophy, to notice the presence of women in the department and to realize that women are active in the philosophical milieu in all levels of study and research.


We find it necessary for women to be more assertive in their work environment. Thus, through our events, we wish to promote the active presence of women and the success of their research in the department, while also creating a welcoming environment and a safe space for all philosophy students.


HT to @alineramos and @SWIPAnalytic

SASSY Sharing Academic Sexism Stories w/You


@anyatopolski alerted me to the Sassy platform (Sharing Academic Sexism Stories with You),  which was launched on International Women’s Day last month. The site, in four languages, was founded by an independent group of volunteers from Belgian academic institutions and NGOs who wanted to provide an online space for stories that are otherwise only shared in private conversations.cropped-wp_header_bg_blueredgray_ac1[1]

Yesterday at the first official meeting of SWIP.NL (in Dutch), which was attended by both Dutch and Belgian members, the question was raised whether sexism was worse in the Netherlands or in Belgium. The proportion of female professors is appalling in both countries, and appears to be even worse for philosophy than for other subjects.

It would be nice if all the SWIPs in the world would team up together and get some funding to get it properly researched!

This SASSY project, however, is yet another good initiative to show that there really is a problem with sexism in academia.

Is the oculus rift sexist?

3D IMAXYet another biological difference between men and women in the brain?

danah boyd wrote an interesting piece in Quartz about her observations that men and women prioritise different depth cues. She has personal experience in a CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment that made her puke and she can’t see IMAX movies.

In short: artificial 3D environments, depth cues have to be programmed in. There are a lot of depth cues, and we don’t need all, but motion parallax is pretty easy to render in 3D, so that gets in. Motion parallax, according to boyd, is the one men’s brains pick out as the most important cue, but women prioritise on shape-from-shading, which is a lot more complicated. Therefore, for men in general, 3D environments work well, but for women, the poor rendering of shape-from-shading causes disorientation and nausea. This phenomenon may also be related to why some transsexuals experience strange visual side effects from their treatment.

If this is the case, there is indeed a problem with 3D technology. dana points out that a lot more research is needed.

I have been in the CAVE of the Centrum for Wiskunde & Informatica in Amsterdam which  was totally awesome, and a very rare experience. No nausea experienced. However, IMAX theatres have been around for quite a while and are common. Some people do indeed experience motion sickness with them, but shouldn’t it have come to light by now if this was something particularly affecting women?

HT to Hank Greely for bringing this to my attention.

What is it like to do a PhD with disability & chronic illness?

bw2fa7xcqaad-qe[1]@zaranosaur‘s own experiences with having to juggle her chronic illness while trying to do a PhD led her to start a blog on just that: what it’s like to do a PhD with a disability & chronic illness with the accompanying twitter ID @PhDisabled. From the website:

The experiences of disabled PhD students are seldom heard in the world at large.  This is despite the fact that there are many out there whose doctoral efforts are inextricably shaped by their experience as PhD students with disability or chronic illness.

Our goal is to create a space for PhD students with disability or chronic illness to share their experiences.  It is only by sharing these experiences that we realise that we who walk this path are not alone.  It is only by sharing these experiences, by beginning to talk openly about them, that we can hope that things will one day improve.

We welcome submissions from all PhD students, past, present or otherwise, on all aspects of the experience at the intersection of academia, disability and chronic illness.

People are invited to share their stories and the response is overwhelming. Also check out the hashtag #AcademicAbleism.

SWIP.NL symposium

SWIP.NLThe Dutch branch of the Society for Women in Philosophy, SWIP.NL, is organising their first symposium on April 11, 2014.

The theme of the event is “Does philosophy have a future and if so, what is the role of women in it?“.  That is definitely something I want to know!

The event is hosted at the Free University in Amsterdam, and the language is Dutch. You can find more information here (in Dutch).

Gender discrimination at Dutch universities

Women demonstrating in The Hague in 1978Two weeks ago at the launch of SWIP-NL, there was an interesting discussion about how universal gender discrimination is. The discussion was triggered by Jenny Saul’s presentation, and particularly the overwhelming number of responses and the often shocking reactions she received on “What it is like to be a woman in philosophy”.

The number of female professors in the Netherlands is appallingly low, so there definitely is a problem there. Recently a website got launched by het Proefprocessenfonds Clara Wichmann to collect accounts of gender discrimination at the Dutch universities. The number of complaints about discrimination in general is on the rise in the Netherlands, so it is surprising that not many stories have come in yet. So maybe it is good to mention it here: find it at (all in Dutch) and if you have an incident to report, please do so, as it will strengthen our case.

Grandma got STEM

where STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (+more!).
There is this fantastic blog launched on February 17 2013 by Rachel Levy, where she collects information on grandmothers who did great work in those fields. Rachel explains:

Perhaps, like me, you are tired of hearing people say “how would you explain that to your grandmother?” when they probably mean something like “How would you explain the idea in a clear, compelling way so that people without a technical background can understand you?”

Here’s a similar saying you may have heard: “That’s so easy, my grandmother could understand it.”

I would like to counter the implication that grannies (gender + maternity + age) might not easily pick up on technical/theoretical ideas.

It is not just about women who are literally grandmothers, but it is meant in the figurative sense: any woman old enough to be a grandmother.

Thanks, @IngridRobeyns!

Turkey objects to gay and christian foster parents abroad

Nederland-TurkijeA diplomatic row between the Netherlands and Turkey looms over who the Turkish government deem fit in the Netherlands to be foster parents to children with Turkish origin. Turkey has started an investigation into the nature of the foster families that currently foster children of Turkish origin in the Netherlands under Dutch law. This was triggered by a mother appealing on television (in Turkey, I think) to get her 9 year old son back, who has been in foster care since he was a few months old. The foster parents are a lesbian couple, who now have had to go into hiding because of all the media attention.

According to various news sites, the Turkish government objects to foster parents being gay or christian or otherwise not upholding Turkish values, and they wish for the Dutch government to see to the issue. The Dutch government is not amused.

The Dutch government has the authority to relieve parents of the care of their children and place them in foster care, which is what happened in the case of this little boy. This is not a measure that is taken lightly. When the necessity to remove a child from its parents arises, the authorities first see if there are relatives who can take care of the child. If they are not available, the preference is to place the child in a foster family, of which there is quite a dearth. If no suitable family can be found, a child will be placed in a home, but it is generally believed that it is better to place a child in a family.

It is going to be a bit tough to find sufficient “suitable” families for foster care that suit the whole world, I suppose.

By all means, let us focus on the best interest of the children involved, shalll we?

Weddings and sentiments about same sex marriages unveiled

Weddings Unveiled adWedding photographer Anne Almasy submitted an ad to Weddings Unveiled and it got rejected.

The reason it got rejected was because Anne chose a picture of a same sex couple in her ad.

She wrote a letter to the editors and posted it on her blog (here) and this post went a bit viral and I wanted to write about it, and now that I have time to do that, I found that there’s an update!

Weddings Unveiled apologised on their blog (here) and will publish the advertisement after all. Jolly good.

I was surprised to read in the comments that people thought the picture was selected because of shock value.

Oppressive beliefs and breast size preference

A recent study showed that White British heterosexual men’s preferences for larger female breasts were significantly associated with a greater tendency to be benevolently sexist, to objectify women, and to be hostile towards women (Viren Swami and Martin J. Toveé, 2013).

Since the article isn’t open access, I will briefly summarise what they did and found, which will inevitably leave out things that are also relevant and noteworthy, but ok:

Small breast sizeLarge breast sizeBased on self-reports, they selected a sample of 361 males of Britisch White descent, who didn’t indicate being gay or bisexual or didn’t disclose their preference (average age 30, ranging from 18 to 68). Those were asked to rate the attractability of photo-realistic 3D models that were rotated on the screen. I copied and pasted from the article the model with the smallest breast size out of five on the left, and the one with the largest on the right so you get a bit of an idea. In the study they were presented in colour. After having rated the models, the participants were asked to fill in questionnaires that measure sexist attitudes (Hostility Towards Women Scale HTWS, Attitudes Towards Women Scale AWS and Benevolent Sexism BS subscale of the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory ASI) and that measure objectification of women (an adaptation of the Self-Objectification Scale SOS).

What they found was that on average men found the medium breast size model most attractive, with a skewed distribution towards the larger breast size, which seems unsurprising. The men’s preference for larger breast sizes was significantly and positively correlated with hostility towards women, more sexist attitudes towards women, benevolent sexism and objectification of women. They also found that young men were more likely to rate large breasts as more attractive. Neither education nor relationship status had an effect. Benevolent sexism was the strongest predictor for breast size rating, while objectifaction of women and hostility towards women were also significant predictors.

Some highlights from the discussion which I thought were noteworthy:

“[…] insofar as breasts are an index of a gendered difference between women and men, benevolently sexist men may perceive larger breasts as ‘‘appropriate’’ for feminine women; in other words, in the view of benevolently sexism men, a feminine and submissive woman is likely to be someone with large breasts.”

“Based on this set of results, it might be argued that it is the tendency to view women in ways that are subjectively positive for the perceiver rather than to explicitly denigrate women that drives men’s breast size preferences. Of course, both types of sexism stem from issues relating to power, gender identity, and sexuality, and it should also be noted thatbenevolent sexism may also serve to justify hostile attitudes toward women (Glick&Fiske, 1996).”

“Our results also showed that a greater tendency to objectify women was associated with a greater likelihood of rating larger breasts as physically attractive. Previous scholars have argued that, in many socioeconomically developed societies, female breasts have become an important site of objectification of the femalebody (Seifert,2005;Wardetal.,2006). This is evidenced, for example, in media aimed at hegemonic masculinities (Gerald & Potvin, 2009), where large female breasts are fetishized and treated as sexual objects that fulfill the pleasures and desires of masculine men. In this view, the objectification of women’s body parts, including though not limited to their breasts, is an example of the dominance of men over women and is further reproduced through cultural expectations of heteronormativity (Martino & Pallotta-Chiarolli, 2005). Moreover, this normalization compels women to put up with the objectification of their breasts and bodies by men, and even to treat such objectificationas flattering (Pascoe, 2007).”

They acknowledge a number of shortcomings in the research, such as the models all having the same face and waist-to-hip ratio and such, and all the breasts being the same shape. They further indicate the rather standard issues with recruitment method of the participants that might limit the generalisability (if that’s a word) and the possibility of socially desirable responding.

“In summary, the results of the present study showed that men’s oppressive beliefs predicted their idealization of larger female breasts. These results may have important implications for contemporary theorizing of breast size preferences. In addition to considering the distal evolutionary pressures that led to men’s breast size preferences, our findings also highlight the importance of considering the proximate sociocultural context in which thosejudgments aremade (cf. Little, Jones, DeBruine, & Caldwell, 2011). Specifically, it seems clear that the lived experiences of women and men in contemporary societies, and particularly their gendered relations with one another, will have a major impact on their beauty ideals and practices (Forbes et al., 2007).More broadly, future research would do well to more carefully consider the ways in which such beauty ideals shape and maintain gendered divisions in contemporary societies.