Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Yup, definitely being taken over by women August 16, 2015

Over the last year, we have heard a lot about the feminist/women’s (there are different versions) takeover of philosophy. That line of thought is nicely put in perspective by the various other similar claims discussed here.

The idea of a gender perception gap is borne out by studies in other areas. In one study on gender parity in the workforce, sent my way by colleague Flavia Dzodan, it was found that men “consistently perceive more gender parity” in their workplaces than women do. For example, when asked whether their workplaces recruited the same number of men and women, 72 percent of male managers answered “yes.” Only 42 percent of female managers agreed. And, while there’s a persistent stereotype that women are the more talkative gender, women actually tend to talk less than men in classroom discussions, professional contexts and even romantic relationships; one study found that a mixed-gender group needed to be between 60 and 80 percent female before women and men occupied equal time in the conversation. However, the stereotype would seem to have its roots in that same perception gap: “[In] seminars and debates, when women and men are deliberately given an equal amount of the highly valued talking time, there is often a perception that [women] are getting more than their fair share.”

How do you give men the impression of a female majority? Show them a female minority, and let that minority do some talking. This is how 15 minutes of Fey and Poehler becomes three hours of non-stop “estrogen,” how a Congress that’s less than 19 percent female becomes a “feminized” and male-intolerant political environment, and how one viable female Presidential candidate becomes an unstoppable, man-squashing Godzilla. Men tend to perceive equality when women are vastly outnumbered and underrepresented; it follows that, as we approach actual parity, men (and Elisabeth Hasselbeck, for some reason) will increasingly believe that we are entering an era of female domination.

(Thanks, L!)


clinton, Mind-reading and attributions of racism July 25, 2015

Filed under: bias,gender,politics,race — annejjacobson @ 8:30 pm

There’s a kind of mind-reading that seems to me to be very prevalent in the US.  It often goes so far as to assume that someone other than X is better able to tell what X thinks than X is.  This not a harmless assumption, and it is built on a false assumption about our access to other minds.  In fact, our mind-reading is prone to a lot of mistakes once we get beyond the very simple tests used on 4 year olds in psychology.

Most recently Hilary Clinton is being victimized by mind-reading.  She said:

Race remains a deep fault line in America. Millions of people of color still experience racism in their everyday lives.

Here are some facts.

Let’s be honest: For a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young Black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear. And news reports about poverty and crime and discrimination evoke sympathy, even empathy, but too rarely do they spur us to action or prompt us to question our own assumptions and privilege.


Apparently, a lot of people looked at this and said she wouldn’t have said this unless she felt that fear. So she is a racist.

But in fact the comment about fear was one of a long list of bad facts about racism in the States. And she said we must admit these features exist and get rid of them.

So the racism is most certainly not in her words. It is an injustice to report that it is in her head.

Many thanks to Rachek McKinnon for bringing this up on facebook. Of course, as Rachel said, on the left this might all just be misogyny. If so, hang on because it’s probably going to be a horrible election season.


No, bias against women in science not disproven July 17, 2015

Filed under: academia,bias,science — jennysaul @ 5:39 pm

Another great article about that Williams and Ceci article Michael Brownstein had a great post on.

The 2015 study, performed by Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci, isn’t rigorous. It’s plagued by five serious methodological flaws.

To read about them, go here.


“I’m Sorry!” July 7, 2015

Filed under: bias,gender,politics — annejjacobson @ 3:00 pm

The research reported in a post below concludes that women are disproportionately made to feel guilty for any lapses in caring behavior.  If that’s true, one might expect to see (some/many) women as very prone to apologize a great deal, even for things only vaguely connected to them, to feel bad when they are especially assertive, and even to offer care-taking when it is hardly appropriately.

The skit by the comedian Amy Schumer linked to below captures such behavior.  Can you relate?




“Queering Philosophy” June 11, 2015

Filed under: academia,bias,glbt — Stacey Goguen @ 5:29 pm


Post by Annika Thiem at The Philosopher’s Eye

“as Linda Alcoff argued in her Presidential Address to the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in 2012, […] the problem of demography is not coincidental to the issue of bodies of knowledge, canonical archives and questions, and preferred methods of inquiry.”

“Marginalized minority voices tend to have to render proof of their academic competence and must first refute the suspicion of being “purely personally politically motivated” rather than writing “proper research.” The standard of “proper” academic writing turns out not to be as neutral and universal, as we often like to assume, but rather a male, white, European, and heteronormative “voice” of knowledge and competence.

“This is the case even though the actual bodies inhabiting that academic voice can look preciously little like a straight white European man. The point is that queerness and queer method are irreducible to individual bodies and desires. Queerness and queer method pertain just as much, if not even more, to structures, practices, and institutions.


Combating bias May 9, 2015

Filed under: bias — annejjacobson @ 10:29 pm

Harvard Business Review
for May 2015 has several very useful articles on making better decisions. Some of the material explicitly addresses biases that are concerned with gender, race, class, etc, but other very useful discussions address heuristics affecting our decision-making.

There is a general strategy that I’ve seen show up recently in books on practical decision making. It draws on Khanemen’s work on system one (intuitive) and system two (logical)thinking. Overcoming bias can involve getting system two to evaluate system one’s products. This strategy doesn’t solve all the problems, but it can help a great deal in lots of situations. I strongly recommend getting access to the HBR issue from your library, or even buying a copy.

Some tidbits

1. Use joint, rather than separate, evaluations. Evaluating decision alternatives simultaneously, rather than sequentially, reduces bias. For instance, a manager who is evaluating job candidates can avoid making biased assessments of their likely future performance by comparing them against one another rather than evaluating them separately. That’s because joint evaluation nudges employers to focus more on employees’ past performance and less on gender and implicit stereotypes, … Managers often use joint evaluations in initial hiring decisions, especially at lower levels, but they rarely take advantage of this approach when considering employees for job assignments and promotions.

2. Holding individuals accountable for their judgments and actions increases the likelihood that they will be vigilant about eliminating bias from their decision making. For example, a study of federal government data on 708 private-sector companies by Alexandra Kalev and colleagues found that efforts to reduce bias through diversity training and evaluations were the least effective ways to increase the proportion of women in management. Establishing clear responsibility for diversity (by creating diversity committees and staff positions, for example) was more effective and led to increases in the number of women in management positions.


More discussion of Willams and Ceci April 22, 2015

Filed under: bias,science — jennysaul @ 11:16 am

Here and here.


Michael Brownstein on Williams and Ceci April 15, 2015

Filed under: bias,science — jennysaul @ 7:40 pm

A guest-post:

Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci have just published an article in PNAS titled “National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track” (here). The article is striking, and seems to show a great deal of progress in gender equity in hiring (notwithstanding worries that some have expressed that this study demonstrates “reverse discrimination”). There has been interesting discussion of the article on Facebook (FB), the Daily Nous, and New APPS, and most of what I say here is a reworking of points that others have already made. First I’ll make a couple positive points about the article; then raise a worry about the authors’ interpretation of their data; and then raise a few questions about the data.

On the positive side, W&C’s data tells us more than we knew before about how gender attitudes and gender discrimination work. As Edouard Machery said on FB, we need to know the facts in order to create effective interventions. This seems right. The question, I think, is what exactly the study shows, and whether it shows what the authors think it shows.



“what-does-gender-equality-mean-for-women-researchers-in-the-21st-century” April 10, 2015

Filed under: academia,bias,gender,politics — annejjacobson @ 5:13 pm

The title above is for an article about Delivering Equality: Women and Success, a summit-conference at Cambridge University.  The opening sentences by the article’s author, Alice Atkinson-Bonasio, tell one why both it and the summit are important:

The theme of gender inequality seems to evoke a certain sense of resistance from both men and women, who argue against “radical feminism” and suggest that women nowadays are empowered to follow whatever career path they choose and succeed on their merits.

The battle, in other words, has been won.

Indeed, as a woman enjoying the successful pursuit of my career of choice, it felt strange to be in a room with some of the most outstanding female researchers in the world to discuss how difficult it still is for a woman to progress in her academic career compared to her male counterparts.

The article is full of ideas and information, and anyone engaged in the area will probably find some of the material very interesting.

I’m going to concentrate on two things:  the list of some of the important questions the summit ended up posing, and some of the talks, slide presentations and links to material that are available at the site.  The first seem to me at times quite clarifying questions, one which organize the issues in good ways.  The second will be very useful for a number of reasons.  Entries can help those who haven’t really studied issues like that of implicit bias thoroughly enough to be able to discuss it in challenging contexts.  There are videos that are suitable for sharing at meetings and in classes.  In fact, the presentations and links are numerous enough that I’ve picked just three.  Do go and discover more for yourselves!

There are two contributions by Jennifer Saul, who is a prominent contributor on this blog.  My links to her in this post reflect the fact that she is featured in the article.

The questions:

Some of the many burning questions that emerged from those conversations were:

  • How can we create environments that attract and develop talented women, as well as men, throughout all levels of our institutions?
  • To what extent are we genuinely committed to becoming more inclusive?
  • How can we define, measure and reward success more effectively?
  • How can we reframe the debate away from “women’s issues” to talk about effective, modern workplaces?
  • What policies, procedures, training, metrics and systems can we improve in order to accelerate progress?
  • How can we encourage the emergence of more diverse, visible role models and senior leaders progressing change in academia?

The Presentations:

1. slide presentation by Jennifer Saul.

2.  lecture by Jennifer Saul.

3.  Illuminating interviews with women in STEM


Why Care About How Pixar Draws Faces? March 14, 2015

Filed under: beauty,bias,kyriarchy — Stacey Goguen @ 8:14 pm

This post on Tumblr from a few weeks ago shows the range of face shapes that men and boys receive in Pixar movies, and the relative lack of range that women and girls receive.
(H/T RM)

Why does this matter?

Seeing someone on screen who is not conventionally attractive–in any of the various ways one can fail to be conventionally attractive–but still receive love and be portrayed as worthy of that love is a very powerful thing.

Rarely ever seeing women in TV and films who are not conventionally attractive, let alone seeing them receive love and being portrayed as worthy of that love, can have a profound impact on us (as a culture) and what many of us think it takes to be worthy of love.

It is unlikely that it has completely defined our self-worth, but for many of us, myself included, it is a kind of voice or pressure that we need to shut down, again and again and again, every time we are reminded of our absence from the circle of people who are shown as loved and worthy of love.

This is why the shape of faces matters.


Green shapes on the left are men’s faces. Red shapes on the right are women’s.

Should You Comment on This Post? A Rough Guide, in Addition to the Blog’s General Policies:

  • This issue has a deep psychological and emotional resonance for me, as well as for many other people. If commenters want to discuss the account I’m giving, or the premises I’m invoking, etc., I’m happy to engage and discuss, even if a comment challenges aspects of this account. However, this is only if commenters can show good faith and be supportive of people’s struggles to maintain a robust sense self-worth, given the various cultural norms that exist regarding our bodies. If any comment engages in a manner I deem to be unsupportive or even just oblivious–regardless of the commenter’s intention–I am not going to publish it. If you want to comment but do not know or care how to do so without exacerbating the vulnerability and shame many people feel in relation to this issue, please keep your comment to yourself. This post is not for you.
  • If a comment raises a challenge or asks for evidence without also contributing something substantial to the discussion, I may or may not post it, and I may not not respond to it if I do post it. We have the internet at our fingertips, so unless a commenter demonstrates that they are a valuable conversation partner (or I already know that they are), I have little inclination to google things for them or spell out my entire justification behind these ideas. The claims here are not novel; people have probably written on them elsewhere.
  • Lastly, if I suspect a comment is an attempt to troll, I will not publish it. If you would like to avoid your comment going unpublished despite you having no intention to be a troll or cause troll-like harms, please take the time to ensure your comment cannot be taken that way. If you do not have the time or inclination to do that, please refrain from commenting.


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