Accessing Feminist Philosophers

As we announced April 23, Feminist Philosophers is shutting down. This is one of a series of posts by FP bloggers looking back on the blog and bidding it farewell.

There’s an apocryphal quote that is usually attributed to Helen Keller that goes something like this: blindness separates you from things, but deafness separates you from people. It turns out that Kant wrote something about this in his Anthropologie (aside: for all the hours I’ve been thinking about this farewell post, I must say that starting off with a reference to Kant never occurred to me, but blogging has a way of swerving the words on the page).

It’s hard to put into words how excited I became once I discovered the philosophy blogosphere and Feminist Philosophers.

I could finally understand without guesswork what other philosophers were saying, and having the words on the page to be read, not speech-read, meant that I had an equal footing when it came to accessibility. I’d never had the opportunity to communicate with philosophers without having to do the additional work of speechreading inference or working through an interpreter (who didn’t have the background in philosophy the rest of us did).

It was through Feminist Philosophers that I found a sense of community in the informal aspect of academic philosophy. There were many times when we disagreed — sometimes publicly on the comments page, but also on long email threads. I will miss those threads, time-consuming as they were, because of the respect we showed each other, even in times of deep contention. They were also another (inadvertent) accessible feature of doing philosophy that hadn’t been available to me — I learned much from reading and participating in them.

What I find most bittersweet about shutting down Feminist Philosophers is that this venue of informal philosophical exchange will now only exist as an archive. I learned philosophical jargon and ‘insider catchphrases’ by reading the comments, I learned about other feminist philosophers, including about other disabled feminist philosophers of color (our numbers are small, but we exist!) by reading the comments, and I learned that the written word modality of social media was a way for philosophers who were deaf or hard of hearing or had other communication disabilities could participate in conversations that prior to this were difficult to access.

Access to the informal conventions of feminist philosophy will still continue to exist as an archive, but it will be a snapshot of a certain period of time and place. And so, I worry about how others on the margins will gain access to the shifting social capital and conversations that may not be present in their departments — whether this is access related to disability or other factors. My hope is that with the closure of Feminist Philosophers, we can continue the spirit of this blog by continuing to invite others into our conversations, in whatever formats are needed for inclusion.

To my fellow bloggers, I want to say how honored I was to be invited to join you, and what an incredible privilege it has been to work with you to make a difference. To the readers of Feminist Philosophers, I’m grateful for the sense of community you helped to build, and especially for making it possible for me to see the range of ways to engage and sometimes, to spar! To Jenny, thank you for having the vision and the fortitude to keep Feminist Philosophers going, especially when the path was a tangle.

Access to Work Funding Cut

The UK government is quietly cutting the Access to Work funding that pays for things such as computer software and support workers that enable disabled people to gain employment.

Advisers have guidance on what AtW now does and doesn’t cover, but because the changes haven’t been published, all we can put our hands on is that limits have been imposed on the amount of support worker hours that are permitted and major restructuring in how AtW is being delivered has led to delays in people’s money.

Deaf people who need sign language interpreters have been particularly penalised, with the cuts to support workers’ hours. Jenny Sealey, who runs a disabled-led theatre company that employs 80 deaf and disabled people every year, has gone from co-directing the Paralympic 2012 opening ceremony to being left “in fear” for her career after her support was cut by half. It gives some insight into the mindset of those with their hands on the controls that they can promote the need to get disabled people into work while enacting measures that make it impossible.

You can read more here.

Disability and Graduate School Considerations

Helen de Cruz has a great post up at NewAPPS that discusses, among other things, why graduate students might opt to attend unranked programs.

 

Another, often overlooked, consideration in play for some graduate students is disability. Some campuses are more friendly and accommodating to students with particular kinds of disabilities, some local communities have more resources than others, some states have policies that make it easier to be funded by vocational rehabilitation than others, some states (in the U.S.) provide tuition waivers to students with certain disabilities, and so on.

 

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Cochlear Implants, Viral Videos, and Sexism

Once again a video of the miracle of hearing via cochlear implants has gone viral. I find this bothersome, but not for the reasons you might think, given that I’m a member of the signing Deaf* community, a bioethicist, and philosopher. Instead, I’m annoyed by the framing of the cochlear implant narratives and the gendered aspects of cochlear implant videos that go viral.

 

Before I say more, I want to note that I am delighted and touched by the joy of the cochlear implant recipient, Joanne Milne. Joanne Milne has had a life-changing experience. Most hearing people will watch the video, appreciate her happiness, and perhaps reflect on their own capacity to hear. I hope that we can push the conversation further along here at Feminist Philosophers.

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