Credit Where It’s Due

Recently, we’ve mentioned plenty of instances of conferences where, at first glance, you’d get the impression that only male philosophers work in that area. Which is what makes it all the more satisfying to draw attention to this up-coming workshop where half of the contributers are women, and the topic is in the kind of area that we might ordinarily think is male-heavy. I don’t know if this is intentional, but it seems to good to be accidental. I recall that its organiser, Dan Lopez de Sa, has commented here in the past and suspect he’ s paid some attention to this issue. So, credit where it’s due. Bravo!


Workshop on Vagueness and Metaphysics, Barcelona, 25-26 June 2009

Provisional Program

Thursday 25 June

10.00-11.30 Iris Einheuser (Duke): ‘Vague Objects: A Conceptualist Account’

12.00-13.30 Dan Korman (Illinois): ‘Restricted Composition without Sharp Cut-Offs’

15.00-16.30 Elizabeth Barnes (Leeds): TBA

17.00-18.30 Benjamin Schnieder (Phlox): ‘Reasoning with ‘Because”

Friday 26 June

10.00-11.30 David Barnett (Colorado): ‘Vague Entailment’

12.00-13.30 Delia Graff Fara (Princeton): ‘Would Interests have Agents?’

15.00-16.30 Ofra Magidor (Oxford): ‘Strict Finitism and the Sorites Paradox’

17.00-18.30 Ross Cameron (Leeds): ‘Truth-Making and Determinacy-Making’


The Future State of Equality in Philosophy

As some of you may know, in the US many philosopers tend to get their jobs by applying for interviews at a large annual meeting of the American Philosphical Association. There are sometimes as many as three hundred positions up for grabs, and for those trying to get jobs, the whole process of applying and interviewing is fraught and unpleasant. This year, this experience has been chartered, in blog form, by some anonymous grad students(see here).

Much of the blog is amusing, often well observed, and highlights just how looking for a job in philosophy affects you (it sends you crazy). Some of the recent posts have started to look at just what it means to be a women or a minority going through the APA job market. Indeed, they even talk about Sally Haslanger’s recent paper on women in philosophy. The most interesting posts are this one, and this one. Sadly, part of what is interesting about them is the comments they generate.

What you find is a lot of white male philosophers – presumably grad students looking for jobs – complaining that women and minorities who get these jobs are doing so purely by dint of their gender or race and at the expense of their more qualified white male counterparts (“Its reverse discrimination I tell ya”).  In one or two cases, people name black philosophers at top institutions, decry the value of their work and openly suggest that the person holds that post purely because they’re black, and it looks good if the department is ethnically diverse. You will even find the term “I’m not racist, but…”. And of course there is the age old “girls can’t do metaphysics” plum – the real reason women aren’t getting jobs easily and need “reverse discrimination” to help them out is because hard-core philosophy is abstract, and women prefer things with material results.

Don’t get me wrong, plenty of commenters point out how sexist and racist this all is, and there is alway trolling to take into account, but all the same, I can’t help feeling a bit depressed by it. We know things were bad for women and minorities in philosophy thirty or more years ago. We also know from Sally Haslanger’s paper that they aren’t all that good now. But reading some of the comments coming from those that aspire to staff philosophy departments for the next thirty years, the future doesn’t look all that rosey either.

I’m probably just over-reacting. But have a look at the comments and see what you think.

Hypatia and Hirsch Numbers

O.K., let me start with some apologies for drawing attention to some recent discussion on the philosophical blogosphere of Hirsch-scores and author impact analysis through citation indices. This sort of thing often smacks as the kind of posturing that I find troubling in the philosophy profession. However, citation scores for published articles are certainly one possibility for future research assessments in the U.K, and maybe even Australia.

But let me get to the point.A 2005 paper by J.E. Hirsch, “An Index to Quantify An Individuals Scientific Research Output”, proposes to generate a “Hirsch” number for a researcher according to how many citations that researchers’ papers receive. (You can find details of how its calculated here). There is also a down-loadable program called”Harzing’s Publish or Perish” (here) which uses Google Scholar to calculate Hirsch Numbers. Now, some philosophers have been playing around with this programme recently to create lists of Top Epistemologists, Departmental Rankings, and most recently, and of most relevance to this post, Journal Rankings.

The reason I’m posting is that, in light of lots of the concerns that we have on this blog about publishing feminist philosophy (see the posts under this category), and in particular, the ESF’s low ranking of Hypatia and the problem of getting others to recognise the value of being published in that journal (see here), the result of the Journal Rankings are quite interesting.Gregory Wheeler (over at Certain Doubts), who ran the statistics for Journal rankings by Hirsch numbers, used the same ESF list which gave Hypatia a low rank. By Hirsch numbers, of the 75 journals listed, Hypatia comes in 26th (see the spread sheet linked on Wheeler’s post), and ahead of the following selective list of well known journals which the ESF ranked higher: The Proceedings of The Aristotelian Society, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Quarterly, American Philosophical Quarterly, Law and Philosophy, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.And of well known journals given the same ranking by the ESF, it scores a higher Hirsch number than: The European Journal of Philosophy, The Canadian Journal of Philosophy, and Ratio amongst many others.

It’s obvious that the Publish or Perish programme has obvious flaws, and the reasons why Hypatia scores well may have much to do with the limited choices Feminist philosophers have when trying to place an article. I’ll leave you to ponder the reasons why Hypatia scores well by Hirsch numbers, but I have to say that seeing this left me feeling cheered up and thumbing my teeth at the ESF. And since the future of some important research assessments is certainly looking citation shaped, it leaves me feeling a little optimistic too (but I am a bit of a Pollyanna).

Women in the boardroom

This story from the BBC is interesting. A few years ago, Norway, which already had a reasonably high number of women holding top executive jobs, introduced a law which said listed companies would be closed if they didn’t have women making up 40% of their executive boards. They were given until January 1st 2008 to comply. Well, that deadline has passed and it seems very nearly all have managed to comply. Of course, 40% is still not enough, but I’m impressed.As the article shows, there are complaints about this from the companies – “we should be able to choose on c.v.s not gender”, ” executive teams must be very carefully balanced, and worrying about gender just makes teams unbalanced and puts business at risk” – but there are counters made to these complaints in the article too. Looking at the c.v.s of the women recruited suggests that the government may have done these businesses a serious favour.There are still worries though. For instance, there has been a brain drain to the private sector meaning there are now fewer women at the executive level in the public sector. I guess the obvious solution is to introduce legislation giving the public sector five years to recruit women to its top level posts.Any thoughts on this? Some problems aside, legislation seems to have been effective for Norway. What do people think of it as a solution?

Advance Australia Fair

One of our blog readers in Australia, Roz, drew our attention to this and this. At the recent Summernats car festival in Canberra, a drunken mob of between 100 and 200 men roamed around yelling “rubber or tits” and generally harrassing women to show their breasts. (There’s a picture link on the second web-page where you can see pictures, including a young guy and his frightened girlfriend surrounded by men heckling him when he tried to defend her).This whole thing is, I think, obviously pretty distasteful – a family event with pre-printed “get your tits out” banners. But in some ways, the stunted neanderthal sexuality that surrounds this kind of car rally, with its accompanying machismo and its love of large breasted “spokesmodels” is, sadly, mundane. Worrying, however is the fact that the mob harrasment of women – whether they tried to laugh it off or not – drew no response from the police. Absolutley zip. The ACT Police Minister, Simon Corbell, suggested that organisers declined police help. Nonetheless, police were on hand to issue 500 or so traffic tickets. This must have been a daunting and even terrifying experience, and the lack of police response is pretty poor. The organisers, of course, saw no real issue describing the mob as “a happy crowd” and seemed content that no police action was required since there had been “no official reports of damage” (clearly missing what seems to be the main worry – the harrassment and abuse). More worrying from my point of view though is that the Police Minister seems impervious to the thought that the police should have done anything, or could do anything in the future – from his point of view, the sexual harrasment simply “highlights the need for Summernats organisers to continue to improve the environment at Summernats so it is a tolerant and respectful environment.” That’s right, its down to the organisers.So why do I think the police should have done something to protect women from this? Well, Australia certainly has an image as a “macho society”, and some statistics bear out the thought that being a women there is not an altogther easy experience. For instance, a recent study at Griffiths University suggests that as many as 45% of women between the ages of 18 and 41 were the victims of child sex abuse (see here for a news report). Of course, child sex abuse isn’t precisely the same as abuse of women, but as the authors of the report point out, the trauma follows these children into woman-hood and victims suffer divorce and domestic abuse at twice the rate of the general population.Similarly, according to a 2002 International Violence Against Women Study, 1 in 3 Australian women have been subjected to sexual or physical violence from a partner, and 1 in 5 have experienced some form of sexual violence. A 2003 study from the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commision found that 28% of women had been sexually harrassed in the work place. And speaking of the work place, women in full time employment earn 16% less than male counterparts, and in part time work, 34% less. There is no legislated paid maternity leave system, and only a third of pregnant women manage to take some form of paid maternity leave. I could go on, but you see the point.This alone makes the police inaction at the Summernats rally all the more pressing. However, what’s worse is that the Australian police and legal system have recently come in for some criticism at their often baffling attitude to abuse against women, and if anything, they ought be trying to counteract that. For example, recently, between eight and twelve youths sexually assaulted, taunted, and abused an autistic girl, raping her, spitting and urinating on her and setting light to her hair whilst recording it for a DVD which they later sold around their schools in Melbourne for $5 a pop. Eight were tried, seven were convicted, non were given custodial sentences. It was generally felt that this might have been light and more than a little dismissive of the victim’s experiences. (see here). Similarly, (and as reported on this blog) a judge in Northern Queensland described the gang rape of a nine year old as “naughty” and suggested the girl may well have consented (see here ). Again, I could go on. The point is merely that the law seems to be failing to protect women and girls.Don’t get me wrong, sexism, abuse, and legal systems which are indifferent to victimised women are not peculiarly Australian. Neither is the kind of thing experienced at Summernats, but, given some context, maybe it seems obvious that police action was all the more pressing, and simply shrugging shoulders at “high spirited” bawdy rev-heads is the kind of thing which, perhaps unwittingly, sanctions a lot of sexism.