Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

How not to address sexual harassment August 19, 2015

Filed under: appearance,gender,gender inequality,politics,sexual harassment — noetika @ 1:11 am

Missouri legislature edition (via HuffPo):

“We need a good, modest, conservative dress code for both the males and females,” state Rep. Nick King (R) said in an email to colleagues. “Removing one more distraction will help everyone keep their focus on legislative matters.”

The state legislature began working on its new intern program policies after Missouri House Speaker John Diehl (R) resigned in May, when the Kansas City Star revealed he sent sexually suggestive text messages to a 19-year-old intern.

Two months later, Sen. Paul LeVota (D) resigned after two interns accused him of sexual harassment. In a statement, he denied any wrongdoing.

But the problem appears to be more widespread. Dozens of women have said they were sexually harassed while working at the state capitol. In that report, a former state senator called the culture in Jefferson City “very anything goes.”

On Monday, state Rep. Kevin Engler (R) sent out a list of proposed changes for the program to his fellow House members. The Kansas City Star reported that that’s when several legislators, initiated by state Rep. Bill Kidd (R), responded by suggesting Engler should add an intern dress code to the list.

 

Kiran Gandhi: Menstrual blood and the London Marathon August 15, 2015

Filed under: academia,gender,politics — annejjacobson @ 5:58 pm

image

The picture to the left is of Kiran Gandhi, a drummer for M.I.A., who ran the recent London Marathon after having started her period. She did not use a tampon. One result is the stain between her legs. Another is a lot of outrage and accusations. Her account of her motives is on her blog.

There are a lot of issues that surround menstruation. One set of issues she wants addressed more widely is the shame many women feel about menstruating. Another is the fact that many women in the world do not have access to products that can in some way contain the blood. She also thought she would be compromising her health choices in order to make people more comfortable, which doesn’t sound like a great idea.

So what do you think? For my own sake I have the uneasy feeling as I put this post up that the sky might come crashing down on my head.

 

Feminist Issues in the Labour Leadership Contest August 4, 2015

Filed under: politics — kaitijai @ 1:15 am

As our UK readers can hardly have escaped hearing, and as other readers may know, the UK Labour Party is currently in the midst of a leadership contest that has seen surprisingly high levels of support for the candidate initially seen as a left-wing outsider, Jeremy Corbyn. Last week, Corbyn’s campaign released a document titled ‘Working with Women’ that sets out a strategy aimed at gender equality. It makes for interesting reading. If elected Labour leader, Corbyn promises to work for free universal childcare, mandatory sex and relationships education in schools, career services for young people aimed at disrupting gender stereotypes (in both directions), mandatory equal pay audits for all companies and an end to fees for employees taking their employers to tribunals (1). He recognizes the greater impact on women of cuts to public services, and besides an end to austerity in general he promises to reverse cuts to rape crisis and domestic violence services in particular. He also commits to having 50% women in the Shadow Cabinet. Taken as a whole, this is an impressive position from a feminist perspective and I find it heartening to see it being put forward by Corbyn as part of his leadership campaign.

None of the other three candidates – Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, and Liz Kendall – has issued a similar document. However, I did find the following specific positions each had taken in the campaign:

Yvette Cooper: wants to offer 30 hours per week of free childcare for pre-school children over 2.

Andy Burnham: has promised a 50% women shadow cabinet, including a woman shadow first secretary of state.

Liz Kendall: wants to increase the number of labour women councillors by a third.

More information on the positions and pledges of any of the candidates relating to gender equality is very welcome in the comments.

***Update 07.08***

I’ve just found this page where Burnham, Cooper and Corbyn have responded to some questions from End Violence Against Women about the Shadow Equalities Minister, sex education, and shelters and other services. All three candidates answer ‘yes’ to all questions, which is good. To his particular credit, Corbyn specifically highlights the need for specialist services for Black and Minority Ethnic women, and the issues of violence against women asylum seekers in detention.

(1) This is particularly relevant to discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers; a recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report estimated that up to 54 000 women per year in the UK who are pregnant or on maternity leave are dismissed, made compulsorily redundant or treated so poorly they have to quit their job.

 

clinton, Mind-reading and attributions of racism July 25, 2015

Filed under: bias,gender,politics,race — annejjacobson @ 8:30 pm

There’s a kind of mind-reading that seems to me to be very prevalent in the US.  It often goes so far as to assume that someone other than X is better able to tell what X thinks than X is.  This not a harmless assumption, and it is built on a false assumption about our access to other minds.  In fact, our mind-reading is prone to a lot of mistakes once we get beyond the very simple tests used on 4 year olds in psychology.

Most recently Hilary Clinton is being victimized by mind-reading.  She said:

Race remains a deep fault line in America. Millions of people of color still experience racism in their everyday lives.

Here are some facts.

Let’s be honest: For a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young Black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear. And news reports about poverty and crime and discrimination evoke sympathy, even empathy, but too rarely do they spur us to action or prompt us to question our own assumptions and privilege.

 

Apparently, a lot of people looked at this and said she wouldn’t have said this unless she felt that fear. So she is a racist.

But in fact the comment about fear was one of a long list of bad facts about racism in the States. And she said we must admit these features exist and get rid of them.

So the racism is most certainly not in her words. It is an injustice to report that it is in her head.

Many thanks to Rachek McKinnon for bringing this up on facebook. Of course, as Rachel said, on the left this might all just be misogyny. If so, hang on because it’s probably going to be a horrible election season.

 

“I’m Sorry!” July 7, 2015

Filed under: bias,gender,politics — annejjacobson @ 3:00 pm

The research reported in a post below concludes that women are disproportionately made to feel guilty for any lapses in caring behavior.  If that’s true, one might expect to see (some/many) women as very prone to apologize a great deal, even for things only vaguely connected to them, to feel bad when they are especially assertive, and even to offer care-taking when it is hardly appropriately.

The skit by the comedian Amy Schumer linked to below captures such behavior.  Can you relate?

http://videos.nymag.com/video/Inside-Amy-Schumer-I-m-Sorry#c=8680372DVZQXJ0MY&t=’Inside%20Amy%20Schumer’:%20I’m%20Sorry

 

 

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.

 

Why Prison Rape Goes On April 18, 2015

Filed under: politics,rape,sexual assault — philodaria @ 6:28 pm

Chandra Bozelko, a former inmate, has an op-ed in the New York Times titled, ‘Why We Let Prison Rape Go On,’ in which she explores why, even 12 year since the Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed, sexual assault in American prisons remains so widespread.

Ultimately, prisons protect rape culture to protect themselves. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about half of prison sexual assault complaints in 2011 were filed against staff. (These reports weren’t all claims of forcible rape; it is considered statutory sexual assault for a guard to have sexual contact with an inmate.)

I was an inmate for six years in Connecticut after being convicted of identity fraud, among other charges. From what I saw, the same small group of guards preyed on inmates again and again, yet never faced discipline. They were protected by prison guard unions, one of the strongest forces in American labor.

Sexualized violence is often used as a tool to subdue inmates whom guards see as upstarts. In May 2008, while in a restricted housing unit, or “the SHU” as it is commonly known, I was sexually assaulted by a guard. The first person I reported the incident to, another guard, ignored it. I finally reached a nurse who reported it to a senior officer.

When the state police arrived, I decided not to talk to them because the harassment I’d received in the intervening hours made me fearful. For the same reason, I refused medical treatment when I was taken to a local emergency room.

Subsequent interviews with officials at the prison amounted to hazing and harassment. They accused me of having been a drug user, which was untrue, and of lying about going to college, though it was true I had. The “investigation,” which I found more traumatic than the assault, dragged on for more than two months until they determined that my allegation couldn’t be substantiated. The law’s guidelines were followed, but in letter not in spirit.

I was also a witness in a case in which an inmate claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a guard and then told me she’d made it up. I reported her — and this time, I was perfectly credible to an investigator, who praised me for having a conscience and a clear head.

The Justice Department estimates that the total bill to society for prison rape and sexual abuse is as high as $51.9 billion per year, including the costs of victims’ compensation and increased recidivism. If states refuse to implement the law when the fiscal benefit is so obvious, something larger is at stake.

 

On ‘Model Minorities’

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.

 

Sex in the country of the aged April 15, 2015

Filed under: ageing,aging,politics,sex — annejjacobson @ 7:07 pm

Does sexual activity always require the capacity to consent?  I’ve started to wonder.

Suppose you and your beloved spouse, both middle-aged and abled-body, arrived home from a party and realize one of you has had too much to drink.  More than either of you had realized.  But, curling up in bed, both of you feel that hugs and kisses wherever they may lead are very appealing.  Should the sober one refrain on the grounds that the other can’t really meaningfully consent?

There are many possible complicating factors with sexual encounters, which is why I added in marriage, age and ability.  A similar scenario could quite easily become a legal nightmare.  And what about a specific disability, dementia?  Right now this issue may be addressed in a court:

Henry Rayhons, 78, has been charged with third-degree felony sexual abuse, accused of having sex with his wife in a nursing home on May 23, 2014, eight days after staff members there told him they believed she was mentally unable to agree to sex.

It is rare, possibly unprecedented, for such circumstances to prompt criminal charges. Mr. Rayhons, a nine-term Republican state legislator, decided not to seek another term after his arrest.

There is no allegation that Mrs. Rayhons resisted or showed signs of abuse. And it is widely agreed that the Rayhonses had a loving, affectionate relationship, having married in 2007 after each had been widowed. They met while singing in a church choir.

 

 
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