Archive | April, 2013

Differential treatment by chair

30 Apr

What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?

I recently experienced an unpleasant dismissal by both a speaker and session chair at a major conference where I was a commentator.

The session to which I refer was divided into a number of pairs of speakers and commentators. My session was last, and I therefore had the opportunity to see how the previous speakers and commentators (all males) were treated by the male session chair.

As is the norm, the speaker usually responds to comments before opening the floor to questions from the audience. However, as soon as my comments were finished, without hesitation the chair began to accept questions from the audience, giving the speaker no chance to respond to my comments. This had not happened to the preceding male commentators.

At the end of each sub-session, the chair had asked the male commentators if they had further responses to make during questions and after the last question…

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The Politico Piece on Jill Abramson: Trust Us, It’s Sexist.

27 Apr

The Politico Piece on Jill Abramson: Trust Us, It’s Sexist.


The Meaning of (Making) Life

27 Apr

The Meaning of (Making) Life

Christina Agapakis is a rising star among the new generation of biology researchers. Trained in the science of custom-building organisms known as synthetic biology, the UCLA researcher likes to think about the way her field intersects with culture and industry more broadly.

Case in point: Through a program of the BioBricks Foundation, she worked with artist Sissel Tolaas to create cheeses cultured with the microbes that help produce our body odor. The project highlights the meaning that humans assign to the productions of the invisible world of bacteria. And Agapakis wants us to rethink our relationships with the microbial communities that live in and around us.


How Politico should have reported the “turbulence” at The New York Times

26 Apr

How Politico should have reported the “turbulence” at The New York Times

This week, Politico published a largely anonymously-sourced hit piece on New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, charging that she is blunt, demoralizing, condescending, and is “on the verge of losing the support of the newsroom.” Critics,myself included, asked whether this piece would have been written and edited in this particular way if its subject were a man. But perhaps a more useful question: Is there anything that could have turned this piece from a string of complaints about the boss into a valuable piece of media reporting? I’ve got a few suggestions.

On being a rape victim in philosophy

25 Apr

What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?

I was, like all too many of our young women, a college rape victim. Now, I have to say that people’s reaction to the actual event was fully supportive of me. But what struck me is what I deal with 5 years later, as a new graduate student.

I face the constant suggestion that my “baggage” makes me unsuitable for graduate school. It’s often the very kindly put suggestion that perhaps I should “find something less stressful to do.” It’s also stuff like finding myself passed over for recommendations because I’ve been labelled as not being able to handle things. It’s a constant little irritation, being seen as “weaker” because I still deal with the effects of rape.

What strikes me is how often the things I struggle with are not even related to my philosophical capability, but to the academic environment. I freak out when I have to deal…

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“I had no power to say ‘that’s not okay:’” Reports of harassment and abuse in the field

14 Apr

“I had no power to say ‘that’s not okay:’” Reports of harassment and abuse in the field

Biological anthropology has a long, feminist tradition of women and men interrogating sexism in the workplace, as well as researching and prioritizing female behaviors and friendships and reproductive strategies in human evolution. If there is any field-based science that has the tools to look at the chilly climate at field sites, it is us. . . .

The question is: do we want to impoverish our discipline and push out bright, motivated young students, by continuing to allow abuse and harassment? . . .

Survival in field-based academic science can’t just be about who can put up with or witness abuse the longest – that is not an appropriate metric to measure who is the best at their science


Sexism, Misogyny and the 75th Anniversary of Superman

14 Apr

Sexism, Misogyny and the 75th Anniversary of Superman

On Lois Lane.

She pre-dates Lex Luthor, Jonathan and Martha Kent, Supergirl, Superboy, the Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen, Lana Lang and every other supporting player in the mythos.  She pre-dates Jor-El and Lara and the S shield as we know it.  She pre-dates the concept of “the kindly couple” finding Clark Kent. She pre-dates FLIGHT.  Clark Kent had asked her out on a date before BATMAN AND WONDER WOMAN even existed.   Lois Lane was introduced as a career woman in 1938 when the idea of that would have been unheard of.   Even moreso, she was introduced as a career woman who was, in fact, an object of desire despite her brash personalty and many character traits that, in their time (and even today)  would have been associated with a male figure.  And if you don’t understand why that’s a big deal…..then really need to consider the way we treat powerful career women in this country through mass media—-the way we deem them “un-sexy” and “cold” and un-feminine.  


School Vote Stirs Debate on Girls as Leaders

12 Apr

School Vote Stirs Debate on Girls as Leaders

A letter by girls at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., cites embarrassment at the plight of female students at a progressive institution.


My So-Called ‘Post-Feminist’ Life in Arts and Letters

12 Apr

My So-Called ‘Post-Feminist’ Life in Arts and Letters

The lack of respectful coverage, the slut-shaming and name-calling, all the girly book covers and not-my-titles despite high literary aspirations, has worn me down, made me question everything: my abilities, my future, my life. This is what sexism does best: it makes you feel crazy for desiring parity and hopeless about ever achieving it.


Inequality in the Pursuit of Feminism

10 Apr

Inequality in the Pursuit of Feminism

The report wonders why we persist in looking at a few outrider women at the top of the professional ladder instead of analyzing the fate of a more representative cross-section of women. It highlights how excessive focus on the few empowered women who have succeeded can have a disturbing “decoy” effect, suggesting that women have made it, while ignoring the fact that for the vast majority of women, huge inequalities remain.