Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Nonviolence, Ideal Theory, and Epistemic Injustice April 29, 2015

Filed under: epistemology,police,political protests,politics,race,violence — philodaria @ 4:44 am

Jacob Levy has a great post up at Bleeding Heart Libertarians – Folk ideal theory in action (with thanks to Daily Nous for bringing it to my attention) – which made me want to say something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Earlier, we posted Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece on nonviolence as compliance; as human beings, and many of us, American citizens, the issues Coates raises are of general interest, but there are important philosophical questions, I think, we should be asking ourselves now too. I know some philosophers bristle at the thought that our academic work should be constrained by such things as goals of social justice —  but set that aside. Shouldn’t the modes of thinking we encourage at least not make things worse?

It seems to me, following Charles Mills, that ideal-theory approaches entrench substantial epistemic hindrances for theorizing justice. While we can attempt to engage in thought experiment, e.g., regarding what we might agree to behind a veil of ignorance if we knew nothing about our own social identity, we cannot engage in that thought experiment without thereby deploying a conceptual framework which is, itself, deeply shaped by our existing, non-ideal, social circumstances.  Taking Rawls’ for example, by choosing to set the non-ideal to the side until an account of the ideal can be developed, Rawls cut himself off from the means by which we might check the profound impact of inequality and injustice on our very form of thought. An ideal-theory approach to justice is not problematic merely because it is structured in such a way as to fail to offer sufficient guidance in a non-ideal world, but also because it obscures, and consequently risks transmitting the consequences of, that some of our very concepts have been shaped in ways that implicate matters of justice in the first place. There is a distinctive form of conceptual epistemic injustice which ideal theory is disposed to inherit, and engagement with the non-ideal is requisite for correction.

When I say that there is a distinctive form of conceptual epistemic injustice, I do not mean just hermeneutical injustice, as Miranda Fricker discusses (though, that’s relevant too), where we may lack some concept because the social group which could develop it lacks the social power or organization to do so. I mean instead that we have concepts which we take to have normative force – like nonviolence as an ideal (or ‘genius‘, or ‘atonement‘) – and these concepts may be perfectly worthy in some sense (that is, the sense in which mean for that concept to aim at), but in actuality they can be perverse, both ethically and epistemically. Note: It is not that I think nonviolence is in anyway perverse itself, and I do not mean that I advocate in any way for violence. What I do mean, though, is that our concept of nonviolence is confused. When embedded in our broader social-conceptual framework, nonviolence becomes something that is expected of those who are subjected to oppression, and violence against them as enacted by certain dominant social groups, or certain forms of the state, fails to be recognized as violence at all. It’s that moment when someone tells you in the span of just a few breaths that yet another death of a black man at the hands of police is an unfortunate event, but that they are saddened, or even heartbroken, by the destructive protests which followed. Violence against persons of color is conceptualized as unfortunate, whereas the destruction of property is conceptualized as violent. The concept of nonviolence is socially limited so as to be unequal in its application.

As Angela Davis said once in an interview:

If you’re a Black person and you live in the Black community, all your life, you walk out on the street every day, seeing white policeman surrounding you. When I was living in Los Angeles, for instance…I was constantly stopped. The police didn’t know who I was, but I was a Black woman, and I had a natural, and I suppose they thought that I might be a “militant”…

You live under that situation constantly, and then you ask me whether I approve of violence. I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Whether I approve of guns? I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Some very, very good friends of mine were killed by bombs–bombs that were planted by racists…From the time I was very, very small, I remember the sounds of bombs exploding across the street, our house shaking. I remember my father having to have guns at his disposal at all times because of the fact that at any moment, we might expect to be attacked . . .

In fact, when [one] bombing occurred, one of the mothers of one of the young girls called my mother and said, “Can you take me down to the church? I have to pick up Carole, we heard about the bombing, and I don’t have my car.”

And they went down there, and what did they find? They found limbs and heads strewn all over the place. And then after that, in my neighborhood, all of the men organized themselves into an armed patrol. They had to take their guns and control our community every night because they did not want that to happen again.

I mean, that’s why when someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible. Because what it means is the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea what Black people have gone through–what Black people have experienced in this country since the time the first Black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.


Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Riots in Baltimore April 28, 2015

Filed under: police,political protests,politics,race,violence — philodaria @ 3:55 am
Tags: ,

In the Atlantic:

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead? . . . When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.

And in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.,

America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.


Islamophobic ads vs. Ms. Marvel January 27, 2015

Filed under: advertising,political protests,politics,religion — noetika @ 12:13 am

A while back the Freedom Defense Initiative started taking out Islamophobic ads on buses around San Francisco (the original ads are not pictured; they are offensive enough I didn’t think it was worth it). Turns out, a vigilante (presumably, without super powers) has found a way to improve them — the ads are being defaced with new wording, and images of Kamala Khan, who is both the latest woman in the Marvel universe to take on the title of Ms. Marvel and Marvel’s first Muslim headlining character.  Via Toybox at io9.

Ms. Marvel bus ad


Northwestern suspends plans to mediate, and a statement November 24, 2014

Huffington Post has the story here. 

And a statement from the student who is being sued:

“There has been so much in the news lately about the many and horrifying failings of university administrations’ dealing with Title IX issues. We are all familiar with these catastrophic miscarriages of justice, and frankly, we are all worn weary with worry and heartache. Today however, the Northwestern community has taken a real step in the direction of modeling what it’s like for a university to be an ally in the fight against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Today, in response to criticism from the student population, who were in turn vocalizing my objections as the graduate student named in Peter Ludlow’s lawsuit, Northwestern’s administration has agreed to halt all mediation proceedings with Ludlow’s attorneys. To be clear: I voiced my concerns, the broader Northwestern community mobilized on my behalf (in only 24 hours), and the administration heard our cry, in turn responding appropriately by suspending all mediation proceedings — this, while ordering hot chocolate for the student protestors, and helping them to put up their protest signs outside the president’s office.  The administration and I are now engaged in further discussions about my wishes and needs throughout this process.

Putting the victim first should not be such an uncommonly outstanding occasion. Yet in this moment, I feel compelled to sing loudly the praises of Northwestern’s administration. Let this be a message to all universities: Stand by your students, stand by your victims. Protect their voices. Together, let’s make Northwestern a model.”


Sit-In at Northwestern Today

Filed under: political protests,sexual harassment — Jender @ 8:52 am

From the Organisers’ FB page.

It has come to our attention that Northwestern is looking to quickly mediate in their lawsuit with Peter Ludlow–a lawsuit in which they are not the only defendant (a graduate student who filed a Title IX complaint against him, and a professor who assisted her, are also named as well, and accused of defamation). NU is planning to mediate, regardless of the desires of their co-defendants.

While we admire Northwestern’s intention to mitigate the stressful nature of the legal situation for all involved, Northwestern should stand by their actions rather than agree to write a check now to avoid potential litigation costs later. Sexual violence is an epidemic on college campuses that persists, in part, because perpetrators are shielded by universities’ interests in avoiding public relations scandals and protecting their bottom line, and by the damage caused to victims’ credibility when universities do mistreat perpetrators.If Ludlow has engaged in a pattern of predatory behavior, he should not be rewarded just for the sake of avoiding the costs of litigation, nor should he be able to walk away with plausible deniability. If he has not, the university should be responsible for their mistreatment of him; not only for his sake, but for the sake of victims everywhere who have a vested interest in universities properly handling Title IX complaints. Negotiating in this way, before both sides can be heard, would also simultaneously send a chilling message to victims on campuses everywhere, that if they come forward, they will need to consider the legal and financial costs given this new precedent, and deny an alleged victim, and the faculty member who assisted in bringing her complaint forward, any chance of vindicating their credibility that they have.


Anger and its importance August 29, 2014

Filed under: political protests,politics — annejjacobson @ 6:03 pm

‘Angry blacks’, ‘angry muslims’, ‘angry feminists’! For many, such labels conjure up unpleasant or frightening images. They distract from causes of the anger and instead focus attention on the now problematic bearers of the labels. That phenomenon could cost us dearly, as Amia Srinivasan’s talk on the BBC Argues. Her talk is largely about the need for anger in protesting against injustice. Anger is a form of moral seeing, she maintains.

Yesterday I was thinking about similar thoughts as expressed by Jesse Prinz, mentioned here. Walking to a checkout counter in Whole Foods I saw that the Sept issue of Shambhala Sun had a section on ‘The Wisdom of Anger’, which the Bhuddas think is very important once transformed into wisdom and compassion. A convergence of thought.

Anger can both focus us on a problem and motivate us to take action.    However, it is unlikely to lead misbehaving colleagues to rethink their actions.  The latter is something to remember.

Some images of anger from Shambhala Sun:



Ferguson, MO August 15, 2014

The past couple of days I’ve been keeping up with the protests in Ferguson, MO, following the death of 18 year old Michael Brown on August 9th. Sitting in my apartment two nights ago watching a live feed of people running away from police through a suburb while the police threw tear gas at them and into people’s front yards is one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had in the past few years. The last time I was locked onto twitter like that and completely lost track of time was when the Boston marathon bomber was running through a neighborhood was that directly adjacent to my own.

So here is a compilation of some resources that I think do a particularly good job of explaining and contextualizing what is going on in Ferguson. On top of this being an important current event, I think there are a lot of issues here that are relevant to various areas of philosophical research. But really, these events deserve attention on their own.

When I include my own commentary and judgment, I try to restrict myself to what direct testimony and documentation have claimed and to keep in mind the available counter evidence. But this compilation is not not ‘objective’ in that knee-jerk “well both sides did stuff wrong” way. Yes, some protesters were violent and there was opportunistic looting. But those actions are political and moral peanuts compared to what the police have done. Uneven power dynamics matter. Who escalated the violence and distrust matters. The different obligations that each side has to the other matters. Saying, “well both sides have been violent,” without factoring in the historical and political context of that violence is intellectually and morally lazy.

The entries below with asterisks are the ones I recommend if you don’t have a lot of time.

The info here isn’t exhaustive, and I don’t provide much concerning today’s events. Other aspects that you might want to look up on your own include: comparison with the Occupy movement (in terms of police response), comparison with the Bundy Ranch events, how Palestinians tweeted messages of support for Ferguson and included tips for how to deal with tear gas, the witness accounts given by Dorian Johnson and Tiffany Marshall, more on how journalists were treated and had a hard time accessing protests, and analysis of the police chief’s press conference today where he finally identified the officer who shot Brown (Darren Wilson) and claimed that Brown was a robbery suspect. Brown’s family has things to say about that press conference.

Summary and timeline of events:

**If you want to read just one comprehensive overview of events in Ferguson, I recommend this article by Vox. It’s a pretty lengthy article. It includes a timeline, punctuated with pictures and vine videos (very short) from twitter. It pretty clearly distinguishes between rumors and what we know for sure. It includes explanation of events from today, and briefly discusses at the end some of the context for why events in Ferguson have played out as they have.

There is a google maps that has pinned many important events and locations. When you click on the link just find the cluster of symbols around St. Louis, and zoom into that area. If you click on a symbol on the map, or on its listing on the left side of the screen, it will highlight the location and give you information about the event. You’ll easily be able to identify Florissant Ave (where Brown was killed) because it’s where most of the symbols are clustered.

This post on reddit is a live feed of users reporting events from Ferguson. It is long. I mean, LONG. But if you want to see the nitty gritty of what was going on minute by minute, this is the place to go. Also you can check out #Ferguson on Twitter.


Context and History:

**For a quick summary of Ferguson’s demographics and why there was been so much tension between the citizens of Ferguson and police, Vox has this 2 minute video.

This article shows some of the pictures from Ferguson protests next to pictures from the civil rights movement. When I was watching live feeds on August 13th, I saw cops in military/riot gear, with German Shepherds standing next to them. My exact thoughts were something like, “WTF do they need dogs for? Do they understand how ****** racist that looks to bring dogs to these protests–given our history?”

This picture is becoming one of the most iconic from the events.


Journalism Coverage:

A collection of pictures from events. If #22 was in black and white, I would think it’s from the 60s.

There was a really important change between Weds night and Thurs night. To get a sense of that change, you can watch these live feed recordings.

This is one of the feeds I was watching on August 13th (Wed). It’s about 30 mins in total, but police actions escalate quickly and the journalist recording the video does a good job of narrating what’s happening, even as he has to start running. You’ll see tear gas (I think it’s tear gas) being thrown onto people’s property (around 11:00).

Just to note, given pictures and people’s first hand accounts, there was at least one molotov cocktail thrown Weds night.

Now you can watch this video from August 14th (Thurs). It’s long, but really you can just skim through it to get the sense that for the whole hour, cars are honking in support and people are walking around with signs. That is the same street where the night before there was tear gas, armorer vehicles forming a blockade, police with sniper rifles, etc.  The first picture on this article (with the train) sums up how wildly different Thurs was from Wed.

**I also highly recommend this report by Elon James White, who is a political and cultural commentator / internet radio host from NYC (with a background in comedy, I believe), who went down to Ferguson with his two of his co-hosts (Aaron Rand Freeman and Emily Epstein White). If you don’t have a lot of time, I recommend listening to the part where White explains how he got a police officer to aim his gun at him (starts around 14:15). I probably can’t explain what it’s like to listen to one of your favorite podcasters (who normally discusses the news, recipes involving bacon, and super hero movies) talk about him being his sort-of-snarky-but-polite, refuses-to-backdown-from-confrontation self, and getting a *sniper rifle* pointed at him. So I’ll just say listen to the clip. And check out TWIB for good podcasts on news/culture/race/etc.

At least two journalists were arrested on Weds night. This article includes a short (1 min) video recorded by one of the journalists as a police officer (who looks like a soldier) orders him out of McDonalds. He was arrested I think right after that video cuts out.

St. Louis politician Antonio French was also arrested on Weds night. You can check out his twitter feed here.

I’m including one picture on here, because even if all the claims about looting, molotov cocktails, and gunshots are true, this picture still encapsulates why the police’s actions have been so problematic. It is a picture of a sniper rifle laser pointed at a protester’s back. You can see a video of this here (at the bottom of the article, around 1:20). If the police are so nervous (or so cavalier) that they are pointing military-grade weapons at protesters who are not even facing them, something is deeply, deeply wrong.



This post on reddit includes links to responses from the mayor, the governor, Eric Holder (US attorney general), and others. They’re under the heading, “Statements, comments, reports”

Rand Paul wrote this piece in response to the protests in Ferguson. Many people find it notable because of this line: “Anyone who thinks race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention.” Though, it ends up spending more time talking about the relationship between militarization of police and the size of the federal government than it does about race.

President Obama made these remarks about Ferguson (video). People seem split over whether these remarks influenced later events and whether were empty attempts to appeal to both sides.

Captain Ron Johnson, who was put in charge of security in Ferguson after the police’s militarized reactions Weds night, discusses his concerns with how some information was released on August 15th (today).


Guardian Witness: New shoots of student feminism May 23, 2013

Filed under: academia,political protests,social activism — Heg @ 8:43 am

From the Guardian Witness (part of the UK-based Guardian newspaper’s website):

Lad culture appears to permeate all aspects of student life – from Facebook newsfeedsto the debating chamber of Glasgow University. But women are fighting back – or at least that’s what the recent surge in the number of student feminist societies suggests.

From burnt bras to feminist graffiti and event flyers, we want to see the shoots of the new feminism on your campus. Share your images and videos.

Well, go on, then! Head over there and share!


Women Against FEMEN April 5, 2013

Check out a collection of pictures here.  Or browse the twitter hashtags #MuslimahPride and #Femen.  And here’s an article providing some context.


All organized religions seem to get themselves mixed up in some shady hierarchies…..but F*** imperial feminism.


Indian Rape Victim’s Death Stirs Grief, Outrage, and Resolve December 31, 2012

Indian Rape Victim’s Death Stirs Outrage and Resolve

“The gang rape and death of a young Indian woman has sparked an outpouring of national grief and outrage, and a question: Will the tragedy prompt change, in laws and attitudes toward women, in the world’s largest democracy?”

Rape victim’s death sparks lockdown in India

“…Outrage and protest about the assault escalated violently last week when police used batons, water cannon and tear gas in clashes with hundreds of demonstrators; one policeman died in the protests. Indian authorities, fearing a new wave of demonstrations yesterday, deployed hundreds of policemen to seal off the President’s palace, the Prime Minister’s office and key ministries, which have been the scene of battles between police and civilians. They closed 10 metro stations and banned vehicles from some main roads in the centre of the capital.

Although more than 1,000 people gathered at two locations, the demonstrations were peaceful. In one spot, a wreath studded with white flowers was laid on the road, a candle lit and a silent tribute held for the young woman. Near by, members of a theatre group played small tambourines and sang songs urging society to wake up and end discrimination against women…”

Indian Rape Sparks Gender-Inequality Debate (WSJ video: 3 minutes, 14 seconds)

“The death of the victim of a gang rape in India has set off a fresh wave of national grief and outrage. The WSJ’s Nisha Gopalan [and Deborah Kan] conside[r] whether it could also lead to legal changes to protect women’s rights.”

Indian Women March: ‘That Girl Could Have Been Any One of Us’

For what it reveals, explicitly or implicitly, see here for India’s government on gender statistics and gender (in)equality



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