Looking back, and looking forward

I’ve really enjoyed this period of looking back at the blog, and hearing from co-bloggers. I’m so very grateful to Lady Day for organising it!

It’s prompted some reflections of my own. One thing it prompted me to do was to try to figure out when the blog started. I couldn’t actually work out how to make wordpress tell me, but I found this interesting one-year anniversary post, which told me that we started in May 2006. I do remember vividly what led me to start it: a conversation in the snow with Sally Haslanger, in which she urged me to start a blog and I resisted, insisting that I wasn’t the blogging type. I decided to go ahead because (a) I was already emailing links round to like-minded friends, and I thought I could put these on a blog, expecting it would only be those friends reading it; and (b) I thought some of my students might be the blogging type. I didn’t expect all that followed from this.

Pretty quickly, the reach of the blog defied my expectations. I expected maybe three readers and we were almost immediately up into the thousands, such was the hunger for something like this. Admittedly, not all of those were probably looking for a feminist philosophy blog (e.g. those who searched “loving wife spanking”, our most popular search in the first year). I’m pleased to say that our all-time greatest hits now include some important posts that weren’t just found by accident. Still, it’s not quite what I expected. Our number one post of all time is just a link to something someone else wrote. But number two is Red Eyed Tree Frog’s Christmas Trees Not So Harmless. The Gendered Conference Campaign comes in at number 7. And then we have a very large number of posts about incredibly bad behaviour in philosophy. I like to think we’ve done some good for the profession by calling attention to these.

Our blogging team also rapidly increased. At the start, it was just me, Stoat, and Monkey. By the end of the first year we had added Cornsay, Digivordig, Edna in the Sea, Heg, Introvertica, JJ, ProfBigK and Telbort. At the moment there are 40 names on the books. (I don’t even know for sure how many people they name!)

I think one of the blog’s greatest successes has been the Gendered Conference Campaign. This has, I think, helped to normalise the idea that people should notice the demographics of their invited speakers, and try to avoid homogeneity. It has been one factor among many helping to inspire similar campaigns in other fields, and additional ones in our own. But my happiest moment associated with this campaign was when it acquired a theme song.

I hope we’ve contributed in other ways: helping people, philosophers and non-philosophers alike, to find feminist philosophy; drawing attention to sexism, and other and overlapping prejudices, in philosophy; and, more generally, helping to build a community that could work together to improve our profession.

Back in the optimistic early days of blogging when we started, we thought we could manage comments with what I called the “be nice” rule. It sounds very feminine, but those who know me know that it’s a reference to the classic Patrick Swayze philosopher/bouncer movie Roadhouse. And of course if you know your classics you know that in addition to there being a time to be nice there’s also a time to be not-nice. The internet has become a complicated place, and figuring out the time to be nice and the time to be not-nice has revealed itself as beyond the abilities of even Dalton, world-famous bouncer with a degree in philosophy. We had many behind-the-scenes discussions about how to draw these lines, and couldn’t agree a clear way forward. But we felt we needed one if we were to continue. That’s no small part of why this blog is ending.

People have asked what I will do next. Which is odd, since it’s not like blogging was my profession and now I need to find a new job. But anyway… I’ve been thinking a lot about my deeply held view that online discussions of difficult issues are currently toxic to the point of being counterproductive. One thing I am trying to figure out is what we can do instead– how to have productive, inclusive discussions of difficult issues. I’ve got some ideas, and I’m trying things out. But I’m not going to discuss them online– not now, anyway.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what all of the FP bloggers and readers do next. There are so many more places and ways to do feminist philosophy online now, and there’s a vast community out there to do it.

Accessing Feminist Philosophers

As we announced April 23, Feminist Philosophers is shutting down. This is one of a series of posts by FP bloggers looking back on the blog and bidding it farewell.

There’s an apocryphal quote that is usually attributed to Helen Keller that goes something like this: blindness separates you from things, but deafness separates you from people. It turns out that Kant wrote something about this in his Anthropologie (aside: for all the hours I’ve been thinking about this farewell post, I must say that starting off with a reference to Kant never occurred to me, but blogging has a way of swerving the words on the page).

It’s hard to put into words how excited I became once I discovered the philosophy blogosphere and Feminist Philosophers.

I could finally understand without guesswork what other philosophers were saying, and having the words on the page to be read, not speech-read, meant that I had an equal footing when it came to accessibility. I’d never had the opportunity to communicate with philosophers without having to do the additional work of speechreading inference or working through an interpreter (who didn’t have the background in philosophy the rest of us did).

It was through Feminist Philosophers that I found a sense of community in the informal aspect of academic philosophy. There were many times when we disagreed — sometimes publicly on the comments page, but also on long email threads. I will miss those threads, time-consuming as they were, because of the respect we showed each other, even in times of deep contention. They were also another (inadvertent) accessible feature of doing philosophy that hadn’t been available to me — I learned much from reading and participating in them.

What I find most bittersweet about shutting down Feminist Philosophers is that this venue of informal philosophical exchange will now only exist as an archive. I learned philosophical jargon and ‘insider catchphrases’ by reading the comments, I learned about other feminist philosophers, including about other disabled feminist philosophers of color (our numbers are small, but we exist!) by reading the comments, and I learned that the written word modality of social media was a way for philosophers who were deaf or hard of hearing or had other communication disabilities could participate in conversations that prior to this were difficult to access.

Access to the informal conventions of feminist philosophy will still continue to exist as an archive, but it will be a snapshot of a certain period of time and place. And so, I worry about how others on the margins will gain access to the shifting social capital and conversations that may not be present in their departments — whether this is access related to disability or other factors. My hope is that with the closure of Feminist Philosophers, we can continue the spirit of this blog by continuing to invite others into our conversations, in whatever formats are needed for inclusion.

To my fellow bloggers, I want to say how honored I was to be invited to join you, and what an incredible privilege it has been to work with you to make a difference. To the readers of Feminist Philosophers, I’m grateful for the sense of community you helped to build, and especially for making it possible for me to see the range of ways to engage and sometimes, to spar! To Jenny, thank you for having the vision and the fortitude to keep Feminist Philosophers going, especially when the path was a tangle.

Thank you all, bloggers and commentators.

As we announced April 23, Feminist Philosophers is shutting down. This is one of a series of posts by FP bloggers looking back on the blog and bidding it farewell

I joined the blog about 4 months after Jenny began it. It has meant a lot of different things to me. One major meaningful feature has been the gendered conference campaign, which has also been extended to other venues, such as anthologies. Of course, applying the idea that there should be adequate representation of women has involved a lot of tedious counting. ‘One anthology in Ethics, fifty entries, three by women’ can’t usually be determined to apply in one look. Still, knowing we were addressing an often scandalous situation made it worth while.

When we started the campaign we were faced with a pretty grim picture: conference after conference with men-only invited speakers, volumes in which there were at most a few women. I had to remind myself that philosophy isn’t really a men-only field.

There’s lots more to notice, but I am going to mention only a few.

First, working on Feminist Philosophers has given me many opportunities to learn a lot. Sometimes I’ve become much more aware of areas in which I knew little. Disabilty studies has been one such.

Another thing I’ve come to think as we’ve discussed things is that appeals to intentions or lack thereof veryoften can’t adequately excuse ignorance. In a real sense, intentions may not matter. I think of this every time I hear Joe Biden discuss his touchy behavior. I fear he still fails to have done the work to understand why women have a space problem with grabby men.

Other issues I have had the chance to work out over several years. Through the blog I’ve really had a chance to think a lot about the role of institutions in what can make academic life difficult for women. For example, there’s mobbing.

In the workplace or in academia mobbing is group bullying. It is very harmful to the target
mobbed and also to the group doing the mobbing. It is very tempting in considering mobbing to ask who is at fault. However, people who have studied mobbing see the underlying fault to be more with adminstrations who encourage a wild west ‘might is right’ ethos than with the individuals citizens. It is hard to foster an atmosphere of respect if one doesn’t show such respect.

Another important lesson I think most of us on this blog took to heart is: Don’t suppose you can solve problems in interacting with faculty by appealing to the administration. You could end up with a wrecked career.

As I look through the blog, there seems tobe so much that won’t become quickly date. Have a look!

Finally, let me leave you with a sample of a feature the blog used to have. The Sunday Cat was started nearly 12 years ago, and I think the boom in cute cats on the internet was only just starting. Perhaps, indeed, we were among the innovators. The example below is of Maru, a very beloved cat on the ‘net.

We report with sadness, We are sad to report…

As we announced April 23, Feminist Philosophers is shutting down. This is one of a series of posts by FP bloggers looking back on the blog and bidding it farewell.

I was invited to join Feminist Philosophers in December of 2007, toward the end of its first year. I had written a report to the APA Committee on the Status of Women about the numbers of women in philosophy in the United States, which seemed to be about 21% of postsecondary instructors in philosophy according to the National Center for Education Statistics (up from 1992 stats suggesting we were 13%!). Jennifer Saul emailed me and said that at FP, I could bring attention to the status of women in philosophy to a wider audience. I didn’t realize how true that was. I didn’t know that the blog was already getting 20,000 views a month, that it would eventually reach closer to 200,000 views a month.

I learned in short order that contributors to the blog were spending enormous amounts of time and emotional labor on nights, on weekends, between classes, before dawn. They were writing each other massive amounts of emails to each other about posts, about comments, about what future topics to discuss, about their responsibilities. Jennifer Saul read everything, replied to all. I engaged gradually, not publishing very regularly until a couple of years in. I entered those vast and earnest oceans of conversation.

Effort didn’t always translate into success. But the correspondence of the women and men who blogged here was an honor to witness. They demonstrated courage when I was hesitant to be so public. They demonstrated receptivity to each other’s points of view when I was still sorting out what I thought. And they kept working, raising to awareness topics that might otherwise be overlooked.

The overlooked can easily include the passing of feminist philosophers. I started volunteering to write our obituaries more often. Jean Harvey. Sara Ruddick. Claudia Card. Sandy Bartky, so soon after Claudia. Vicky Davion, who was just nine years older than me. My write-ups fell into a pattern: We report with sadness. We are sad to report.

I think it’s right to wind this blog down. Many of us are doing so much elsewhere and doing less here. I agree with Jenny Saul and Audrey Yap that the Internet has changed so much that a lot of the purposes this blog used to serve are served well in other places. Public discourse is different now. But I find with some surprise that I regret the shutdown means ceasing these recognitions of lost feminists. I don’t know if there is a better place to pause and say, to those willing to attend, that a feminist philosopher has died, that she gave us her time and labor, that she was courageous, that she was receptive, that she kept working.

And of course, those are just the tenured, well-published individuals that we notice. Feminist goals and philosophical aims are realized by prominent individuals sometimes, but far more often require the work of unknown and countless people, in solitary and collective,unrecognized effort. I realize that’s how most of the work of life gets done.

Individually, we each need some recognition, some acknowledgement that we’re here, if only to continue broad-based struggles. The nicest thing about joining a blog called Feminist Philosophers was that its very title said, with some presumption but with puckish impunity, that we’re here and that we are numerous. A blog asserting the presence of feminist philosophers is a declaration of our existence, and our commenters and contributors pushed us to more and better forms of recognition. Readers have taught me to pay attention more deliberately, even to differences, especially to differences.

I notice you, feminist philosophers who pour invisible hours into efforts. I bet that you are giving, wherever you are. I hope you take vacations. I appreciate some fraction of how much you’ve done. I know you keep working. Take turns and take breaks. Be courageous. Be receptive. Recognize each other.

We support with gladness. We are glad to support.

(Thanks, Jenny.)

Doing Public Philosophy

As we announced April 23, Feminist Philosophers is shutting down. This is one of a series of posts by FP bloggers looking back on the blog and bidding it farewell.

I joined Feminist Philosophers in July 2015, after having written a pair of guest posts at Digressions & Impressions that received some attention, both positive and negative. That was one of my first forays into public philosophy. Here are Part I and Part II of that piece, and my reaction to its reception by some senior men in philosophy can be found here. Rereading those things, what I find striking is that my immediate response was to frame matters in terms of unproductive adversariality, as per Janice Moulton’s critique of the Adversary Method in philosophy. For those unfamiliar with that work, it’s not the same as a call for civility, which I don’t particularly have a lot of faith in either. But it is a criticism of our tendency in philosophy to treat discussions automatically as debates that can (and ought to) be won.

My training is in analytic philosophy, and in particular in the history and philosophy of mathematics. I was hired as our department’s logician, and I still teach a regular slate of logic courses. But at the time I started on at this blog, I was still making the transition over to thinking of feminist philosophy as my primary research area (which it certainly is now). The way I was doing it at the time was through feminist perspectives on informal logic and argumentation theory.

I have been extremely grateful for feminist philosophy, feminist philosophers, and Feminist Philosophers for helping me develop as a professional philosopher. Though I have not been at all prolific here, the connection to the larger community of feminist scholarship has helped me feel as though there is a place in philosophy for someone like me. Though I still love logic and the philosophy of mathematics, it was never a field that felt like home. Being part of this blogging community helped me to think through what a field that felt like home might be.

These days a lot of my work is centred on issues around gendered violence, and the FP post that I still think about was an attempt to work through some thoughts that didn’t yet have a more formal venue. Many of the things that I wrote in a post called Me Too: But What About You? were also part of a paper that came out the same year in Feminist Philosophy Quarterly.

But that FPQ paper was still framed in terms of how we, from the outside, might view perpetrators of gendered violence. What I think about these days has more to do with how we, as ordinary people, are ourselves contributing to violence and upholding oppression. It is really not that hard for us to hurt each other, and we need to come to terms with that without falling into either quietism or unproductive guilt.

I don’t have another regular public venue in which I write down my thoughts. And I have become a bit more pessimistic about blogging as a general way for me to bring about change. That’s not to say we shouldn’t do it – I was very happy to have written this piece for the APA blog relatively recently, for instance. But at the moment, it doesn’t feel like something I can do effectively or on a regular basis.

I think that activism requires a division of labour, and the work that I feel best about these days are smaller scale. Public philosophy is important, and I do think it’s incumbent on those of us who are relatively privileged to keep working to make the world better in whatever ways we can. But that work can take a lot of different forms. It can take the work of public writing. But it can also take the shape of working in our communities and campuses, or of supporting and amplifying the voices of others who need to be heard.

In the meantime, I’m grateful to the Feminist Philosophers community for giving me the opportunity to contribute in whatever ways I have. And I wish us all the best as we each work out the ways in which we are best suited to resist oppression.

In Memoriam: Anita Silvers (1940-2019)

We report with sadness the death of Professor Anita Silvers of San Francisco State University on Thursday, March 14, 2019. She was known for her work in aesthetics, bioethics, feminism, philosophy of justice, philosophy of disability, philosophy of law, and social and political philosophy. Dr. Silvers was the author of dozens of articles and author and editor of several books, including Disability, Difference, Discrimination: Perspectives on Justice in Bioethics and Public Policy with David Wasserman and Mary B. Mahowald (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998); Americans with Disabilities: Exploring Implications of the Law for Individuals and Institutions, co-edited with Leslie Francis (Routledge, 2000); and Puzzles About Art co-authored with Margaret Battin, John Fisher, and Ron Moore (St. Martin’s Press, 1989).

In addition to her groundbreaking scholarship, Professor Silvers was a disability rights activist with a storied history of service to the profession. She was longstanding Secretary-Treasurer of the American Philosophical Association (APA) Pacific Division (1982 to 2008), and she chaired the APA Committee on Inclusiveness in the Profession (2010-2013). She was the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2009 APA Quinn Prize for Service to the Profession, the 2013 APA and Phi Beta Kappa Lebowitz Prize for Philosophical Achievement and Contribution, the 2017 California State University (CSU) Wang Family Excellence Award for extraordinary contributions to the CSU system, and the inaugural California Faculty Human Rights Award.

I’ve been at a loss for words since I first learned of Anita’s passing. It was unexpected; she was currently working on several projects with me and also with many others. She was first my advocate, then mentor, then colleague and friend. Feminist Philosophers has a tradition of featuring a passage from the work of the philosopher we memorialize. Anita’s work on disability justice was grounded in her experience as a disabled person and her activism on behalf of people with disabilities. She was a fierce advocate and a brilliant strategist of disability accommodations. I leave you with these words, the conclusion from her essay “Formal Justice”.

Listening to the voices of people with disabilities in their own words quoted throughout this essay, we cannot help but have observed that, foremost, they desire a public sphere that embraces their presence. For them, equality means taking their places as competent contributors to well-ordered cooperative social and cultural transactions. For them, justice must offer, first, the visibility of full participatory citizenship, not a spotlight that targets them as needing more than others do. (Disability, Difference, Discrimination; p. 145)

Information about a memorial service for Professor Silvers will be posted later.

CFP: The Future of Inclusion

Annual Conference
The Future of Inclusion
26th Annual Meeting of Society for Philosophy in the Contemporary World

July 18th-23th, 2019 at University of Central Arkansas

Conway, AR, U.S.A.


We invite submissions for the 26th-annual meeting of the Society for Philosophy in the Contemporary World (SPCW) to be held July 18th-23rd, 2019 at the University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR. While we welcome and encourage papers on any topic related to philosophy in the contemporary world (broadly construed), of particular interest are papers that engage with this year’s theme: the future of inclusion.

Given much of US and global public discourse on ideological polarization, identity politics, tribalism, and divisive political actions, it seems necessary and important for contemporary philosophers to address the question: What is the Future of Inclusion?

We welcome papers on all topics, from any and all philosophical traditions. SPCW is especially interested in, and invites contributions by those from historically underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds, as well as anyone working to expand the scope and quality of philosophical discourses beyond the conventional canon. In addition to traditional papers and presentations, SPCW welcomes diverse formats such as spoken word, script readings, performances, and other approaches that invite and broaden philosophical reflection. Hence, in addition to established philosophers, we welcome the fellowship of graduate students, nontraditional philosophers, and persons with other non-philosophical specializations. We aim to provide the atmosphere for a genuinely positive and supportive exchange of views.

Topics to be addressed could include (but are not limited to):

Altruism and Empathy
Assessing Bias and Prejudice in 2019: Failures, Successes, Future Directions
Being at Home in the World: Interpersonally, Socially, Spiritually
Democracy, Diversity, and Recognition
Entitlement: Ethical and Political Issues
Epistemology and Phenomenology of Belonging
Epistemology, Neurology, and Psychology of Generative People
Global Citizenship and/or Global Human Rights
Making People Count in Immigration Policy
Nonviolence and Resistance to Oppression
Policing (and Incarcerating) Black Men
Remaking Meanings of Manhood and Masculinity
Reviving Civic Culture and Social Capital
The Right to Have Rights
Tolerance: Moral Virtue and Political Necessity
White Fragility: Why Whites Can’t Talk about Race
Afrofuturism and the Philosophy of Science
Can we have a responsible Ethics of Hope?
Moral Guilt or Responsibility: How Should We Respond to Ethical Failure
Inclusive Feminism and the Critique of White Feminism
The Future of Sexual Politics
Accountability, Reparations, and the Philosophy of Healing
Posthumanism and Radical Inclusivity
Becoming Ecologically Inclusive: Interdependency, the Environment, and the Future of Climate Change
Becoming Technologically Inclusive: Does the Future of Inclusion Lead Us to Cyborg Ethics?
Agonistic Politics and the Future of Democracy
Inclusion in the Public Sphere
The Revolution Will Be Accessible: Inclusivity and Disability
Neurodiversity, Neuroplasticity, and the Future of Philosophy of Mind
Liberation, Resistance, and Forerunners of Social Justice
HIV, AIDS, and Sero-Positivity in Philosophical Perspectives
Social Philosophy and the Limits of the Ideal, Nonideal, Possible, and Feasible
Racial Justice, Anti-racism, and Liberatory Intersections

Standard submissions: papers with a maximum length of 3,500 words, and an abstract of 100 words or less. Alternative presentation and creative proposals will be given consideration. All submissions circulated for double-anonymous peer-review.

Submissions are due April 1, 2019
Authors will be notified by May 6, 2019

The Journal: Philosophy in the Contemporary World welcomes submissions from conference participants. There are two ways to submit your conference work to the journal. First, once you’ve edited and expanded your presentation, submit directly to the journal via our email at pcweditors@gmail.com. We will use your successful conference acceptance as one of two blind reviews in our review process. The second way to submit your conference work includes submitting to a special volume. In the past, we’ve enjoyed publishing some excellent special issues reflective of conference highlights. In order to make this process work, we ask that conference participants work together to identify a potential guest editor for the special edition. This guest editor may then contact potential contributors, and ultimately propose a set of thematically linked articles.

Note to graduate students: SPCW considers all accepted graduate student papers for the annual Joe Frank Jones III Memorial Award for the best graduate student submission.

Send submissions prepared for anonymous review including a separate title page identifying the paper title, author name(s), institutional affiliation, and contact email using https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfsMvJhskWn2N7zKZ9ZMR0vhrT03-_MzQGpXCa-RMaz41o1eg/viewform.

If needed, you can also submit via email by sending the information to : Taine Duncan at tduncan@uca.edu or Paul Churchill at robert.paul.churchill@gmail.com.

Conference Site and Accommodations
Questions about the conference site, lodging, registration and other details should be sent to:

Taine Duncan at tduncan@uca.edu or Christian Matheis at matheiscg@guilford.edu

Linda Alcoff on survivor testimony

A powerful article, making really important points. (It does include several descriptions of sexual violence.)

Consistency is complex, of course. There is no real inconsistency in having contradictory feelings toward a flawed human being. In the Patrick Melrose novels, based on the life of their English author Edward St Aubyn, and their 2018 TV adaptation, the protagonist expresses tenderness and sympathy toward the father who raped him, while in another moment he delights in his death. This is what it means to be human.

We needn’t jettison consistency entirely – but we should be careful about using it as a litmus test of credibility. Otherwise, important questions about which details truly matter, and about the causes of inconsistency, will all be lost.

Read the article.