Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Jennifer Saul on women in philosophy in phil magazine February 28, 2015

Filed under: academia,bias,gender,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 5:02 pm

In the latest issue of Philosopher’s Magazine Jennifer Saul describes the dearth of women in philosophy, lists a number of causes and describes some remedial steps. The result is a great introduction to a very serious problen in the philosophy profession. It’s also a quick refresher course for those who’ve pick up this material in bits and pieces.

In the UK, women are 46% of undergraduate students in philosophy, but only 24% of permanent staff. Women are approximately 21% of professional philosophers in the US, but only 17% of those employed full-time. These figures are very unlike those for most fields of the humanities, in which women tend to be near or above parity with men. Indeed, they more closely resemble mathematics and physical sciences (biological sciences are much closer to parity). One recent study by Kieran Healy showed philosophy to be more male than mathematics, with only computer science, physics and engineering showing lower percentages of women.

We’re recognized a number of times in this blog that there are other features that can provoke discriminatory reactions in philosophy: disability, race, not having English as your first language, class and being in the glbt community. And no doubt more my memory is not bringing to the fore. O, and then there’s ageism, which I think we don’t discuss much. You are welcome to take note of any of these in discussion.

 

Faculty deal with sexist abuse on Yik Yak January 31, 2015

Filed under: gender inequality,sexual harassment — noetika @ 3:14 pm

From the Chronicle:

The three Eastern Michigan University professors had no idea that they were under attack by the Honors College students seated before them.

The three women knew that many of the nearly 230 freshmen in the auditorium resented having to show up at 9 a.m. every Friday for a mandatory interdisciplinary-studies class. But whatever unhappy students previously had said directly to them seemed mild in comparison to the verbal abuse being hurled at them silently as they taught one Friday morning last fall.

Students typed the words into their smartphones, and the messages appeared on their classmates’ screens via Yik Yak, a smartphone application that lets people anonymously post brief remarks on virtual bulletin boards. Since its release, in November 2013, the Yik Yak app has been causing havoc on campuses as a result of students’ posting threats of harm, racial slurs, and slanderous gossip.

After the class ended, one of its 13 fellows—junior and senior honors students who were helping teach—pulled a professor aside and showed her a screen-captured record of what she and her colleagues had just gone through. Students had written more than 100 demeaning Yik Yak posts about them, including sexual remarks, references to them using “bitch” and a vulgar term for female anatomy, and insults about their appearance and teaching. Even some of the fellows appeared to have joined the attack.

In an email to administrators later that day, one of the three, Margaret A. Crouch, a professor of philosophy, said, “I will quit before I put up with this again.”

Eastern Michigan is hardly alone in grappling with how to tame abusive behavior on Yik Yak, which has designated bulletin boards for more than 100 campuses. But the episode at Eastern Michigan is significant because it highlights the potential for anonymous online comments to sour relationships among students, faculty members, and administrators. Instructors who once felt in charge of their classrooms can suddenly find themselves at students’ mercy.

Sites such as Yik Yak and other forums for anonymous online comments give speech “scope and amplification” it did not have before, which “changes the quality of the community,” says Tracy Mitrano, director of Internet culture, policy, and law at Cornell University. Although offensive speech posted to Yik Yak generally disappears from the site within a few hours, on other sites, Ms. Mitrano says, often “it remains there, and the individuals don’t have any power to remove it, and it hurts.” . . .

Susan Moeller, president of Eastern Michigan’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, this month urged faculty members in an email “to get the EMU administration to take this issue seriously.” She called cyberbullying “an issue of classroom safety” and said it “can pose a serious threat to faculty members’ work environment and ability to conduct their classes.”

Ms. Crouch and another target of the online attack, Elisabeth Däumer, a professor of English, say they see the Yik Yak incident as part of a broader deterioration of students’ discipline and respect for female instructors. Their students’ hostility appeared fueled, they say, by unhappiness over being required to devote nearly three hours every Friday morning to an experimental honors course, “Interdisciplinary Exploration of Global Issues: The Environment: Space/Place, Purity/Danger, Hope/Activism.”

The professors characterized the online abuse as part of a hostile work environment. In a confidential report on the Yik Yak incident issued last month, Sharon L. Abraham, the university’s director of diversity and affirmative action, said the professors had “described a classroom environment where students talked during lecture, responded aggressively to requests to stop inappropriate behavior, and were generally disrespectful.” It said the professors had “felt threatened when dealing with students in the class who were physically large and male.”

Some Yik Yak posts about the professors suggested racial and cultural divides.

After one of the professors described a topic as too complicated to get into, one student wrote, “Are you calling me stupid? I’m an honors student bitch!”

Another Yik Yak post said, “She keeps talking about Detroit. Bitch, yo white ass probably ain’t never been in Detroit.”

Ms. Däumer recalls reading the Yik Yak posts directed at her and asking herself, “Just who the hell did they think they are?”

Ms. Crouch says the Yik Yak posts “wrecked the class” and “made it impossible for us to appear in front of the 220 students again.” The instructors did not confront their students about the remarks, she says, because “we did not really feel we had any authority anymore.”

 

Ghostbusters January 29, 2015

Filed under: comedy,gender — noetika @ 7:46 pm

You might have heard that the Ghostbusters re-boot will feature four female leads. If you’re like me, you might have thought the casting choices were excellent. If you did, then you might have been disappointed (though perhaps unsurprised) by many of the reactions to the news on twitter, reddit, and other online fora. Jezebel provides some comic relief (language warning for the full piece in the link, in case swearing offends you):

Four female Ghostbusters simply aren’t realistic. Only men are uniquely equipped to wield proton packs and analyze ectoplasm, a substance emitted by ghosts, WHICH ARE REAL. Women’s hands are much TOO SMALL to hold a proton pack. GHOSTBUSTERS is supposed to be a COMEDY and WOMEN AREN’T FUNNY. And good luck getting audiences to believe that FOUR WOMEN could possibly do SCIENCE, much less in the same room without GETTING THEIR PERIODS ALL AT ONCE or snatching each other’s weaves in a fight over a man. I watch television AND READ THE INTERNET. I know how women are.

. . .

Also: SEXISM!!! THE SEXISM!!! Imagine how angry feminists would be if Hollywood decided to make an all-male Sex and the City, or an all-male Joy Luck Club, or an all-male… OTHER MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN. Ladies, you ALREADY direct 17% of all major studio movies, and even sometimes are allowed to talk onscreen. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!!?

 

How many college men are willing to commit sexual assault? January 10, 2015

From HuffPo:

Close to 1-in-3 collegiate males admitted in a recent study they would force a woman to sexual intercourse, but many would not consider that rape, Newsweek reports.

The survey found 31.7 percent of men said they would act on “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse” if they could get away with it, but just 13.6 percent said they had “intentions to rape a woman” if there weren’t any consequences.

The authors of this study note the difference relies on whether or not they described what constitutes sexual assault, versus whether they simply called it rape. For this study, the researchers defined rape as “intercourse by use of force or threat of force against a victim’s wishes.”

. . . The team surveyed 86 male college students, most of whom were juniors and Caucasian, at one university. In addition to asking them about forced sexual intercourse and rape, the participants were quizzed on various items to determine whether they held hostile attitudes towards females. The researchers concede their sample size was small, and hope to expand on it, but Edwards told Newsweek, “the No. 1 point is there are people that will say they would force a woman to have sex but would deny they would rape a woman.”

Similar to the results of this survey of would-be perpetrators, victims are often found to shy away from identifying their experience of forced intercourse as rape. For example, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 17 percent of female undergraduates said in a survey they experienced unwanted sexual behaviors involving force, threat or incapacitation. But only 10 percent of those MIT women also said yes when asked if they were sexually assaulted, and just 5 percent said yes when asked if they were raped.

The study is here: “Denying Rape but Endorsing Forceful Intercourse: Exploring Differences Among Responders

 

‘Somewhere in America’

Filed under: beauty,body,class,education,gender,glbt,politics,race,rape,sexual assault — philodaria @ 5:46 am

Via Bustle, a spoken word performance:

“The trio of teenage girls start the poem ominously: ‘The greatest lessons you will ever teach us, you won’t even remember.’ From there, they jump into fairly controversial, dark topics like rape, race, gun control, socioeconomics, and censorship. Emotions rage so hard in the three-and-a-half-minute piece, occasionally you can spot a small vocal crack in the performance, but that just lends more validation to the truth they kept spouting. ‘Somewhere in America,’ ushers in the hard-to-hear stuff,  ‘Women are killed for rejecting dates, but God forbid I bring my girlfriend to prom.’ Another: ‘The preppy kids go thrifting because they think it sounds fun. But we go ‘cause that’s all we’ve got money for.’ “

 

“Is it Child abuse to make a trans child ‘Change’?” January 9, 2015

Filed under: bias,gender,human rights,parenting,psychology — annejjacobson @ 7:50 pm

This is the topic for a NY Times “room for debate.” It is in response to the very sad suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a trans child whose parents loved almost everything about her, her mother said. Just not her being trans; they took her to conversion therapy to try to change her back to a boy named “Joshua” (her name at birth).

There’s a special feature to this NY Times debate. Everyone thinks it is an exceptionally bad idea to try to make a trans child change. This is the first “room for debate” I’ve seen when the other side has had no representation.

 

What can philosophy learn from the climate in economics? January 7, 2015

Filed under: academia,bias,gender,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 6:06 pm

The journal Quartz recently published the article, “How big is the sexism problem in economics? This article’s co-author is anonymous because of it”.

The article starts off noting:

The Economist’s recent list of the 25 most influential economists did not include a single woman. Many male former central bankers and regional Federal Reserve Bank governors were included on the list, but the Economist gave itself a special rule to exclude active central bankers, which meant that Janet Yellen—arguably the world’s most influential economist—didn’t make the list.

Much of what the article catalogues will be very familiar to women philosophers, and to some other philosophers from underrepresented groups: Seeming constant microagressions and macro ones too. Lower pay, power imbalances, the impermissibility of assertive (=bitchy) behavior for women, having a family, a harder time getting outside offers, and so on.

The article raises another issue which is starting to receive a lot of attention in philosophy: the diversity of methods and content:

One final step that would make economics less forbidding for women is for each economist to become open to a wider range of scientific approaches and topics. Statistically, men and women are not drawn to the same fields within economics. And even within a field, women are drawn to a different balance between immediate real-world relevance and theoretical elegance. It is natural for each economist (and for each academic in general) to construct a narrative for why his or her approach to economics is the best. But since men in senior ranks in economics are more numerous than women, the narratives that men construct for why their individual approaches to economics are better usually win out in hiring and promotion decisions over the narratives that women construct for why their individual approaches are better.

Gosh, sounds like what a lot of us call home.

h/t justin weinberg

 

Women’s abilities in Math: a surprising conservative viewpoint

Filed under: academia,achieving equality,bias,gender — annejjacobson @ 5:18 pm

The authors on the paper from which the quote below comes include Ceci and Williams, with Ceci the corresponding author. Readers may be aware of complaints on this blog about their research, which tends to claim, for example, that there is no discrimination against women in STEM fields. Conservative columnists love them. Their following assessment, which in effect summarizes theses we’ve arrived at over the last 7 and a half years after considerable attention to the literature and help from readers, is happily surprising:

The results of our myriad analyses reveal that early sex differences in spatial and mathematical reasoning need not stem from biological bases, that the gap between average female and male math ability is narrowing (suggesting strong environmental influences), and that sex differences in math ability at the right tail show variation over time and across nationalities, ethnicities, and other factors, indicating that the ratio of males to females at the right tail can and does change. We find that gender differences in attitudes toward and expectations about math careers and ability (controlling for actual ability) are evident by kindergarten and increase thereafter, leading to lower female propensities to major in math-intensive subjects in college but higher female propensities to major in non-math-intensive sciences…

 

Awesome LEGO Set Design December 27, 2014

Filed under: gender,women in academia — noetika @ 8:38 pm

Alatariel (who designed this female scientist mini LEGO set) has another project up for review; Science Adventures, which features two female and one male scientists. If the set gets 10,000 votes LEGO will consider producing it (as they did the previous set). Voting requires setting up a LEGO ID, but it’s quick and easy to do!

(Thanks R!)

Science Adventures LEGO set

 

What I’m thankful for December 26, 2014

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)

 

 
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