GCC: “seeking genuine exchange”…..

But not, apparently, with women.

The conference announced below wants to engage leading utilitarians and Christian thinkers on, amongst others, the topic of abortion. In itself a worthy goal, but it makes the complete absence of women amongst the ten speakers (even more) chilling.

A letter has been sent, and if I get any replies I will keep you posted.


Utilitarians & Christians in Dialogue

Peter Singer is one of the world’s best-known, and also most controversial, moral philosophers. He represents a school of utilitarian ethics that is increasingly influential among policy-makers, academics, and the general public, on issues such as global poverty, euthanasia, the treatment of animals, and abortion. His positions intentionally challenge traditional ethical norms, especially those arising from religious perspectives, such as the sanctity of life and human rights. Unfortunately, much of the response from religious thinkers has been combative and hostile. This conference seeks to create a genuine exchange between these perspectives that have, so far, been at odds. Sessions will explore the place of consequentialism in history, sanctity of life, climate change, global poverty, abortion, and the treatment of animals. Speakers include Peter Singer, John Hare, Eric Gregory, John Haldane, Julian Savulescu, and others.

The conference runs 19-20 May, and registration is now open. Registrations will be processed in the order received by post or University messenger.

Please see http://mcdonaldcentre.org.uk/peter-singer-conference/ for full details.

What is it like……..

to give birth?

Question asked today in the Guardian by a journalist looking for clues in literature to prepare her for her impending childbirth. She finds there is an odd absence of birth descriptions in literature (well, maybe not so odd given all the things readers of this blog will be familiar with).

The discussion is quite interesting, however, particularly comments that indicate noone can really can convey what it is like, and particularly not what it is like for YOU – only what it was like for them. And that is interesting for philosophers of mind – or is it?

Why did philosophers wonder what it is like to be a bat, not what it is like to give birth? Is birth the ultimate first-person only access experience? How come there is no mention of birth in philosophers’ of mind obsession with pain?

There is a simple answer, of course, which is that there have been too few female philosophers (though that still makes it curious why men philosophers did spend time wondering what it is like to be a bat, not what it is like to give birth). But are there also more interesting answers to these questions? Is there something philosophical to learn from wondering what it is like to give birth?

Women in Opera – misogynism?

A very interesting program caught my attention on BBC 3 today. It asks why opera seems to depend almost entirely on the suffering of dying women.

I was interested because when going to the Traviata earlier this year I was SO irritated by the (in my mind) misogynism (as well as the ridiculous plotline), that it stopped me from just being able to enjoy the music…

For those interested, the program is on again on the 26th of June.

(And I apologise to those outside the UK who can’t access this program!)



Do a good deed – suggest some women!

The request below just came up on Philos-L, asking for significant publications and authors on societal forms of violence to list on their website [UPDATE: This is the link that should work in North America]. Their list of the ‘most significant authors in the field’ only includes women at present. So, since they are asking for suggestions, let’s all think of some female authors to suggest (as well as male ones!):

The IOWGT Website publishes the best that has been thought and said on societal forms of violence, establishing a resource for scholars around the world. A typical paper appearing on our website is read by 3000-5000 visitors—attracting more readers in a year than a typical journal publication attracts in a lifetime.

Our website presents writings from some of the most significant authors on these topics, including:

Are there significant publications we are missing—authors whose writings belong on our website? Please convey your suggestions to me atOanderson@ideologiesofwar.com

We hope you will use our Website in your research and teaching—and return to it frequently.

Best regards,

Orion Anderson
Editor-in-Chief of the IOWGT Website

Call for Collection on Consent

We recently discussed yet another volume that represented a dearth of female authors (not to mention other minority ones). One of the causes mentioned was that collections often represent ‘old boys networks’.

So, here’s a chance to change this: the following call just went out on Philos-L:

“I am preparing a collection of papers in medical ethics which focuses on
the concept of consent, and more especially the kind of consent which a
doctor is required to obtain from his patients before he can treat them.

I should appreciate any suggestions or recommendations of relevant papers
(or book chapters) in print or the internet. Responses to my private e-
mail, please. In due course I will compile a list of titles and make it
available to anyone who may be interested.

Zenon Stavrinides, PhD
University of Leeds


So: everybody think of some suitable papers/chapters written by female/other minority philosophers, and send the suggestions in!!!

( I won’t ask what consent a doctor should obtain from HER patients before she may treat them..)

Women in Italy

Woman in Italy are criticising Berslusconi for molding the image of woman. Italy is one of the worst performing countries in Europe for gender equality.

“A central question being debated today is how much Mr. Berlusconi has been responsible for molding the image of women during his 30 years as head of the country’s largest private broadcasting empire.

Girls once dreamed of being on television; now they “think that being an escort is the fastest way to becoming someone, by having access to important men and successful politicians,” said Candida Morvillo, the editor in chief of the glossy gossip weekly Novella 2000 and author of the 2003 book “La Repubblica Delle Veline,” or “Republic of Showgirls.”

Over the years, Mr. Berlusconi has blurred the line between show business and politics, choosing women from his television shows as candidates for the Italian and European Parliaments. One former showgirl, Mara Carfagna, is now equal opportunities minister — and has won plaudits even from critics for promoting gay rights. She is one of 5 women in the 23-member Berlusconi cabinet; 3 are without portfolio and few are seen as setting the agenda.”

Sexism and Sport – UPDATE

We posted earlier this week on two senior football/soccer commentators getting caught making cave-man worthy sexist comments about a female line ref. The situation has caused quite an uproar and after more damaging recordings of the two were posted onto YouTube, one of them was fired and the other has now resigned.

I did not expect this incident to have quite this far-reaching consequences – pretty awesome!!!!

Gender Bias, Marking, and Hand-Written Exams.

I have barely done any marking yet, but this struck me as I was distracting myself with observing my colleague marking hand-written exams: I (bored) picked up an exam, read a few notes, and made the following comment: “listen to this, her grammar is terrible:……”. Then it struck me – why did I assume the author was a girl?????????? Answer: pretty, neat, round handwriting…….

So, here’s my worry: we know how implicit bias acts in the context of judging CV’s, reviewing papers, judging comments, etc; when identical papers/CV’s/etc are labelled as originating from either women or men, they are generally judged to be of comparatively lower quality when marked as originating from women. That is why it is so important that these things are (ideally) done anonymously. Now my experience with this exam paper suggests that, despite not knowing the author’s name, I had made a very quick, unconscious judgment about the gender of the author based on her handwriting. This judgment may not always be accurate, but it if it is accurate often enough (and a quick flick through the pile of papers resulted in many papers that me and my colleagues unhesitantly judged to be either male or female), then this is a very pernicious way in which exam-marking can be distorted by implicit bias…

And most exams I have seen are handwritten, which suddenly makes this quite a worry? Thoughts?

Initiative to promote women at the top.

Interesting interview in the Guardian with an inspiring and succesful business woman (9 (!) kids) who rejects strict quota’s (unless as a last resort), but is promoting other ways of increasing the amount of woman at the top. This after a comment of her 5-year old son got her thinking — itself an argument for family-work balance: talking to kids can lead to good ideas!

I am certainly delighted to see a women-related issue in the business rather than the Life&Style pages!!!

What do we think?

I really liked this:

“I don’t buy the talent issue. How can it be that intellectually, through A-levels, degrees and their early careers, women are even-stevens with men, and then they suddenly melt down at 30?”

and this:

“Nobody has all the answers, however brilliant their background, and an all-male board, which has been at school and university together, however good they are individually, will clearly have its limitations.”

But a friend of mine was not to happy about the comment right at the end:

“Men and women can bring different qualities to the table – as well as a host of similar ones. “Women are typically more conscientious, less concerned with status, more concerned about consensus building and, because they make so many of the consumer decisions, have a good understanding of the market.

“Men tend to be more focused and goal-orientated, which is very good for career development and very important when running a business. Men are more likely to make a decision and go through with it and that’s very important – consensus-building isn’t always right.” ”

My friend worries that without explaining how these differences arise (presumably through different life-experiences/training), this can suggest some kind of biological deterministic view that ultimately undermines one’s cause. I agree, but think this is is a double-bind that is difficult to avoid if one tries to make a case for the direct benefits of diversity to a company.




UK Paternity Leave Changes.

Here is a reason to allow Cleggie back in our good books (after tuition fee fiasco): he is rolling out a consultation to encouragemore paternity leave by 2015. The current allowance in the UK is 2 weeks btw (still better than the Dutch 2 days!!!!). Video of his speech here.

Distant promises aside, Clegg’s government will also implement some of Harriet Harman’s (secretary in previous labour gov’t) proposals THIS APRIL: if women return to work before using their full 9-months maternity allowance, they will be allowed to transfer some of their maternity leave onto their partners. This strikes me as a completely sensible change and it baffles me why that was not possible before. For whilst I welcome government maternity support, in the current system it hardly encourages choice or equality; it provides an actual disincentive to couples who’d wish for the woman to return to work earlier and for the men to take some leave instead. (I apologise for heteronormativity btw – I don’t know at all how this works in single sex couples – comments very welcome!)

Now for some reactions: Financial Times was quick to declare this a disaster for small businesses – before we even know what the plans are. I readily admit and understand that any form of leave can pose huge practical problems for small businesses, but it is interesting that noone seems to perceive any possible upside – namely that their highly qualified female staff might return to work more quickly!

More worrisome is Daniel Barnett in the Guardian, who gives exactly the kind of shortsighted response I’d have feared for. After pointing out some very legitimate practical problems that will arise for small businesses, he first writes a bogus practical objection:

“It will be difficult for employers to check the truthfulness of a father’s claim that his wife has let him take half of the parental leave, and it might end with parents being able to manipulate extra time off because of the impossibility of policing the system.” — EEEHM – if they manage this in Sweden, shouldn’t we be able to do so in UK??

But the following is worse:

“Finally, it will have a chilling impact on recruitment practice. Many employers shy away from hiring women of childbearing age. Clegg’s proposals might see employers becoming wary of recruiting anyone in their 20s or 30s.”

AH – I get it. So it is ok to discriminate against women, but it is “chilling” to discriminate against men of childbearing age??? Surely it would be a good thing if employers have uncertainty in their hiring process as to who will be taking time out, rather than always assuming it will be the woman and then not hiring her?

Besides – all people in their 20’s and 30’s is a large group to discriminate against. Not to mention that people in their 50’s and 60’s (the ones currently filing age discrimination complaints) might well welcome this relative increase in their employability;)