Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Shame/blame/guilt: a good way to produce nurturing, helpful women July 4, 2015

Filed under: gender stereotypes,psychology — annejjacobson @ 7:00 pm

Please note:  I suspect that the passage shown below is in fact drawn from studies of cis white women.  One difficulty in telling how ethnicity and gender queerness interact with the prevalence of depression in woman is that the facts discussed in the quoted passage below are not even well-recognized in the quasi-popular literature.  It’s as though continued assaults on the souls of young women aren’t medical enough.

(I am not saying that the passage below is correct; rather the point is the kind of explanation that it provides and that needs to be considered. Also, please excuse my occasional lapses into hyperbole.  I’m really, really pissed off.)

I think the passage below can be said to say the following:  continual criticism of girls and women for not being good enough in caring about others has an upside and a downside.

The upside: We get better mothers and more nurturing people in the society.

The downside: a lot of them become mentally ill.

And another shocker: this is way post Betty Friedan.  That is, it was released in 1997.


From Guilt and Children, ed by Jane Bybee.


Reader Query: “The Science of Sex Appeal” February 6, 2015

A reader writes:

Has anyone seen the documentary “The Science of Sex Appeal,” and if so, could you please recommend academic sources that counter the claims made by this video?” While Cordelia Fine’s book is great for arguing against this evolutionary psychology bullshit more generally (sorry; maybe it isn’t all bullshit, but THIS stuff is), I’d really like to be able to point to specific claims made in the video and offer specific, scientifically supported claims to the contrary. I haven’t found anything through database searches.

UPDATE: This post has been a nightmare to moderate.  Do to many requests, I tried to confine comments to ones that really address the reader’s query, rather than dealing in big generalisations about whether feminists hate evolutionary psychology, etc. I’m now closing comments.


FURTHER UPDATE: This is being briefly re-opened.


“Is it Child abuse to make a trans child ‘Change’?” January 9, 2015

Filed under: bias,gender,human rights,parenting,psychology — annejjacobson @ 7:50 pm

This is the topic for a NY Times “room for debate.” It is in response to the very sad suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a trans child whose parents loved almost everything about her, her mother said. Just not her being trans; they took her to conversion therapy to try to change her back to a boy named “Joshua” (her name at birth).

There’s a special feature to this NY Times debate. Everyone thinks it is an exceptionally bad idea to try to make a trans child change. This is the first “room for debate” I’ve seen when the other side has had no representation.


Examples of implicit racial bias at work January 4, 2015

An article in the NY Times contains important information on research into implicit bias. It also has a number of useful, though upsetting, examples. Here are some of them:

■ When doctors were shown patient histories and asked to make judgments about heart disease, they were much less likely to recommend cardiac catheterization (a helpful procedure) to black patients — even when their medical files were statistically identical to those of white patients.

■ When whites and blacks were sent to bargain for a used car, blacks were offered initial prices roughly $700 higher, and they received far smaller concessions.

■ Several studies found that sending emails with stereotypically black names in response to apartment-rental ads on Craigslist elicited fewer responses than sending ones with white names. A regularly repeated study by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development sent African-Americans and whites to look at apartments and found that African-Americans were shown fewer apartments to rent and houses for sale.

■ White state legislators were found to be less likely to respond to constituents with African-American names. This was true of legislators in both political parties.

■ Emails sent to faculty members at universities, asking to talk about research opportunities, were more likely to get a reply if a stereotypically white name was used.

■ Even eBay auctions were not immune. When iPods were auctioned on eBay, researchers randomly varied the skin color on the hand holding the iPod. A white hand holding the iPod received 21 percent more offers than a black hand.

■ The criminal justice system — the focus of current debates — is harder to examine this way. One study, though, found a clever method. The pools of people from which jurors are chosen are effectively random. Analyzing this natural experiment revealed that an all-white jury was 16 percentage points more likely to convict a black defendant than a white one, but when a jury had one black member, it convicted both at the same rate.

A number of these can also be used as examples of white privilege.


Cordelia Fine on neurosexism December 4, 2013

Filed under: gender,gender stereotypes,psychology — magicalersatz @ 3:12 pm

Cordelia Fine has written a stunning takedown of the much-reported latest findings about brains and gender.

To give a sense of the huge overlap in behaviour between males and females, of the twenty-six possible comparisons, eleven sex differences were either non-existent, or so small that if you were to select a boy and girl at random and compare their scores on a task, the “right” sex would be superior less than 53% of the time.

Even the much-vaunted female advantage in social cognition, and male advantage in spatial processing, was so modest that a randomly chosen boy would outscore a randomly chosen girl on social cognition – and the girl would outscore the boy on spatial processing – over 40% of the time.

As for map-reading and remembering conversations, these weren’t measured at all.

Yet the authors describe these differences as “pronounced” and as reflecting “behavioural complementarity” – scientific jargon-speak for “men are from Mars, women are from Venus”. Rather than drawing on their impressively rich data-set to empirically test questions about how brain connectivity characteristics relate to behaviour, the authors instead offer untested stereotype-based speculation. Even though, with such considerable overlap in male/female distributions, biological sex is a dismal guide to psychological ability.


Antoinette Tuff is a hero August 22, 2013

Filed under: emotion,moral psychology,psychology,violence — philodaria @ 2:00 am

This woman is amazing. Here’s why we know about her. (More here, because I haven’t found a transcript yet of the call).


Oppressive beliefs and breast size preference February 17, 2013

Filed under: beauty,objectification,psychology,science — hippocampa @ 12:37 pm

A recent study showed that White British heterosexual men’s preferences for larger female breasts were significantly associated with a greater tendency to be benevolently sexist, to objectify women, and to be hostile towards women (Viren Swami and Martin J. Toveé, 2013).

Since the article isn’t open access, I will briefly summarise what they did and found, which will inevitably leave out things that are also relevant and noteworthy, but ok:

Small breast sizeLarge breast sizeBased on self-reports, they selected a sample of 361 males of Britisch White descent, who didn’t indicate being gay or bisexual or didn’t disclose their preference (average age 30, ranging from 18 to 68). Those were asked to rate the attractability of photo-realistic 3D models that were rotated on the screen. I copied and pasted from the article the model with the smallest breast size out of five on the left, and the one with the largest on the right so you get a bit of an idea. In the study they were presented in colour. After having rated the models, the participants were asked to fill in questionnaires that measure sexist attitudes (Hostility Towards Women Scale HTWS, Attitudes Towards Women Scale AWS and Benevolent Sexism BS subscale of the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory ASI) and that measure objectification of women (an adaptation of the Self-Objectification Scale SOS).

What they found was that on average men found the medium breast size model most attractive, with a skewed distribution towards the larger breast size, which seems unsurprising. The men’s preference for larger breast sizes was significantly and positively correlated with hostility towards women, more sexist attitudes towards women, benevolent sexism and objectification of women. They also found that young men were more likely to rate large breasts as more attractive. Neither education nor relationship status had an effect. Benevolent sexism was the strongest predictor for breast size rating, while objectifaction of women and hostility towards women were also significant predictors.

Some highlights from the discussion which I thought were noteworthy:

“[…] insofar as breasts are an index of a gendered difference between women and men, benevolently sexist men may perceive larger breasts as ‘‘appropriate’’ for feminine women; in other words, in the view of benevolently sexism men, a feminine and submissive woman is likely to be someone with large breasts.”

“Based on this set of results, it might be argued that it is the tendency to view women in ways that are subjectively positive for the perceiver rather than to explicitly denigrate women that drives men’s breast size preferences. Of course, both types of sexism stem from issues relating to power, gender identity, and sexuality, and it should also be noted thatbenevolent sexism may also serve to justify hostile attitudes toward women (Glick&Fiske, 1996).”

“Our results also showed that a greater tendency to objectify women was associated with a greater likelihood of rating larger breasts as physically attractive. Previous scholars have argued that, in many socioeconomically developed societies, female breasts have become an important site of objectification of the femalebody (Seifert,2005;Wardetal.,2006). This is evidenced, for example, in media aimed at hegemonic masculinities (Gerald & Potvin, 2009), where large female breasts are fetishized and treated as sexual objects that fulfill the pleasures and desires of masculine men. In this view, the objectification of women’s body parts, including though not limited to their breasts, is an example of the dominance of men over women and is further reproduced through cultural expectations of heteronormativity (Martino & Pallotta-Chiarolli, 2005). Moreover, this normalization compels women to put up with the objectification of their breasts and bodies by men, and even to treat such objectificationas flattering (Pascoe, 2007).”

They acknowledge a number of shortcomings in the research, such as the models all having the same face and waist-to-hip ratio and such, and all the breasts being the same shape. They further indicate the rather standard issues with recruitment method of the participants that might limit the generalisability (if that’s a word) and the possibility of socially desirable responding.

“In summary, the results of the present study showed that men’s oppressive beliefs predicted their idealization of larger female breasts. These results may have important implications for contemporary theorizing of breast size preferences. In addition to considering the distal evolutionary pressures that led to men’s breast size preferences, our findings also highlight the importance of considering the proximate sociocultural context in which thosejudgments aremade (cf. Little, Jones, DeBruine, & Caldwell, 2011). Specifically, it seems clear that the lived experiences of women and men in contemporary societies, and particularly their gendered relations with one another, will have a major impact on their beauty ideals and practices (Forbes et al., 2007).More broadly, future research would do well to more carefully consider the ways in which such beauty ideals shape and maintain gendered divisions in contemporary societies.



Jezebel’s Lindy West on the National Review August 23, 2012

Sometimes, my desire to blog about sexist cultural commentary is frustrated by my desire to avoid driving further blog traffic to a column obviously approved by editors in order to “trend” online.  But this week, Lindy West does all the hard work for me over at Jezebel, as she explains why a recent column in the National Review is over the top with the “Obama might as well have fallopian tubes” thing.


Women arrested for sex attacks on men October 15, 2011

Filed under: intersectionality,psychology,Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 6:49 pm
Tags: ,

We do not deny that it can happen.

From CNN:

Police in Zimbabwe on Friday charged three women found in possession of 33 condoms containing semen with 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault in a case that may be a break in a string of sex attacks over the past two years by women targeting male hitchhikers.

Watch Ruparanganda, a professor of sociology at the University of Zimbabwe said : “Some sections of the society use these sperm for ritual purposes. The thinking is that it can be used for regeneration of life since they are source of life (biologically). Some people think that they can have their bad luck gone by using semen. I am sure that explains all this we have been witnessing (men being forced).”


Confronting sexism September 7, 2011

Filed under: bias,psychology — magicalersatz @ 3:41 pm

Via Jezebel, a recent study suggests that – at least in some situations – confronting men about sexist remarks can actually make them behave more nicely toward you (and doesn’t make them like you any less).

Show of hands: how many of us, despite our best principles, have at some point let a ridiculously sexist comment slide because we feared the consequences if we spoke up? While it’s important not to overstate the results of a single study, there’s perhaps reason to think that these consequences aren’t always as bad as we fear them to be.

And if anyone needs a reminder of strategies for confronting sexism (and other ‘ism’s), MIT has a fabulous resource on bystander training here.



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