Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Diversifying a Discipline March 29, 2016

Filed under: bias,gender,minorities in philosophy,race,women in philosophy — jennysaul @ 1:23 am

I haven’t been able to read this yet because it’s behind a paywall, but I’m going to find a way around that because it’s important.

In 2015, Penn State produced an unprecedented number of black, female Ph.D.s in philosophy. Here’s how.



Effect of gender role threat on vote preference March 27, 2016

Filed under: achieving equality,bias,gender,politics,science — jennysaul @ 3:25 pm

This is a really important finding, and indicates something that we will very much need to find a way to fight, should Clinton be the Democratic candidate.


 Volumes of research in sociology have shown how men respond to perceived threats to their masculinity: in the face of personal or societal threats to their masculine identity, some men become more likely to endorse anti-gay stances, pro-gun policies, or anti-abortion views…

In the study, a randomized experiment was embedded in an otherwise normal political survey of likely voters in New Jersey. Half of the respondents were asked about the distribution of income in their own households – whether they or their spouse earned more money – before being asked about their preference in the Presidential general election. The other half were only asked about the distribution of income in their household at the end of the survey. This question was designed to remind people of disruption to traditional gender roles, without explicitly mentioning Clinton or a female president, and simulate the sorts of subtle gender-based attacks that can be expected when Clinton is a general election candidate.

The effects of the gender role threat question are enormous. As Figure 1 shows, men who weren’t asked about spousal income until after being asked about the Presidential election preferred Clinton over Trump, 49 to 33. However, those who were reminded about the threat to gender roles embodied by Clinton preferred Trump over Clinton, 50 to 42. Concerns about gender role threat shifted men from preferring Clinton by 16 to preferring Trump by 8, a 24 point shift…

The case that this is really about Clinton’s gender, rather than her party is made clearer by the fact that the same experiment has almost no effect on support for Sanders in the match-up with Trump.

This seems pretty compelling, and very worrying.



Happy anniversary of contraception being legal for the unmarried in the US! March 23, 2016

Filed under: gender,gender inequality,health,religion,Uncategorized — noetika @ 3:47 am


March 22 marks the 41st anniversary of Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Supreme Court decision that established the right of single individuals to possess contraception. That’s right: As recently as 1972, you could go to jail for giving contraception to an unmarried person. And William Baird did. Eight times. In five different states.

That piece is actually three years old, but since today was the anniversary, I wanted to share — particularly since the issue of contraceptives is hitting the Supreme Court yet again this week.


Demographics of Philosophy Doctorates in the US January 13, 2016

Filed under: gender,race — jennysaul @ 6:26 pm

Eric Schwitzgebel has a very useful post up.  Here are some of the main findings:


In the 1970s, 17% of the SED philosophy respondents were women. In the 1980s it was 22%. In the 1990s it was 27%. In the 2000s it was also 27%. So far in the 2010s it has been 28%.



Also notable is the increase from 1-2% Hispanic or Latino in the 1970s-1980s to 6.3% in the 2010s. This is still, however, well below the approximately 17% of the U.S. population that is Hispanic. It is also matched by a sharp decline in “Ethnicity not reported”, raising the possibility that it is in part a reporting effect.

The percentage of non-Hispanic Black or African American U.S. PhD recipients does not appear to have increased much if at all since the 1970s, hovering around 1.4% to 2.2%, compared to 13% of the U.S. population.


Men on Death and the afterlife November 25, 2015

Filed under: gender,gendered conference campaign,sex — annejjacobson @ 3:22 pm

For an explanation of our Gendered Conference Campaign, see here.


Death and the Afterlife
22 January 2016

This symposium is an interdisciplinary exchange focused on the recent book Death and the Afterlife, by Professor Samuel Scheffler (New York University). It will bring together perspectives from social anthropology, philosophy, and political theory…It is open to scholars from all fields, and papers will be presented with a broad audience in mind.

Confirmed speakers:

Professor Samuel Scheffler (Department of Philosophy, New York University)
Professor Hallvard Lillehammer (Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck College, University of London)
Professor Joel Robins (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge)
Dr James Laidlaw (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Dr Jonathan Mair (School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures, University of Manchester)
Dr Paul Sagar (Deparment of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge)


Are boys sexist? November 9, 2015

Filed under: bias,gender,human rights — annejjacobson @ 7:11 pm

[ I’m more short on time than I had realized; readers are invited to give a more nuanced account.  Tim King in particular seems to open the way for more layered views]

The New York Times has a discussion on whether boys are today raised with sexist attitudes.. It is unfortunately largely conducted in terms as general as the title of this quote.

Leonard Sax and Christine Hoff Summers show up as gender essentialists, to put it perhaps unkindly, and in general the discussion of all five participants seems bereft of positive examples of parents or schools getting it right.

Two other essayists tend to converge on the following

Girls knocking against traditional male doors are aspirational, while boys gravitating toward anything traditionally feminine are devalued. And suspect. True gender equality can’t exist until both boys and girls can embrace the full range of their humanity.

It isn’t clear that we have solved the problem of raising at least most girls to insist on equal treatment. Nor is it clear that it is in their interests always to do so. No one seems to consider that various senses of privilege are adding to the problems.


CHE: Why getting rid of predatory faculty can be so hard: addition October 26, 2015

Filed under: academia,gender,human rights,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 7:18 pm

Tenure and the reactions of faculty peers can be a significant part of the problem, according to the CHE (in an artcle unfortunately behind a firewall):

Even a professor who is the subject of regular misconduct complaints often cannot be easily removed from a campus. Tenure protects many professors from quick dismissal. Their faculty peers, who are often charged with assessing whether an accused colleague bears responsibility, may view the cases as attacks on tenure. College leaders, who often don’t have the power to terminate a professor without consulting the faculty, may fear damage to their institution’s reputation. Students who experience harassment may not file complaints if they feel they have little chance of being taken seriously.


Nor, as the last sentence suggests, is the victim usually keen to file charges. As Mr Isicoff, the lawyer defending the University in the McGinn case, is quoted as saying, “you’re walking in with the odds largely stacked against you,” as a student.

Part of the solution may consist in steps taken before hiring, as the philosopher Heidi Lockwood said.

…Ms. Lockwood sees it. She said colleges can take clear steps to improve how they handle claims of misbehavior by professors. She recommended, among other changes, that colleges conduct harassment-specific background checks before hiring professors.

Added: I’ve just noticed that the article is utterly silent about the role – or lack of roles – for bystanders. I’m unhappy that I didn’t notice this right away and think we might put some effort into reminding ourselves we should be thinking of taking action. In the Macy case, for example, the situation was well known to a lot of people before formal complaints were made.


“contemptible and inexcusable” October 15, 2015

Geoffrey Marcy is resignng from UC, Berkeley.  (For background, see here.). According to the NY Times:

In a statement announcing Dr. Marcy’s resignation, the university’s chancellor, Nicholas B. Dirks, and the executive vice chancellor and provost, Claude Steele, said they had accepted Dr. Marcy’s resignation and added: “We want to state unequivocally that Professor Marcy’s conduct, as determined by the investigation, was contemptible and inexcusable. We also want to express our sympathy to the women who were victimized, and we deeply regret the pain they have suffered.”



Best practice for tracking gender of survey respondents? October 13, 2015

Filed under: gender,queries from readers — Lady Day @ 8:04 pm
A reader sends the following query:
Is there any consensus on the best method for asking gender information on surveys? I’m reviewing a proposal for a research committee, and their approach is “A. Male B. Female C. Other”. On the one hand, hooray for having more than 2 options. On the other hand, “Other” is kind of, well, ‘othering’.
My suggestion would be to leave a blank that participants can fill in as they wish, but don’t know if there are other approaches.

The Politics of Sympathy October 12, 2015

“Of course, this is hardest for Geoff in this moment. For those who are willing and able, he certainly can use any understanding or support they can offer (this wouldn’t include endorsement of the mistakes he acknowledges in an open letter on his website). I ask that those who have the room for it (now or later), hear him out and judge whether there is room for redemption in all that will transpire.”

That quote is from an email sent out by Geoff Marcy’s department head, in the wake of it being made public that he has been found responsible for sexual misconduct, and that Berkeley decided in lieu of sanctions, to sign an agreement with him about what would happen if he was found responsible again.

Sympathy is complicated. I’m not a moral psychologist, so I won’t pretend to be one — but I am a philosopher who thinks about the way social and political structures can influence our beliefs. And in view of tense and complicated conversations following several cases of issues of discrimination and violence related to members of our professional communities, I haven’t been able to help but think for awhile now about how, like credibility, distributions of sympathy are political.

This seems perfectly predictable, in a certain sense. We’re ready to lend a sympathetic shoulder to our friends. We tend to consider the interests of those in our own social circles more readily than those of others at a distance. Nonetheless, the experience of it can be unexpected. The first time I was ever told that a friend had been sexually assaulted by someone I knew, my reaction was — to me — utterly surprising. Though I knew the wrong-doer, he wasn’t a friend. He wasn’t someone I cared for. The only time I ever spent around him was not of my own choosing, but rather the begrudging result of our having multiple mutual friends. Yet, when I found out that he had assaulted my friend, I found myself absolutely weeping. First, for her – that wasn’t the surprising bit – but then, for him too.

I felt more deeply for him, suddenly, and unexpectedly, than I ever had before I knew what kind of wrong-doing he was capable of. That feeling, I think, was borne out (in part) of the recognition that even in the best of possible futures, there would be no undoing what he had done. If things went as well as they could, given what had already happened, he would recognize the wrongness of his actions, and seek to make what recompense there might be. And how painful would it be to live with that knowledge? How would you cope with knowing that you have irrevocably changed someone’s life by harming them so severely? I also think this was, in part, simply because I knew him.

To be clear, I blamed him. I was angry. I wanted him to be held responsible. At the same time, I felt deep lament and sympathy. My heart ached. I wished that it weren’t true. It didn’t take much reflection to understand a little better why we can be so recalcitrant and resistant in the face of claims to harm against our friends. If I could feel so much sympathy for someone who I didn’t even like, how would I feel had he been a friend? Family?  What would I think, if I didn’t also know the victim, or the extent of the evidence? What if I were his department chair, and he were one of my department’s star researchers? 

All of this is to say, I get it. I can understand how the pull of sympathy might disrupt our priorities in a harmful way. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay.

Of course it’s fine — perhaps good hearted, even — to feel sympathetic to those among us who have acted wrongly. Sympathy for those who have acted wrongly need not necessarily conflict with an appropriate sense of justice (indeed, I think it can enrich it). But we do need to be careful about what follows. When we’re not so careful, victims can be harmed by the politics of sympathy in many ways. It isn’t news that those who attempt to come forward with allegations against the powerful, well-connected, or socially-established, often find that with friends so well-placed to offer protection and so ready to offer understanding to the perpetrator, evidence simply isn’t enough. Perpetrators may be easy to sympathize with for other reasons (like their gender, being central to a department’s research profile, their interests being closer to our own, their being well-meaning, or sincere). Victims are unjustly harmed when this translates into a resistance to the belief that a perpetrator could be guilty, or results in, once again, concern for victims’  well-being having been sacrificed for the sake of the one who harmed them as we consider the (real or imagined) difficulties that they face while setting the victims’ to the side.

All of this, of course, can be exacerbated by the fact that it’s just easier to look the other way in the first place. As Judith Herman writes, “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”

Sympathy can be valuable, but when readiness to feel it is tied up in our social relationships, it will also, inevitably, have a political element — and that’s something we need to be especially careful with in view of the possibility of mistaking our fellow-feeling for evidence of innocence, or when it signals that we prioritize justice and care for the perpetrator over justice and care for their victims. 

It is precisely that prioritizing that is so offensive in the email quoted above. These women who came forward risked their reputations, professional prospects, being subject to public scrutiny, to seek redress for harms they never wanted to be subject to in the first place. The university responded, having found their allegations justified, by doing (roughly speaking) nothing. I am sure Geoff Marcy is having a difficult time right now, and it’s fine to recognize that. But let’s not add insult to injury for his victims.



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