New Blog: Discrimination and Disadvantage

This new blog looks like it will be great. Looking forward to reading it when it launches in the next few weeks.

In recent years, philosophers have increasingly reflected on how various kinds of privilege and advantage are at work in the profession with an eye towards improving the lot of the disadvantaged. This blog is a space for philosophical reflection on various kinds of disadvantage (e.g., discrimination based on racism, classism, sexism, hetero-sexism, ableism, and the intersectionality of these and related phenomena) as well as discussion of such disadvantage within the philosophical community.

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.

What’s Wrong With Ableist Language?

Just read this excellent article about ableist language.

“The economy has been crippled by debt.”

“You’d have to be insane to want to invade Syria.”

“They’re just blind to the suffering of other people.”

“Only a moron would believe that.”

Disability metaphors abound in our culture, and they exist almost entirely as pejoratives.

You see something wrong? Compare it to a disabled body or mind. Paralyzed. Lame. Crippled. Schizophrenic. Diseased. Sick.

Want to launch an insult? The words are seemingly endless: Deaf. Dumb. Blind. Idiot. Moron. Imbecile. Crazy. Insane. Retard. Lunatic. Psycho. Spaz.

You can carry on reading here.

What I’m thankful for

It’s been a tough year for the profession in a lot of ways. Lawsuits, lawsuits, and more lawsuits. Public scandals. Fighting over public scandals. Other scandals not public. Online harassment, bullying, and prejudice manifest. One could easily begin to feel despair. I know there are times when I have–and I know there are others who are grappling with how these issues have affected them, and the painful personal and professional costs that have been imposed on them as a result. In the hopes of spreading a bit of cheer amidst the less sanguine, I wanted to take a moment to say a bit about what I’m thankful for (this is not a complete list, of course, just the first few things that came to mind).

I am thankful for those of you who have courageously worked to make the discipline a more welcoming and inclusive place. Whether it’s been through addressing inequity, discrimination, harassment, or assault, working to create a culture where these things are less acceptable, being willing to listen to the voices of those who have been marginalized and oppressed, standing up for yourself, or providing support to others who have been unjustly harmed on account of their social identity.

I am thankful for those of you who are deepening your own understanding of the complexity of disciplinary boundaries and the ways in which they are sometimes used for exclusionary purposes, or pushing those boundaries with your own work.

I am thankful for the exciting and brilliant work that’s being done in feminist philosophy, critical race theory, and philosophy of disability. It’s been a joy to read, and though it is not this work that first spurred my love of philosophy it is the work that reminds me of it, and gives me the greatest hope for our future as a discipline.

I am thankful for my fellow bloggers here at Feminist Philosophers. You have been an inspiration to me.

What are you thankful for?

(Note: Comments in the spirit of this post welcome–i.e., spreading a bit of cheer–comments in another spirit are not, but the internet is a big place and I am sure you can find another platform to host other discussions)

Fantastic new directory of philosophers from underrepresented groups!

Ruth Chang writes:

It is fully searchable and really neat. If you’re a conference organizer looking for philosophers in your city who work on X, you can search the directory and come up with a list of such philosophers from underrepresented groups that fit the bill. If you’re on a hiring committee, and the usual suspects keep coming to mind but you’d like to do a more thorough search, you can pull up the directory and find all philosophers in the directory who work in a general AOS or even on a specific research topic. If you’re an editor looking for a list of possible candidates to invite to contribute to a volume or to referee a paper, the UPDirectory can help you.

This sounds like a really wonderful tool. Go check it out!

From the Ivory Tower to the Abyss

I just learned about this blog about doing graduate study with a disability. I haven’t had much time to poke around on it yet, but it looks promising. The latest post offers a rich discussion of depression within academic philosophy. Check it out:

I think it should be the job for philosophy to demand that society’s discourse regarding mental health gets less awful. Good philosophy should offer alternatives for social problems, or at the very least scold the often careless ideologies that cause social problems.

But first, academic philosophy itself needs to turn its gaze to depression and how it is treated within its own ranks. We treat it with silence. No one finds it polite to speak on it, unless talking about the personal lives of the dead or as a dry systematic theory. We philosophers prefer to hold depression at arm’s length, even though it often lives so close within our chests as a tightening knot limiting our actions.

Adjuncting and the stink of femaleness or poverty

A guest post by Elizabeth Picciuto.

This is my third year as an adjunct. From what I hear from hiring committees. I’m pretty sure that means I will have the stink of adjunct “staleness.” Among the zillions of reasons that adjuncting is a rotten state of affairs, allow me to add my own. I adjunct because I have three children, one of whom has severe physical and cognitive disabilities. Accepting a one year VAP means not only uprooting my typical kids. I must find new doctors (orthopedics, gastroenterology, pulmonology etc. etc.) and acquaint them with his complex medical background. I must find local schools that actually fund their special education. I must create a new IEP (that is, a contract with a school system that lays out what his requirements are for an appropriate public education). I must find accessible housing. In short, it’s too large a burden for a 1 year job that pays $55-ish K, (if you’re lucky).

Caregiving, of course, falls disproportionately on women and those from less advantaged backgrounds. And so, the stink of “staleness” may really be the stink of femaleness or poverty.

I’ve heard people say that if people really want to stay in philosophy, they’d make some sacrifices. I feel like I’ve made plenty of sacrifices just to finish my dissertation. I’m happy to move nearly anywhere for a low-paying job as long as it offers job security and health benefits. How much more of a sacrifice am I supposed to make? Honestly, do we really want to excise from the field people who also value their families’ well-beings? Mightn’t they have something philosophically interesting to say?

Pregnant Deaf Woman Sues for Interpreter Access During Delivery

Cheylla Silva has filed an emergency motion in U.S. federal court (Miami) to obtain signed language interpreter access during childbirth. 

Silva is hoping the delivery goes smoothly because if there are serious problems, she might be at a loss to communicate with her doctors and nurses. Silva is profoundly deaf, and, for months, Baptist administrators have refused to provide her with an American sign language interpreter, she says.

“Can you imagine going to a doctor’s office and not being able to understand what they are talking about? And it’s about your care. How would you feel?”

 “One of the essential elements of personal dignity,” the pleading adds, “is the ability to obtain the necessary information to make an adequate and informed choice about one’s own medical treatment. Medical treatment and childbirth are some of the most intense and important experiences for a person.”

Then again, it should be easy enough to just write notes in one’s second language during childbirth, right?

NeuroGenderings III

Below is a list of podcasts from Neurogenderings III, a conference on the brain and gender, held this year in May. The podcasts are available here.

I heard Jordan-Young at a conference in honor of Anne Fasto-Sterling a week before the conference; I do recommend listening to her. And if you think that sex is purely biological then you will find Anne F-S’s keynote very interesting, I hope. The other speakers are very distinguished scholars.

Dr Cynthia KRAUS, Senior lecturer at the Institute of social sciences of the University of Lausanne. Opening words to NeuroGenderings III: the first international Dissensus** Conference, 8 May 2014, University of Lausanne.

Prof. Franciska KRINGS, Vice-Rector of the University of Lausanne. Welcome words to NeuroGenderings III: the first international Dissensus Conference, 8 May 2014, University of Lausanne.

KEYNOTES

Rebecca JORDAN-YOUNG, Tow Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Barnard College. Sex as Chimera: Tools for (Un)Thinking Difference.

Gillian EINSTEIN, Visiting Professor of Neuroscience and Gender Medicine, Linköping University, Associate Professor of Psychology, Dalla Landa School of Public Health, University of Toronto. When Does a Difference Make a Difference? Exemples from Situated Neuroscience.

Georgina RIPPON, Professor of Cognitive NeuroImaging, Aston University. Functional Neuroimaging (FNI) and Sex/Gender Research: of Differences, Dichotomies and Entanglement.

Anne FAUSTO-STERLING, Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Biology and Gender Studies, Brown University. How Your Generic Baby Aquires Gender.

**from your dictionary.com: When a large group of people is very unhappy with a certain policy or event, this collective unhappiness is an example of dissensus.

Shocking ableism from the Sunday Times

The Sunday Times printed an editorial by UCL psychology professor Adrian Furnham that’s so shocking in the blatant ableism it endorses that I’m really at a loss for words. Here’s the conclusion:

Psychiatrists have grouped those with personality disorders into three similar clusters: dramatic, emotional and erratic types; odd and eccentric types; and anxious and fearful types.

There are three important questions. The first is how you spot these people at selection so you can reject them. This is easier with some disorders than others. It is virtually impossible to spot the psychopath or the obsessive-compulsive person at an interview. Clearly, you need to question those who have worked with them in the past to get some sense of their pathology, which many are skilled at hiding.

The second is, given that they have already been appointed, how to manage them. There is, alas, no simple method that converts the antagonist into a warm, open, honest individual or the disinhibited worker into a careful, serious and dutiful employee. Sometimes it is a matter of damage limitation.

The third is how to rid your workplace of these maladaptive personalities, and that is the toughest question of all.

Yes, we should definitely fire all the people who the DSM might classify as ‘odd and eccentric types’. Like Steve Jobs, for example:

A search of the Nexis news database turned up the word “obsessive” in connection with a Steve Jobs-related article a total of 68 times in the past week.

Numerous news reports have noted Mr. Jobs’ “obsessive” attention to detail and perfection in the products he brought to life. Indeed, when you get past the tribute articles and dig deeper into Mr. Jobs’ past, you find stories of him being tyrannical and harsh as a leader, paying exacting attention to details that he undoubtedly paid other top executives to monitor. But the vision of Mr. Jobs that we seem to get is of someone who just can’t help but be involved in every single minute step of the process of product development and marketing.

Clearly too odd to be successful, that one! Get rid of him!

(Thanks for the tip, N!)