O snap!

From CNN:  the fox is just doing a survey…

Washington (CNN)President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has asked the State Department to provide a list of existing programs and activities intended to promote gender equality, according to sources at the agency, raising fears that these programs may be the target of cuts.

A one-page memo earlier reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post asks the State Department to outline existing programs on gender equality, including funding, positions and programs on women’s empowerment and combating gender-based violence, department officials told CNN.

The questionnaire comes in the wake of broader efforts by the Trump transition team to quiz Obama administration agencies on programs and issues that the President-elect has expressed doubt about, including climate change. And though Trump has said little about gender, his attitudes toward and treatment of women became an incendiary campaign issue, particularly after leaked tapes of him bragging about sexually assaulting women

Initiatives aimed at supporting women and girls are a cornerstone of international development, as they’ve proved to benefit broader societies. They were a signature issue for Trump’s election rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
While some senior State Department officials caution that the transition team is asking basic management, budgetary and program questions typical of previous transitions and not suggestive of an ideological agenda, the questions have nevertheless raised concerns that Trump will work to roll back work on Obama administration priorities.

A message left with the Trump transition team was not immediately returned.

Advice: What should one do?

On Friday I was at Houston’s Menil Museum watching the construction of a sand Mandala by Tibetan monks who live in exile in India. It was a Compassion Madala, and the idea of compassion had been in some of my conversations in the week before. Afterward I went to the museum’s book store and discovered various writings by noted religious figures, one of which was attributed to Mother Theresa, though the original is by Dr. Keith Kent. It immediately struck me as written about groups of people very similar to some I’ve encountered in academia. I certainly thought, given my experience, that it was way too depressing to hang on any wall I’d see very often. I am also truncating it; the last two lines says that the struggle on earth is not between you and these people; rather, it is for you and God.

More recently, I’ve been thinking about whether it is very good advice. It might be just too out of touch with the way human beings do work, maybe especially in a groups. And it may neglect how in fact we do react. Perhaps if one is somewhat mystical and feels one’s most intense relationship is with God, the effects might be different. But the advice seems to be to remain engaged with your society. However, having people continually destroy things you’ve built (lines 9-10) might have a very bad effect.

What do you think?

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

Another things one might consider is whether it is very good advice for anyone caught, as too many women in philosophy are, in the following sort of situation:

Bias thrives in unstructured environments, where objective excuses for hostility are available, and where stakes tend towards doling out in-group rewards rather than punishing out-group exclusion. When professional rewards are discretionary, distinction between in- and out-group membership is heightened, the perceived flaws or weaknesses of out-group members are exaggerated, members are blamed more harshly, weaknesses are attributed to the person (“she’s not very smart,” “she’s crazy,”…) not the circumstances, excuses are less available, and punishment is swifter and more severe. Withholding professional respect, excluding women from philosophical conversations, refusal to acknowledge their contributions or minimizing their significance in favor of those of male colleagues, are all examples of discretionary rewards that even the best-intentioned philosophers are prone to deny women in informal settings. The presence of a male philosopher displaying overt hostility or aggression towards a female philosopher licenses further in-group hostility towards her, and where an objective rationalization is available for explaining this behavior (he has an objection to her argument, say, or she behaved somewhat inappropriately, etc.), it is often taken to justify this response. Women philosophers thus also suffer judgments that are harsher than their male colleagues’, more hostile, quicker and crueler dismissals of their views, and these judgments are multiply-reinforced by even their well-intentioned peers (my stress).

How does one go on in such situations? Be like Mother Theresa?

“But isn’t she way overreacting?”.

This post comes from a discussion I was having with someone happily unconnected to professional philosophy.  It concerns something I started thinking about some years ago, when I first heard about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which was supposed to be the first effective therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder.  I was very curious for a number of reason, not least of which was my perplexity at what could be called that.  And I think the book I’m going to quote from was the only thing at the time that didn’t cost a huge amount.

Still, lots of incidents over the last several years, and recent cyber discussions have reminded me that lots of us use an idea of normal emotional reactions.  And this idea has normative implications. The non-normal is wrong, bad, etc.
so it seems to me useful to remind ourselves that our baseline emotional reactions may vary a great.  One person who has an unpleasant encounter on Thurs may be struggling with it still a week later (or more) while another cannot understand why they cannot get over it.  So the empirically reasonably well-informed  Dialectical Behavioral Therapy tells us

A lot of people struggle with overwhelming emotions. It’s as if the knob is turned to maximum volume on much of what they feel. When they get angry or sad or scared, it shows up as a big, powerful wave that can sweep them off their feet.If you’ve faced overwhelming emotions in your life, you know what we’re talking about. There are days when your feelings hit you with the force of a tsunami. …

There’s a fair amount of research to suggest that the likelihood of developing intense, overwhelming emotions may be hardwired from birth. But it can also be greatly affected by trauma or neglect during childhood. Trauma at critical points in our development can literally alter our brain structure in ways that make us more vulnerable to intense, negative emotions. However, the fact that a propensity to intense emotions is often rooted in genetics or trauma doesn’t mean the problem can’t be overcome.


This sort of reaction is still seen as a problem because one may well have better things to do. And if pathology gets mixed in, it can become very socially destructive.

***this ends the didactic part of this post. What follows might be a quiz. ****

The book is actually full of internet stuff about mindfulness, but I was quit flummoxed by an early exercise. It concerns practicing radical acceptance. This means just accepting what’s happened without judgment or evaluation.

Here’s part of the list:

-Read a controversial story in the newspaper without being judgmental about what has occurred.

-The next time you get caught in heavy traffic, wait without being critical.

-Watch the world news on television without being critical of what’s happening.

-Listen to a news story or a political commentary on the radio without being judgmental.

I actually manage #2. I’m tempted to try a transcendental argument for the impossibility of the others. What do you think?

“Women in clothes”

This is a new book of interviews and illustrations that just might take your mind off the philosophy profession (eck!).

[i mean no disrespect to those who have worked and are working hard to air the profession’s problems and to explore solutions.  Rather, I am thinking of someone on facebook who commented that her mother wondered if she was thinking about the PGR too much.  If you notice the non-philosophers among your family and friends are rolling their eyes when you speak, think of reading “Women in Clothes”.]


Here’s part of the amazon buzz:

Poems, interviews, pieces that read like diary or journal entries-all these responses help the editors fulfill their aims: to liberate readers from the idea that women have to fit a certain image or ideal, to show the connection between dress and “habits of mind,” and to offer readers “a new way of interpreting their outsides.” “What are my values?” one woman asks. “What do I want to express?” Those questions inform the multitude of eclectic responses gathered in this delightfully idiosyncratic book Kirkus
About the Author
SHEILA HETI is the author of five books, including the critically acclaimed How Should a Person Be? and an illustrated book for children, We Need a Horse. She frequently collaborates with other artists and writers.
HEIDI JULAVITS is the author of four novels, most recently The Vanishers, winner of the PEN/New England Fiction Award. She is a founding editor of The Believer and a professor at Columbia University.
LEANNE SHAPTON is a Canadian artist, author, and publisher based in New York City. She is the author of Important Artifacts and Swimming Studies, winner of the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography.

Here a conversation with the editors.  http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/02/women-in-clothes-video-book-sheila-heti-heidi-julavits-leanne-shapton/

The kindle edition has color illustration at least for the ipad app.

three of the four amazon reviews make reading it sound like a transformative experience.

“… the exclusion of women as equals. It is not the way of God. It is the way of men.”

The quote comes from Father Bourgeois of the Maryknoll order, and he is commenting on the ordination of women.  In fact, the support he is being given by other priests forms one of three  substantive challenges  to the Vatican’s rigid and threatening position on the ordination of women.  People involved in these actions are brave men; they risk excommunication, which amounts to being expelled from the Church.  That could mean they do not have any job or any support for retirement, among lots of other things.

Here’s what’s happening:

More than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the United States have signed a statement in support of a fellow cleric who faces dismissal for participating in a ceremony that purported to ordain a woman as a priest, in defiance of church teaching.

The American priests’ action follows closely on the heels of a “Call to Disobedience” issued in Austria last month by more than 300 priests and deacons. They stunned their bishops with a seven-point pledge that includes actively promoting priesthood for women and married men, and reciting a public prayer for “church reform” in every Mass.

And in Australia, the National Council of Priests recently released a ringing defense of the bishop of Toowoomba, who had issued a pastoral letter saying that, facing a severe priest shortage, he would ordain women and married men “if Rome would allow it.” After an investigation, the Vatican forced him to resign.

Though what is now going on is unlikely to change the church, it does constitute a hopeful moment.  But it also is a very obvious thing to happen.  We have a very male dominated church with men possessing much of the power in the Church.  Surely, the most reliable way to change the church is to start with changes in men.  In fact, that seems extremely obvious.

As we turn to philosophy, we see women putting in an enormous amount of effort, but I wonder if it would be fruitful to assess these efforts from the point of view of how they are changing those with the power.

Let me try going at this at a slightly different direction.  A number of Rutgers’ female graduate students have described the department as providing a wonderful atmosphere for women.  There’s also some talk about the sensitivity to women’s rights on the part of new male appointees.   These look tightly connected; you don’t need much more than that sensitivity to provide an atmosphere in which women can flourish, and there isn’t much you can do if the men don’t regard women as having equal rights.  (I’m simplifying; correct me, if please, if you think there are bad distortions here.)  This is because the department, like most others, is heavily male as far as faculty go, and graduate students are majority male. 

So I’m wondering how focusing more on the role of men in supporting women would provide some efficiency for the efforts of women to create a better profession for other women.  Some efforts are in this direction.  This blog’s gendered conference campaign is one, and it would be great to hear of others.  What else might be characterized in this way?  What else could we do?  One thing might be to use conferences more to address this issue, perhaps in some sort of lunch-discussion session. 

What do you think?

Betty Ford: RIP

Feminists and others may have  laughed at her husband, but she spoke often to our causes.

From the NY Times:

Few first ladies have been as popular as Betty Ford, and it was her frankness and lack of pretense that made her so. She spoke often in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, endorsed legalized abortion, discussed premarital sex and revealed that she intended to share a bed with her husband in the White House (NB).

The country’s affection for Betty Ford transcended party lines. It began in earnest slightly more than two months after Gerald Ford became president in August 1974, following President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation over Watergate. … On Sept. 28, 1974, Mrs. Ford had a radical mastectomy after doctors discovered cancer in her right breast.

…  In the months that followed, tens of thousands of American women, inspired by Mrs. Ford’s forthrightness and courage in facing her illness, crowded into doctors’ offices and clinics for breast-cancer examinations.

After leaving the hospital, Mrs. Ford underwent chemotherapy treatment for two years. In November 1976, her physician announced that she had made a complete recovery.

The Betty Ford Center, dedicated on Oct. 3, 1982, was a direct result of Mrs. Ford’s victory over her alcoholism and addiction. Set on 14 acres on the campus of the Eisenhower Medical Center 11 miles southeast of Palm Springs, the center was a nonprofit venture spearheaded by Mrs. Ford and Leonard K. Firestone, an industrialist and former ambassador to Belgium who raised a major part of the money.

She was not a perfect advocate of feminist causes.  She did not object to the 1976 Republican platform that called for banning abortion, and she was a hawk on Viet Nam.  But she did many things, including pushing for her husband to appoint women to high government offices.