Kara Walker has not lost her nerve

Of this image Darrel Pinckney observes in the forthcoming NY Review of Books

Walker’s titles set the mood, but they also set you up, and the texts of her catalogs can be intimidating in their pretended didacticism. A medium-size work done in ink and collage, Scraps, is one of the images that linger in the mind long after you have seen it. Walker shows a naked young black girl in a bonnet, with a small ax raised in her left hand. She is making off with the large head of a white man. She might even be skipping. This isn’t Judith; it’s a demented Topsy in her festival of gore. Slavery drove both the slaver and the enslaved mad and itself was a form of madness. It’s the look Walker puts in the little girl’s visible eye. Racial history has broken free and is running amuck. But even this work has a strange elegance. She is not an exorcist, is not trying to be therapeutic. It is the way she fills up her spaces. With Walker you feel that everything is placed with delicacy and each gesture conveys so much.

When Kara Walker’s art first appeared, many critics – particularly critics of color – expressed great concern that she uncritically displayed some of the worst racist clichés about black people. One would expect such voices today to be at least very mute. Rather, critics now see that she is using such images to her own ends. To say this should not merely to say tha she has appropriated these tropes. Rather, as the NY Review of books maintains:

Kara Walker’s images comprise an army of the unlikely, those grotesques and comics that white people invented in the effort to persuade themselves—and black people as well—that black people were only fit for servitude, and that they were incapable of and uninterested in revolt. Walker turns against whiteness what white people invented.

Pinckney is discussing a new show of Walker’s art and the accompanying catalogue: Kara Walker: Sikkema Jenkins and Co. is Compelled to present The most Astounding and Important Painting show of the fall Art Show viewing season.

Black Lives Matter Is the title of Pinckney’s review. His piece gives us an eloquent account of how it could seem otherwise. Do read it.

CFP: Risk (Duquesne Women in Philosophy)

Call For Papers

Duquesne Women in Philosophy on :

R I S K

To be held: April 7, 2018
Keynote Speaker: Jeanine Weekes Schroer
(University of Minnesota Duluth)

Duquesne Women in Philosophy (D-WiP) invites papers and abstracts on the theme of “risk.” Full papers of approximately 3,000 words suitable for a 20-minute presentation will be prioritized, although substantial abstracts (a minimum of 700 words) are also welcomed. Full-paper submissions should be accompanied by an abstract of 250 words or less. Due to the underrepresentation of women’s work in philosophy, we encourage the participation of women authors. However, all submissions will receive blind review. For blind review, authors should not include their names or affiliations in the text.

Possible areas include but are not limited to:

Experiences/phenomenology of risk
Epistemology and ontologies of risk
Critical race approaches to risk
Social change and risk
Living with risk
Capitalism and risk
Risk and disability studies
Risk and the body/self
Politics and risk
Risk in normative theory/applied ethics/bioethics
Feminist approaches to risk

Please send submissions as a single document prepared for blind review to dwipcontact@gmail.com by January 1, 2018. For more information, please contact dwipcontact@gmail.com

Gender fluidity: Death and life

Brlington Iowa

A murder trial has begun in Iowa for the 2016 killing of Kedarie Johnson …At 16 years old, Kedarie Johnson stood out in this quiet city tucked beside the Mississippi River. He was black in a mostly white county in a mostly white state. His family had come from the West Side of Chicago, a city 100 times the population of Burlington. And he sometimes dressed in women’s clothes, favoring maxi skirts, decorated fingernails and hair weaves.

For all the differences, Kedarie was widely accepted: He was a popular junior at the high school, known for his infectious laugh and dazzling grin.

So it was all the more staggering to Burlington residents when Kedarie was found dead in 2016 — shot to death, a plastic bag shoved down his throat and his body doused with bleach — in a tranquil alley behind a row of houses up the hill from the river.

According to the Guardian, In Juchitán, Mexico, muxes, as they are known, may get very negative reactions. Still, compare to the constant prohibition genderfluid children receivein some ommunities, they can be envied. – children identified as male at birth, but who choose at a young age to be raised as female – are embraced [by many – ajj] as part of the icommunity.”

Gender and Two-Body Problems

Abstract:

Junior faculty search committees serve as gatekeepers to the professoriate and play vital roles in shaping the demographic composition of academic departments and disciplines, but how committees select new hires has received minimal scholarly attention. In this article, I highlight one mechanism of gender inequalities in academic hiring: relationship status discrimination. Through a qualitative case study of junior faculty search committees at a large R1 university, I show that committees actively considered women’s—but not men’s—relationship status when selecting hires. Drawing from gendered scripts of career and family that present men’s careers as taking precedence over women’s, committee members assumed that heterosexual women whose partners held academic or high-status jobs were not “movable,” and excluded such women from offers when there were viable male or single female alternatives. Conversely, committees infrequently discussed male applicants’ relationship status and saw all female partners as movable. Consequently, I show that the “two-body problem” is a gendered phenomenon embedded in cultural stereotypes and organizational practices that can disadvantage women in academic hiring. I conclude by discussing the implications of such relationship status discrimination for sociological research on labor market inequalities and faculty diversity.

For the whole article, go here.

Excellent article on sexual assault and harassment in academia

This article by Anne McClintock is so rich that it’s hard to pick just a bit to quote.  I strongly recommend reading it.

To start you off, here is her brilliant analysis of why people are so invested in disbelieving rape victims:

Why is society so ready to sympathize with the perpetrator and disbelieve the rape victim? Believing that the perpetrator is innocent, or that he is in the thrall of drink, or that he is basically well-intentioned and guilty only of making a harmless mistake, all these are forms of magical thinking.

Magical thinking about rape allows people to believe in a world that is basically good and wholesome and safe. By speaking out, the rape victim tears the filmy web of magical thinking to tatters. And so the rape victim cannot be forgiven and must be banished, or silenced, or ostracized.

For centuries, rape victims have been blamed and shamed, flogged and beheaded, burned alive, buried alive, tongues cut out, driven out, and almost always disbelieved. How much easier to drown and disown them, and exonerate the perpetrators.

The rape survivor demands that we accept that perpetrators are not exceptional monsters, they are just the ordinary people we know. They are our everyday familiars wearing bathrobes, who turn out, with unspeakable suddenness, to be utter and forever strangers.

Magical thinking allows us to believe that the world is safe if we wear the right clothes, walk the right way, go to the right places, walk home with the right person.

Rape survivors hold up a dark, broken mirror to society that reflects a world without limits, revealing our deepest fears about the fragility of our world, a world where magical thinking is not enough to protect one from power abused with impunity.

There’s also a nice discussion of the self-undermining nature of Laura Kipnis’s own narrative of being the victim of a feminist “witch hunt”:

The strange truth about the Kipnis story is that her Title IX case, a central part of her book and of a lawsuit against her and HarperCollins, rebuts her own arguments. Kipnis was commissioned by The Chronicle of Higher Education to write an essay on campus sexual politics. Students at Northwestern University filed a Title IX complaint because she allegedly took factual liberties regarding a serious sexual misconduct case. Peter Ludlow, an associate professor of philosophy at Northwestern, had been charged with sexually harassing two of his students. Ludlow abruptly resigned during his termination hearing and moved to Mexico. Kipnis befriended Ludlow and a core part of her book engages the case.

Kipnis makes some startling admissions about what she called in a second essay for The Chronicle her “Title IX Inquisition”: “In light of the many horror stories I’ve heard about despotic treatment in Title IX cases, I have to say I was treated extremely courteously.” She confesses she had complete confidence she would win and that “academic freedom would prevail.”

And she indeed won. All charges were dropped. Freedom of speech prevailed. Unwanted Advances makes a familiar claim that campus misconduct hearings are “stacked against the accused”; that there “is no adequate method for sorting legitimate from specious claims”; and that “the safer path is to simply throw everyone accused of anything under a bus.” None of which were true in her case.

Far from a malevolent netherworld of rigged results, Kipnis admits her investigation had been “thorough beyond belief” and that the “investigators had “bent over backward” to clear her. More startling, she confesses with self-sabotaging frankness that she wished the investigation had been “a little less thorough.” She even “half-hoped” she would “be found guilty.”

 

But there’s so much more here– discussions of connections between Kipnis and various right-wing groups, standards of evidence, debunking of false claims about the outcomes of campus disciplinary procedures.  Really, read all of it.

Asta: Reflections on the Hypatia Affair

I’ve been a feminist for a long time, perhaps because I was often the only girl engaged in various activities like sports or math and physics competitions. I don’t know. But for a long time it wasn’t exactly clear how my feminist commitments were expressed in my work, apart from the choice of the subject matter itself, and it is only recently that I have started to articulate more clearly how my feminist commitments are re ected in my methodological commitments. Even as recently as January, I gave a talk where I characterized my book on social categories, Categories We Live By, as feminist, because it was motivated by feminist social justice concerns. How that was reflected in my methodology, as opposed to the subject matter, was unclear.

Then came the Hypatia affair.

Read on.

“Pole” in the Olympics?

Years and years ago our readers were asked about whether pole dancing should be in exercise classes in higher ed. Now, according to the BBC, “pole” seems on its way to becoming a sport.

That’s because pole dancing – or pole, as the International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF) prefers – has been recognised by an international sporting body for the first time.

It has been given “observer status” by the Global Association of International Sports Federation (GAISF) – meaning it is provisionally recognised as a sport.

That is largely the result of a campaign by Katie Coates, a 41-year-old from Hertfordshire, who founded the IPSF and told the Daily Telegraph: “I feel like we have achieved the impossible, everyone told us that we would not be able to get pole dancing recognised as a sport.”

The IPSF emphasises that pole dancing is about “athleticism and technical merit”, in line with “other Olympic standard sports such as gymnastics, diving and ice skating”.

So even though it may be closely associated with strip clubs, a performance does not have to contain an erotic element.

Ways to Make some lives better

This is advice from Nicole Silverberg at the Guardian. I can think of places where this list might be posted, with some highlighted. On the other hand, I know a lot of men to whom these suggestions are hardly unfamiliar, and some women who ould learn from it..

Does anyone find any of this controversial?

[This article ended with “These also apply to how to better treat transgender and non-binary people, who are in more danger than cis women.”]

Talk to your friend who is “kind of a creep” at work.
Don’t talk over women.
If you are asked to be on a panel/team and see that it’s all men, say something. Maybe even refuse the spot!
When you see another guy talk over a woman, say: “Hey, she was saying something.”
Learn to read a fucking room.
Don’t call women “crazy” in a professional setting.
Don’t use your “feminism” as a way to get women to trust you. Show us in your day-to-day life, not in your self-congratulatory social media.
Don’t touch women you don’t know, and honestly, ask yourself why you feel the need to touch women in general.
Do you feel that any woman on earth owes you something? She doesn’t. Even if you’re like, “Hm, but what about basic respect?” ask yourself if you’ve shown her the same.
Don’t send pictures of your penis unless she just asked for them.
If a woman says no to a date, don’t ask her again.
If a woman has not given an enthusiastic “yes” to sex, back the hell off.
If a woman is really drunk, she cannot consent to you and she also cannot consent to your buddy who seems to be trying something. Your buddy is your responsibility, so say something and intervene.
If you do the right thing, don’t expect praise or payment or a pat on the back or even a “thank you from that woman”. Congratulations, you were baseline decent.
Involve women in your creative projects, then let them have equal part in them.
Don’t make misogynistic jokes.
Don’t expect women to be “nice” or “cute” and don’t get upset when they aren’t those things.
Don’t make assumptions about a woman’s intelligence, capabilities or desires based on how she dresses.
Pay women as much as you pay men.
If a woman tells you that you fucked up, and you feel like shit, don’t put it on that woman to make you feel better. Apologize without qualification and then go away.
Don’t punish women for witnessing your vulnerability.
Don’t get defensive when you get called out.
Don’t need to literally witness a man being horrible in order to believe that he’s horrible. Trust and believe women.
Don’t use your power to get women’s attention/company/sex/etc.
Be aware of your inherent power in situations and use it to protect women, especially via talking to other men.
Stop thinking that because you’re also marginalized or a survivor that you cannot inflict pain or oppress women.
If women’s pain makes you feel pain, don’t prize your pain above hers, or make that pain her problem.
Don’t read a list like this and think that most of these don’t apply to you.

Let me add that there are items I find too simplistic, and so maybe controversial. For example, the list seems to assume at times that women have little or no power. By and large, for example, I can take care of being talked over, so someone’s intervention in the situation may make me look weaker than I am.

Anger

Massimo Pigliucci has a piece in Aeon that presents a stoic account of anger. He is, we could say, anti-anger. I enjoyed reading his thoughtful work, though I ended up with a serious question.

Some of his recommendations are about avoiding getting angry:

Engage in preemptive meditation: think about what situations trigger your anger, and decide ahead of time how to deal with them.
*Check anger as soon as you feel its symptoms. Don’t wait, or it will get out of control…
*Play a musical instrument, or purposefully engage in whatever activity relaxes your mind. A relaxed mind does not get angry.
*Seek environments with pleasing, not irritating, colours. Manipulating external circumstances actually has an effect on our moods.

I started to wonder on reading this whether anger is getting a treatment similar to that which Paul Bloom gives to empathy in his recent book, Against Empathy. In each case, in thinking about the felt reaction, the author seems to think of feeling as at best poorly constrained by thought. For Pigliucci anger contrasts with indignation, which can be good. And for Bloom, empathy contrasts with compassion, which is really good.

Philosophy has for much of her history struggled with puzzles about reason and emotion, and we might ask whether this ancient conflict s simply reappearing in these authors. Or is what we see here a response to some other situation?

The morality of feeding the ducks and gulls

Outside my apartment, the Oxford canal looks calm on a lovely Sunday afternoon.

Yesterday a similar scene inspired me to get some stale bread (organic, wholemeal) to see if there were any ducks or gulls who felt like some bread crumbs. 50 or 60 birds later, i was overseeing what, it seemed to me, was a horrible combination of greed and disappointment.

I’m not sure I could have enough for everyone, since the group was getting larger all the time. As it was, some birds were bound not to get a share. Occasionally a little gull would get up on the railing I was leaning on and make a terrrible noise. I’d put a piece of bread on the railing and move away quickly, hoping a big gull wouldn’t beat the little one to it.

So I left wondering whether my inciting this behavior was really morally ok. What do you think?