Friday, June 24, 2011

Innovations in Ethics Curricula

Innovations?! Well, no. Here is yet another of my frequent complaints! Textbooks in ethics (and in Intro to Philosophy, and in Philosophy of Science, and in Environmental Philosophy, and I'm sure in most of our other areas) go through frequent editions but each edition contains the same old topics with the same old papers.

Yes, some of the old papers are classics and nothing else compares. Judith Jarvis Thomson on abortion. But in general, except for the addition of pieces on climate change, an ethics anthology now looks almost exactly like an ethics anthology when I was in college--over two decades ago! And some of the pieces seemed dated to me then.

Today's exemplar just arrived in my mailbox--Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy, edited by Mappes, Zembaty, and DeGrazia and in its 8th edition with McGraw Hill. I don't think this text is any worse than all the others, but it's not better, either.

Take the example of the chapter on climate change. It contains 10 selections, but only 2 of them were written in the last decade! Both of those pieces are written by philosophers but were originally published in the popular press.

And let's look at the gender breakdown--something that should be informative about the degree of currency and creativity in an anthology. Women constitute 20% or so of professional philosophers but a much higher percentage among ethicists. In addition, this text has sections s on issues that have been extensively examined from a feminist perspective: sexual ethics, abortion, marriage, pornography, and global and economic justice. Finally, the text includes selections written by practitioners (rather than exclusively by philosophers) and published in the popular press (rather than just in philosopher journals).

So what can possibly explain this breakdown?
Of the pieces with named authors, only 15% have a female author. Some of those female authors have more than one piece in the anthology, so that only 12% of authors are female!

The cost of the text is over $100. Do any of these pieces come with an expiration date? I drink fresh milk, eat fresh eggs, and insist on fresh fruit. My mind requires fresh nourishment as well.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

CfP: Feminism and Climate Change


Hypatia: Special Issue on Climate Change

March 15, 2012 submission deadline
Volume 28, Number 3, Summer 2013
Guest Editors: Nancy Tuana and Chris Cuomo

Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy seeks papers for a special issue on Climate Change. We welcome new feminist scholarship on the scientific, ethical, epistemological, economic, and cultural dimensions of current global climate change, as well as case studies that critically engage specific questions in local, regional, national, and/or global contexts. In addition to essays developing feminist analyses of the science, ethics, and politics of climate change, we encourage investigations of the gendered, neo-colonial, and other power-laden frameworks which shape the discourses and power flows that influence various parties’ understandings of and responses to climate change.

There has been a great deal of work in the natural and social sciences on various aspects of climate change, and there is increasing acknowledgement in the literature that extreme weather events and ecological disasters tend to have greater negative impacts on women, girls, and those who lack economic and social power. Nonetheless, little attention has been given to the complex ways in which hegemonic conceptions of gender, race, nation, and knowledge are implicated within institutional frameworks of climate policy, media representations of scientific knowledge, and suggestions of planetary redemption through "eco-engineering," carbon markets, or profit-generating green technologies.

In addition to critical case studies focused on specific regions or trends, some questions and issues that might be considered in this special issue include (but are not limited to) feminist analyses of the following topics:
  • Geopolitics of climate change treaties and political processes
  • Ethics and politics of approaches to climate justice, including cosmopolitanism, human
    rights, human security, indigenous rights, and eco-centric perspectives
  • Critical analyses of industrial, scientific, policy and activist discourses
  • Climate change denial and epistemologies of ignorance
  • Intersections and tensions of development ethics and climate ethics
  • Epistemologies and ethics of climate modeling, including economic models
  • Naturalization of fossil fuel dependence and consumerism
  • Climate change and the resurgence of reactionary notions of population control
  • Critical analyses of the influence of popular media, from misinformation to education
Deadline for submission: March 15, 2012
Papers should be no more than 8000 words, inclusive of notes and bibliography, prepared for anonymous review, and accompanied by an abstract of no more than 200 words. For details please see Hypatia's submission guidelines
Please submit your paper to manuscript central. When you submit, make sure to select “Climate Change” as your manuscript type, and also send an email to the guest editors indicating the title of the paper you have submitted: Chris Cuomo:, Nancy Tuana:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CFP: SAF at the Central APA, Feb. 2012

That's a lot of acronyms!
CFP: call for papers
SAF: Society for Analytical Feminism
APA: American Philosophical Association, meeting in Chicago

Here's the call. This is a good opportunity for graduate students (and others!) who are working in feminist philosophy in an analytic style. Ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of science--all are welcomed. It's also a supportive organization for women in philosophy, with reasonable dues and frequent networking/philosophizing opportunities.



Society for Analytical Feminism: Feminist Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition

SAF Session at the Central Division APA

Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois

February 15-18, 2012

The Society for Analytical Feminism invites submissions for a session at the 2012 Central Division APA meetings.

The Society seeks papers that examine feminist issues by methods broadly construed as analytic, or discuss the use of analytic philosophical methods as applied to feminist issues. Reading time should be about 20 minutes. Authors should submit either (1) a paper, or (2) an extended abstract, as detailed as possible (up to 1000 words) accompanied by a bibliography. Please delete all self-identifying references from your submission to ensure anonymity. Send submissions as a word attachment to Robin Dillon (

*** Deadline for submissions: August 1, 2011. ***

Graduate students or underfunded professionals whose papers are accepted will be eligible for the Society’s $250 Travel Stipend. Please indicate on a separate page (or in your covering letter) if you fall into one of these categories.

The Society for Analytical Feminism provides a forum where issues concerning analytical feminism may be openly discussed and examined. Its purpose is to promote the study of issues in feminism by methods broadly construed as analytic, to examine the use of analytic methods as applied to feminist issues, and to provide a means by which those interested in Analytical Feminism may meet and exchange ideas. The Society meets yearly at the Central Division meetings of the APA and frequently organizes sessions for the Eastern Division and Pacific Divisions. Information can be found on our website.

Membership in the Society is open to all who are interested in and concerned with issues in Analytical Feminism. Annual dues are $25 for regularly employed members, $15 for students, unemployed, underemployed, and retired members. To join, send your check for the appropriate amount payable to the Society for Analytical Feminism to Robin Dillon at the address below.

Robin S. Dillon

Department of Philosophy

15 University Drive

Lehigh University

Bethlehem, PA 18015

Friday, June 10, 2011

Reading Coded Language

In online discussions about stereotype threat, combative attitudes (as opposed to adversarial method), and distinguishing exclusionary or sexist/racist language from innocuous language, it is often pointed out that an accused speaker need not be intending to exclude or accuse or intimidate others. Furthermore, some see sexist/racist language where others merely see colorful or humorous examples.

This is a legitimate issue, worth discussing. How can sexist language be identified? Can language be sexist even when the speaker has no such intent? And what about cases where many people in an audience wouldn't identify the language as exclusionary? Are those who would (usually those who feel targeted by it) just overly sensitive? Possibly even paranoid?

First, the question about intention. It's certainly possible that a speaker be sexist without a conscious intention. In a male-dominated (white-dominated) environment, using language that reinforces males/whites as the norm may seem just that--normal--while also achieving an exclusionary effect. Sometimes we aren't even aware of the coded language we use or what our actions indicate about our beliefs. Indeed, it is the rare bigot who is so aware and proud of the bigotry as to reach for offensive language.

For example, in the town where I went to college if someone said "I know the Safeway is farther away, but I'd just rather go there than the Winn-Dixie," this could reasonably be interpreted as conveying an unspoken attitude toward race. And many at my college would have said it. There was no need even to reach for a more explicit code: "The Winn-Dixie? Only townies shop there!"

I attended a talk not too long ago during which I spent much of my time wondering if others in the room (and who) were as offended as I was at the low-level but constant aggressive nature of the talk. What do you think? Does a pattern emerge from the following statements? (The talk/slideshow was about the nuts-and-bolts of collaboration--ostensibly about how to deal with the practical side of working with collaborators.)
  • "Know that in some collaborations, you will wind up jumping into bed with people you won't want to build a relationship with."
  • "Figure out what people expect out of a collaborative relationship. Some are even genuinely concerned about the issues, so try to figure that out."
  • "Always tell people the deadline is earlier than it really is," with a stock photo of a war game.
  • Slide title: "Surprising Sights," with clipart images of a fat lady and a bearded lady.
  • military jokes and drinking jokes and drinking-in-the-military jokes (and no other jokes).
  • Slide title: "Different goals and agendas," with clipart image of someone being stabbed in the back with a knife.
  • "Before you jump in bed with a collaborator, find out how much they'll want from you."
I'm trying to decide if the talk was offensive only because of its insincere attitude toward the goal of inquiry or for other reasons as well.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Parental Choices

I think a lot about my parenting but don't often write about it. But there are two independent things in the news lately that have provoked similar responses, and I want to explore them.

Namely, why is it that there is such controversy over "the right way" of raising kids when so many ways seem to do just fine? And the higher-level question, what should guide us parents in decisions about how to raise our kids, and, in particular, how we allow them to spend their (non-school) time? Why does the baseline belief seem to be that parents should conform to a typical parenting mode, something that comes from outside of themselves and is rather like a community standard? Why, that is, when we are a multiplicity of communities and do make these decisions for ourselves all the time? Why not also make those decisions for our very young children (assuming that children will be able to make more and more decisions for themselves as they grow up)?

Here are two stories:
  1. via Feminist Philosophers, a Canadian mother who hasn't revealed the gender of her infant receives media attention, much of it negative.
  2. the National Association for the Education of Young Children released guidelines advocating incorporating electronic technology (computers, etc.) into all early childhood educational settings (including preschools and outdoor summer camps).
My reaction to the mother who won't reveal the gender of her infant is to wonder "Who cares?" Some even call it child abuse, in part, no doubt, because she lets her toddler and her pre-school boy wear dresses and long hair. But who cares? Some grown men wear dresses. Let them. Some men, e.g. Moroccans and Egyptians, wear long robes as a matter of cultural identity and dress their boys that way, too. Children seem to do just fine in this world so long as their clothes are safe and comfortable.

Likewise, some parents clearly do want to make this choice for their young boys: you will wear boy clothes in boy patterns. That seems fine to me, too. In my house, we don't wear images of violence or meanness--no sharks with huge teeth or skulls or guns on our t-shirts. (We do have lots of pictures of trees!) This is due to me exercising influence as a parent. I made the decision, and as my boy grew older I let him know why. He may challenge me sometime, but that will be between us, and I don't see why it's anyone's concern whether I make it a matter in which I give him freedom or enforce my authority.

The second problem seems different. In the absence of evidence, why would an educational body recommend some technologies over others (gameboys rather than baseballs, cellphones rather than soap bubbles) across all contexts? The impulse seems to me related to the background belief in the first case: electronic screens are something we all do now, so childhood exposure should prepare little ones for it.

I don't see why, in these cases, we would treat little ones as smaller versions of young adults. It might be disruptive for a 7th-grade boy to wear a dress to junior high. He would get teased, among other possible problems. But a toddler? Not so much. It might be deficient for a 7th-grader to lack computer skills these days. But a toddler?

The Tiger Mom gets called out for being too strict, too demanding. The hippie mom gets called out for being too lenient, for misguiding her child's gender image. But both have kids who seem well-adjusted.

Both of these parents are self-conscious about their parenting, and that seems to me to be what matters. Both are proud of their kids, and of themselves, for reaching their goals.

But I don't withhold judgment entirely. The parents I don't understand are the ones who don't like how their children have become but continue to raise them to be that way. I don't understand the parents who seem concerned that their child gets in trouble for bringing toy weapons to pre-school and drawing images of weapons and violence--and yet the child continues to have access to those objects and ideas. In the case of a 5-year-old with a fetish for swords and parents who are disturbed by it, why not inundate that child with musical theater? How can there be room in a young brain for laserguns when it's filled with Rogers & Hammerstein?

Sometimes I think I'm just lucky: my boy loves to play UNO with me and work spatial puzzles! We hike together, we sew together, and we watch nature documentaries. But really, that's just childhood. Little kids know what they know, and they don't know what they don't know. I'm mystified by parents of little kids who say "I wish my kid didn't love X so much"--unless that parent secretly loves X, too.