Karen Stohr on Contempt

Karen Stohr has a wonderful essay on contempt and the current political discourse in the NYTimes Stone section today.  An excerpt:

It may seem as though the best response to Trump’s contempt is to return it in kind, treating him the same way he treats others. The trouble, though, is that contempt toward Trump does not function in the same way that his contempt toward others functions. Even if we grant that Trump deserves contempt for his attitudes and behaviors, his powerful social position insulates him from the worst of contempt’s effects. It is simply not possible to disregard or diminish the agency of the president of the United States. This means that contempt is not a particularly useful weapon in the battle against bigotry or misogyny. The socially vulnerable cannot wield it effectively precisely because of their social vulnerability.

The better strategy for those who are already disempowered is to reject contempt on its face. Returning contempt for contempt legitimizes its presence in the public sphere. The only ones who benefit from this legitimacy are the people powerful enough to use contempt to draw the boundaries of the political community as they see fit. Socially vulnerable people cannot win the battle for respect by using contempt as a way to demand it. In an environment where contempt is an acceptable language of communication, those who already lack social power stand to lose the most by being its targets. The only real defense against contempt is the consistent, strong and loud insistence that each one of us be regarded as a full participant in our shared political life, entitled to hold all others accountable for how we are treated.

Mentoring: Call for Applications

The 4th Biennial Mentoring Workshop for Pre-Tenure Women in Philosophy
June 11 – 13, 2017
University of Utah, Salt Lake City UT

Directors: Louise Antony (U Mass Amherst), Juliet Floyd (Boston University), and Susanne Sreedhar (Boston University)

Local arrangements: Matthew Haber (University of Utah)

Application Deadline: March 1, 2017

The Mentoring Workshop is the centerpiece of the Mentoring Program, an ongoing effort to foster mentoring relationships between senior women in the field and women just beginning their careers. The program follows a model designed by women in the American Economics Association, one which has proven remarkably successful in helping academic women advance their careers. As in past editions, the fourth Mentoring Workshop will involve small-group intensive working sessions interspersed with plenary panel discussions on professional development and work/life issues. The Workshop this year will be hosted by the Philosophy Department of the University of Utah. Information about local arrangements will be available soon, and will be posted on the Mentoring Program website:

http://www.bu.edu/philo/people/faculty/mentoring-project/.

To apply for the workshop: Send an email to Mentoring2017@umass.edu, stating your intention to apply, and indicating at least two areas of specialization, in
ranked order. Include as attachments (in .docx or .pdf format) your CV, and an abstract of the paper you would like to workshop. In choosing a paper to discuss, you should take care to choose a paper that is squarely in the area of philosophy that you work in. [But see the next paragraph.]

We will place you in a mentoring group according to the topic of your paper, and that means that the papers you will read and comment on will also be in that area of philosophy. We will do our best to match members of the cohorts and their mentors,
subject to availability and space in the workshop. That said, if we cannot form a cohort around your primary AOS, we might still be able to offer you a place in a cohort focused in one of your secondary areas of specialization. In that case, you will have the option of workshopping a different paper from the one you originally specified in your application.

Inquiries may also be sent to this email address. Please do not send inquiries to the
individual email accounts of any of the directors.

• Eligibility: Any woman entering or holding a faculty position in Philosophy at a college or university. We would especially like to encourage applications from members of groups underrepresented in Philosophy.

• Cost: There is no charge for participation in the workshop, but we expect mentees’ home institutions to cover the cost of their transportation, and room and board. Details about local arrangements and costs will be available soon.

• Accessibility: The Mentoring Project is committed to making the Workshop completely accessible to all philosophers. All meeting, dining, and guest rooms are wheelchair accessible. Philosophers needing ASL interpreters, assistive technology, or any other accommodation are asked to communicate their needs as soon as possible to Matt Haber (matt.haber@utah.edu) who is handling local arrangements.

The Mentoring Project Workshop is a project of the Women in Philosophy Task Force. It is funded this year by a grant from the Marc Sanders Foundation, and by the Department of Philosophy at the University of Utah, the University of Utah College of Humanities, the University of Utah Office of Equity and Diversity and the Department of Philosophy, the Department of Philosophy and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University. The Program has been supported in the past by seed grants from the American Philosophical Association.

Feminism and Racism

No one will be surprised to hear that many women of color experience feminism as exclusionary.  There were some efforts at a number of levels to make the March yesterday be inclusionary.  Women of color, for example, were dominant in the final roster of lead organizers.  Now might be a very good time to work on inclusion.  In doing do, the kinds of injustices effectively addressed will be increased.  And given such efforts, we can all end up in a backed by a more powerful unity.

There are some articles recently looking at racism and the march.  Following a recurring line of advice, I suggest we try to listen very respectfully to what people who feel excluded are telling us, perhaps especially those of us who may well not fully understand what checking our white privilege could or should consist in.

Colorlines has some wonderful relevant articles.  I’m going to give some snippets from one of the most direct.  Everyone really should read the whole piece.

… On the other hand, I’m really tired of Black and Brown women routinely being tasked with fixing White folks’ messes. I’m tired of being the moral compass of the United States. Many of the White women who will attend the march are committed activists, sure. But for those new-to-it White women who just decided that they care about social issues? I’m not invested in sharing space with them at this point in history.

Thus, I am affording myself the emotional frailty usually reserved for White women and tapping out this time. I’m not saying that I will never stand in solidarity with masses of White women under the umbrella of our gender, but it won’t be this weekend. Managing my depression is a complicated daily task, one that will certainly be exacerbated by the presidential inauguration festivities. It won’t serve my own mental health needs to put my body on the line (a body that I believe will invite more violence from Trump supporters than paler attendees) to feign solidarity with women who by and large didn’t have my back prior to November. Not yet. Eventually? Perhaps. But not now.

I’d like to see a million White women march to the grave of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth or Audre Lorde, or perhaps to the campus of Spelman College to offer a formal apology to Black women. It’s time for White women to come together and tell the world how their crimes against Black women, Black men and Black children have been no less devastating than the ones committed by their male counterparts. Perhaps the Women’s March on Washington will provide the grounds for the level of catharsis required to make that happen. If anyone can plant the seed, it’s Mallory, Perez, Sarsour and Janaye Ingram, the march’s head of logistics. But I just can’t make my way to Washington D.C. this weekend to find out.

Maybe next time.

[Jamilah Lemieux is a writer and the vice president of Men’s and News Programming for InteractiveOne. Follow her on Twitter: @jamilahlemieux]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonderful interview with Alexis Shotwell

A taste:

In her book Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times, Alexis Shotwell argues that “personal purity is simultaneously inadequate, impossible, and politically dangerous for shared projects of living on earth.” Focusing on maintaining your own innocence or goodness is counterproductive, she says, to actually fixing the world’s problems.

Instead, “if we want a world with less suffering and more flourishing, it would be useful to perceive complexity and complicity as the constitutive situation of our lives, rather than as things we should avoid,” she writes. We can’t help that we’ve inherited these problems—a warming Earth, institutional racism, increasingly antibiotic-resistant bacteria—nor can we help sometimes perpetuating them. Better to stop pretending at purity, own up to our imperfections, and try to create a morality that works with them.

Reader query: feminist applied ethics papers

I teach philosophy at a community college,  and I’m looking for suggestions about accessible papers in applied ethics that could be used in an introductory ethics course. I teach a Feminist Philosophy course in which we talk about a variety of feminist theories and their application, but I’d like to find a paper for my Ethics course that (a) is on an applied issue of contemporary interest, (b) makes an argument from a feminist perspective, (c) is accessible to students who are relatively new to philosophy, and (d) is self-contained – i.e. doesn’t need lots of previous explanation of the ideas and concepts in it.

I’m wondering if you or your readers have any suggestions. I’d greatly appreciate any help you could offer!

SWIP Ireland: Ann Cahill Workshop, 7th February, Dublin

The Society for Women in Philosophy Ireland invites you to a workshop with Prof. Ann Cahill (Professor of Philosophy, Elon University). Prof. Cahill’s work is situated at the intersection of feminist philosophy and philosophy of the body, where she develops new analyses of common concepts, such as sexual violence or objectification. For full details of the talk she will be giving, please see the below abstract and register here:

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/swip-ireland-workshop-with-ann-cahill-unjust-sex-vs-rape-tickets-31292404424

“Unjust Sex vs. Rape”

This talk will address a persistent philosophical conundrum, what I call the problem of the “heteronormative sexual continuum”: how sexual assault and hegemonic heterosex are conceptually and politically related. I will respond to the work of Nicola Gavey, who has argued for the existence of a “gray area” of sexual interactions that are ethically questionable without rising to the category of sexual assault, but whose analysis did not explicitly articulate what these two categories share or what distinguishes them from each other. I will argue that the two categories share a disregard for women’s sexual subjectivity (focusing particularly on the factor of sexual desire) and are distinguished by the different role that women’s sexual agency plays in each. 
All welcome!

Contribute to APA diversity fund!

Sally Haslanger is urging us all to contribute to the APA diversity fund, and to urge our colleagues to contribute!  It’s currently running out of money.  She suggests– as a starting place– that all US philosophers should try to get 50% of their colleagues to commit to $50 year for three years (with adjustments depending on financial situation, of course.)

The fund is here.

 

A comment in support of pro-life inclusion at the Women’s March on Washington

A few news organizations reported over the last couple of days that pro-life organizations have been excluded from official partnership with the Women’s March on Washington (e.g., here’s a piece from The Atlantic which includes interviews from folks on both sides of the issue). One pro-life group, New Wave Feminists, was recognized as a partner by the march, but then later removed.

Now, I’m not an organizer of the march, so this isn’t my decision to make. I’m not even going to the march in D.C. (though I’ll be at my local march the same day, and I encourage those who can participate to do so). Moreover, the pro-life position is at odds with the policy platform those who did organize put together. That platform reads:

We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education. We understand that we can only have reproductive justice when reproductive health care is accessible to all people regardless of income, location or education.

That said, I’m a pro-choice feminist, and I think excluding pro-life groups from partnership status is a mistake.  I’m grateful that some of my pro-life fellow citizens will march regardless, and I’d be glad to march alongside them.

To be clear, I think reproductive freedom is essential to women’s health and equality (and I don’t think we have to get into substantive debate about agency or the metaphysics of personhood to recognize this; banning abortion gambles with women’s lives – and that’s true even when there are meant to be exceptions for the life of the mother). I think arguments like this rely pretty straightforwardly on sexist notions (I don’t think men are some kind of depraved creatures who can only be reined in if women find within themselves to set a moral example — to live our lives in such a way as to make the potential consequences of action salient to men — and I don’t think valuing caregiving need be at odds with sexual agency nor a recognition of the value of reproductive freedom). Further, I don’t think there is intrinsic value in unity or collaboration (there’s no value added to racism, for example, when instantiated in unity with others).

But I also think that abortion is an issue on which reasonable people disagree, and in the coming years we will need reasonable people to work together given the unreasonable have taken the helm. If pro-life groups are willing to set aside that the official platform of the march directly challenges their organizing mission for the sake of working together to protect those values which we do share, then I’ll be happy to work with them. As Richard Rorty said, “Solidarity is not discovered by reflection but created.” For those of us whose conscience permits it, it’s time to be creating.