Here’s a new initiative by Canadian university student, Amulya Sanagavarapu — fun, consent-themed underwear. Like the idea? There’s a kickstarter page.
Reader query: how to cope with disturbing information about mentor February 24, 2014
A reader writes:
About 6 months ago, I learned that my undergraduate mentor in philosophy routinely slept with his female students, during my time at the university and for many years beforehand. He never made any even slightly inappropriate advances towards me, and he spent an enormous amount of time and energy mentoring me and supporting me through grave doubts about my abilities as a philosopher – indeed, had it not been for him, I would never have considered graduate school, and would not now have the Assistant Professor job that I love so much. He was always exceptionally kind, supportive, and sensitive to (and indeed often a champion of) feminist concerns. Over the past six months since learning this information, though, I’ve felt deeply hurt and betrayed, and have at times started to doubt myself in all of the old ways. Was I not in fact a good philosopher in undergrad? Was he only as supportive as he was because I was young, and female, and conventionally attractive? Did my other professors take me less seriously as a philosopher because they assumed that I was sleeping with him, too? The part of me that remembers how close our relationship was believes that he would feel deep regret if he knew how his actions affected past (and present?) students like me, but the part of me with more distance doubts that anyone who routinely slept with the 20-year-olds he taught could possibly care. I’ve wanted to get in touch with him recently, to tell him how hard his behavior has been even on students like me with whom he had a fully appropriate relationship, in part because I feel a responsibility to try to get him to change his behavior if he still does this to students. But is it utterly naive to think that getting in touch with him would have any positive affect? And might there be any negative repercussions to doing so that I’m not thinking of? (He’s not a particularly successful or influential philosopher, so I don’t think that he would have any ability to harm my career.)
Please leave your thoughts in comments, but absolutely DO NOT reveal identifying information about other similar situations (or this one, for that matter).
Query: teaching SM, post-50 Shades February 2, 2014
I haven’t taught SM in my feminism class since 50 Shades of Grey came out. Back in the pre-Shades era, the whole idea of safe words, etc was clearly news to many (though obviously not all) of my students. I knew what misconceptions I needed to correct. Am I right in suspecting it’s a different ball-game now? What are the new misconceptions to correct? Are there interesting works of philosophy I should be adding to do so?
Since this is the kind of topic where things can get heated, I’d like to ask readers to simply go with my assumption that there is no one feminist view to take on this topic. Ta.
Porn and non-Porn: not a dilemma, but something very odd December 8, 2013
Magicalersatz drew our attention to what seems to some of us a bizarre cover for an edition of a book by Kant. Somehow in trying to find out what was happening I found two sites that combine serious academic topics – in one case even academic papers – with porn. In fact, there are only two so far, but I am really wondering what is going on. Perhaps these sites are just ways of working out fantasies. Porn, one might want to say to students, is porn, whatever other pieces in a narrative might be doing.
Before I mention the websites, a word of caution inspired by a comment in the original post. First of all, looking at the sites at work might cause some problems. We are talking about porn, no doubt about it. Secondly, I think it could well be triggering. If you have every gotten into a sexually tinged power struggle – whether or not it’s led to rape – the whole association might be very upsetting. There’s usually a huge difference between finding intelligence sexy and finding intellectual stature provoking, where in the latter case the provocation may lead to abuse.. I think both sites might invite memories of the second sort of encounter.
The first site is by someone who at least at one point seems to have been a professional philosopher, with reviews, and maybe a book??
The second has parts of quite solid papers in cognitive psychology/neuroscience along with thoroughly pornographic pictures some of which have a bit of a story line. One chief character is Dr. Scienide, who is a Florida psychiatrist, he (?) says.
I have found a vaguely related discussion from about 10 years ago here. Let us know if you know of more recent and more relevant writing.
The Genderbread Person Redux – When Activism Gets Problematic September 21, 2013
[This post has been completely re-written, so if some of the earlier comments seem to be referring to things that aren't here, that's because they are. Thanks to Sam B for pointing out the plagiarism issue and to Rachel for helping me find the end of the article...because it's been just that kind of day for me.]
This weekend I stumbled onto the site It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, and found a graphic explaining the different aspects of sex, sexuality, and gender.
It turns out that site’s creator, Sam Killermann, plagiarized that graphic, and now has thrown a bunch of intellectual property stamps on it, and has even included it in a book he made. (Though you can get the book for free. But he has still made money off of all this.)
As awesome as it is to have people want to be cis straight while male allies, we have to as allies constantly keep vigilant that we are not blocking out the voices of the people we are trying to support with our own. Otherwise we are undermining the very project we are trying to help. And one thing you notice sort of quickly from Killermann’s projects is that you see a lot of him, and hear a lot of his voice but you don’t see or hear a lot of specific people that he is advocating for.
So again, here are some of their voices, specifically on his plagiarism. (Same link as above.)
And here is one of the earlier gingerbread persons:
Some parts of Killerman’s projects still have merit: the comment thread on this post has some good stuff in it. But I think legitimately, some people will not want to visit his websites.
As Laverne Cox said when this issue of plagiarism was brought to her attention,
“…those who lay the groundwork don’t often get the credit. The universe is trying to tell me something. We cannot silence the voices of those doing the hard work so that we can flourish.”
(Sorry I can’t find the exact tweet. This is also in the storify post linked above.)
That is, without respect for the people we are trying to support, our support is hollow.
From Cisnormativity (the Storify OP):
Without that respect, any work done in the name of social justice isn’t actually the practice of social justice. It’s erasure. It’s a tossing of the most marginal people from the bus of acceptance, enfranchisement, and citizenship. It’s the theft of lived experiences. It’s why intersectionally marginalized people along multiple axes still cannot reach so many of their dreams, their potentials, or their hopes .
Women: not uninterested in sex after all July 13, 2013
in scientific tests, women become aroused when they watch a film of two copulating bonobos (men don’t, by the way), and that they strongly deny this arousal when asked. The explanation, proffered tentatively by Bergner, is that female sexuality is as raw and bestial as male sexuality. But, unlike men, our animal urges are stoutly denied, by society and by ourselves, so that when they surface, it is not as a manageable stream, but as a rushing torrent that will sweep up everything it passes, even a pair of shagging primates.
As they enrolled in the study, Chivers’ subjects identified themselves as straight or lesbian. They were shown images of sex between men and women, women and women, men and men, and a pair of bonobos (a species of ape). The subjects, straight and lesbian, were turned on right away by all of it, including the copulating apes. While they watched, they also held a keypad on which they rated their own feelings of arousal. So Chivers had physiological and self-reported scores. They hardly matched at all. Chivers’ objective numbers, tracking what’s technically called vaginal pulse amplitude, soared no matter who was on screen and regardless of what they were doing, to each other, to themselves. The keypad contradicted the plethysmograph entirely. The self-reports announced indifference to the bonobos. But that was only for starters. When the films were of women touching themselves or enmeshed with each other, the straight subjects said they were a lot less excited than their genitals declared. During the segments of gay male sex, the ratings of heterosexual women were even more muted.
Chivers put heterosexual and homosexual males through the same procedure. Strapped to their type of plethysmograph, they responded in predictable patterns she labelled “category specific”. The straight men did swell slightly as they watched men masturbating and slightly more as they stared at men together, but this was dwarfed by their physiological arousal when the films featured women alone, women with men and, above all, women with women. Category specific applied still more to the gay males. Their readings jumped when men masturbated, rocketed when men had sex with men, and climbed, though less steeply, when the clips showed men with women; the plethysmograph rested close to dead when women owned the screen.
As for the bonobos, the genitals of both gay and straight men reacted to them the same way they did to the landscapes, to the pannings of mountains and plateaus. And with the men, the objective and subjective were in sync. Bodies and minds told the same story.
How to explain the conflict between what the women claimed and what their genitals said? Were the women either consciously diminishing or unconsciously blocking out the fact that a vast scope of things stoked them instantly toward lust?
The WSJ on marriage and sex April 25, 2013
No seriously. Go. Here’s the link again. Why are you still here?
What is wrong with feminism? March 1, 2013
There have been two posts so far on the PBS program, Women Making American; see here and here. It is not as problematic as I originally feared; that is, it isn’t just about fairly recent white US female media personalities. Still, a program that attempts to follow even the limited history of the feminist movement from Friedan forward is going to be short on critical analysis.
Nonetheless, there were two topics that often get at least a mention on this blog about which we’ve not had much explicit to say. So when the program took them up, I listened very carefully. The program’s style of interviewing one or a few women meant that in some cases we were just getting one person’s opinion. Still, though the content on two topics was very minimal, I thought it might be interesting to get reactions from those of you who come here.
Topic One: why don’t young (white, middle-class) women want to describe themselves as feminists?
One answer: because feminism is associated with the more extreme forms it took in the 70′s and 80′s. Women today are not so anti-male, etc, as these parts of radical feminism.
Topic two: Why doesn’t the feminist movement attract more women of color?
One answer: because it typically leaves out class; women of color see the problems in terms of race, gender and class.
I think it would be a mistake to think along the lines of “it can’t be this simple,” because in fact these are not simple problems. But what do you think?
Christina Hoff Somers on the Boys in the Back. February 3, 2013
In fact, Dr. Somers is the step-mother of a colleague of mine, and so I won’t dwell on the possible motives for her friendly voice for feminism in today’s NY Times. It would be very mean to suggest she has her eye on sales of the book she is about to reissue. (That book is called The War Against boys.) So let me just note that she relays some interesting ideas about why boys do less well in school than girls, as it seems. She does seem to think its due to universally shared male characteristics, like being feckless and lazy.
As our schools have become more feelings-centered, risk-averse, collaboration-oriented and sedentary, they have moved further and further from boys’ characteristic sensibilities. Concerns about boys arose during a time of tech bubble prosperity; now, more than a decade later, there are major policy reasons — besides the stale “culture wars” of the 1990s — to focus on boys’ schooling.
We addressed the research behind the idea that boys and girls have brains fundamentally different in the way Somers described. Cordelia Fine, who will be speaking at the Central APA in a few weeks, has recently made the idea even more implausible.
Still, we can probably all get behind her closing sentence: The rise of women, however long overdue, does not require the fall of men.