Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

The Question of Rehabilitation and Resources in the Aftermath of Sexual Assault December 31, 2015

Filed under: consent,education,masculinity,rape,sexual assault,Uncategorized — Stacey Goguen @ 4:47 pm

[Discussion of sexual assault and it’s effects on people below.]
This past summer, Buzzfeed published a long-form article about Hanna Stotland, a lawyer who helps students accused of “sexual misconduct” re-apply to other universities. You can read it here.

In response to the article, Abby Woodhouse, a rape survivor, published an open letter. You can read it here.

There are two big issues that caught my attention from these articles:

(1) The way we culturally conceive of rape is often that it is either (a) an unforgivable, unintelligible act of evil, or (b) it’s not really rape, aka rape-rape, so it’s something like “gray rape” or “a mistake” or “an unfortunate miscommunication involving not-fully-consensual sex,”

I think the “unintelligibly” of committing rape is in one way a hindrance to seeking justice for those who experience it. In a way similar to how mass shooters are often portrayed as crazy and unintelligible, the sociopathic, evil rapist is not something we need to try to understand–thankfully. Because, if rape were a perfectly intelligible result of cultural suggestions that men’s value comes from their power of control and mastery over the world, and that a major reward for being powerful is entitlement to sex, (and that being a man is the best thing you could be),  well then, we are all awash in images and messages that condone rape, and we ourselves condone messages that are on a spectrum whose extreme ends in rape–so we are all potential rapists. There but for the grace of my blood alcohol levels go I.

What is really unintelligble to us, I think, is that the word of a woman, the way that a single woman perceives and experiences an event, could be the arbiter of whether another human deserves to be ostracized or punished.
A woman having that much authority in the world? Talk about inconceivable. The poor souls who would be subjected to such standards of ‘justice’…

…which leads me to a second major issue:

(2) It is striking that there often seems to be more resources and public empathy available for those who are accused of committing sexual assault than there is for those who experience it.

I myself feel the tug on my heartstrings when I hear a story about a young man who may have been falsely accused of a crime, and he contemplates how many less opportunities he may now have in life.

I feel more numb when I read Abby Woodhouse’s account of the “trauma and pain” that she has been left to deal with. We are often asked to consider what it would be like for a single mistake to potentially ruin a young person’s chances at a normal, happy life. We are rarely asked to consider what it would be like to not have not made any mistake, but being made to live potentially with haunting memories, broken trust in your fellow human beings, and an inescapable sense of feeling wholly unsafe in your own skin.

Stotland makes a valid point that, unless we think a person should suffer social death when they commit sexual assault, we need to figure out what the process should look like for reincorporating them into higher education.

But a sad and shameful aspect of this story is that survivors of rape and sexual assault also struggle with various degrees of social death. Many struggle to stay in school, stay connected with their families and social circles, etc. due to the effects of PTSD, depression, unshakable feelings of shame, and our deep cultural insensitivity to those who are brazen enough to be taken advantage of and insist on reminding us it–reminding us of their vulnerability (and ours) with their presence.
There but for the grace of the skirt I wear go I.

So where are the counselors to help them switch schools or rebuild their resume? Why is that not something that we prioritize?

 

Sex/gender and the brain: addition. December 3, 2015

Filed under: academia,gender stereotypes,masculinity — annejjacobson @ 11:18 pm

Gendered genes, gonads and genitals line up quite strongly.  That is, if you have a female version of one, the odds are very high that you will have female versions of the others.  Similarly for male versions.  Rebecca JordanYoung has argued in a number of venues that behavioral traits do not line up anything like as neatly.  Rather, bits of behavior and parts of character traits seem mixed up in comparison.  We may think that being nurturing and compliant go together in women and aren’t present in men, but in fact there are compliant and nurturing men, non-nuturing and compliant men, and so on.  Similarly for women.

This picture should lead us to suspect that the brain, in which our bodily movements originate, should manifest the same diversity.  And if female genes, gonads and genitals aren’t matched with a fairly uniform set of female character traits, we should wonder whether there is much like “a female brain” or a male one.

The topic of the gendered brain is widely discussed, but a new view is opening up, and it is much what one would expect, given the information above.  Using MRI imaging, researchers have looked at regions of the brain in which there are zones more reactive in men and others more reactive in women.  But the percentage of individuals possessing only the male zones or only the female zones is extremely small.  The women possessing only the womanly features – nurturing, compliant, more artsy than scientific, and so on and on – form a tiny group.  Ditto for men.

As a somewhat dense, but really exciting article in the Guardian puts it:

[What we expect is] Not a “male brain”, or a “female brain”, but a shifting “mosaic” of features, some more common in females compared to males, some more common in males compared to females, and some common in both.

This is exactly what the new study found for the first time, with colleagues from Tel Aviv University, the Max Planck Institute, and the University of Zurich. They tested this prediction by analyzing magnetic resonance images, which directly capture structural properties of the brain, from more than 1,400 human brains from four large data-sets. They identified in each data set the regions showing the largest differences between women and men. Next, they defined a “male-end” (males more prevalent than females) zone and a “female-end” (females more prevalent than males) zone for each of these regions, based on the range of scores of the most extreme third of men and women, respectively. They found that between 23% and 53% of individuals (depending on the sample) had brains with both “male-end” and “female-end” features. In contrast, the percentage of people with only “female-end” or only “male-end” brain features was small, ranging from zero to 8%.

Cordelia Fine is one of the authors of the article above; the other is Daphna Joel, a scientist on the study reported.  Cordelia Fine should be familiar to our readers as a splendid researcher on issues about sexism in neuroscience.

Addition:  I’ve just seen the somewhat dismissive NY Times report

Overall, the results show “human brains do not belong to one of two distinct categories,” male and female, the researchers concluded.

Larry Cahill, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, who didn’t participate in the new study, said he agreed that brains contain varying mixtures of male and female anatomical traits. But that doesn’t rule out differences in how the brains of the two sexes work, he said.

There’s “a mountain of evidence proving the importance of sex influences at all levels of mammalian brain function,” he said.

That work shows how much sex must matter, “even when we are not clear exactly how,” he said in an email.

 

Though we are not told about it, Cahill most certainly has a dog in this fight.  He concedes that we don’t have male and female brains, but he wants to emphasize what he’ll see are some important differences.  He may well have in mind, among other studies, “Sex differences in the structural connectome of the human brain,” from PNAS, vol 111, no 2.  The study claims to show the familiar idea that “male brains are optimized for intrahemispheric and female brains for inter hemispheric connections.”  It would take at least one book to sort out the history of this claim, but let me note that the research in the study is hotly contested.

Cordelia Fine, writing in Slate, summarizes challenges to the PNAS study, and notes that a subset of the study’s authors have published contradictory research.  She suggests the original paper may be the most neurosexist report of the year.

I’m not claiming to settle the issue, but rather to make it clear that agreement that there aren’t in general male and female brains is significant, given how fraught the research in this field is.

 

Race and Stubblefield October 15, 2015

Filed under: disability,masculinity,race,rape — Monkey @ 1:57 pm

Shelley Tremain at Discrimination and Disadvantage offers an interesting and disturbing analysis of the discussion surrounding the Stubblefield case, which draws on Tommy Curry’s work on the sexual assault of black men by white women, and the black male disabled body.

Over the past several days, I have thought about the Robinson trial and Curry’s pathbreaking work in light of the verdict in the trial of Anna Stubblefield. In the discussions about the trial and its outcome that have ensued on blogs, listservs, and Facebook, virtually no mention has been made of the fact that Stubblefield is white and the victim is African American. Thus, I think that among the questions that ought to be asked are these: How has race configured the reception of, and responses to, the verdict within the feminist philosophical community and within the disability studies community? In what ways have race and class conditioned the credibility deficit that disability studies scholars have implicitly and explicitly conferred upon the mother and brother of the victim? How has the hyper-sexualization of black men conditioned the reception of Stubblefield’s testimony and the verdict, as well as responses to them? Why have some white feminist philosophers found it “impossible” to believe that a white nondisabled woman repeatedly sexually assaulted a disabled black man? There is a mountain of evidence that demonstrates the prevalence of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse of disabled people by nondisabled people. As Curry’s careful research shows, furthermore, the sexual and physical assault of black men by white women has a long history in the U.S. (and elsewhere) and is well documented, if one bothers to look. Why have “facilitated communication” and its white facilitator, Anna Stubblefield, been effectively rendered the victims of the real victim’s black family? Has the stubborn preoccupation with the alleged merits of a discredited technique actually concealed the white skin privilege and class privilege that continue to shape the fields of disability studies and feminist philosophy?

You can read the whole piece here.

I’ve closed comments here, but you can join in the discussion by following the link above.

 

Masculinity and struggles with body image August 25, 2015

Filed under: appearance,body,masculinity — noetika @ 6:57 pm

There’s a great piece by Tyler Kingkade on dealing with issues of body image as a man in the Huffington Post. I recommend reading in full but here’s just a preview:

About half of all men don’t like having their picture taken or being seen in swimwear, according to an NBC Today Show/AOL Body Image survey from last year. Research from theUniversity of the West of England found a majority of guys felt part of their body wasn’t muscular enough, and more men than women would sacrifice at least a year of their life in exchange for a perfect body . . . Contemporary masculinity does not permit a man to admit his physique is less than ideal. But if men could be more open about their own insecurities, without fear of violating the unspoken rules of masculinity, we’d do better at accepting our flaws in our bodies. And maybe then we could get closer to doing what Blashill recommended: “acknowledging there are many ways to be healthy.” . . . At 27, I’m able to admit I don’t like my body. But it shouldn’t have taken me years to get to that point. I spent too long feeling like I had a secret, that I was hiding my weight issues, unable to talk about it, because rules of masculinity forbid it.

There’s also a follow up piece here.

 

Women Breadwinners and Fox News June 2, 2013

Filed under: family,gender inequality,gender stereotypes,masculinity,politics,work — philodaria @ 6:30 pm

A segment from Fox News simultaneously containing a stunning (though, perhaps, unsurprising) level of sexism, and a wonderful response from Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. What’s especially telling about this exchange is that Kelly is rightly, intelligently, factually, and articulately, taking Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs to task–and they seem to fail to grasp this. More than once, she’s met with giggles from her interlocutors.

 

A partial transcript is available here.

 

Violence and Silence May 4, 2013

Excellent TED talk by Jackson Katz, one of the folks behind the bystander approach. Watch it. Then ask your friends to watch it.

 

 

 

 

In Case You Are Not Yet Sick of Hearing About Steubenville March 20, 2013

Filed under: feminist men,masculinity,rape,violence — Stacey Goguen @ 3:49 am

Perhaps the title for this post is a but uncharitable; this post entitled “Toxic Masculinity” discusses Steubenville, but it is really picking out a larger phenomena as its topic.

For instance,

 “as former NFL quarterback and newly-minted feminist Don McPherson recently put it, “We don’t raise boys to be men. We raise them not to be women, or gay men.””

 

“Toxic masculinity is damaging to men, too, positing them as stoic sex-and-violence machines with allergies to tenderness, playfulness, and vulnerability. A reinvented masculinity will surely give men more room to express and explore themselves without shame or fear. (It will also, not incidentally, reduce rape against men as well, because many rapes of men are committed by other men with the intention of “feminizing”—that is, humiliating through dominance—their victim.)”

 

I’m willing to bet feminist philosophers have already taken up similar arguments in regards to masculinity.  Does anyone know of any work in particular?

 

Speaking of Using Your Powers to Make the World More Better February 5, 2013

The Border House is a great blog about video games and social identity.

They have a recent post up entitled, “TransMovement: Freedom and Constraint in Queer and Open World Games”
(All the blockquotes here are from the Border House article by Samantha Allen)

When Bethesda Games’ Todd Howard previewed the open world role-playing gameSkyrim, he famously promised that the player would be able to traverse any visible geography. His breathless assurance of the player’s ultimate freedom has already come and gone as an internet meme: “You see that mountain? You can climb it.”

In it, the author mentions a video game (that you can play right in your browser without downloading anything) called dys4ia.

I want to contrast this ultimate freedom of movement with the mechanics of movement in Anna Anthropy’s much-discussed game dys4ia, which she describes as “an autobiographical game about my experiences with hormone replacement therapy.”

It’s articles like this that make me think there is lots of potential for philosophy and video games to get together and make sweet, sweet knowledge.  Especially in regards to social justice and oppression.

I’ll confess that I seem to enjoy the rampant freedom of open world games just as much as anybody. But, for cisgender gamers, the supreme motility of open world games often functions as an exaggeration of a freedom of movement that they may already enjoy in the physical spaces of non-game worlds.

In her 1980 essay, “Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment Motility and Spatiality,” feminist philosopher Iris Marion Young thinks through the style of movement typical of women in the United States. Women, in her view, do not “make full use of the body’s spatial and lateral possibilities” unlike men who are able to move freely, with long strides and swinging arms (Young 1980, 142).

I’m not arguing that all games should constrain player motion so that the much-stereotyped white, male, cisgender game-playing teenager can understand my experience as a transwoman. I do want to resist, however, game critics’ tendency to think of the open world, “ultimate freedom” genre as the evolutionary endpoint of video games as a medium. Different styles of movement produce different emotional effects and both should be available to us as players and as game-makers. To regard “fun” as the ultimate litmus test for the success of a video game is to sell short the emotive capacity of the medium itself.

I also want to call attention to the implicit masculinity of the open world genre, not to dismiss it entirely, but rather to point out the ways in which freedom of movement can be experienced differently by people outside the largely white, male cisgender realm of video game preview and review culture. […] Because I don’t equate fiction with reality, I can’t hold Far Cry 3 accountable for neocolonialism. I can point out, however, that it’s a reflection of an implicit masculinism, the seductiveness of which is facilitated by the mechanics of movement in the open world genre of games. Let’s enjoy our fictional worlds and our innocent-because-virtual power fantasies. But let’s also try to be a little more nuanced and reflexive in our approach to going anywhere and doing anything.

 

Stop the Presses: Dude Person Wearing Pink Shoes (Get the Fainting Couches & Smelling Salts Ready!) January 19, 2013

Filed under: gender,masculinity,sports — Stacey Goguen @ 2:16 am

From Sociological Images:

News Outlet Startled by [Male] Professional Athlete Wearing Pink

Honestly, if you ask me it’s a little matchey-matchey.
/snark

 

Now on a more serious line, I thought this was a noteworthy point:

 

Now this isn’t a big deal, but it is a particularly striking example of the little ways in which rules around gender are enforced.  Federer took a risk by wearing even a little bit of pink; the Daily Mail goes to great lengths to point this out.  He also gets away with it, in the sense that the article doesn’t castigate or attempt to humiliate him for doing so. […] Research shows that men who otherwise embody high-status characteristics — which includes being light-skinned, ostensibly straight, attractive, athletic, and wealthy — can break gender rules with fewer consequences

 

Meggings December 28, 2012

Filed under: appearance,gender stereotypes,masculinity — philodaria @ 5:42 pm

I can’t quite figure out what’s going on with “meggings” (leggings for men). Not because I don’t know why men would want to wear them; leggings are ridiculously comfortable, and who doesn’t like comfort? Besides which, it’s a relatively less-expensive way to add depth to your wardrobe than, say, buying a new pair of jeans. No; what I can’t figure out is why someone, who admits leggings are comfortable, doesn’t seem the slightest bit interested in questioning gender norms for the purposes of practicality, but rather reinforces them. A few articles like this have crossed my twitter feed the last couple of days, and I find it a bit amazing. Each one has included some concession that it would be nice to wear leggings (or carry a purse), but then just asserts that men must not be so “feminized.” I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. But I am.

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,937 other followers