Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Work wear May 16, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monkey @ 3:44 pm

Many jobs require employees to look smart at work. Unfortunately, what counts as ‘smart’ can be highly problematic. Just two stories from London that happened to cross my desk this week:

‘Leila’ (not her real name) has been told by her employer several times that she needs to wear a weave to work, because her afro hair is not sufficiently smart, left in its natural state. Cultural norms for what counts as ‘smart’ workwear should not be based on white people’s racial features.

And Nicola Thorp was sent home from work for wearing flat shoes instead of high heels. High heels are often uncomfortable and can cause problems with the knees, spine, ankles, pelvis, and toes. What counts as ‘smart’ shouldn’t include footwear that is likely to cause muscular-skeletal problems.

Can’t quite believe both of those needed saying.


Miami: The Reconstruction

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 10:15 am

This Spring I visited the University of Miami as a speaker at their first annual Inclusiveness Conference.  To be honest, most of what I knew of the department before this was negative, related to sexual harassment.  I was really pleased to find a place where there was a very strong core group of faculty and students working hard together to improve things– honestly facing up to problems and taking action to make things better.  Otavio Bueno and Amie Thomasson agreed to write a post on what their department has been doing.  You can find it over at What We’re Doing About What It’s Like.





Amy Olberding on Canon Expansion Discussions May 14, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 1:51 pm

…let me just explain how these sorts of conversations read to me and how, it seems to me, they repeat endlessly. On my most cynical days, I think we can dispense with any further conversations about including non-western traditions. For here are all the conversations:

Someone proposes expanding the field to better incorporate non-western sources.

The conversation will then go on with the following ingredients, mixed in various proportions and orders:

To find out what comes next, go here.


What’s in a name? May 13, 2016

Filed under: academia,language,race,Uncategorized — philodaria @ 7:24 pm

Yale philosophy major, Karléh Wilson, brings philosophy of language to bear on the recent controversies surrounding Yale’s decision not to rename Calhoun College in the Boston Review:

A few weeks ago Peter Salovey, president of Yale, made a controversial decision: he rejected the students’ argument and opted to retain the name. The decision has significant national consequences. If Yale, by reputation a liberal bastion in a liberal state, retains the name of Calhoun College, what does this signal for colleges and universities engaged in similar struggles in states where racial equality is yet more elusive?

Calhoun College was named in 1933 in honor of John C. Calhoun, an antebellum statesman who played a critical role in articulating the southern defense of slavery. In 1837 Calhoun, serving at the time as senator of South Carolina (he had previously been Andrew Jackson’s vice-president), told the Senate:

“In the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good.”

President Salovey’s reaffirmation of the college’s name has been taken by some as a sign of disrespect for African Americans. He has defended his decision by recourse to a novel and intriguing argument: he was motivated, he wrote, out of a sincere desire to remind subsequent generations of Yale students about our nation’s troubled past. The reaffirmation is thus intended to serve Yale’s educational mission, not to honor Calhoun. According to Salovey, from this point forward the name “Calhoun College” no longer honors Calhoun’s dishonorable legacy, and therefore no longer communicates disrespect for African Americans. “Ours is a nation that often refuses to face its own history of slavery and racism. Yale is part of that history,” Salovey emphasized. “We cannot erase American history but we can confront it, teach it, and learn from it. The decision to retain Calhoun College’s name reflects the importance of this vital educational imperative.”

President Salovey supposes that his decision can change the meaning of “Calhoun College.” It cannot.

. . . Speaking is a social act. Our social world is constituted by familiar practices, myths, symbols, and stories. Words therefore acquire social meanings. A use of a word has a certain meaning because of facts about the culture, such as entrenched social practices. Salovey’s argument presupposes that his decision can change the meaning of “Calhoun College.” Since it cannot, his argument fails.

To appreciate the point, consider the Wikipedia entry “List of places named after people.” The long list attests to a worldwide social practice of naming places, cities, towns, countries, and continents to honor respected figures. Because of the ubiquity of the practice of naming in order to honor, it is reasonable to assume that when a place is named after a person, its name honors that person’s legacy. Indeed, otherwise the practice is totally illegible. This accounts for the widespread practice of renaming streets, towns, cities, and institutions as political regimes change. Vladimir Lenin’s and Joseph Stalin’s names have been removed from institutions, cities, towns, and streets throughout the former Soviet Union, as have the names of many other former tyrants. Germany has no universities, colleges, cities, or streets named after Adolf Hitler or other Nazi leaders; previously, it did.

She concludes by noting that while Salovey has a significant amount of power as the president of Yale, it is not so significant as to enable him to change the social meaning of naming places after persons. The whole piece is here.


Women in philosophy: flatlining

Filed under: Uncategorized,women in academia,women in philosophy — jennysaul @ 7:05 am

Eric Schwitzgebel brings us this graph showing what’s happening to the percentage of women getting PhDs in various fields.


He writes:

The overall trend is clear: Although philosophy’s percentages are currently similar to the percentages in engineering and physical sciences, the trend in philosophy has flattened out in the 21st century, while engineering and the physical sciences continue to make progress toward gender parity. All the broad areas show roughly linear upward trends, except for the humanities which appears to have flattened at approximately parity.

I urge you to go read more!


Conferences and the childcare they provide May 11, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 2:53 pm

This google doc has been put together by Wanda Pratt.  Enjoy!



A call for more accurate branding of philosophy

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 1:10 pm

Jay Garfield and Bryan Van Noreen write:

Instead, we ask those who sincerely believe that it does make sense to organize our discipline entirely around European and American figures and texts to pursue this agenda with honesty and openness. We therefore suggest that any department that regularly offers courses only on Western philosophy should rename itself “Department of European and American Philosophy.”

Read the whole thing.


Society for Women in Philosophy Ireland Workshop: Gender, Public Policy, and Philosophies of Emotion

Filed under: Uncategorized — phrynefisher @ 1:26 am

17th June, Moot Court, Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin

9.30-10.00 Registration and Welcome

10.00-11.30 Gender, Public Policy, Emotion: Philosophical Perspectives I
When is Shame Good? Thinking about the Dynamics of Punishment through Shameful Exposure (Luna Dolezal, Durham University/Trinity College Dublin)
Teaching “Patriotic Love” in Schools (Eileen Brennan, Dublin City University)
The Ethics and Politics of Regret (Paddy McQueen, University College Dublin)

11.30-12.00 Tea/coffee

12.00-1.30 Gender, Public Policy, Emotion: Philosophical Perspectives II
Institutionalisation and the Gendered Politics of Emotion (Clara Fischer, University College Dublin)
Reconsidering 1916: Relational Affect in In the Shadow of the State by Sarah Browne and Jesse Jones (Tina Kinsella, TCD)
Affectivity, Gender and Racialization: Fear and Loathing in Europe (Danielle Petherbridge, University College Dublin)

1.30-2.30 Lunch

2.30-4.00 Policy-making and the Gendered Politics of Emotion: Political Representative and Civil Society Perspectives
Ivana Bacik (Senator and Reid Prof. of Law, TCD)
Máiread Collins (Syrian Programme Officer, Christian Aid, London)
Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop (NUI Seanad Election Candidate and Outgoing CEO, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre)

4.00-4.30 Coffee Break

4.30-5.30 Keynote Address – Bonnie Mann (Prof. of Philosophy, University of Oregon): Gender, Shame, and Redemption

Please follow the link to register on Eventbrite here:

This event is generously supported by the Society for Applied Philosophy and UCD School of Philosophy.

Organised by Dr. Clara Fischer (University College Dublin) in conjunction with SWIP Ireland.


Eagle update from 7 weeks ago May 9, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 2:31 pm

We noticed the newborn eaglets/newly-hatched 7 weeks ago.  They’ve grown into the two scruffy birds below.  You can visit the cam here.



A psychotherapeutic method: what do you think? May 6, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 7:55 pm

The two passages below come from Borderline Personality Disorder New Perspectives on a Stigmatizing and Overused Diagnosis by Gunn and Potter.  I think the book has a number of merits that should recommend it to the feminist reader in particular.  It is impotant that they see BPD largely as untreated trauma and a socially constructed illness.  BPD as a diagnosis tends to frighten therapists away, which the authors take to be a very faulty  reaction.  They have a nice account of how BPD has been viewed through the ages; they include burning witches at the stake as an earlier intervention.  I really cannot say how historically accurate their account is, but it is oddly satisfying.

There is a passage, though, which I find problematic.  You’ll see it below.  It concerns a therapist using their reactions to understand a client/patient.   There are at least two ways to understand it.  On one way it is about increasing one’s empathetic closeness.  The client is discussing a frightening experience; the therapist feels something like a ghost of fear and uses it to fill out the story.  On a second way, the therapist uses their reaction to get a more accurate diagnosis or better ideas for treatment.  E.g., the therapist feels something of a sexual nature and takes the client to be trying to act seductively.

I think that when there are significant cultural differences, the latter approach can be a source of great problems.  The the case I described is an example from my own experience, many, many years ago as an undergrad at Berkeley.  I had ‘grown up’ in the quite formal atmosphere of a military child who went to convent schools in Washington, DC.  Among others things, I NEVER lit a cigarette if a man with matches or a lighter was around.  No more so than I would have opened my car door when a man was around.  So, when I went to see a UC therapist as I coped with the transition from convent schools to Berkeley in the 60’s, I eventually discovered that the little toad (as I described him) I was seeing thought I was in love with him.  He met my incredulity with the comment that  I always had him light my cigarettes.

That is not, in my experience, a kind of a tale restricted to the past.  There can be huge cultural differences in all sorts of cases.  it is bad enough that humans in general prejudge each other in terms of stereotypes, but it can be much worse when someone fails to fit the standard stereotype.  And maybe even worse again when a client is unaware of the stereotype.  For example, a philosophy professor may have very different ideas of epistemic authority from those of therapists, and as a consequence upset someone quite use to be taken as an authority.  She might quite mistakenly think they were having a discussion among equals, at least until he says, “all my other clients think my ideas are worth taking seriously,” where that apparently does not include pointing out why  some are wrong.  So he will see her as having quite a social problem.

I hope I’ve managed to delineate a potential problem.  So here goes:  what do you think?  Is there a reason here to be cautious of psychotherapy?







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