Talking Turkey: Practical Strategy

Here in the U.S., the holidays are coming and that means some of us will be sitting down with family and reconnecting with more distant friends. I think there has to be a high priority on talking with those in our social circles who voted for Trump. Let me lay out a little more what I mean.

First, I’m mostly talking to white readers, and especially to white readers, since this is largely our experience and, I think, our responsibility. (Comments welcome from all of course!)

Second, if you’re white and have no kin or acquaintances who voted for Trump, I implore you to wonder why. This is not, I think, something to be proud of but is, rather, indicative of how we got here. If progressive white people don’t know white people unlike themselves, we’re abandoning the work of persuasion where it could be most effective. There’s much talk of the bubbles in which we surround ourselves, so if you’re in one, please get out of it for a spell.

Most importantly, the election is over so that means the temptation to go back to “normal” is strong, going along and passing the potatoes while leaving politics and other bits of “unpleasantness” aside. I think this temptation should be resisted. The election is over, but what’s coming next is not. It’s not clear what power we all have but my guess is that remorseful Trump voters would be a help. So too would Trump voters encouraged to oppose things they may have let slide when it was all ostensibly in service to “campaigning.”

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Us

It is now increasingly clear that white women bear a substantial share in electing Donald Trump. Since I am a white woman, I want to talk about us. Not about them – those who voted for Trump – but about us, white American women in general.

 

My abiding, albeit deeply shaken, conviction is that one of the only things human beings have as a shared moral resource is talking. So we need urgently to talk about white women. I say we need to talk about us, thereby implicitly excluding all the non-us readers (people who aren’t white women) not because I don’t want to hear from them, but because asking them what the hell is wrong with us would be an affront. As if they don’t have enough to worry about and have time to address our delicate agonies. So if you’re not one of us, feel free to chime in but feel free to avert your gaze in disgust too since we earned at least that.

 

I think I understand – though surely not as deeply as I ought – that many white women have some, several, or all of the afflictions shot through the Trump campaign: racism, xenophobia, misogyny, nativism, white dominance. And one of the challenges, I think, after all this is how to address all this, especially how all of this nets together rather than existing as discrete problems. Still, let me just focus on what might be the lowest hanging fruit for us.

 

Extraordinary numbers of white women voted for a man who boasts of sexual assault, who has been accused of sexual assault by a long line of women, and who has, in almost every conceivable way to hand for a politician, expressed disdain for women. So somehow millions of white women voters said… what? “Yeah, but…” What? “What he really stands for is…?” What? In other words, even if these women care not a whit for all of the other deeply morally objectionable things Trump professed and laid out as plans, they could have cared about this. Leave them all the other vices and their dignity as women could have revolted and broke the other way. So, why didn’t it?

 

I don’t think it’s enough to explain this by saying that white women may labor under internalized patriarchy and misogyny. Or, if they do, why do they? More pointedly, where is feminism? White women have historically pretty much run the show where feminism is concerned, so here too, this is us. I think this is one of the things we have a duty to try sort out, though I don’t myself know where or how to begin. So, please, talk.

Email inquiry: What does a philosopher do?

A ten year-old blog reader writes with this question:

Could you explain to me what a philosopher does? I like to write small theories about life, I want to know other people who do that. In the process I found this blog. So please tell me how this works! Thank you.

Hi! There is no single answer to your question, because philosophers can do many things. Some of them teach, some of them write, and some of them apply philosophy in other ways too. Most of them do some combination of these things.

It’s great that you like writing small theories about life, which is an excellent start on doing philosophy. Philosophy scholars who work in universities, colleges and other schools have a few different ways of doing philosophy: teaching, writing, and helping other people think through hard questions about life and the world. How should we live, work, eat, play and treat one another? What is the world like? What is it to have reasonable beliefs about things?

These questions can get complicated really quickly. They also lead into other questions about those questions, and about how we try to answer them. For example, suppose there are different answers to questions of how we should live. Should we try to decide which of the answers are better? How could we do that? What would make better answers better?

A lot of this philosophical discussion ends up being aimed at other philosophers. There is such a thing as philosophical expertise, and this expertise gets developed through some pretty specialized writing and speaking. But philosophers also work with non-philosophers, through their teaching, and through other kinds of jobs. For example, a philosopher might help the people who work at a hospital to make more thoughtful and ethical decisions about their patients’ health. That’s a specific job that many people have, and it often involves people with philosophical training. Philosophers do many kinds of public philosophizing — including blogging on Feminist Philosophers!

People who have been trained in philosophy do all kinds of jobs. Philosophy doesn’t have to be the job you do. Actually that’s pretty rare. It’s a lot more common for people to use philosophical ways of thinking and communicating in doing lots of other things. That is, philosophy can be the way you do things. I’d say a philosophical way of doing things is: reflectively, being open to new ways of thinking, with a particular sensitivity to hidden assumptions that are built into our lives and actions – and whether those assumptions are reasonable when you look at them carefully.

Having a practiced philosophical ability to just pay attention to stuff, in the broadest sense of the term, is a great way to find more transparent, more accurate, more effective, and more ethical ways of living and acting. I hope you keep writing and thinking, and finding value in philosophy!

You are very welcome to reply to this message by posting a comment. As you can see, I took your name out of your email. If you comment, you can make up a name to use, or you can just do it anonymously.

Them

Like many, I was up most of the night last night, patently unable to believe what was happening. I had a lot of time to think, albeit not thinking very clearly. Lots of people with actual expertise will be weighing in on what happened but here’s something I want to say. In laying out who They are, those who voted for Trump, I think a lot is missing. We see most often those “white working class” sorts who are willing to wear t-shirts calling Clinton a cunt or bitch, eager to call for her imprisonment, people in thrall to rightwing or alt-right news sources. Apart from the fact that wealthy white folk had a substantial, ugly share in this result, I don’t recognize the “white working class” or, more accurately, “rural whites” as I know them in these portrayals. I have no interest here in trying to rehabilitate the choice to vote for Trump as other than a catastrophic choice, but I’m struggling to find my way through my reactions, the most distressing of which is running up against the reality that many of these voters are “my people” in a deep sense. I come from them, I am them, and I love many of them.

 

When I’m not doing philosophy, I farm. I am the fourth generation in my family entrusted with a beautiful few hundred acres resting in the hills of the Ozarks, hillbilly country. Philosophy, I often tell myself, is just my town job: If you’re going to own a farm, you need town job since making a living at farming makes academia look like easy money. But because I do farm and come from rural white people, I live half my life with them.

 

My extended family and farm neighbors include many farmers, some schoolteachers, veterans, waitresses, folks living on government assistance, and some who make their money in mysterious ways best not closely examined. In my generation, my kin all did finish high school – I am, perversely, the lone high school drop out. Some have more than others but none are financially comfortable; some live on a financial knife’s edge and see collecting walnuts in fall at $15/hundredweight income they can’t decline, though gathering walnuts at this price entails getting far below minimum wage for pretty miserable work. Still, those walnuts are like money just laying there on the ground.

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Put that pantsuit back on

Feminists, the results of the 2016 elections in the U.S.A. are as bad as you think they are. I appreciate the observations of my friends and colleagues that the effects of the elections will be bad — for too many, dangerous — and have long-term consequences for decades. Many are disappointed, heart-broken, afraid. Those feelings make sense and can lay one low.

When you’re ready, though, remember that this is not our first rodeo, that we didn’t really believe racism and sexism were ever actually gone, and that we are still here. We still gave more of the popular vote to a feminist woman than the President-Elect received, and the single best hope of reducing the amount of harm before us is to start the race for seats in the House of Representatives in two years.

You might have worn a pantsuit yesterday or all-white clothing in honor of the suffragettes, a t-shirt saying you’re with her or that today, pussy grabs back. You probably need a break from even looking at that sticker, pin, or yard sign that you sported with hope. But when you’re ready, we’re going to need you to, metaphorically speaking, put that pantsuit right back on.

I heard a bit of the victory speech by Trump today, the portion in which he said that running for President was the hardest thing he’s ever done. Get ready to make it harder — after you catch up on that lost sleep, of course. Before you fight the patriarchy, you must have something to eat.

CFP: Critical Philosophies of Life

Critical Philosophies of Life
March 24-25

Keynote speaker: Dr. Cynthia Willett (Emory University)

Duquesne Women in Philosophy invites philosophical papers and abstracts on the broad theme of “life.” Full papers of approximately 3000 words suitable for a 20 minute presentation will be prioritized, though long abstracts of a minimum 700 words are also welcome. Preference will be given to papers that engage with normative assumptions and traditional ways of framing the notion of ‘life’ as well as papers from perspectives in feminist, anti-racist, critical philosophies of race, disability, queer, post-colonial studies, and perspectives outside the Western tradition, such as those from Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The conference will take place March24-25 at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.

Please send submissions prepared for blind review to dwipcontact@gmail.com by January 5th 2017.

The conference will prioritize accessibility for all. For any questions or concerns please contact us dwipcontact@gmail.com.

Notification of acceptance will be sent out by January 15th.

Possible areas include but are not limited to:

the meaning/character/history of life
the good life, living well and ways of living
philosophies of birth, death, pregnancy, illness/disease, aging/maturity
issues in bioethics
philosophies of sex, sexuality, gender, bodily difference
philosophies of biology, history of philosophy of science and medicine
biopower and biopolitics
nature, environmental, ecological, and animal philosophies
life under capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, racism, violence
eugenics, slavery, life in prison, life-without-parol
life and the law
questions from disability studies
desire, habit, space, the temporality of life
technology, art, music, beauty, justice

**The conference and roundtable discussion are generously supported by a Hypatia: a journal of feminist philosophy through a Diversity Project Grant, the Department of Philosophy, and the Women and Gender Studies Program at Duquesne University. Please see our website for details on DWiP and a list of past conferences: http://duq.edu/d-wip

FPQ 2.2

The Fall 2016 issue of Feminist Philosophy Quarterly is online, and includes the following three peer-reviewed articles as well as an invited collection. In the two weeks since we pressed publish, our peer-reviewed authors have enjoyed, on average, one hundred downloads each. Would you like that kind of readership? Submit your work to FPQ! Come for the triply anonymized peer-review processes, and stay for the download rates. As always, we are open-access, free for authors and free for readers, thanks to the free publishing platform provided by Western University and the grants and support from York University, University of Waterloo, and the Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics at Trent University.

Published in FPQ 2.2:

Barrett Emerick, “Love and Resistance: Moral Solidarity in the Face of Perceptual Failure”

Claire A. Lockard, “Unhappy Confessions: The Temptation of Admitting to White Privilege”

Kurt M. Blankschaen, “Allied Identities

Invited Collection, The Challenge of Epistemic Responsibility: Essays in Honour of Lorraine Code

Anna Mudde, “Introduction to The Challenge of Epistemic Responsibility: Essays in Honour of Lorraine Code”

Christine M. Koggel, “The Epistemological and the Moral/Political in Epistemic Responsibility: Beginnings and Reworkings in Lorraine Code’s Work”

Susan Dieleman, “Responsibilism and the Analytic-Sociological Debate in Social Epistemology”

Catherine Maloney, “From Epistemic Responsibility to Ecological Thinking: The Importance of Advocacy for Epistemic Community”

Alexis Shotwell, “Fierce Love: What We Can Learn about Epistemic Responsibility from Histories of AIDS Advocacy”

Lorraine Code, “Knowing Responsibly, Thinking Ecologically: Response to Panelists”

The View From Brexit Britain: America Still Has the Chance to Repudiate Hatred

This is a short piece I’ve written for the Huffington Post.  My hope is that reflections on living through brexit and its aftermath, and contemplating the US election, might move some who are considering staying home or voting third party.

Here’s the beginning.

I went to bed on the night of June 23 feeling nervous, but not so nervous that I couldn’t sleep. I knew that the polls on Brexit were running close, but I also knew that the bookies had never wavered in their conviction that we would remain in Europe. Also, I knew that the very worst of the Leave campaign had now come out so clearly that nobody could miss it. Just the previous week, they had produced a poster so close to Nazi propaganda that it was reported as hate speech. Later that same day, MP Jo Cox was murdered in the street for her pro-European views. Surely, I thought such naked xenophobia and violence would be the death of the Leave vote.

At 5.30 the next morning, I stared at the computer in shock and horror…