Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

“what-does-gender-equality-mean-for-women-researchers-in-the-21st-century” April 10, 2015

Filed under: academia,bias,gender,politics — annejjacobson @ 5:13 pm

The title above is for an article about Delivering Equality: Women and Success, a summit-conference at Cambridge University.  The opening sentences by the article’s author, Alice Atkinson-Bonasio, tell one why both it and the summit are important:

The theme of gender inequality seems to evoke a certain sense of resistance from both men and women, who argue against “radical feminism” and suggest that women nowadays are empowered to follow whatever career path they choose and succeed on their merits.

The battle, in other words, has been won.

Indeed, as a woman enjoying the successful pursuit of my career of choice, it felt strange to be in a room with some of the most outstanding female researchers in the world to discuss how difficult it still is for a woman to progress in her academic career compared to her male counterparts.

The article is full of ideas and information, and anyone engaged in the area will probably find some of the material very interesting.

I’m going to concentrate on two things:  the list of some of the important questions the summit ended up posing, and some of the talks, slide presentations and links to material that are available at the site.  The first seem to me at times quite clarifying questions, one which organize the issues in good ways.  The second will be very useful for a number of reasons.  Entries can help those who haven’t really studied issues like that of implicit bias thoroughly enough to be able to discuss it in challenging contexts.  There are videos that are suitable for sharing at meetings and in classes.  In fact, the presentations and links are numerous enough that I’ve picked just three.  Do go and discover more for yourselves!

There are two contributions by Jennifer Saul, who is a prominent contributor on this blog.  My links to her in this post reflect the fact that she is featured in the article.

The questions:

Some of the many burning questions that emerged from those conversations were:

  • How can we create environments that attract and develop talented women, as well as men, throughout all levels of our institutions?
  • To what extent are we genuinely committed to becoming more inclusive?
  • How can we define, measure and reward success more effectively?
  • How can we reframe the debate away from “women’s issues” to talk about effective, modern workplaces?
  • What policies, procedures, training, metrics and systems can we improve in order to accelerate progress?
  • How can we encourage the emergence of more diverse, visible role models and senior leaders progressing change in academia?

The Presentations:

1. slide presentation by Jennifer Saul.

2.  lecture by Jennifer Saul.

3.  Illuminating interviews with women in STEM

 

Clarifying Indiana’s RFRA: No, It’s Not the Same as Others March 31, 2015

Filed under: gender,glbt,law,politics,religion — philodaria @ 3:15 am

There have been some articles floating around about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act that are highly misleading (as well as misleading comments on the matter from Governor Pence)—e.g., there’s an article in the Washington Post which points out that several other states have their own RFRA statutes, and there’s a federal RFRA as well. This is true, but it does not follow from the fact that two laws have the same name, or even that they share some language in common, that they are in fact similar. Indiana’s law is staggeringly different.

First, some background; In 1990, SCOTUS issued a landmark decision in Employment Division v. Smith, determining that the free-exercise provision of the first amendment does not provide religious exemption from laws of general applicability. Smith and Black were members of the Native American Church and had been fired from their jobs for having ingested peyote during a religious ceremony—they argued that they should be entitled to unemployment benefits as their having ingested peyote during a religious ceremony should be protected under the First Amendment, but the court determined it was not (effectively, nearly eliminating the Sherbert Test in the process). In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in order to reinstitute protections from religious discrimination which result from such (apparently) religiously-neutral laws (that is, prohibitions on drug-use may be religiously neutral, and yet have discriminatory differential effects nonetheless, as was apparent in Smith).

In 1997, SCOTUS decided City of Boerne v. Flores determining that Congress had exceeded its power in extending RFRA beyond the federal government to states, and so, many states began passing their own RFRA legislation in response to bridge that gap once more. Indiana’s law is the latest, but, again, that does not mean it’s the same as others by the same name. There are extremely important—and disconcerting— differences.

One significant difference is how the Indiana RFRA defines religious exercise. Section five reads, “As used in this chapter, ‘exercise of religion’ includes any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” This is in stark contrast to how religious exercise is understood under federal law, where the exercise in question must be the result of a belief which is religious in nature (general understood as part of comprehensive doctrine dealing with issues of ‘ultimate concern’ or something similar) and sincerely held. Though sincerity is (sometimes, but) rarely questioned in religious freedom claims (by the court or by other litigating parties), the more narrow understanding of religious exercise prevents abuse of the law and pre-textual claims to religious belief.

Another significant difference is that in Indiana, unlike e.g., Illinois, there are no protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity under state law. Some individual cities in Indiana do have such protections by way of city ordinances, but state law pre-empts local law when the two conflict. Since the law has not gone into effect yet, and consequently has not yet been tested, it is unclear whether the state courts would determine that protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation constitutes a “compelling interest” of the government (or, depending on the case, what the ‘least restrictive means’ of achieving it would be), but, the lack of protection in state law means at the very least that it will be unclear to those who would claim such discrimination is religious exercise whether or not the law allows it (and some folks have already interpreted it to mean that it does). Potentially, the lack of such protections — and Pence’s refusal to institute them — could mean that it will be more difficult to demonstrate that preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a compelling state interest.

Further, Indiana’s RFRA explicitly extends the notion of personhood for the purposes of religious exercise very broadly—perhaps unsurprising in the wake of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, but, still troubling, especially when we consider the context of its definition of ‘religious exercise’: “As used in this chapter, ‘person’ includes the following: (1) An individual. (2) An organization, a religious society, a church, a body of communicants, or a group organized and operated primarily for religious purposes. (3) A partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company, an unincorporated association, or another entity that: (A) may sue and be sued; and (B) exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by: (i) an individual; or (ii) the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.”

There are other differences between Indiana’s recently passed RFRA and those that are in place elsewhere, but you get the point. This is not your ordinary RFRA, and the difference is dreadful.

UPDATE: I didn’t see this until after I hit post, but one Indiana lawmaker certainly appears to think that preventing discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation is not a compelling interest (but he also seems confused about the law in other ways).

 

What happens when the UK police do NOTHING to protect hundreds of girls? March 14, 2015

Filed under: gender,human rights,politics,sex — annejjacobson @ 9:43 pm

NOTHING. Or rather, one person was allowed to retire early and the others got a lecture.

We wrote about the 300 girls in Oxford. There are a number of other cities where young girls and women were repeatedly trafficked and raped. A report on the first of these cases has been released. From the NYTimes:

LONDON — The recent revelations that teenage girls were systematically raped and trafficked by gangs of older men over long periods of time in several British cities prompted a host of inquiries into why the authorities had seemingly turned a blind eye for so long.

This week, a police report into the first such case to be successfully prosecuted concluded that there had been a forcewide failure to address sexual abuse in the northern city of Rochdale, but that no police officer would face serious discipline.

 

Progressive Rhetoric For Regressive Ends (2) March 12, 2015

Filed under: Canada,intersectionality,politics — lanternerouge @ 10:14 am
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An earlier post reviewed an example of progressive rhetoric in the service of non-progressive ends. Perhaps the most striking cases of this strategy are those in which the rhetoric of women’s rights is invoked to justify precisely actions taken against women themselves. In 2011 (with Jason Kenney as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), Canada banned the wearing of the niqab during the citizenship oath-swearing ceremony. (“Frankly, I found it bizarre that the rules allowed people to take the oath with a veil on,” Kenney explained.) When a federal court overturned that law last month, ruling that new Canadian Zunera Ishaq had the right to wear her otherwise perfectly legal religious garments during her swearing-in, the Prime Minister of Canada himself weighed in to impugn her choice. “That is not the way we do things,” Stephen Harper pronounced.

In Harper’s case the argument was initially couched in terms of an appeal to fear of secretive foreigners: “This is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal, and I think we find that offensive. I believe, and I think most Canadians believe that it is — it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family.” But the appeal to equality surfaced in there too, and sure enough, now even Harper’s What are you hiding? remarks are being spun as defenses of gender equality.

The optics of a group of powerful men, lawmakers and representatives, telling a woman how she may dress for a public event are already awful. They take on a jaw-slackening character when those men go on to preen for having burnished their feminist credentials so wonderfully. How could legislation forcing women of some religions or ethnicities to partially disrobe in public ceremonies, against their explicit wishes, be depicted as a blow struck for women’s rights? One answer is that respect for women’s choices has practically nothing to do with the rationale for such a law. A likelier aim is just to blow the dogwhistles harder, while hoping to confound those critics sensitive to the genuinely fraught intersectionality of practices for which considerations of culture, religion, gender, and individual choice may pull in different directions.

This is not mere conjecture; the Conservative government is convicted by its own supporting rhetoric. Current Immigration Minister Chris Alexander recently tweeted in response to the Zunera Ishaq case that the hijab – a headscarf not typically understood as covering the face – also ought not be permitted during oath-taking. Remarks like these indicate that the purpose of such a law and such rhetoric is based neither on “transparency” nor on equality, but on simple negativity towards anything identifiably Islamic. The citizenship oath becomes a ritual of compulsory renunciation and humiliation for people of different languages, cultures, religions and practices. In the way of dogwhistles more generally, dropped hints like Alexander’s are kept rare enough to avoid alienating somewhat moderate voters, but are nevertheless fodder to energize the more extremist base without whose votes, money and voluntarism the Party would be disadvantaged. Again the appeal to gender equality functions as a preemptive defense against criticisms of such calculated religious and ethnic bigotry.

 

Progressive Rhetoric For Regressive Ends (1)

Filed under: Canada,intersectionality,politics — lanternerouge @ 9:34 am
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International Women’s Day 2015 saw many professions of support for women’s rights from politicians worldwide. One of them was a tweet from Canadian politician Jason Kenney, a long-time Conservative MP, Cabinet fixture and new Defense Minister for Canada. “On #IWD2015,” wrote Kenney, “thank-you to the @CanadianForces for joining the fight against #ISIL’s campaign to enslave women & girls.” Accompanying this message was a collection of three photos: two showing women in niqabs wearing chains, and one showing a smiling middle-aged bearded man with his arm around a crying young girl – the implication plainly being one of child-marriage.

The evidence is pretty compelling that the Islamic State treats women with horrifying brutality, though Kenney has a relationship with the truth that left it no great surprise when all the images in his tweet were fake or misinformed at more than one level. The trope of particular interest in his tweet, however, is the use of progressive rhetoric in the service of non-progressive ends. In this case those ends include some combination of self-congratulation for a politically divisive military campaign launched by Kenney’s government, and anti-Islamic pandering that excites a range of emotional reactions to terrorism, Islam, and foreigners, in the run-up to a Canadian federal election.

The political strategy is reasonably clear. The use of cherry-picked examples, dogwhistles and selective emphasis to smear a target group invites charges of bigotry. These charges might be forestalled, though, if one can turn the focus to misogynistic or patriarchal aspects among (sub-groups of) the targeted population. Some people who would otherwise push back against both misogyny and racist or religious bigotry are horrified by media reports of the treatment of women under the Islamic State, and this may leave them conflicted or less motivated to criticize the anti-Islamism being played for votes here. Even if critics are not deflected, progressive noises in defense of this same-old-pandering will at least confound listless mainstream media analysis that relies on different sides to distinguish themselves through the language they choose. And it will inoculate one’s voting base against the force of the criticisms. What do you mean, the Conservatives have dismantled or slashed funding to all manner of women’s programs, and refuse even to discuss a formal inquiry into the epidemic of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada? Why, they’re the ones fighting the real misogynists in this world!

Some of the most effective propaganda and media management currently on display in the Canadian context, and no doubt more widely, aims at colonizing the language of progressive causes, or at least destroying its power to differentiate between political actors.

 

Chinese Feminists: don’t let them disappear! March 11, 2015

Filed under: gender,human rights,politics — annejjacobson @ 8:01 pm

From the NYTimes

BEIJING — China detained at least 10 women’s rights activists over the weekend to forestall a nationwide campaign against sexual harassment on public transportation that was to overlap with International Women’s Day, according to human rights advocates and associates of those detained.

At least five of the detained were still being held on Sunday evening, while the others had been released after being interrogated. All were women.

There is a sign-up link below for feminists all over the world to use to support them and urge the government to release them as soon as possible.

http://goo.gl/forms/v7m4L8tYdB

Please sign up and circulate the link as much as you can. Our goal is to collect support from 1000 feminists’ support from 50 countries within a week.

File Mar 11, 2 07 35 PM

 

300 young girls in Oxfordshire groomed and raped March 4, 2015

Filed under: gender,human rights,politics,race,Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 10:22 pm

The Guardian reports on yet another gang of men getting away with victimizing very young British women and girls. The number of girls is this relatively small compared to the 1400 estimated in other areas, but there is the same enabling circumstances: authorities are alerted and do nothing for years and years.

Serious case review slams police failure in serial abuse of Oxford girls
Some of the 300 victims were exploited for more than eight years despite repeated calls for help to authorities

Some of the report focuses on six young girls, so in fact it becomes difficult to tell sometimes whether they are talking about 6 or 300. I think all the passages below are about 6 young girls who were under the responsibility of the Oxfordshire social services.

Police and social services in Oxfordshire will be heavily criticised for not doing enough to stop years of violent abuse and enslavement of six young girls, aged 11-15, by a gang of men. Such was the nature of the abuse, suffered for more than eight years by the girls, it was likened to torture. All of the victims had a background in care.

A serious case review by the Oxfordshire safeguarding children’s board, to be published on Tuesday, will condemn Thames Valley police for not believing the young girls, for treating them as if they had chosen to adopt the lifestyle, and for failing to act on repeated calls for help.

Oxfordshire social services – which had responsibility for the girls’ safety – will be equally damned for knowing they were being groomed and for failing to protect them despite compelling evidence they were in danger. One social worker told a trial that nine out of 10 of those responsible for the girls was aware of what was going on.

All of the men were Asian, which seems to be the case in other abuse circles. In Rotherham, where 1,400 girls were abused, the reason why it seemed better and simple to the authorities to do nothing included concerns about race relations, according to earlier reports in the Guardian. Such concern does not, of course, go anywhere toward excusing the failure to protect.

 

Philosopher Christia Mercer discusses Obama’s comments on Christianity February 8, 2015

Filed under: politics,religion — jennysaul @ 10:09 am

A lot of valuable historical context.

Obama’s comments about Christianity were much more reserved than they could have been. In the winter of 2015, we should not lose sight of the vast and gruesome horrors rendered in the name of the Christian God following 1615. Arrogance reigned, anxiety soared and the people of Europe died in huge bloody numbers. The source of terrorist acts in our era is not Islam any more than Christianity was the cause of the thousands upon thousands who died in the Thirty Years War. The source of such religiously motivated violence is a volatile mixture of intolerance, ignorance, fear, economic disadvantage, and political machinations. The president’s comparison between Islam and Christianity is important: any religion can be used to promote crimes against humanity.

 

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

 

‘Somewhere in America’ January 10, 2015

Filed under: beauty,body,class,education,gender,glbt,politics,race,rape,sexual assault — philodaria @ 5:46 am

Via Bustle, a spoken word performance:

“The trio of teenage girls start the poem ominously: ‘The greatest lessons you will ever teach us, you won’t even remember.’ From there, they jump into fairly controversial, dark topics like rape, race, gun control, socioeconomics, and censorship. Emotions rage so hard in the three-and-a-half-minute piece, occasionally you can spot a small vocal crack in the performance, but that just lends more validation to the truth they kept spouting. ‘Somewhere in America,’ ushers in the hard-to-hear stuff,  ‘Women are killed for rejecting dates, but God forbid I bring my girlfriend to prom.’ Another: ‘The preppy kids go thrifting because they think it sounds fun. But we go ‘cause that’s all we’ve got money for.’ “

 

 
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