Hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, hardly anyone had heard of the Zika virus or the condition to which it is now suspected to be linked. Microcephaly is a rare congenital condition where infants are born with undersized craniums. Though Zika’s exact relationship, if any, to this lifelong condition has yet to be determined, WHO has declared Zika a global emergency, and government officials in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and El Salvador are “advising women to avoid getting pregnant, for fear that the fast-spreading Zika virus may cause severe brain defects in unborn children.” Officials outside affected countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are advising women to “avoid traveling“ to those areas.
Notice anything odd about these warnings? No? Let’s continue:
As many commentators have pointed out, it seems mind boggling that countries without contraception, and where abortion is illegal even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, are now recommending that women stop having babies for at least two years, or until medical researchers have a better understanding of Zika’s impact on developing fetuses. Human rights advocates and health workers have rightly pushed back against those recommendations. “Even if women attempt to follow the recommendations through abstinence,” writes Charlotte Alter for Time, “sexual violence is so pervasive throughout the region that many women may get pregnant against their will.”
Here is the problem: All of these warnings to women about getting pregnant have managed to avoid a particular word. That word is “men.”
A problem with those Zika warnings February 6, 2016
Support for Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison February 4, 2016
Canadian feminist scholars are joining forces to try to prevent the closure of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick.
Here’s a note from a philosophy student and student leader there explaining the situation and requesting help:
I am writing to inform you of an urgent need for support of Mount Allison University’s Women and Gender Studies program. Yesterday our university announced that they were effectively cutting the program by removing its funding for next year, refusing to offer any core WGST courses, and refusing to let students sign up for our WGST minor. Students were not consulted about the cut, and the university failed to release a public statement, leaving the announcement up to the program’s Acting Director. Though our university only offers students the option to minor in WGST at the moment, the program has tripled in size over the past few years, with long waitlists for introductory classes. It is also worth noting that the founder, champion, and department head of the program sadly passed away less than two months ago.
Last year, CBC reported that Mount Allison has the highest sexual assault rate of New Brunswick universities, and had the second highest rate among Canadian universities and colleges over a five-year period. Our university president was awarded the Order of Canada this year. Clearly, there is a very real and immediate need for Women and Gender Studies programs.
We believe that this administrative action speaks to the university’s disregard for learning from, listening to, and supporting marginalized voices. As I’m sure you know, Women and Gender Studies teaches essential critical thinking skills, which are needed now more than ever in light of pervasive rape culture across university campuses, the stronghold of neoliberal and corporate forces over universities, eroding collegial governance, and continued disparities and inequities experienced by women and other marginalized groups. We also worry that this move opens the door to further discrimination – particularly topical given our students’ ongoing push for the Indigenization of Mount Allison.
We urge you to publicly and vocally condemn Mount Allison’s decision. There are many ways in which you may do so.
-If you send me a public statement on behalf of your department, I will collect, publish, and disseminate these through our Women and Gender Studies Student Society or program faculty.
-You can sign and circulate this petition:
-You can tweet your support to @MTA_WGSTsociety or use the hashtag #WGSTcuts.
-You can write a letter to one of our university’s senior administrators. Their e-mails have been included below.
Dr Campbell (University President): firstname.lastname@example.org
Dean VanderLeest (Dean of Arts): email@example.com
Dr Grant (Provost & Vice-President, Academic & Research): firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Inglis (Vice-President, Finance and Administration): email@example.com
If you have further comments or questions, please feel free to get in touch with me. You may also contact Katharyn Rose Stevenson, our Women and Gender Studies Student Society President at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr Lisa Dawn Hamilton, Acting Program Director, at email@example.com.
Many thanks and in solidarity,
Student of sociology and philosophy
Mount Allison ’17
From Olufemi Taiwo and The Undercommons:
The most popular proposals should be understood as aiming to swell the ranks of those competent to navigate race and related issues (by experience or by other forms of education). Then, the “coddling” line of criticism against student activists relies on an argumentative strategy that conveniently shifts the goalposts for the benefit of those already most advantaged – as, effectively, do liberal defenses of the protestors that concede this framing. After all, there certainly is at least one epistemic environment among our options that artificially constricts reasoned debate, caters to the sensitivities of a sensitive few, and “coddles”: the one at work in the status quo.
For the rest, go here.
1. … are appropriately sexualized in their professional capacity while at their place of work.
2. … get all pleased and flirty and giggly on receipt of sexual attention from their male students.
3. … should be addressed as “Miss X”.
4. … all of the above.
If you picked 4, you will love this video from Simon Fraser University, employer of several female professors.*
It’s all about conserving energy, obviously.
* The video has been removed by SFU following complaints.
CDC: No alcohol at all for the pre-pregnant February 3, 2016
If you’re a woman who could get pregnant, regardless of whether you’re trying to become pregnant or not, put down the Chardonnay. Back away from the end-of-the-day IPA. In fact, don’t drink a single drop of alcohol. That’s the message delivered by a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which finds that 3.3 million women are at risk of exposing their theoretical developing fetus to alcohol because they are drinking and not using birth control….
“We can’t put a number on that for any individual woman, but what we can say is that fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are 100 percent preventable if there’s no alcohol exposure at all,” she said. “So that’s why we say, ‘Why take the risk drinking any alcohol during, any time in the pregnancy, even before you realize you’re pregnant?’”
Wise feminist philosopher Rebecca Kukla comments:
“We don’t tell pregnant women not to drive cars, even though we are much more certain that there’s a nonzero risk to their fetuses from each car ride than from each drink,” she said. “The ideal of zero risk is both impossible to meet and completely paralyzing to try to meet.”
Kukla argues that such guidelines are also excessively punishing. “The idea that the pleasures and routines that make up women’s days are mere luxuries that are not worth any risk whatsoever is patronizing and sexist,” she said. “And it would also turn their lives into complete hell if really taken to [its] conclusions.”
For more, go here.
Is diversity just too hard? A hypothesis January 31, 2016
Preamble: Below you see a hypothesis presented. I don’t think “hypothesis” carries with it any suggestion of truth or really even plausibility. If a question has been bothering you, sometimes it is a help to form hypotheses as possible answers. It may be that what occurs to one in such a process is something that’s been worked over below consciousness and is on an interesting – or even right – track. But also maybe not. The thought that maybe the missing butter is in the bathroom might be right, or it might be the product of an association based on the first letter of each word.
Nothing below should be read as asserting the hypothesis I describe. This is purely trying something out. What I am most interested in now is what others think.
The question: Why isn’t philosophy making a lot more progress on diversity? Quite often someone announces a fact about the discipline’s failure in diversity. Many of us think, “Something must be done,” but the statistics don’t change much. Why not?
The hypothesis: Diversity is just too hard, or at least harder than most participants in the field realize.
Some evidence: I started to take thinking about the hypothesis to be more promising when I read some of John Dovidio’s latest work.** (He’s psychology, Yale.)
Suppose we have two groups: Group A, socially the higher status group, and B, the lower status group. It may seem that all we need is to get them together into one group with which each can identify. Then we will have shared knowledge, goals and even friendships. We will even break down some of the regularities that have give rise to implicit biases. As Joe Biden so memorably stated, he came to see Barak Obama as, among other great things, “clean”.
So what’s wrong with this picture? Here I’m going to summarize and probably simplify Dovidio’s work: We cam think of the resulting group as a melting pot or more as an interdisciplinary cluster. If we suppose that in, e.g., hiring, inviting speakers and refereeing, we want a melting pot, then there are going to be big problems. The problems come from the fact that members of the dominant group have a very vested interest in continuing in their dominant ways, and they tend not to be interested in changing and absorbing the others’ ways of doing things. In effect, the subordination and isolation from power of the subordinate group will continue. As it will if we go for the interdisciplinary model unless members of the dominant group are willing to open their ranks to people who are different from them.
Is there any evidence that philosophy has this problem? That is, do we need for the dominant group to accept, to put it very briefly, some changes in their standards, topics, etc. And has that proved unworkable? I can only think of one piece of evidence. I think it is telling, but others may not. Here it is: when people are assigned to a disadvantaged position for reasons irrelevant to their quality as thinkers, they often acquire interests in topics surrounding ideology, justice, discrimination, etc. Such topics may in fact affect their research and teaching interests. But, I hear time and again, these topics are not really philosophical topics, or at least not very important philosophical topics. They are, rather, political, and one definitely doesn’t need them represented in a philosophy department.
Do note the idea that members of the groups are different is said merely to be a difference between occupying dominant and occupying subordinate social positions.
Do also note that this whole post is merely about a hypothesis that has some grounding in empirical research. Is it right or even worth more thought? What do you think?
**Included but Invisible? Subtle Bias, Common Identity, and the Darker Side of “We”
JF Dovidio, SL Gaertner, EG Ufkes, T Saguy, AR Pearson
Social issues and policy review 10 (1), 6-46, 2016
Philosophical works for 12-15 year olds? January 29, 2016
UPDATE: I think she’s not so much seeking things written for children, as works of philosophy that are relatively accessible to teenagers.
A reader is seeking suitable texts by women and members of other (and overlapping) underrepresented groups for teaching philosophy to 12-15 year olds.
I hereby ask for suggestions in comments!
CFP: American Society for Aesthetics (by March 1) January 28, 2016
Short proposals welcome, and as the member who sent me the CFP says, it’s a great group and a constructive gathering, eclectic and welcoming to graduate students and folks at teaching intensive universities. Submission deadline: March 1, 2016. See the whole CFP here.
The Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Rocky Mountain Division of the American Society for Aesthetics will take place at the Drury Plaza Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 8-10, 2016.
Manuel Davenport Keynote Address: Jeanette Bicknell
Jeanette Bicknell is the author of Why Music Moves Us (Palgrave, 2009) and Philosophy of Song & Singing: An Introduction (Routledge, 2015). She writes about music and other topics in philosophical aesthetics, including architecture, film, jokes, and ethical issues raised by art. She is based in Toronto, Canada.
Michael Manson Artist Keynote Address: Claudia Mills
Claudia Mills is Associate Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder and has spent several years as the Robert and Carolyn Frederick Visiting Distinguished Professor of Ethics at the Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University in Indiana. She is the editor of Ethics and Children’s Literature (Ashgate, 2014), as well as the author of over fifty books for young readers, including most recently Zero Tolerance(Farrar), The Trouble with Ants (Knopf), and the Franklin School Friends chapter book series (Farrar).
We welcome critical papers in all fields and disciplines pertaining to the history, application, and appreciation of aesthetic understanding. We are always particularly interested in research involving interdisciplinary and intercultural approaches emphasizing the natural character of the American Southwest.
The ASARMD Division’s long-standing practice has been to invite proposals, in the form of abstracts, for papers that you wish to present. Proposals should be no more than 250 words in length and follow the format of a typical abstract, which is to say, offer a formal, albeit succinct, summary of the work to be presented, including conclusion(s) to be drawn. Papers should be suitable for 20-minute presentations and not exceed 3000 words (excluding footnotes).
Editors of Synthese respond January 27, 2016
Synthese received a volley of objections to part of a special issue. See here to view a description of the problem. Below is a response from the editors. This response is largely about preventitive practical and procedural issues. As readers will see, there will be a more explanatory response later, when more is known.
I think we should heartily welcome what seems to be a significant move toward transparency regarding what happened and what will be done.
———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: 27 January 2016 at 18:34
Name: Gila Sher
Message: We would like to reiterate our apology for any offense caused by the special issue article published in Synthese and also our strong commitment to feminist and LGBT values. We would also like to reassert our commitment to high-quality publications and assure the community of our dedication to high professional and humanistic standards.
We have considered complex ethical issues related to the published article. We take full responsibility for all the articles published by Synthese and we do not want to change the status of any accepted article. We believe that (except for extreme circumstances like plagiarism) all accepted articles should remain part of the scholarly record and a possible point of further discussion in the academic debate.
The events around this paper have led us once again to revisit our procedures regarding special issues. Shortly after beginning our appointment as editors in chief in 2012 our team installed new guidelines and rules for special issues (see the Synthese website), which include doubly anonymous reviews and oversight by the editors in chief. We carefully checked our records concerning the article in question and the special issue to which it belongs and contacted the guest editor and Springer, our publisher. Our procedure for special issues says that, after a guest editor has made an acceptance recommendation regarding a paper, the final decision is made by the editors in chief. Regrettably, due to an unfortunate human error, this particular paper was not sent to the editors in chief after the guest editor had entered his recommendation into the editorial management system. We are working with Springer to fully understand the problem and make sure that it does not recur.
To provide some more context, 27 articles were submitted to the special issue. Each was sent to two anonymous reviewers. 8 articles were rejected by the guest editor based on the reviews, and 19 articles were accepted after 1-4 cycles of revisions. Of these, 18 were sent to the editors in chief following the guest editor’s recommendation to accept the papers, and after an inspection by the editors in chief they were accepted for publication.
In light of the problem and the resulting concerns about special issues we have decided to put a moratorium on new special issues. During the moratorium period we will reexamine our policies with regard to them, including quality control and other aspects of special issues. We will strive to conclude the review process in two to three months.
Of course, we will remain open to submission of articles to regular Synthese issues during this time. We will also respect our obligations to the guest editors and authors of special issues in various stages of preparation at Synthese at the present time. We will, however, make sure there is an adequate level of oversight on these issues while we are conducting our review.
Once we complete our investigations and review process we will issue an additional statement about our findings, the decisions we made concerning special issues, and the practical steps we have taken to prevent recurrence of the present problem to the best of our ability.
Thank you very much for your understanding, patience, and the support we have received.
Gila (Sher), Otávio (Bueno), and Wiebe (van der Hoek)
Editors in Chief