Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Anonymity of peer review reports ‘definitely’ enables egregious behavior July 7, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — KateNorlock @ 12:46 am

Added, from Jenny Saul: “Those who want more will want to look at Carole Lee and Christian Shunn’s paper on philosophy review practices. A key point that comes out there is how much nastier philosophers are than other reviewers studied.”

In the last couple years, I have presided over or assisted in peer-review processes for journal issues, anthologies, and conferences in Philosophy, with one consistently repeated shock across all venues, at least in my limited experience so far: It seemed to me as if anonymized peer-review seemed to bring out something vindictive in almost half of referees. Everyone who’s had an infamous “Reviewer #2” experience may be nodding right now, but I did not expect this. (I’ve gotten my own wee share of mean reviews, yes. But I am still surprised.) It caused me to seriously question whether doubly anonymous peer review is proven to be effective and good. I also thought that perhaps my impression was idiosyncratic.

I went looking for research to reaffirm the worth of peer-review, but I found little empirical verification that peer-review in journals achieves desired ends. I was relieved to find Hilda Bastian’s recent PLOS blog post, “Weighing Up Anonymity and Openness in Publication Peer Review,” in which she announced she had “taken a deep dive into this literature.” She only makes three unqualified statements, and the first of them is there is not a lot of great data:

But first, what evidence do we have that masking the identities of authors and peer reviewers achieves what it is meant to?

Well, it’s complicated. Which means it really needs a solid, up-to-date systematic review… We don’t have an overwhelming evidence basis for anything.

Ouch. That gets me right in the justified true belief. Her second firm finding confirmed something I’ve always longed to resist when students and colleagues allege it, just because it’s rather depressing (condensed below to avoid Bastian’s penchant for referring to anonymity as “blind”):

Institutionalizing anonymity [is] only partially successful at hiding authors’ identities, and mostly only when people in their field don’t know what authors have been working on.

Admittedly, she focuses on biomedical publications, but her review of the evidence includes non-biomed pubs, notably Budden’s (2008) comparative study suggesting that Behavioral Ecology saw more women published after changing to doubly anonymized peer review (which we have previously posted on here). She does not find that this study compellingly establishes that anonymizing authors reduces gender bias, although she notes evidence that at some science journals, “odds are stacked against women,” and there are “clear signs of other biases that have been shown at some journals,” notably status bias.

The only other really conclusive finding she offers is one that underlines the problem which sent me on my hunt:

On the other hand, the anonymity of peer review reports definitely enables negative, and even egregious, behavior.

Take heart, those of you with Reviewer #2 scars! You are not alone. Peer reviewers were more likely to be courteous when they, the reviewers, did not have anonymity:

Peer reviewers were more likely to substantiate the points they made when they knew they would be named. They were especially likely to provide extra substantiation if they were recommending an article be rejected, and they knew their report would be published if the article was accepted anyway.
In some studies, when the reviewers knew they would be named, they were likely to be more courteous or regarded as helpful by the authors.
There’s no support here for the concern that naming peer reviewers leads to systematically less critical reviews – and some support for improvement.
There was one large effect: many peer reviewers declined the invitation to peer review when they knew there was a chance they would be named – especially when they knew their colors would be nailed to the public mast if the article was published.

The results of Bastian’s investigations give me some hope that it is possible to gather evidence helpful to imagining better systems of quality-control and publication. I remain committed to anonymizing authors, since status bias seems no better to me than gender bias. But the porousness of author-identity masking, and the conduct of anonymized referees, gives me food for future thought.


What’s wrong with women’s speech, Part 352 July 5, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 6:03 pm

Last week, people started getting very excited about an article alleging that women’s tendency to use “just” makes them sound weak.  An old university friend and I on Facebook found ourselves both somehow annoyed, and had a good time exchanging examples of “weak” speech like “just fuck off!”  The whole thing reminded me of old criticisms of women’s use of tag questions, now debunked.  So I was thrilled to read this lovely blog post.

A small sample:

This endless policing of women’s language—their voices, their intonation patterns, the words they use, their syntax—is uncomfortably similar to the way our culture polices women’s bodily appearance. Just as the media and the beauty industry continually invent new reasons for women to be self-conscious about their bodies, so magazine articles and radio programmes like the ones I’ve mentioned encourage a similar self-consciousness about our speech. The effect on our behaviour is also similar. Instead of focusing on what we’re saying, we’re distracted by anxieties about the way we sound to others. ‘Am I being too apologetic?’ and ‘Is my voice too high?’ are linguistic analogues of ‘is my nail polish chipped?’ and ‘do I look fat in this?’


Important new paper on the under-representation of women in philosophy July 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 6:20 am

There’s a really important new paper out, based on a study at Sydney.  The headline news is that the study shows:

(a) At the very start of their first intro class, there are already significant gender differences in attitudes toward philosophy, with men generally more positively disposed toward the subject, more likely to think they’ll do well, and more likely to think they might major in it.

(b) This does not change from beginning to end of the semester.

They take this so suggest that key causes of the underrepresentation are already in place prior to university, but also suggest measures that could be effectively taken at university level to combat these.

I found the study both fascinating and surprising.  For me, one of the big lessons is the need to always expect and examine cultural differences.  In the UK, women and men sign up for philosophy degrees in roughly equal numbers, with women making their exit only after university exposure to the subject, dropping off at decision to do an MA.  A really fruitful research project might be a close examination of the cultural differences that produce these different outcomes.


Venues for public philosophy? June 27, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 3:15 pm

one way to encourage more philosophy in public discourse may be to draw up a list of good venues. So let’s do that.

Here’s a start:

Huff Po
The Stone, in the NY Times
NY Times op ed


The Critique


Amazing grace June 26, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 9:57 pm

And generosity from a very amateur singer.


Justice Kennedy acknowledges implicit bias

Filed under: Uncategorized — michaelsbrownstein @ 6:53 pm

In his opinion on the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs vs. Inclusive Communities Project — which interpreted “disparate impact” (i.e., discrimination without intent) as a legitimate cause of discrimination — Justice Anthony Kennedy writes, “recognition of disparate-impact liability under the FHA also plays a role in uncovering discriminatory intent: It permits plaintiffs to counteract the unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment.”  It’s terrific to see the Supreme Court seeming to recognizing implicit bias as contributing to discrimination.  Also, as this Slate article points out, it also raises interesting questions about moral responsibility and implicit bias.


Same-Sex Marriage Is a Right, Supreme Court Rules, 5-4

Filed under: Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 5:03 pm

No comment needed.

My imagination utterly failed me on this one, but I wish I had had Frank Bruni’s thoughts:

…that’s because the Supreme Court’s decision wasn’t simply about weddings. It was about worth. From the highest of this nation’s perches, in the most authoritative of this nation’s voices, a majority of justices told a minority of Americans that they’re normal and that they belong — fully, joyously and with cake..


On the value of philosophy in public discourse June 25, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — lanternerouge @ 3:18 pm

Dr Tania Lombrozo, a philosophically-minded professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, writes in a NPR commentary that some recent major news stories reveal how public discourse would benefit from input from academic philosophers. She cites the complex moral, social, metaphysical, and epistemological issues arising in the resignation of a NAACP official who was “outed” as white; in the white supremacist murder of nine black church-goers in Charleston; and in the stance taken on climate change by Pope Francis.

Two thoughts – neither of them particularly original – meant to complement Lombrozo’s insights: First, while stories of this magnitude serve as good examples of the need for philosophical contributions to public discourse, it is probably not an effective strategy to wait for stories of this magnitude before getting involved in public philosophy. Not only is there a good chance of the more subtle voices being lost in the commentary noise anyhow, but without a consistent public presence in the first place, philosophers will not be sought out for commentary either by readers and viewers or by venues and hosts. Only by contributing habitually on the small things, I think, are philosophers likely to find an audience for the big things.

Second, it is worth considering whether the strong disposition to do philosophy, and especially analytic philosophy, in terms of hyper-idealized fabricated examples might comprise a sort of anti-training for public philosophy. The message that real philosophy requires that issues first be framed in terms of the simplest (often bizarrely simple) toy scenarios plausibly socializes philosophers to feel uneasy about commenting in a professional capacity on complex cases – at least, without their commentary comprising a blizzard of caveats. If we want a more influential, vibrant public philosophy in the longer run, it is worth training philosophy students to be comfortable philosophizing about actual cases. Perhaps the most important step in that training will be to model the approach.


Supreme Court backs ‘obamacare’

Filed under: Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 2:24 pm

From today’s NY Times:

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Obama’s health care law may provide nationwide tax subsidies to help poor and middle-class people buy health insurance.

There are a number of reasons to be happy with this step. Most important, I think, is that a reasonable interpretation of the law allows millions to keep their health insurance.


Ten podcasts by women philosophers

Filed under: Uncategorized — axiothea @ 2:07 pm

The Think Philosophy Blog has a compilation of philosophy podcasts by Jill Gordon, Julia Annas, Charlotte Witt, Martha Nussbaum, Patricia Blanchette, Claudia Card, Sissela Bok, Mary Jo Bang and Greta Christina.

Thanks to Justin W. for telling us about it!



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