Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

CHE: Why getting rid of predatory faculty can be so hard: addition October 26, 2015

Filed under: academia,gender,human rights,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 7:18 pm

Tenure and the reactions of faculty peers can be a significant part of the problem, according to the CHE (in an artcle unfortunately behind a firewall):

Even a professor who is the subject of regular misconduct complaints often cannot be easily removed from a campus. Tenure protects many professors from quick dismissal. Their faculty peers, who are often charged with assessing whether an accused colleague bears responsibility, may view the cases as attacks on tenure. College leaders, who often don’t have the power to terminate a professor without consulting the faculty, may fear damage to their institution’s reputation. Students who experience harassment may not file complaints if they feel they have little chance of being taken seriously.


Nor, as the last sentence suggests, is the victim usually keen to file charges. As Mr Isicoff, the lawyer defending the University in the McGinn case, is quoted as saying, “you’re walking in with the odds largely stacked against you,” as a student.

Part of the solution may consist in steps taken before hiring, as the philosopher Heidi Lockwood said.

…Ms. Lockwood sees it. She said colleges can take clear steps to improve how they handle claims of misbehavior by professors. She recommended, among other changes, that colleges conduct harassment-specific background checks before hiring professors.

Added: I’ve just noticed that the article is utterly silent about the role – or lack of roles – for bystanders. I’m unhappy that I didn’t notice this right away and think we might put some effort into reminding ourselves we should be thinking of taking action. In the Macy case, for example, the situation was well known to a lot of people before formal complaints were made.


Getting our sh*t together October 17, 2015

Filed under: sexual harassment,women in philosophy — noetika @ 5:30 am

In light of today’s news of the lawsuit against Miami, and in light of Eric Schliesser’s post from a few days ago, I wanted to open a thread in the hopes of encouraging a conversation about what we can do better as a discipline in responding to problems of equity in our community. Conversations about sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination more broadly in philosophy are difficult. They are difficult because none of us are perfect. They are difficult because the subject matter is painful. They are difficult because social dynamics are such that some feel they cannot even public offer affirmation or support for victims without inviting retaliation or scrutiny upon themselves. They are difficult because some people who want to say something don’t know what to say. They are difficult because many still do not believe there is even much of a problem to discuss in the first place. They are difficult because some of us who want to be part of the solution have been problems ourselves. They are difficult because it feels like we have the same conversations over and over and don’t get very far. But I think it’s important to keep talking because, to be blunt, we need to get our sh*t together.

(I will moderate this thread — but I do invite conversation and reflection on the issues raised by Eric’s post mentioned above, affirmations of support for victims in philosophy, queries about how one can contribute to cultivating a healthier professional dynamic in the discipline, or suggestions.)


Reflections on running a women-only summer school in philosophy September 30, 2015

Filed under: empowering women,women in academia,women in philosophy — jennysaul @ 2:33 pm

Really interesting reflections from the organisers of the MCMP Summer School in Mathematical Philosophy.

Organizing such a summer school two years in a row does not yet allow us to draw conclusions about the impact this event has on the issue of female underrepresentation. However, we collected some data to address the more general question of how female students perceive philosophy as an academic discipline and themselves within that discipline. One striking result that seems to emerge from our data is that while female students do not necessarily see the immediate need and advantage of female-only events in advance, experiencing the event and being exposed to interaction and discussion with only female studies has a positive impact on them. While they initially consider the status quo as the ‘norm’ and acceptable, being exposed to a female-only event gives them a wholly new idea of how the experience of academia could be different. The experience allows them to compare such an environment to the status quo they encounter in their everyday university setting, which makes them see things differently. Female students who have experienced such a female-only environment can make their needs and worries explicit and voice concrete suggestions about how they think the academic environment should change to make it accommodating and comfortable for them.


Papineau v. Manne on Twitter August 18, 2015

Filed under: academia,gender,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 9:24 pm

The snapshot below of the twitter exchange is pretty self explanatory. It might help to know that Papineau is referring to a letter from Manne that the TLS printed, with unfortunately one sentence ommitted that’s unfortunate because the ommitted sentence, as I underrstood it, went into some specifics about how philosophical combat works against women. This missing material is brought up in the exchange.

Part of Manne letter is copied here.

There was quite a bit more to the twitter exchange. I’m putting it up because it vivdly illustrates how a senior philosopher with a great deal of experience of academia, can be quite clueless about a powerful negative feature women face.

And I’d love to hear what you all think.

Unfortunately the links on the snapshot don’t work.



Yup, definitely being taken over by women August 16, 2015

Over the last year, we have heard a lot about the feminist/women’s (there are different versions) takeover of philosophy. That line of thought is nicely put in perspective by the various other similar claims discussed here.

The idea of a gender perception gap is borne out by studies in other areas. In one study on gender parity in the workforce, sent my way by colleague Flavia Dzodan, it was found that men “consistently perceive more gender parity” in their workplaces than women do. For example, when asked whether their workplaces recruited the same number of men and women, 72 percent of male managers answered “yes.” Only 42 percent of female managers agreed. And, while there’s a persistent stereotype that women are the more talkative gender, women actually tend to talk less than men in classroom discussions, professional contexts and even romantic relationships; one study found that a mixed-gender group needed to be between 60 and 80 percent female before women and men occupied equal time in the conversation. However, the stereotype would seem to have its roots in that same perception gap: “[In] seminars and debates, when women and men are deliberately given an equal amount of the highly valued talking time, there is often a perception that [women] are getting more than their fair share.”

How do you give men the impression of a female majority? Show them a female minority, and let that minority do some talking. This is how 15 minutes of Fey and Poehler becomes three hours of non-stop “estrogen,” how a Congress that’s less than 19 percent female becomes a “feminized” and male-intolerant political environment, and how one viable female Presidential candidate becomes an unstoppable, man-squashing Godzilla. Men tend to perceive equality when women are vastly outnumbered and underrepresented; it follows that, as we approach actual parity, men (and Elisabeth Hasselbeck, for some reason) will increasingly believe that we are entering an era of female domination.

(Thanks, L!)


Feminist philosopher and activist Lisa Guenther August 4, 2015

Feminist philosopher Lisa Guenther has been getting some well-deserved attention lately. There is a profile of her in the August 3 Chronicle. And, for those of us blocked from reading that article by the paywall, Daily Nous offers a great summary.


Papineau on Women in philosophy. July 17, 2015

Filed under: women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 2:29 am

I am very grateful for the help various members of the blog provided.  I’ll try to list them tomorrow.

David Papineau has written a review of Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change? a collection of essays edited by Katrina Hutchison and Fiona Jenkins for the TLS.  I think it is exceptionally difficult to review adequately an extended examination of biases and other obstacles encountered by a disadvantaged group if one is not a member of that group.  This problem is particularly severe when the examination reflects a number of viewpoints from members of the group which are elaborated with some exquisite detail.  So why did the TLS ask Papineau to write the review?  He does not have a history of distinguished contributions to the field of feminist philosophy, sociological treatments of bias and discrimination, and so on.

Well, who knows their actual reasons?  It might, however, be because they thought he’d write a thoughtful and fair review, as indeed I think he has.  Here his review contrasts markedly with recent discussions of microaggression, which are discussed below.  This was not my first impression, however, and so when I mention complaints, do remember that his task was actually exceptionally difficult.  Indeed, it isn’t clear to me he realized how difficult it was.

Let me first say that readers may want to pay particular attention to his discussion, both for the information conveyed and for the model of discourse that is presented.  Among other things, Papineau’s discussion reveals he has listened seriously to those invoking empirical research on implicit bias and stereotype threat.  He is critical of the role of aggressive discourse.  Perhaps most remarkably, he considers whether the typical topics of philosophical discourse should be enlarged to consider issues about, for example, power and gender.  Papineau’s comments argue an unusual ability to expand one’s imagination.

To take a more critical view: I will mention two problematic areas in his discussion:  1.  His view of the place of the excellence required by philosophy, and 2.  Two assumptions he makes about women in relation to philosophy.

The first:  Carol Dweck was one of the early theorists who saw a difference between two approaches to academic excellence.  One view is that achieving excellent is a matter of utilizing a talent existing independently of one’s training.  The other view is that the crucial factor is sustained long-term effort.  Which view one takes may not reflect any fundamental feature of the field.  If we take this idea to Sarah Jane Leslie’s thesis that philosophy’s image of itself has it requiring some sort of given brilliance, we can notice that the idea of inborn excellence may be a conceit of a field, but that does not mean it is true.  Indeed, I was extremely surprised to see blog discussions asserting that our field does require a high level of pre-existing intelligence. Papineau, who discusses Leslie, appears to take a realist’s view.   Such a view invites us to take biased pictures of the likely embodiment of such brilliance.  One would not be surprise if  most instances are male.

2.   The first:  the supposedly distinctive traits of women:  It doesn’t really matter whether or not in the end there turns out to be any real difference between women and men. The problem with positing that there is is that this is a claim that has been made so many times in ways that harm women’s interests that it ought to be handled with extreme caution. Papineau doesn’t show the caution needed.   Of course this doesn’t make his point malicious or sexist, but the assumption that women are relevantly different can be a huge distraction in solving the problem of women’s low participation.

The second assumption:  the problems of marginalised groups:  Papineau says,  “There are obvious reasons for wanting political institutions to include a suitable proportion of women and other under-represented groups. A similar case for affirmative action can be argued more widely, even for such technical professions as law and medicine. Good practice in these areas often demands familiarity with the problems of marginalized groups, as well as purely theoretical expertise. However, this line of thought has no obvious application to philosophy, or to snooker for that matter. On the face of things, neither profession has the function of representing particular groups.”   A contrary view is that philosophy is a valuable enterprise and its value lies in the way it helps us make sense of complex and troubling aspects of human existence and experience, and not just those problems shared by men of European origin.  [See comments 1 & 2 below]. Some time ago Lorraine Code observed that the concentration in epistemology on “S knows that P” abstracts epistemology from all the issues about why knowledge is important.  The progress fueled by her work and that of others shows how important a very wide array of viewpoints can be.  Similar points have recently been made against the idealizations so standardly employed in ethics, political philosophy or philosophy of science, at least until recently.

These two hypotheses together lead Papineau to say: ‘Even if we assume that women are voluntarily selecting themselves out of philosophy, as in snooker, and that there is no special social need that warrants affirmative action, as there may be in law and medicine, it does not yet follow that philosophy’s gender imbalance is benign.’  Such mere assumptions made in the context of a philosophical argument or an article of this sort may not be neatly confined to their context. They often spill over to subsequent debates. The thought of having to spend more time than is already necessary explaining to people why one shouldn’t assume that women are just less interested in philosophy and arguing that familiarity with the problems of the marginalized is important for doing good philosophy fills one with dismay.  That his review could have this outcome is unfortunate, given that it contains so many good points.


Anti-harassment policy at various scientific/technical conferences June 24, 2015

Filed under: academia,sexual harassment,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 5:29 pm

I’ve seen this policy announcement at a conference of an association for computer memory and at one for the vision science society. The second adapted the first’s. It ends with strong wording:

Anti-Harassment Policy
The open exchange of ideas and the freedom of thought and expression are central to ACM’s aims and goals. These require an environment that recognizes the inherent worth of every person and group, that fosters dignity, understanding, and mutual respect, and that embraces diversity. For these reasons, ACM is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for participants at our events and in our programs.

Harassment is unwelcome or hostile behavior, including speech that intimidates, creates discomfort, or interferes with a person’s participation or opportunity for participation, in a conference, event or program. Harassment in any form, including but not limited to harassment based on alienage or citizenship, age, color, creed, disability, marital status, military status, national origin, pregnancy, childbirth- and pregnancy-related medical conditions, race, religion, sex, gender, veteran status, or any other status protected by laws in which the conference or program is being held, will not be tolerated.

Harassment includes the use of abusive or degrading language, intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. A response that the participant was “just joking,” or “teasing,” or being “playful,” will not be accepted.

Individuals violating these standards may be sanctioned or excluded from further participation at the discretion of the organizers or responsible committee.

It is the last sentence that may be especially interesting to philosophers who were concerned about the APA’s reference to legal liability.** We probably should remind ourselves that actions do not necessarily follow words. For example, it may be that a complaint has to meet a very high standard of proof before any sanctioning occurs.

**(That is in fact a concern I share since I have seen how easily one can end up with costs over $100,000, and in fact for that reason declined to pursue fully my own interests in a case I initiated.)


“One Hundred Years of Fortitude” May 20, 2015

Filed under: achieving equality,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 5:39 pm

The post title is also the title the NY Times gives to a piece about Carmen Herrera, one of the six artists who are “A very small sampling of the female artists now in their 70s, 80s and 90s we should have known about decades ago.”  The look at the six women is a wonderful and stunning interactive piece.

Carmen Herrera, 99, a regal Giacometti-thin woman with bone-white hair, could be the poster child for late-in-life recognition. Her work will be included in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s much-anticipated show this month, inaugurating its new building at the foot of the High Line. There, a painting of hers — the diptych “Blanco y Verde,” 1959 — will hang for the first time alongside works by Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Agnes Martin and Jasper Johns, publicly granting her a status in the canon that — according to curators at several major institutions — should have been hers for years. She will be a centenarian this month. A documentary about her life, “The 100 Years Show,” made its festival premiere in April.

Her painting, Blanco y Verde:


One could weep, but instead let us note that it is time we paid attention to the older women in philosophy who could be considered to be in comparable positions where they are “now in their 70s, 80s and 90s [and] we should have known about decades ago.”

So the first question is: what are the comparable positions?
Maybe next is: what should we do?


O no! Irrational philosopher May 15, 2015

Filed under: women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 5:22 pm

The Guardian characterizes the lead character in Woody Allen’s new film, “Irrational Man”:

Joaquin Phoenix plays Abe Lucas, a sketchily imagined philosophy professor with a reputation as a devilishly handsome wild man. He is a charismatic lecturer and a great seducer of women, both faculty members and students (the movie is notionally set in the present, but seems to come from a pre-90s age in which this latter campus activity was not rigorously policed and frowned upon).

Consider yourself warned/policed.






Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,816 other followers