Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Un-diversifying academia May 18, 2016

Filed under: academia,diversity,gender,race,Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 5:20 pm

An important article on universities’ failure to tenure and retain the members of underrepresented groups that they hire.

This disturbing trend of denying tenure to women and minorities at disproportionate rates vis-à-vis white males is revealed in June Junn’s study at the University of Southern California. Junn found that of 106 tenure cases, heard between 1998 and 2012 at USC, 92 percent of white males were tenured, whereas only 55 percent of women and minority scholars were.

 

What’s in a name? May 13, 2016

Filed under: academia,language,race,Uncategorized — philodaria @ 7:24 pm

Yale philosophy major, Karléh Wilson, brings philosophy of language to bear on the recent controversies surrounding Yale’s decision not to rename Calhoun College in the Boston Review:

A few weeks ago Peter Salovey, president of Yale, made a controversial decision: he rejected the students’ argument and opted to retain the name. The decision has significant national consequences. If Yale, by reputation a liberal bastion in a liberal state, retains the name of Calhoun College, what does this signal for colleges and universities engaged in similar struggles in states where racial equality is yet more elusive?

Calhoun College was named in 1933 in honor of John C. Calhoun, an antebellum statesman who played a critical role in articulating the southern defense of slavery. In 1837 Calhoun, serving at the time as senator of South Carolina (he had previously been Andrew Jackson’s vice-president), told the Senate:

“In the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good.”

President Salovey’s reaffirmation of the college’s name has been taken by some as a sign of disrespect for African Americans. He has defended his decision by recourse to a novel and intriguing argument: he was motivated, he wrote, out of a sincere desire to remind subsequent generations of Yale students about our nation’s troubled past. The reaffirmation is thus intended to serve Yale’s educational mission, not to honor Calhoun. According to Salovey, from this point forward the name “Calhoun College” no longer honors Calhoun’s dishonorable legacy, and therefore no longer communicates disrespect for African Americans. “Ours is a nation that often refuses to face its own history of slavery and racism. Yale is part of that history,” Salovey emphasized. “We cannot erase American history but we can confront it, teach it, and learn from it. The decision to retain Calhoun College’s name reflects the importance of this vital educational imperative.”

President Salovey supposes that his decision can change the meaning of “Calhoun College.” It cannot.

. . . Speaking is a social act. Our social world is constituted by familiar practices, myths, symbols, and stories. Words therefore acquire social meanings. A use of a word has a certain meaning because of facts about the culture, such as entrenched social practices. Salovey’s argument presupposes that his decision can change the meaning of “Calhoun College.” Since it cannot, his argument fails.

To appreciate the point, consider the Wikipedia entry “List of places named after people.” The long list attests to a worldwide social practice of naming places, cities, towns, countries, and continents to honor respected figures. Because of the ubiquity of the practice of naming in order to honor, it is reasonable to assume that when a place is named after a person, its name honors that person’s legacy. Indeed, otherwise the practice is totally illegible. This accounts for the widespread practice of renaming streets, towns, cities, and institutions as political regimes change. Vladimir Lenin’s and Joseph Stalin’s names have been removed from institutions, cities, towns, and streets throughout the former Soviet Union, as have the names of many other former tyrants. Germany has no universities, colleges, cities, or streets named after Adolf Hitler or other Nazi leaders; previously, it did.

She concludes by noting that while Salovey has a significant amount of power as the president of Yale, it is not so significant as to enable him to change the social meaning of naming places after persons. The whole piece is here.

 

Yale’s Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore on the decision to maintain the name ‘Calhoun College’ April 30, 2016

Filed under: academia,activism,race — philodaria @ 3:41 am

From the New York Times:

The decision to keep Calhoun’s name overestimates his value for Yale students. Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, argues that “removing Calhoun’s name obscures the legacy of slavery rather than addressing it,” and living in Calhoun’s shadow will make students “better prepared to rise to the challenges of the present and the future.”

But Pauli Murray has more to teach Yale students, 55 percent of whom wanted to change the name of Calhoun College and who will demonstrate on campus once again.

In 1938, she applied to graduate school at the University of North Carolina, in her home state, only to be rejected because “members of your race are not admitted to the university.” In 1940, she went to jail in Virginia after she refused to move to the back of a Greyhound bus. During World War II, she served as head of the nonviolent protest committee in A. Philip Randolph’s March on Washington Movement. In 1943, she organized sit-ins to desegregate restaurants in Washington. A year later, as valedictorian of Howard Law School, she applied to Harvard Law School to do graduate work. It was customary for Harvard to accept the Howard valedictorian, but Harvard told Murray, “You are not of the sex entitled to be admitted to Harvard Law School.”

Instead, after three decades of civil rights leadership, Anna Pauline Murray earned the degree of doctor of juridical science from Yale Law School in 1965. While at Yale, Murray was an author of the pioneering article “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII,” which argued that sex discrimination resembled race discrimination and may be prohibited by the 14th Amendment.

Murray never gave up her fight for the values that sprang from her lifelong Episcopalian faith. In a moment of despair after her 1940 arrest, she wrote in her diary that it was “dangerous” to dwell on her “weaknesses.” “The great secret,” she told herself, “is not to think of yourself, of your courage, or of your despair” but of “Him for whom you journey.”

In 1973, she entered New York’s General Theological Seminary to prepare for the priesthood, a job from which she knew she would be excluded because of her gender. But in 1976, the Episcopal Church conference voted that “no one shall be denied access” to the priesthood on account of sex. In 1977, Murray became the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. The Episcopal Church made her a saint in 2012.

As Murray looked back on her activism in a 1976 interview, she recalled: “In not a single one of these little campaigns was I victorious. In other words, in each case, I personally failed, but I have lived to see the thesis upon which I was operating vindicated. And what I very often say is that I’ve lived to see my lost causes found.”

Some may argue that it is impossible to bind all of slavery’s wounds; after all, there are other residential colleges at Yale named for slaveholders such as George Berkeley, Timothy Dwight and Ezra Stiles. But John C. Calhoun is the only one whose fame came from his guiding role in a racial regime that enslaved people, inspired secession and formed the specious legal foundation for a century of discrimination.

Yale students of color, especially those who live in Calhoun College, and the thousands who protested last fall do not need any more teachable moments on the injustices he wrought. They feel the legacy of those injustices every day.

So did Murray.

There’s another article on this at CNN by John McWhorter, and coverage of student protests at Yale Daily News.

 

Melissa Harris-Perry interviews Anita Hill April 19, 2016

Filed under: gender,intersectionality,race,sexual harassment,Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 8:58 am

I really don’t need to say more than that, do I?  But if you want a teaser…

HARRIS-PERRY: How did race and gender affect how you were heard -during your testimony?
HILL: Those members of Congress had never even considered that Black women had our own political voice. They assumed that Black men spoke for us. For an African-American woman to have her own political voice and own political position, and to believe that our perspective should be added to the conversation, was just something they hadn’t even considered. I think that’s why, politically, things changed. I think that’s why women -became so agitated and so energized to make change on this important issue. And for Black women, it was like, Okay, we have to make sure we are speaking for ourselves.

 

For the rest, go here.

 

Diversifying a Discipline March 29, 2016

Filed under: bias,gender,minorities in philosophy,race,women in philosophy — jennysaul @ 1:23 am

I haven’t been able to read this yet because it’s behind a paywall, but I’m going to find a way around that because it’s important.

In 2015, Penn State produced an unprecedented number of black, female Ph.D.s in philosophy. Here’s how.

 

 

#oscarssowhite: did you watch the show? February 29, 2016

Filed under: achieving equality,Affirmative Action,bias,funny business,race — annejjacobson @ 8:22 pm

I warily watched the opening ceremony, and felt some relief that Chris Rock managed to call out at least the implicit racism (“the sorority racism:  we really like you but you are just not a kappa”) in Hollywood.  Every once in a while I turned the TV back on:  racism was a major topic.

here’s the transcript of Chris Rock’s opening monologue.

  1. The NY Times chief films critics discussed the ceremony here.  The beginning of their discussion:

MANOHLA DARGIS Our national nightmare is over: The 2016 Academy Awards are history. They were also history, too, just because for a few minutes Chris Rock tore the smiling mask off of the industry. Unlike most Oscar hosts, who just have to ease us through another grindingly dull show, he had a tough job Sunday night because everyone knew he had to confront #OscarsSoWhite, which he initially did pretty brilliantly.

Because while at first it seemed as if Mr. Rock was going to go easy on the room, with soft laughs about the “White People’s Choice Awards,” you could feel the room begin to cool when he started dropping words like “raping” and “lynching.” Rarely have the cutaways to the audience seemed as surreal. It was as if a chasm had suddenly opened between this single black performer and all those increasingly uneasy white people. The industry likes to obscure its racism and sexism, but its inequities and hollow insistence that the only color it cares about is green have become untenable as more people speak out. So, I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed watching that room squirm.

 

Very simple demonstration…

Filed under: bias,race,Uncategorized — Jender @ 10:43 am

that white people understand more about racial hierarchy than they want to admit. I’ll bet this could be repeated successfully over and over with different audiences.

 

Firing Melissa Click was messed up, and you don’t have to like what she did to think so.

As I’m sure you already know, Melissa Click was fired from the University of Missouri on account of her conduct during the student protests last fall.  Faculty at Mizzou have already raised concerns about due process. I think those concerns are legitimate and worrisome irrespective of whether or not you think, at the end of the day, firing would have been the right thing to do.

But forget, just for a moment, about whether or not you think Click’s behavior contravened her duties as a professor, or what would have happened were her due process rights fully respected and consider this, from earlier this month, by way of contrast:

“A UCLA history professor involved in an ongoing Title IX lawsuit reached an agreement with UCLA that will allow him to return to teach.”

And what exactly is this lawsuit about? Two students accused a professor of sexual assault. Here’s what happened before UCLA decided to help him return to teaching:

[A]n earlier, independent investigation by UCLA found enough evidence to warrant a litany of punitive actions for Piterberg. Yet according to the settlement agreement that Takla and Glasgow’s lawyer released last week, Piterberg was given only a slap on the wrist – he paid the UC Board of Regents $3,000, was suspended last spring quarter and participated in a sexual harassment training session. The only other punishments set for Piterberg were just as inconsequential: He may now only speak with students during open-door office hours and cannot try to establish any romantic or otherwise inappropriate relationships with students.

But, as it turned out, the punishment was even less stringent than it sounds. Piterberg’s spring quarter suspension was spent in Europe as a fellow at the European University Institute. While it is unclear if UCLA knew of this fellowship before administering the punishment, the fact remains that a professor accused of sexually assaulting students got to spend his quarter off in Europe and return to the university 10 weeks later.

Well, that’s at UCLA, you might say — and Click was at Mizzou. Yes. But then there’s this story. And this one. And this one. Oh, and this one (I’d keep going, but this could quickly get very depressing).  As for Mizzou itself, it doesn’t have a great record of appropriately handling sexual misconduct. In the recent AAU survey, students at Mizzou reported the third highest rate of having been subject to sexual misconduct. They’ve received attention from Outside the Lines for their handling of misconduct by student athletes, including violence against women. And the university itself admitted in 2014 that it screwed up by failing to investigate the alleged rape of Sasha Menu Courey, who committed suicide a little over a year after the alleged incident. None of that resulted in a national outcry. None of that resulted in the state legislature threatening to cut the university’s budget.

In academia, students’ cameras are treated as more sacred than students’ bodies. And whether or not you think Melissa Click was in the wrong, that seems pretty messed up.

 

Open letter in support of George Yancy February 24, 2016

Filed under: academia,activism,bullying,internet,race — Jender @ 9:45 am

On December 24, our valued colleague George Yancy published a piece in the New York Times Stone column. Its title was “Dear White America”. It was the culmination of 19 interviews with distinguished thinkers on the subject of race. The interview series brought philosophers into discourse with real time political events, as a new social movement took form bringing international attention to the racial injustice of the US criminal justice system.

 

Yancy’s column resulted in a storm of hate mail and calls directed his way. The emails he received included violent threats, such as “Someone needs to put a boot up your ass and knock your fucking head off your shoulders,” and included threats to his family. These messages were filled with racial invective, and meant to frighten and intimidate him into silence.

 

Social movements by their nature raise controversies that go to the heart of a society, whether they are social movements for women’s suffrage, or against abortion. They seek, by their nature, fundamental normative change. Discussing them therefore elicits strong emotions. But we will have no way to digest either their merits or their excesses if we do not have spaces to discuss social movements in a reasoned and respectful way,. George Yancy’s interviews provided a way for philosophers to do this. His culminating column is a call for white America to face the structural facts of injustice, and to recognize the ways individual attitudes are shaped by and contribute to the racism in our society.

 

In the media, scientific “experts” are regularly brought to bear on public debate. But scientific experts do not play the role of philosophers; the role of scientific expertise is often to put an end to debate, rather than incite it. Since its inception, the Stone has not shied away from fundamental moral and political controversy. Its participants do not pretend to be experts who resolve questions once and for all, but rather to incite debate and challenge. By bringing philosophers into public engagement, the Stone attempts to add something novel to American media engagement with events.

 

Yancy’s interview series embodies the Stone’s founding ideal: open philosophical discourse and debate about the challenging moral and political struggles of our day. Yancy’s “Dear White America” piece was his own personal message, lessons learned during the process of navigating almost two dozen philosophers through an engagement with what may very well turn out to be an iconic and historically important social movement.

 

Radical social movements in their time are always viewed as disturbances of the moral order. It is only retrospectively that social movements are viewed as speaking truth to power in ways that make moral sense. In the United States, for example, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is universally celebrated, including by citizens who share the ideology of those who despised him in his lifetime. This may be used as evidence of their success. But given persisting failures of equality in the United States, a more plausible explanation is that they have been assimilated into a rhetoric that views the polity as ever more just, the society progressively more fair and decent. The fact that social movements make retrospective moral sense does not mean that the practices that accompany them change in materially significant ways.

 

We can see in the example of the response to Yancy, that the Black Lives Matter too is viewed by some as a disturbance of the fundamental moral order, in much the same way as the Civil Rights Movement was. That the reaction to Yancy’s challenge has taken the form of vicious personal racism is, one may think, good evidence of the need for the message and the movement.

 

But one need not endorse the aims and goals of the Black Lives Matter movement in order to deplore the reaction to Yancy’s piece. We hold that whatever side one takes on this or other debates, free philosophical discussions on matters of profound social and political importance is a central function of the Stone. We authors of the Stone believe that discussions of the sort we have in its pages are a vital component of a healthy democracy. We stand together in support of our colleague George Yancy, and strongly repudiate these attempts to silence him.

 

Sincerely yours,

(more…)

 

Why young women are less enthusiastic about Hillary: One account February 21, 2016

The following is from a column in the NY Times by a 32 year old female lawyer, Jill Filipovic. Her account makes sense to me, in part because I’ve seen a similar account in another context. Bright young female scientists will often, some analyses have said, not realize how gender biased their field is until around the time they go up for tenure.  By then the exclusion of women is much more obvious, in part because they are becoming victims.

A number of people are quoted in the article, and it seems to me some wise things are said. The whole thing is very worth reading, but some snippets may give you the sense of a major argument in “Why Sexism at the Office Makes Women Love Hillary Clinton:”

Even for women active in feminist causes in college, as I was a dozen years ago, [some time in employment] can be a rude awakening. As a young lawyer, one of the first things I noticed about department meetings at my law firm was not just the dearth of female partners, but that one of the few female partners always seemed to be in charge of ordering lunch. I listened as some of my male colleagues opined on the need to marry a woman who would stay home with the children — that wasn’t sexist, they insisted, because it wasn’t that they thought only women should stay home; it was just that somebody had to, and the years in which they planned on having children would be crucial ones for their own careers.

I saw that the older white, male partners who mentored the younger white, male associates were able to work long days and excel professionally precisely because their stay-at-home wives took care of everything else; I saw that virtually none of the female partners had a similar setup.

In jobs that followed, managers would remark that they wanted “more women” and proceed to reject qualified candidates. (Similar dynamics took place with minority candidates.) There were always reasons — not the right cultural fit, not the right experience, a phenomenon of unintentional sexism now well documented in controlled studies. I watched as men with little or irrelevant experience were hired and promoted, because they had such great ideas, or they fit in better. “We want a woman,” the conclusion seemed to be, “just not this woman.”

A telling anecdote:

“A lot of the women I was friends with in college would have never called themselves feminists, but now that we’ve been in the workplace for 10 years, a lot has changed and they’re becoming more radical,” said Aminatou Sow, a digital strategist and a founder of a support network for women in technology called Tech LadyMafia. They realize, she said, “that the work world and the world at large remains a place that’s built by men and for men.”

That’s part of what makes Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy so compelling for Ms. Sow. “I pray to God that one day we can field a female Bernie Sanders candidate, some disheveled lady yelling, and the country will seriously consider her,” she said. “But nothing in our culture indicates to me that that’s remotely possible right now.”

 

 
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