FPQ 2.1

Feminist Philosophy Quarterly is happy to announce the publication of Volume 2, Issue 1. Contents:

Article: “Love Slaves and Wonder Women: Radical Feminism and Social Reform in the Psychology of William Moulton Marston,” by Matthew J. Brown
Article: “Pornographic Subordination, Power, and Feminist Alternatives,” by Matt L. Drabek

Special Collection, Author Meets Critics: Lisa Tessman, Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality (OUP, 2015)
Eva F. Kittay, “Two Dogmas of Moral Theory? Comments on Lisa Tessman’s Moral Failure”
Lisa H. Schwartzman, “Action-Guidance, Oppression, and Nonideal Theory”
Lisa Rivera, “Possible Dilemmas Raised by Impossible Moral Requirements”

Lisa Tessman, “Moral Failure — Response to Critics”

Appendix: Acknowledging our Referees from September 2014 through June 2016

Some philosophy departments addressing harassment problems

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has an article today about attempts to deal with the sexual harassment that has gathered national attention. There appear to be two dominant strategies: cutting out private dept parties with lots of drinking, and trying to hire more women professors.

Boulder, Northwestern and Miami are mentioned explicitly as making efforts. That some other philosophy departments are doing so is suggested.

Harassment is said to be worse in heavily male dominated fields, and other disciplines are mentioned.

It is an interesting article which is unfortunately behind a paywall. It seems to me short on its understanding. For example, in at least some cases, the presence of harassment is part of a poisonous atmosphere that makes the place extremely difficult for most women, harassed or not. (The site visit program sponsored by the APA has resources for uncovering further problems.) In my experience too many faculty, perhaps especially those in the Old Boys’Club, are close to clueless about quite pernicious ways of thinking about women faculty and students.

Miss Mentor’s Academic novels: new list from CHE

Question: May we have this column’s list of books, to file in our perfumed memory books with Ms. Mentor’s other academic novel columns?

Answer: Certainly (see below).

Sage readers: Here is this month’s shortlist of contemporary academic novels:

Frankie Bow, The Case of the Defunct Adjunct
Stella Chance, The Campus Baller: A Sports Romance
Ian Flitcroft, The Reluctant Cannibals
Lauren Fremont, Taboo: Professor Wants Me Pregnant
Rona Jaffe, Class Reunion
Elle Kennedy, The Score (Off-Campus Book 3)
Alex Kudera, Auggie’s Revenge
John L’Heureux, The Handmaid of Desire
Janice MacDonald, Sticks and Stones
Lucy McConnell, The Academic Bride (Billionaire Marriage Brokers)
Adrian Jones Pearson, Cow Country
John Van der Kiste, Always There
Jennifer Vandever, The Bronte Project
Chris Wallace, Heads: A Campus Novel
Tom Wolfe, I Am Charlotte Simmons: A Novel


what is really going on with Brexit

Too possibly true:

From the Guardian:

As Naomi Klein argued in The Shock Doctrine, disaster capitalism operates by delivering massive shocks to the system and then using the ensuing period of anarchy, fear and confusion to reassemble the pieces of what it has broken into a new configuration. This is what was done in the aftermath of the financial crisis, and it is ultimately what is at stake in Brexit. The right wing of the Tory party has succeeded in throwing the UK’s affairs into complete confusion. The losses may be enormous: the preservation of the United Kingdom in its present form is far from certain. The winnings may, at first sight, seem modest: £350m a week will not be available to save the NHS; the free movement of labour will have to be conceded; and Britain will lose its place at the EU negotiating table. But the potential winnings for ruthless politicians are nevertheless enormous: the prize is the opportunity to rework an almost infinite range of detailed arrangements both inside and outside the UK, to redraw at breakneck speed the legal framework that will govern all aspects of our lives.

As Andy Beckett pointed out in the Guardian on Friday, within minutes of the BBC declaring victory for Brexit, the free-market thinktank the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) revealed the plan B that has otherwise remained hidden from view. “The weakness of the Labour party and the resolution of the EU question have created a unique political opportunity to drive through a wide-ranging … revolution on a scale similar to that of the 1980s … This must include removing unnecessary regulatory burdens on businesses, such as those related to climate directives and investment fund[s].”

A week later, and this possibility is no longer merely theoretical…


There are two different kinds of thesis we could consider: The Tory reaction was part of the plan all along OR the Tories are going to react by using Brexit as an opportunity to radically change the society. There are close variations among them, but either is quite possibly right in the prediction that there will be a strong move toward a Thatcherite revival.


Tina Fernandes Botts at 3AM

For me, as a hermeneuticist, all ideas are generated from phenomenological experience. There is no such thing as an abstract idea that emerges from nowhere. So, to me, the value of demographic diversity is that it carries with it a diversity of ideas that is healthy because it keeps everyone on their toes generating new ideas, and not just sitting around rehashing old ones over and over again. It seems strange to me that this obvious benefit of demographic diversity is not obvious to everyone…

I think that greater demographic diversity in philosophy will bring about the original idea of what philosophy is and can do. For Socrates, philosophy was a check on intellectual hubris, something of which professional philosophy currently has no shortage. The beauty of old school philosophy is that it is a call to complete and utter intellectual open mindedness. The power of this sort of stance is unlimited, I think, and part of the heart and soul of true philosophy, going back to Socrates.

Read the rest!

Dangerously Provocative

Jessica Wolfendale (co-editor of Fashion: Philosophy for Everyone)  is currently completing an article on sexual modesty. Her most recent article, “Provocative Dress and Sexual Responsibility,” is forthcoming in the Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law. and now she’s just published a piece on being “dangerously provocative” here.

The provocatively dressed woman is dangerous. She is disruptive; a distraction and a temptation. She can lead good men to thoughts of infidelity; she can distract men and boys from the important tasks of work and education. The dangers posed by the provocatively dressed woman mean that she must be monitored and controlled. Girls must be forbidden from wearing provocative clothing to school, so that they don’t distract boys.[2] As a principal of a Canadian High School wrote in a letter to parents: “Girls wearing short skirts should think about how they sit and what is revealed when they bend over …. It’s my job as principal to keep students contained in an environment where they [boys and teachers] can learn [and teach] without distraction.”[3] Likewise, women should wear “good, modest, conservative dress” at work because “[r]emoving one more distraction will help everyone keep their focus”.[4]

But the provocatively dressed woman also needs to be warned about the dangers she poses to herself. A Canadian police officer told students at Osgoode Hall Law School that: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized,”[5] and in the wake of a series of sexual assaults in Brooklyn in 2011, police officers advised women not to wear shorts or skirts that were “too short”.[6] Because the provocatively dressed woman sexually arouses men, she risks attracting unwanted sexual attention. It is therefore up to her to make sure that she doesn’t send the “wrong message” with her outfits.

Now go read the rest at the Dangerous Woman Project.

Psychological explanation and Brexit, Trump and a lot more.

Is there a root cause of the psychological angst caused by Brexit?

In a post here about why Brexit has caused me such depression and anxiety, despite the fact that in a narrow sense I gain some from it, I listed a lot of pretty bad things that will – or at least may – follow from it.

Similarly, lots of us are upset about Trump’s success for an array of reasons, some having to do with the validation he seems to give to base racisms and xenophobias. Since I am white, the racisms won’t directly make my life worse even though I, along with many others, most certainly don’t like living in an unjust, racist society.

I also quoted an article from the Guardian that purported to explain the psychological upset so gripping the UK, it says. They take as the starting point for the anxiety not that, e.g., millennials have their dreams of having access to all the EU countries at least put into question. (And a lot of smaller scale, but very important, events make the question a lot more than hypothetical. UK scientists are losing places on EU grants, important institutions are getting ready to move to Europe, etc.)

Rather the Guardian article holds that the anxiety stems from our bodily reaction to a change in borders. For the body, borders protect us from infection and even annihilation, and the threat of such things forms the basis of our anxiety.

There seem to be two styles of explanation operating. One appeals to societal harms as sufficient explanation, while the other seeks to locate the harms as stemming from a very individual bodily sense.

Can we have societal concerns not based on individual concerns? I would really like to hear what readers think.

I would myself have thought that the answer is pretty obviously “yes.” But social discourse in the US at least appears riddled with the assumption that our likes and dislikes are firmly based in the individual. (“Riddled with” might be thought to be evaluative, and it is. But I could be wrong.)

For those who don’t want to comment, let’s have a poll:

Jenny Saul on Brexit

Jenny Saul has written a fantastic piece over at Huffington Post about the complexities of Brexit. Racism and xenophobia are, she agrees, a part of the explanation for the success of the Leave campaign, and was doubtless a major motivator for some (though not all) Leave voters. But, she argues, it would be far too simplistic to explain Brexit as simply a matter of racism. There are other, complicated factors involved, including especially public (mis)perception of the economic implications of a Leave vote:

Many of the people voting to leave the EU genuinely blamed immigration for the starving of social services, which was in fact caused by Cameron’s austerity policies. Many of the people leaving the EU genuinely believed that the UK economy would be thriving and we’d be on top of the world if not for the EU’s fetters. Many people were excited by the thought of saving £350 million per week, and putting this money into the NHS (the most widely reported promise of the Leave camp, a promise already renounced). These beliefs were manifestly false, and regularly debunked.

But this, Saul argues, is where things get really tricky – and where the issues become ones that need to be thought through carefully, rather than dismissed simply as ‘Leave voters are xenophobic/racist’:

But either [Leave voters] never came across these debunkings or they didn’t believe them when they did. This fact-insensitivity is something that we must urgently pay attention to. And a key cause of it is something also urgently in need of attention: poor and working-class people have been told for decades that the experts in charge will look out for them. They have been made promise after promise about how free trade will actually help them, and about how lowering taxes on the rich will improve life for everyone. These promises have been revealed as patently false and cynically manipulative. Given this, it is completely rational for them to distrust the elites, including the politicians, bankers, and economists who have been forecasting economic doom from Brexit. . .But total distrust of experts means a lack of access to one of the most important sources of facts that there could be. And democracy only makes any sense at all when the populace is able to base its decisions on facts. We are at a crisis point here: Lies are being told, immigrants are being scapegoated, and there is widespread distrust of those trying to get the truth out. Somehow, we need to find a way out of this.

Why Brexit is so depressing and scary.

There are a number of ways I could think of myself as benefitting from Brexit. True, most are linked to the falling value of the pound, and they are really offset by the whack our (USA) retirement account is getting from drops in the stock market. Still, if predictions are correct, one of those dear little renovated terrace houses in Oxford will drop in USD from about $775,000 to $550,000. Still hideously expensive, but perhaps no longer something that is too painful to dream about. And my time next year in Oxford may be thousands of dollars cheaper. So why am I so depressed about Brexit?

738 sq ft, 550,000 pounds.
738 sq ft, 550,000 pounds.

I thought part of it was about seeing the great unhappiness in the faces of young people who saw their future as Europeans killed. Or the chaos in world markets. Or the financial problems English universities will face. Or the costs to ordinary Brits. Or the disdain for experts that the leave voters were expressing. Or, finally, the great contempt for immigrants.

Well, that’s all well and good, but apparently my depression is fundamentally really about me.  And your is about you, etc.

From the Guardian:

Many people feel transported into a dystopian Britain that they “do not recognise, cannot understand”. Thousands are hatching plans to leave the country. Social media are full of suddenly violent flaming between former friends.

Therapists everywhere are reporting shockingly elevated levels of anxiety and despair, with few patients wishing to talk about anything else. Mental health referrals have already begun to mushroom. Why is the Brexit vote affecting us so personally? And, what does this tell us about the make-up of our psyches?

First, we need to consider what we were voting about. The Brexit vote was always about identity and the boundaries between ourselves and others, be that our relationship with Europe and migration, or the expert and politician.

Anything connected with borders brings with it an association to the body, and the boundary between inner and outer. This elicits primitive anxieties, the fears of both annihilation and colonisation. Such fears are heightened in relation to the EU, which carries associations with our biggest cultural trauma, that of the world wars.

To be truthful and accurate, the way the themes are further worked out in the article, it looks as though we can actually care about the welfare of others. But it’s close.