“… 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.

Leading Change

Many people writing and reading this blog are interested in change.  We think both on smaller and on larger scales, from the injustices in our profession to those in our society and onto those afffecting subordinated people around the world.

I am wondering how many of us look to the business management literature for some ideas about what can be done, and what we are not doing yet.  When I offered to head up a scientific research group, and later when I was heading of the faculty organization, I reckoned I had better read a lot to get some ideas of what worked and what didn’t work.

I think I got a lot of help.  For example, one model of leadership – you pick your favorite group and meet behind closed doors to decide on initiatives which you present to the others – is ubiquitous in academia.  It is, however, not a good model for changing a culture.  John Kotter, at Harvard, was one of the leaders in enabling people to see how one should not do that, to put it roughly, and he drew up alternative models of change effective leadership styles.

I was thinking of this today since a newsletter from a management consultancy firm came into my mailbox.  It was selling a book, of course.  But the book was about the difficulty of change, how there is always great resistence to change, and about how to work with that, how to absorb the resisters into partnerships.  Sounds like what we want to do.

One other figure in the business management field I want to mention is Rosabeth Kantor.  I first encountered her as someone to read when I took a summer course for feminism for faculty at Rutgers in the 1980’s.  One of her leading thoughts, it seemed to me then, was how being outsiders in organizations (e.g., the token person of color, disabled person, etc) could get your head screwed up and turn you into someone you didn’t really want to be.  (That’s my take on her take, and not exactly what she said.)

One thing that I used to read regularly was the Harvard Business School Newsletter.  It’s fun to come to understand more fully why things your university is doing are pointless or counterproductive.  Looking for it today I found two interesting things.  One is an interview with Kantor:


and the other I found when I googled “Harvard Business School letter.”  I discovered a lot of templates for letters of recommendation.  Not bad ones at all.

So, should we all rush out and get some management books?  If not, why not in some way look through the literature?

Have a look at the Kantor interview.  What do you think?



If you commit suicide, the turkeys will win

Or at least they will work hard to do so. 

This is part of the extremely sad story of Antonio Calvo, who had been a lecturer at Princeton for ten years, and headed the program for teaching Spanish.  He was responsible for the behavior of the grad students teaching the intro courses, and he spoke very harshly to two of them.  One young man he told to stop playing with himself (in Spanish) and to a young women he said he could slap her, while slapping his hands together.

His contract was under review in the fall of 2010, but he was not kept abreast of any developments in the spring of 2011.  Three weeks before the end of the spring 2011 semester, he was summarily dismissed, told to leave his keys on his desk, had his access to email stopped, and was escorted off campus.  This was a surprise to him.  It meant, among other things, that his visa for staying in the US was in trouble.

He went up to his Manhattan apartment on Thurs and killed himself on Monday. 

Since then the many friends of this very popular teacher have sought an explanation for treating this man this way.  Claiming privacy concerns, officials have refused that request.  Charges of  “troubling behavior” have been made, but friends maintain there was a witch hunt fueled by a very few people.  The President of Princeton has said that his friends wouldn’t want the whole story to go public.   And I have to stress that we do not know what these extra things are or whether the claims are correct or not.

But we can still award a prize.  The Best of the Turkeys award goes to the Princeton official quoted by the Chronicle of Higher Education:

 Given the way in which Mr. Calvo killed himself, he adds, the university was right to be concerned. “If you look at what he did several days later, what he did was a very violent act. We would not want that violence directed at anyone in the community.

Using somone’s  later reactive suicide to justify your firing him is not a class act.

Don’t fall over in surprise, but S-K’s accuser’s credibility is in question

It’s in most newspapers, but the NY Times seems to be a main source.  Here’s the beginning of what they say:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest on Friday as the sexual assault case against him moved one step closer to dismissal after prosecutors told a Manhattan judge that they had serious problems with the case.

Prosecutors acknowledged that there were significant credibility issues with the hotel housekeeper who accused Mr. Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in May. In a brief hearing at State Supreme Court in Manhattan, prosecutors did not oppose his release; the judge then freed Mr. Strauss-Kahn on his own recognizance.

The problems with the accuser do not seem to be precisely with her report of the attempted rape.  Rather, there are discrepancies between what she has said recently and what she said in her request for asylum.  Further, she’s got some connection with what appears to be quite shady business; among other things, someone has deposited $100,000 in her bank account over the last year.  Finally, she also had a conversation with someone in jail about the benefits of pursuing her claim against SK; that conversation got recorded.  This last doesn’t seem to bear on credibility, but it does not look too good apparently.

The problem is that the prosecutors do not think they can get any conviction if the accuser has such credibility problems.  That seems believable to me.  The lesson here seems clear:  if you think you’ll get raped and want to bring a case about it to trial, try to live a blameless life. 

Perhaps at least this will lead to some soul-searching about rape and the courts.