Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

HRC’s bathroom break December 26, 2015

There was a five minute break in the Democratic Debate on Dec. 22nd. HRC was late in returning, and the debate started without her. That struck me as a bit outrageous, but it wasn’t high on my list of things to think about. Maybe I should have felt differently as the comments by the conservatives started up. But now I can be glad the Huffington Post has done a great job and saved me the effort.

Everything in the article is worth reading. I’m picking out a snippet that seems to me quite rich with observations, and I hope others will want to read more.

The author is Soraya Chemaly:

I write and talk about controversial subjects all the time – violence, rape, race – but I have never received as vitriolic a response as last summer, when I wrote about the disparity in public facilities for men and women, The Everyday Sexism of Women Waiting in Bathroom Lines; it was a piece about norms and knowledge. Angry people mostly men, by the hundreds, wrote to tell me I was vulgar, stupid, ignorant and should learn to stand in order to pee, because it’s superior. It continued for weeks, until I wrote a follow-up piece on the ten most sexist responses.

People may think that women no longer face sexism in media or politics when they speak, but that ignores the very obvious fact that even before women say anything they have already, in split seconds, jumped through hundreds of “what if I said something about sexism” hoops. Can you imagine the backlash and media frenzy if Clinton had actually, in some detail, pointed out that the women’s room was farther away or that there is often, especially at large public events like this debate, a line that women patiently wait in while men flit in and out and makes jokes about women’s vanity? That the microaggressive hostility evident, structurally, in so many of our legacy public spaces is relevant to women every day. “Bathroom codes enforce archaic and institutionalized gender norms,” wrote Princeton students Monica Shi & Amanda Shi about their school’s systemic sexism this year.


“This isn’t even a slap on the wrist” October 10, 2015

What happens if someone is found responsible for multiple violations of a university’s harassment policies after multiple individuals allege they have “repeatedly engaged in inappropriate physical behavior with students, including unwanted massages, kisses, and groping”? In one case, it turns out, basically nothing. Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at University of California Berkeley, was found to have violated Berkeley’s policies, and according to BuzzFeed: “As a result of the findings, the women were informed, Marcy has been given ‘clear expectations concerning his future interactions with students,’ which he must follow or risk ‘sanctions that could include suspension or dismissal.'”

David Charbonneau, a professor of astronomy at Harvard University, said the matter has broad implications.

“Geoff Marcy is undeniably the most prominent exoplanet researcher in the U.S.,” he said, referring to the study of planets beyond our solar system. “The stakes here couldn’t be higher. We are working so hard to have gender parity in this field, and when the most prominent person is a routine harasser, it threatens a major objective nationally.”

. . .“After all of this effort and trying to go through the proper channels, Berkeley has ultimately come up with no response,” said Joan Schmelz, who until recently led the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. (Schmelz was not a complainant in Berkeley’s investigation.) “I’ve seen sexual harassers get slaps on the wrist before. This isn’t even a slap on the wrist.”


A business argument for diversity (& a cartoon) May 16, 2015

Filed under: achieving equality,discrimination,gendered conference campaign — annejjacobson @ 8:00 pm

Not a new argument, but a useful source:

“fooled by Experience”
Soyer, Emre
Hogarth, Robin M.
Harvard Business Review. May2015, Vol. 93 Issue 5, p72-77. 6p.
As Peter Drucker wrote, “The first rule in decision making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement.” To devise healthy strategies, executives need to hear many perspectives, including feedback that is critical of their own actions. Executives should surround themselves with people from diverse backgrounds and promote independent thinking in their team. Many executives task certain coworkers, friends, or family members with speaking frankly on important matters.
Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, stresses the importance of building a brain trust, a group of advisers who will deflate egos and voice unpopular opinions. He argues in his September 2008 HBR article that disagreements in meetings end up benefiting everyone in the long run, because “it’s far better to learn about problems from colleagues when there’s still time to fix them than from the audience after it’s too late.”

Also from the same issue of the Harvard Business Review:

A company’s reputation is reliant on the conduct of its employees. Posting “funny” videos of yourself online? What were you thinking?


On ‘Model Minorities’ April 18, 2015

Filed under: discrimination,police,politics,race — noetika @ 5:22 am

David Shih, a professor in the English department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, has written an excellent post on the idea of a ‘model minority’. I quote from it extensively below, but I encourage you to read the original post — among other things, he connects this issue to the seeming double standard at play in the indictment of NYPD officer Peter Liang, versus failures to indict white officers in other cases.  The full post, You’re The Model Minority until You’re Not, is here.

My students sometimes aren’t sure how to feel about “positive” stereotypes of Asian Americans. What’s wrong with being known as educated, hard-working, and law-abiding? The problem with positive stereotypes is the same problem with negative ones: the dominant group gets to decide what they are. It decides who gets to be a part of the favored racial group and why. What this means is that you’re the model minority until you’re not. The history of Chinese Americans is a crash course on the social construction of race in America. Stereotypes come and go. From the beginning of significant Chinese immigration during the California gold rush to the present, Chinese Americans have been racialized as undesirable or desirable depending on circumstances at home and abroad. The Exclusion era, the World War 2 era, and the Korean War era all racialized Chinese Americans differently according to the historical needs of white supremacy. It took the Civil Rights Movement to shift the social meanings of Chinese Americans once again. Like negative stereotypes, the model minority stereotype is also a tool of white supremacy.

The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming black people. From its lede, the unsigned “Success Story of One Minority Group in U.S.” is interested in more than the state of Chinese America; it aims to compare Chinese Americans to black Americans. The article lists off the admirable qualities of a monolithic Chinese American community: low crime rate (especially among juveniles), strong work ethic, traditional family structures, value on education, low public assistance usage, etc. However, comparisons with black communities quickly become conspicuous . . .

White supremacy spins the tale of the model minority because it is a story of American meritocracy. As late as 2014, the rags-to-riches model minority stereotype was the core talking point Bill O’Reilly used to rebut the argument that white privilege is real. O’Reilly cites Asian American rates of education and income that exceed those of all other groups, including white Americans. But the conflation of “Asian American” and “model minority” identities masks the poverty of many ethnic groups within Asian America. Coverage of the LA uprising tended to cast Korean American immigrants as successful entrepreneurs despite unique institutional barriers that produced wide economic disparity within the community. In 2010, Hmong Americans had the lowest per capita income of any racial/ethnic group, including Latinos. As the story of meritocracy, the model minority stereotype can disempower Asian Americans themselves by linking low social status to cultural deficiency. Positive stereotypes are a two-way street.

Today, model minorities can be too good to be true. Highly-skilled immigrants from India and China make possible the Asian demographic O’Reilly describes, and industry demand for them is so great that tech firms must enter a lottery for their H-1B visas. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) questions whether the perception of a perpetual shortage of tech workers is, in fact, accurate. The “Silicon Valley STEM Hoax,” he claims, is a ploy of American tech firms to hire lower-paid foreign labor instead of home-grown American labor. This fear of cheap foreign labor, mostly Asian, is not new. The economic “yellow peril” stereotype that defined 19th-century Chinese immigrants conjured the problem of an endless stream of labor against which the white workingman could not compete. The devastating solution to the problem was the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, in effect until 1943. While Sessions’ concerns are, by all accounts, marginalized, they do illustrate how readily the assets of the model minority–hard work and frugality–can be reimagined as deficits. New yellow perils. You are the model minority until you are not.


Lynching as racial terrorism February 11, 2015

Filed under: achieving equality,discrimination,race — annejjacobson @ 5:52 pm

If you are glad we in the US are not like ISIS, and don’t do brutal, horrible killings, you might think again:

From the NY Times:

It is important to remember that the hangings, burnings and dismemberments of black American men, women and children that were relatively common in this country between the Civil War and World War II were often public events. They were sometimes advertised in newspapers and drew hundreds and even thousands of white spectators, including elected officials and leading citizens who were so swept up in the carnivals of death that they posed with their children for keepsake photographs within arm’s length of mutilated black corpses.

Kirvin, Tex., where three black men accused of killing a white woman were set on fire in 1922 before a crowd of hundreds.History of Lynchings in the South Documents Nearly 4,000 NamesFEB. 10, 2015
These episodes of horrific, communitywide violence have been erased from civic memory in lynching-belt states like Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. But that will change if Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights attorney, succeeds in his mission to build markers and memorials at lynching sites throughout the South as a way of forcing communities and the country to confront an era of racial terror directly and recognize the role that it played in shaping the current racial landscape.

One of the important questions raised is whether the more recent treatment of African Americans by the police and the judicial system is really a substitute for lynching. Do read the article. Even the comments I have seen are better than usual. (I probably will regret saying that.)


Civility v. Freedom? Or something else? February 7, 2015

Daily Nous reported that Marquette University is seeking to fire McAdams, and discusses academic freedom in a separate post here. Further discussion of these events is taking place at the Academe Blog (the blog of the AAUP, though its bloggers note the posts may not represent the official position of the organization):

Competence and integrity “in the current case,” as Holz puts it, demand that McAdams refrain from “sham[ing] and intimidat[ing] [a graduate student teacher] with an Internet story that was incompetent, inaccurate, and lacking in integrity, respect for other’s opinions, and appropriate restraint.” In Holz’s telling, McAdams need not exercise appropriate restraint because doing so would foster a more civil discourse—that would be the deeply problematic civility narrative. Rather, he needs to do so because this is how you help graduate students develop as teachers, a key part of faculty members’ jobs at a university: “it is vital for our university and our profession that graduate student instructors learn their craft as teachers of sometimes challenging and difficult students.” Whenever faculty choose to take an interest in graduate students’ teaching, those student instructors have a reasonable expectation of “appropriate and constructive feedback in order to improve their teaching skills.” McAdams made no effort to offer constructive feedback before or after condemning Abbate as a teacher, by name, on his public blog.

After listing several incidents of a similar flavor, Holz concludes that “with this latest example of unprofessional and irresponsible conduct [Marquette has] no confidence that [McAdams] will live up to any additional assurances . . . that [he] will take seriously [his] duties to respect and protect [Marquette] students, including [Marquette] graduate student instructors.”

. . .  Academic freedom is a license to say whatever one please in one’s research and non-institutional, extramural communications. It needs to remain such, as this license guarantees the very possibility of inquiry. And there are of course grey areas, where the limits of academic freedom are unclear. The AAUP often intervenes in these areas in the service of protecting speech rights—and rightly so. Defending faculty speech rights makes the project of a modern university possible. But so does helping students develop.

It is true that, as a matter of principle, the academic freedom central to the very idea of a university trumps civility. But McAdams’ is not a case of academic freedom under siege. His is a case of an abusive professor persistently, up to the present day, refusing to acknowledge any special obligation to the development of a graduate student at his university.

We only harm ourselves in working to add this sorry story to the record of CIVILITY v.FREEDOM.



Filed under: academia,disability,discrimination — annejjacobson @ 6:28 am

I don’t think this blog, phdisabled, has been mentioned on our blog. It looks to be mainly for students and based in the UK, but reading it can make one feel the presence of a community. Have a look!


Forced resignation due to breastfeeding not sexist February 5, 2015

Filed under: breastfeeding,discrimination — jennysaul @ 6:50 am

because men can lactate too.  


Sadly not the Onion.


UPDATE: It seems the description in the linked article is  problematic.  See below for an emerging discussion of the complexities of the case.


Lasting change in view from 20 minute conversation with gay person January 31, 2015

Filed under: bias,discrimination,glbt,marriage,science — jennysaul @ 8:01 pm


For the study, Michael LaCour of UCLA and Donald Green of Columbia surveyed a bunch of registered voters in Southern California to get their views on gay marriage (and a bunch of other issues, to hide the true purpose of the study), and offered them financial incentives to get friends and family members to participate as well. Then, trained canvassers were dispatched to the homes of the people who had taken the survey, where they delivered a script about either gay marriage or recycling (to create a placebo group) and asked the voters to express their opinions on the subject. Halfway through the conversations about gay marriage, the gay canvassers revealed they were gay and wanted to get married but couldn’t because of California’s then-ban on gay marriage, while the straight ones “instead described how their child, friend, or relative” was dealing with the same conundrum. The conversations lasted, on average, 22 minutes… In the short term, the 20-minute conversations about gay marriage had a clear and large effect: Before the conversation, the residents had held beliefs on gay marriage in line with the average resident of Nebraska or Ohio; a few days after, their beliefs were in line with the average residents of Connecticut and Massachusetts (an increase of 0.48 points on a 5-point scale), and whether the canvasser was gay or straight didn’t have much impact on the size of the effect. But it was the longer-term effect that was more surprising: While “90% of the initial treatment effect dissipated a month after the conversation with canvassers” among voters who spoke with a straight canvasser, among those who conversed with a gay canvasser, the size of the effect increased over time — “ only gay canvassers’ effects persisted in 3-week, 6-week, and 9-month follow-ups.” By the end of the study, among voters who spoke with a gay canvasser, the gap between where they were and where they ended up on the issue of gay marriage was equivalent to the difference in opinion on the subject between the average resident of Georgia and the average resident of Massachusetts.

For more, go here.


Examples of implicit racial bias at work January 4, 2015

An article in the NY Times contains important information on research into implicit bias. It also has a number of useful, though upsetting, examples. Here are some of them:

■ When doctors were shown patient histories and asked to make judgments about heart disease, they were much less likely to recommend cardiac catheterization (a helpful procedure) to black patients — even when their medical files were statistically identical to those of white patients.

■ When whites and blacks were sent to bargain for a used car, blacks were offered initial prices roughly $700 higher, and they received far smaller concessions.

■ Several studies found that sending emails with stereotypically black names in response to apartment-rental ads on Craigslist elicited fewer responses than sending ones with white names. A regularly repeated study by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development sent African-Americans and whites to look at apartments and found that African-Americans were shown fewer apartments to rent and houses for sale.

■ White state legislators were found to be less likely to respond to constituents with African-American names. This was true of legislators in both political parties.

■ Emails sent to faculty members at universities, asking to talk about research opportunities, were more likely to get a reply if a stereotypically white name was used.

■ Even eBay auctions were not immune. When iPods were auctioned on eBay, researchers randomly varied the skin color on the hand holding the iPod. A white hand holding the iPod received 21 percent more offers than a black hand.

■ The criminal justice system — the focus of current debates — is harder to examine this way. One study, though, found a clever method. The pools of people from which jurors are chosen are effectively random. Analyzing this natural experiment revealed that an all-white jury was 16 percentage points more likely to convict a black defendant than a white one, but when a jury had one black member, it convicted both at the same rate.

A number of these can also be used as examples of white privilege.



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