Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Wheaton, Larycia Hawkins, and what it means to worship the same God January 6, 2016

Filed under: academia,political protests,politics,religion,Uncategorized — philodaria @ 4:04 am

Wheaton College has recommended that tenured Prof. Larycia Hawkins be terminated for her statements in solidarity with Muslims, citing tension between her statements (that Muslims and Christians are “people of the book” and “worship the same God”) and Wheaton’s doctrinal convictions (see here).

Of course, I think there are very serious worries raised by the mere fact that Wheaton thinks termination might be an appropriate response at all to the expression of solidarity in the face of discrimination — but it doesn’t even appear that Prof. Hawkin’s statements are clearly in tension with Wheaton’s doctrinal convictions in the first place.  Following her suspension last month, Michael Rea (Notre Dame) wrote an op-ed, “On Worshiping the Same God” calling into question whether any tension between her statements and Wheaton’s statement of faith can be found without first making substantive (and controversial) theological and philosophical assumptions not found in the statement of faith itself:

One would hope that there are complexities to this situation known only to Wheaton insiders, because from the outside Wheaton’s position looks puzzling at best, and politically, rather than theologically, motivated at worst. Their statement of faith affirms, in its opening line, belief in one God; it then goes on to affirm a variety of familiar and distinctively Christian beliefs about the nature and actions of God, many of which are indeed inconsistent with traditional Islamic doctrines. Anyone suitably informed about Islam would be correct to conclude that someone who fully believes the Wheaton statement of faith ought to think that Muslims are deeply mistaken about what God is like. But surely one can be mistaken–even deeply mistaken–about what God is like and still worship God.

Christians and Muslims have very different beliefs about God; but they agree on this much: there is exactly one God. This common point of agreement is logically equivalent to thesis that all Gods are the same God. In other words, everyone who worships a God worships the same God, no matter how different their views about God might be.

On the assumption that there is exactly one God, then, saying that someone does not worship the same God as Christians do–as, for example, might be the case with someone who claims to worship a perfectly evil being–amounts to saying that they have not managed to worship any God at all. To say this of someone is to go well beyond saying that they are deeply mistaken about what God is like; it is to go well beyond saying that they are not worshipping in a way that is acceptable or pleasing to God. It is to say that the acts that they call ‘worship’ do not even manage to qualify as defective worship, that they are so wrong about what God is like that the word ‘God’ in their mouths is absolutely meaningless, or that they are inadvertently using the word ‘God’ to refer to some other thing that they mistakenly believe to be divine–e.g., a mere human being, an animal or plant, an inanimate object like a rock or a star, or an abstract object like a number, or love, or some such thing. There might well be interesting reasons for Christians to affirm such claims about Muslims, or for Muslims to affirm them about Christians; but it can hardly be said that any such view is a straightforward implication of Wheaton College’s statement of faith.

Those who think that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God commonly justify their opinion by appeal to the vast dissimilarity in Christian and Muslim beliefs about the nature of God. But one should be careful here, for this is a maneuver that threatens more division among religious believers than most Christians would want to accept. God as understood within some quarters of American evangelicalism looks very different from God as understood by the majority of Christian theologians in the Middle Ages. But we do not say that contemporary evangelicals worship a God different from the one medieval Catholics worshipped. God as understood by Jonathan Edwards looks very different from God as understood by Rob Bell; but who would go so far as to say that Edwards and Bell worship different Gods? It is hard to imagine that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob believed that their God was triune; but most Christians do not for this reason deny that we worship the same God that they did.

Rea’s full piece can be read here.

 

Invitation to Join an Amicus Brief December 19, 2015

Filed under: abortion,ethics,law,politics,religion,Uncategorized — philodaria @ 8:13 pm

I’m sharing an invitation to join a friend of the court brief in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a case that’s heading to the Supreme Court challenging the Texas law, HB2 (which, you might remember by way of Wendy Davis’s filibuster), arguing that targeted regulation of abortion providers (or TRAP laws) are unjust irrespective of one’s views on abortion itself. The brief is being organized by an attorney at  Fish & Richardson P.C, on behalf of theologians, and academics who work in religious ethics and philosophy of religion. If you work in one of those areas, you can read more about the brief below, and contact them if you are interested in signing through a link at the end.

JOIN THE AMICUS BRIEF ON BEHALF OF THEOLOGIANS AND RELIGIOUS ETHICISTS AGAINST UNJUST LAWS ON ABORTION

The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to consider the most important abortion case in nearly 25 years. This creates a rare opportunity for theologians and religious ethicists from across the country to come together and bring the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and other key theologians and religious philosophers to the Court’s attention, and urge the Court to rule against unjust laws that disproportionately hurt poorer women while undermining public faith in the rule of law.

The Case: Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole

The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, challenges onerous regulations in a Texas law known as HB2 that would force more than 75% of abortion clinics in the state to close, depriving women of access to safe, legal, high-quality reproductive health care in Texas. At issue are requirements that doctors who provide abortion services obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals and that women obtain abortions only at ambulatory surgery centers, which are mini-hospitals that are not intended for a simple office procedure. These are requirements that the American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and other leading health care experts say serve no medical purpose and do nothing to promote women’s health; instead, the widespread clinic closures directly threaten the health, safety, and well-being of women, particularly low-income women who live in rural areas.

Summary of the Brief

A number of theologians and religious ethicists from various faiths are planning to file an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Texas’s Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (“TRAP”) law, which imposes two sets of restrictions on abortion providers that medical experts, including the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have recognized are unnecessary to protect the health of the woman yet have caused many clinics throughout the state to close, imposing a substantial obstacle on a woman’s ability to obtain an early, safe abortion, especially for poorer women.

These theologians plan to argue that TRAP laws are morally unjust, regardless of an individual’s stance on abortion. From the perspectives of the Catholic faith and other Christian denominations, including the writings of Catholic theologian and philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas, TRAP laws are not a legitimate exercise of state power because they are irrational, pretextual in nature, and cause more harm than good. Under the guise of improving women’s health, TRAP laws seek instead to subvert settled law through dishonest means. But instead of furthering the state’s interests in improving women’s health, TRAP laws disproportionately attack the dignity of low-income and geographically isolated women, make the process of seeking an abortion more difficult and dangerous for these women by creating unjustifiable barriers to their healthcare. Texas’s regulations may even drive poor women to seek later, illegal procedures or try aborting at home, risking their health and lives. And because laws such as HB2 simply disguise the illegalization of abortion through unwarranted burdens on women’s exercise
of their constitutionally protected rights, they also risk fomenting widespread civil disobedience and undermining public faith in the rule of law.

Moreover, TRAP laws seek to surreptitiously undermine the current legal status of abortion, effectively imposing a specific moral viewpoint on the general population and overriding the interests of women who may subscribe to any of the broad plurality of views within the world’s religions on the morality of abortion—including within Christianity itself. Those who seek to ban abortion at all stages should argue openly and forthrightly about the morality of their position, and not use TRAP laws as an underhanded tactic.

For these reasons, even from the perspective of one who believes that abortion is gravely immoral, TRAP laws like HB2 are not ad bonum commune (that is, they do not promote the common good) and should not stand. This amicus brief will draw heavily from Saint Thomas’s Summa Theologiae and writings from other religions to explain to the Court how the intent and anticipated effect of HB2 are contrary to Christian and other religions’ teachings on building a just society.

Please contact me about signing the amicus brief of Theologians by clicking here.

If you have expressed your interest through the above link, we will send the brief via email for your review by December 23, 2015. To add your signature to the brief, you will need to respond to the instructions in the transmittal email by December 28, 2015.

 

Why One Philosopher Uses Trigger Warnings September 20, 2015

Filed under: academia,politics — noetika @ 3:20 am

Kate Manne in the New York Times:

Triggered reactions can be intense and unpleasant, and may even overtake our consciousness, as with a flashback experienced by a war veteran. But even more common conditions can have this effect. Think, for example, about the experience of intense nausea. It comes upon a person unbidden, without rational reflection. And you can no more reason your way out of it than you reasoned your way into it. It’s also hard, if not impossible, to engage productively with other matters while you are in the grip of it. You might say that such states temporarily eclipse our rational capacities.

For someone who has experienced major trauma, vivid reminders can serve to induce states of body and mind that are rationally eclipsing in much the same manner. A common symptom of PTSD is panic attacks. Those undergoing these attacks may be flooded with anxiety to the point of struggling to draw breath, and feeling disoriented, dizzy and nauseated. Under conditions such as these, it’s impossible to think straight.

The thought behind trigger warnings isn’t just that these states are highly unpleasant (although they certainly are). It’s that they temporarily render people unable to focus, regardless of their desire or determination to do so. Trigger warnings can work to prevent or counteract this.

As teachers, we can’t foresee every instance of potentially triggering material; some triggers are unpredictable. But others are easy enough to anticipate, specifically, depictions or discussions of the very kinds of experiences that often result in post-traumatic stress and even, for some, a clinical disorder. With appropriate warnings in place, vulnerable students may be able to employ effective anxiety management techniques, by meditating or taking prescribed medication . . .  It’s not about coddling anyone. It’s about enabling everyone’s rational engagement.

 

On the Syrian Refugee Crisis September 5, 2015

Filed under: politics — noetika @ 5:16 am

A few pieces on the Syrian refugee crisis have been published by philosophers in the last couple of days. If you know of others please do mention them in the comments.

William MacAskill writes in The Guardian:

The question of how many refugees to accept is purely a political one, not an economic one. Government officials have claimed that it’s a better use of public funds to help abroad. But that’s completely wrong. If we let refugees in and allow them to work (as they would be keen to do), the evidence shows that the standard of living and unemployment rates for UK natives would remain about the same; the main effect is to radically increase the quality of life for the refugee. Compare the situation now to the Hungarian revolution of 1956: Austria, still broken from the second world war, took in 2% of its population in refugees, and emerged even stronger as a result. The UK could welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees to work here without damaging our economy.

Calum Miller writes in the Huffington Post:

This is not about us. It is not entirely clear whether we would suffer from increasing our refugee intake. But suppose we did. How could we possibly lose anything close to what these families would gain from being here? And how is it that our being lucky enough to be born into affluence could possibly justify not sacrificing some of that for those born into warzones? How can we talk so much about our own economic growth and yet ignore the families torn apart around the world, who come humbly to us, knocking on our door for help? Economics is important. And practical politics is important. But it is all worthless if it is not put to the service of those who need our help most desperately.

And our own Jenny Saul writes in the NewStatesman:

To some, this attack [on the use of the term ‘migrant’] is baffling. A migrant is just a person who migrates, surely, and these people are migrating. What can be wrong with this truthful description? One thing that might be wrong with it, however, is that, according to the UN, that’s not what a migrant is:

The term ‘migrant’… should be understood as covering all cases where the decision to migrate is taken freely by the individual concerned, for reasons of ‘personal convenience’ and without intervention of an external compelling factor.

While maybe among the desperate risking their lives to escape places like Syria and Afghanistan, there is a person or two who has joined them for reasons of “convenience”, these people are surely vanishingly rare. According to the UN, then, it is simply factually wrong to call these people migrants.

But why, a more compelling objection goes, should we even care about language? People are dying and need help, and there goes the left again worrying about words. The reason to care about language is that the language we deliberate in shapes our deliberations.

 

 

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.

 

 
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