Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Saray Ayala on “Explaining Injustice in Speech” August 31, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stacey Goguen @ 2:13 pm

The Brains Blog is hosting an online conference this month, and one of the papers, by Saray Ayala, is on structural injustice in speech.  You can watch an 8 min presentation by Ayala, as well as read the paper, here.

“Explaining Injustice in Speech: Individualistic vs. Structural Explanation”


Testimonial injustice occurs when the audience deflates a speaker’s credibility due to the speaker’s perceived social identity (Fricker, 2007). Although this phenomenon has received much attention, a lot remains unclear. I identify two drawbacks of a widely accepted explanation attributing testimonial injustice to prejudices (e.g. implicit bias) in the mind of the hearer. I propose an alternative: a structural explanation that appeals to discursive conventions.


Study on reproducibility in psychology August 28, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — michaelsbrownstein @ 3:29 pm

Yesterday the journal Science published the results of the Open Science Collaboration’s effort to replicate 100 studies published in three top psychology journals (here).  The results are arresting: overall, replication effects were half the magnitude of the original effects, and only 36% of replications had statistically significant results.  The results were particularly bad for social psychology, for which only 14 of 55 studies were replicated (on the basis of significance testing).

The title of today’s coverage on Slate captured what seems to be a widespread reaction: “That Amazeballs Scientific Study You just Shared on Facebook is Probably Wrong, Study Says.”  But is this really what the study says?

It’s worth reading the actual article in Science, rather than just the headline.  For example:

  • Almost none of the replications contradicted the original studies. Instead, the effects of many of the replications were significantly weaker than the original effects.  The replication efforts don’t therefore tell us that the findings of any particular study that didn’t replicate were false.  Rather, it tells us that the evidence for those findings being true is considerably weaker than we might have thought.
  • It appears that the best predictor of replication success for any particular study was the strength of the original findings, rather than the perceived importance of the effect or the expertise/reputation of the original research team. In addition, surprising effects were less reproducible (surprise!), as were effects that resulted from more difficult/complicated experimental scenarios.
  • This is not a problem in psychology alone. It has been reported that in cell biology, only 11% and 25% of landmark studies recently replicated.  Moreover, there may be good reasons why social psychology studies are harder to replicate than other studies in psychology.  As Simine Vazire points out (here), the phenomena social psychologists study are extremely noisy.  She writes, “if we still don’t know for sure, after years of nutrition research, whether coffee is good for you or not, how could we know for sure after one study with 45 college students whether reading about X, thinking about Y, or watching Z is going to improve your social relationships, motivation, or happiness?”  That said, the Science study points out other reasons why social psychology studies were particularly unlikely to replicate: social psychology journals have been particularly willing to publish under-powered studies with small participant samples and one-shot measurement designs.

There is, of course, something very unsettling about these findings.  But in the big picture it seems to me that this article is a testament to science working well.  (Or, maybe, like Churchill said of democracy, it is a testament to science being the worst form of inquiry . . . except for all the others.) The fact that one of the most important scientific journals has published this article is itself confidence-inspiring.  Vazire quotes Asimov saying that “the point of science is all about becoming less and less wrong.”  Or as the Science article puts it:

“After this intensive effort to reproduce a sample of published psychological findings, how many of the effects have we established are true?  Zero.  And how many of the effects have we established are false?  Zero.  Is this a limitation of the project design?  No.  It is the reality of doing science, even if it is not appreciated in daily practice.  Humans desire certainty, and science infrequently provides it.  As much as we might wish it to be otherwise, a single study almost never provides definitive resolution for or against an effect and its explanation.  The original studies examined here offered tentative evidence; the replications we conducted offered additional, confirmatory evidence.  In some cases, the replications increase confidence in the reliability of the original results; in other cases, the replications suggest that more investigation is needed to establish the validity of the original findings.  Scientific progress is a cumulative process of uncertainty reduction that can only succeed if science itself remains the greatest skeptic of its explanatory claims.”

PS – good coverage from The Atlantic


Reasons you were not promoted that are totally unrelated to gender August 27, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jender @ 2:27 pm


You’re argumentative. For example, right now you’re upset that you didn’t get a promotion and you’re asking for concrete examples of what you can do better. I really don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty and you should trust my judgment anyways.

You’re a pushover. When Tom came up and gave you that totally platonic hug in the shareholders meeting you should have just told him to not touch you instead of telling me you thought it was inappropriate. Leaders handle their own problems.

Read the whole thing.  (Thanks, T!)


“Warm, Bloody and Tender”, and other feminist songs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jender @ 12:02 pm

Feminist philosopher Louise Antony’s daughter, Rachel Lark, is one of the world’s leading feminist singer/songwriters.  And perhaps the bawdiest.  Here she is being interviewed about her song celebrating period sex.  Another wonderful song of hers is the fabulously catchy “For the guys”, about consent.


Should we watch this? Updates

Filed under: Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 4:53 am

It’s on YouTube. It’s Mei Xiang, a giant panda, giving birth to the first of her twin cubs on Aug. 22nd. But should it be a public spectacle? Does this clip make it one?
What do you think?
The birth is filmed in the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

1. One of the cubs has died. It is not yet clear why.

2. There is a panda cam, and stills of Mei Xiang with a cub. One of the stills catches a mouse, which is discussed on the cam page. Before watching the cam or looking at the stills, you might want to check out the discussion following this post.


Whether and when to flip off your baby. August 26, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Prof Manners @ 4:10 pm

Rebecca Schuman of Slate has been taking selfies while flipping off her infant.  She converses with Jill Delston of University of Missouri – St. Louis about the moral advisability of this.  It strikes me that analysis of how humor works might help here.  On Ted Cohen’s (fun) account of humor, one of the ways we find relief in humor is by mocking powers we cannot defeat.  That’s why jokes about death work as they do.  So, maybe infants and death just go together – both are rather unrelenting.

My initial thought on seeing this was that any distress it provoked (for those who would find such images distressing) would likely arise from gendered social expectations, such that the gentle nurturing expected of mothers is violated here.  But I doubt that images of a father doing the same would play better on this score and indeed might awaken worries about the menace and threat such a gesture could suggest.  So, while the images would play differently for mothers and fathers, it’s not clear to me that any of us are well free to flip off our babies in the way they so often richly deserve.


How Philosophy was Whitewashed August 25, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jender @ 1:34 pm

an interview with Nathaniel Coleman:

“Try to find Cugoano in a philosophical syllabus,” Coleman notes. You will fail. Similarly, if you search for “philosophers” in Google Images, you will find only “”white men,” usually with beards.”

According to Coleman, the philosophical canon is socially constructed and unjustly excludes Africans like Cugoano or Anton Wilhelm Amo, an African philosopher who lived in (what is now) Germany, in the 17th century. They were virtually written out of the history of philosophy. It has been recounted that enslaved Africans did not write anything worth reading, and much less anything of philosophical value. And if they did write anything, it was only “stories.” But this is false.


Laurie Shrage on Prostitution/Sex Work

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jender @ 1:09 pm

Feminist philosopher Laurie Shrage writes in the NY Times:

This week, participants in an Amnesty International council meeting in Dublin are considering a proposal to endorse the decriminalization of consensual paid sex between adults. The proposal has elements of the both the British model, which rests on the idea that consensual sex between adults should be protected from state interference, and the Dutch model, which is based on the idea that criminalizing paid sex generates more harm than good. The policy draft I read emphasizes the organization’s longstanding commitment to end trafficking, and to insure that, where paid sex exists, it is voluntary and safe.

Yet some prominent feminist groups have organized to oppose Amnesty International’s proposed policy and to endorse the Swedish model of prohibition. Their opposition is based on the assumption that acts of paid sex are inevitably coercive and that the state should intervene in private sexual acts between adults to protect vulnerable people.

The first assumption has been strongly challenged by many sex worker civil and labor rights groups, and the second assumption is subject to the objection that it is overly paternalistic toward adult women. Moreover, opponents to Amnesty International’s proposed policy overlook the fact that it remains neutral on the question of whether there should be public establishments for the purpose of buying and selling sex.

Shrage’s views are controversial, both in the wider world and amongst feminists.  I invite a discussion here, but urge everyone to remember that this is– very clearly– an issue on which reasonable feminists can and do disagree.  Please do observe the “be nice” rules, in particular bearing in mind that very different views can come out of shared feminist commitments.


Charlotte Witt on Gender Essences

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jender @ 1:02 pm

In Aeon magazine.

Why can’t the woman candidate simply choose to identify as an aspiring academic, thereby making her attire unimportant?

My answer is that gendered norms – in this case gendered norms of appearance – trump other norms that structure our social agency, in this case again, the clothing-as-unimportant norm that governs being an academic. And, it turns out that what is true of gender norms in the world of philosophy, that lofty and abstract realm, is also true of the social world as a whole. Gendered norms trump, prioritise, and permeate the multitude of norms that structure our agency and lived experience.


Women in Gaza – The Guardian August 24, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — kaitijai @ 3:04 pm

The Guardian has published a very good – and distressing – feature about life for three different women in Gaza. It’s good to see the experiences of women victims of military violence centred in this way.

From the article:

I first visited Sabiha, 65, in February. She had lost her house in Khuzaa during the violence and spent last winter living with her three sons, daughter and grandchildren in a manmade tent of tree leaves and nylon next to her devastated home. When asked about how her life had changed, Sabiha said: “I’m afraid of everything. I lost my house. My married sons’ houses were completely destroyed as well. We are all homeless now. We hear about promises of reconstruction but nothing has happened.”

Sabiha’s family asked the Gaza reconstruction committee for help. “We needed a caravan. We were calling for the officials to get us a caravan for more than five months.” Instead the family received a tent but it was insufficient protection during the cold months: “We usually lit a fire to feel warm and cook but the strong winds made it impossible on some days … We only managed to take showers once every two weeks as we had no bathroom. This is not a life. If I had the choice to choose between this life and death, I would choose death.” After Sabiha told me this, she burst into tears.



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