I noted in another post the apparent difference in impact of the Philosophical Gourmet ranking of one's PhD granting institution on tenure-track placement according to gender, following up on posts elsewhere (here, here, and here). In this post I want to follow up on a speculation that I made in comments that the apparent difference in impact is due not to a difference in the way prestige impacts women and men on the job market, but due to a difference in the way that the Philosophical Gourmet tracks prestige for areas dominated by men versus areas that have a higher proportion of women.
You may already be familiar with work by Kieren Healy that shows that the Philosophical Gourmet ranking especially favors particular specialties: "It's clear that not all specialty areas count equally for overall reputation... Amongst the top twenty departments in 2006, MIT and the ANU had the narrowest range, relatively speaking, but their strength was concentrated in areas that are very strongly associated with overall reputation---in particular, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Language, and Philosophy of Mind."
Marcus Arvan at the Philosophers' Cocoon posted sample data from the new appointments site at PhilJobs, which is discussed in a great post by Helen de Cruz here at New APPS. In comments at de Cruz's post and in a new post Arvan discusses the impact of Gourmet ranking on women and men seeking tenure-track jobs. I wanted to follow up on Arvan's post by looking at the full set of data currently available at PhilJobs. I did this in part because I knew that the sample Arvan collected was skewed on gender, due to an earlier analysis on gender I performed for a comment on a post at the Philosophy Smoker. With that convoluted introduction aside, here is a summary of the findings, in keeping with the findings by Arvan: the gourmet rank of one's PhD granting institution appears to have a greater impact on men seeking tenure-track jobs than on women seeking tenure-track jobs. Although I cannot yet speak to the source of this discrepancy, I (like Arvan) find the difference troubling. I welcome comments on the source of the difference below, although any comments will be subject to moderation. Let's look more closely at the data:
I have been thinking about an analogy to the Bechdel test for philosophy papers - this in the light of recent observations that women get fewer citations even if they publish in the "top" general philosophy journals (see also here). To briefly recall: a movie passes the Bechdel test if (1) there are at least 2 women in it, (2) they talk to each other, (3) about something other than a man.
A paper passes the philosophy Bechdel test if
It cites at least two female authors
At least one of these citations engages seriously with a female author's work (not just "but see" [followed by a long list of citations])
At least one of the female authors is not cited because she discusses a man (thanks to David Chalmers for suggesting #3).
The usual cautionary notes about the Bechdel test apply here too. A paper that doesn't meet these standards is not necessarily deliberately overlooking women's work (it could be ultra-short, it might be on a highly specialized topic that has no female authors in the field - is this common?), but on the whole, it seems like a good rule of thumb to make sure women authors in one's field are not implicitly overlooked when citing.
Rutgers is one of my favorite departments in the world. I admire and respect the faculty there. Many people there are my very dear friends. But not all students, or friends of students, at Rutgers respect women. I wrote a blog post about trolling yesterday. It turned out that I was being trolled as well.
"Highly Adequate" "Tara Nelson" and "JW Showalter" have all posted from the same Rutgers [or East Brunswick] IP address. So has “Suzanne Southam.” [update: we have no info on "Highly Adequate's" IP address.] So, "Tara Nelson” may not be "JWShowalter." But it looks like "Tara Nelson" is "Highly Adequate." [update: or, at least wanted to draw attention to him.]"Highly Adequate" is probably a fellow Rutgers student of “JW Showalter,” if not "JW Showalter" himself. Alternatively, there is a small team of trolls working closely together from the same IP address.
Also, notice that "Highly Adequate" abbreviates "HA." That has a particular meaning, which I won't repeat here. I think everyone in philosophy will know what this might refer to.
So, please fellow bloggers in the blogosphere ignore the comments that this or these students are making. They are trolling you. They are trolling me. They are potentially dangerous. They are potentially psychotic or psychopathic.
Relatedly, a truly sexist and essentialist view of women's abilities in philosophy has reared its head on the blogosphere, and Showalter seems unable to respond to it effectively. Hope someone here can nip this in the bud. It's in the comments section.
Tara is referring to comments by commenter "Highly Adequate"--comments which include this one:
The news has just been released that Rev. Fred Phelps, founder and lifelong shepherd of the Westboro Baptist Church (in Topeka, Kansas) has died at the age of 84. I find it difficult, I confess, to summon the normal human compassion that usually accompanies news of another's death in this case, largely because Phelps dedicated his life to broadcasting his rejection of-- not to mention enlisting others, including children, to stage carnival-like circuses around his rejection of-- what most people would consider even the most minimally-decent exhibitions of human compassion. Fred Phelps was one of the most infamous, outrageous, dishonorable and genuinely despicable hatemongers of my generation. And, what is more, Fred Phelps' hate was as ferocious and vicious as it was blind. Through the prism of his delusional and evangelical abhorrence, the Westboro congregants en masse considered themselves justified in casting an unjustifiably wide net of Judgment. Caught in that net were many: ranging from bona fide innocents against whom no reasonable person could or ought cast aspersions, like Matthew Shepard, to a whole host of other "collateral-damage" victims of Phelps' quasi-political positions who found themselves the inadvertent and inauspicious targets of his his flock's detestation.
I say again: I find it very, very difficult to summon the normal human compassion that ought to accompany the news of Fred Phelps' passing.
Nevertheless, these are the moments when our inclination toward Schadenfreude, however deeply affirming and deeply satisfactory indulging that sentiment may feel, ought to be on principle squelched.
Today, March 8, is International Women's Day. To celebrate this day, the APA’s Committee on the Status of Women offers a challenge: you can help to raise $10,000 to support the work of the committee. More information here:
The graduate students of the Department of Philosophy at Northwestern University, have by a majority vote, adopted the following statement:
We find the alleged behavior of gross professional misconduct recently leveled against a faculty member in our department to be deplorable. Further, we judge that the university has failed our community in the way that they have handled these allegations of gross professional misconduct. In addition, we stand in solidarity with the victim of the aforementioned misconduct, with victims of sexual harassment and violence globally, as well as with their advocates (whom we do not consider to be vigilantes). As students, and educators, we take seriously the wellness of every member of our community. The members of our philosophy department have been genuinely dedicated to promoting inclusiveness at Northwestern, as well as within the broader philosophical community. It is among our highest priorities that we create and sustain a safe environment for all members of our community. In the spirit of these affirmations, we are deeply saddened that a member of our department has been found to be in violation of these moral and professional obligations.
We feel, however, that it bears saying that the behavior outlined in the recent lawsuit leveled against Northwestern is not representative of our sense of the prevailing culture in our department. The overwhelming majority of our community — both professors and graduate students, male and female — are engaged jointly in a project of inclusiveness and mutual support.
Since 2011 our department has maintained a committee to promote and sustain inclusiveness among the graduate student community. Among their duties, the Climate Committee hosts the Annual Inclusiveness Lecture on implicit bias and other issues affecting underrepresented and marginalized groups in the discipline. That same year we also founded an initiative geared towards fostering female undergraduate majors: WiPhi is a female-only group of members of the philosophical community at Northwestern at all levels (undergraduate, graduate, and professors) who regularly meet. WiPhi also hosts the Annual Gertrude Bussey Lecture, in honor of the first woman to receive a PhD in philosophy from Northwestern.
Additionally, our course listings represent our shared commitment to exploring issues of diversity and underrepresentation in the field, and in the broader community at large: Our department makes it a priority to regularly teach courses with substantial feminist philosophy content, as well as substantial focus on issues of race. We, the graduate students, feel that our community is home to several upstanding, vocally feminist, junior and senior faculty members. Our community is committed to fighting the sexism that has long been rampant in the broader philosophical community. And while we jointly feel compelled to express our deep sadness in response to the alleged behavior of a faculty member in our department, we also feel compelled to express our commitment to our community.
As conversations in the discipline concerning the climate for women in philosophy and the role of feminist philosopy in fostering good climate continue, it is worthwhile to pause and honor the good work in feminist philosophy that is being done in various areas in philosophy, such as philosophy of science.
Nominations are now open for the 2014 Philosophy of Science Association Women's Caucus Prize. The Prize is awarded biennially for the best book, article, or chapter published in English in the area of feminist philosophy of science within the five years prior to each PSA meeting. The winner will receive an award of $500, which will be presented to the winner at the November 2014 PSA meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
The deadline for nominations is May 1, 2014. To be considered, works must have been published between May 1, 2009 and May 1, 2014. Articles posted electronically on journal websites in final (accepted) form prior to May 1, 2014 are eligible for consideration. Self-nominations are allowed but are limited to one per person. One may nominate more than one paper by someone else.
The Gendered Conference Campaign "aims to raise awareness of the prevalence of all-male conferences (and volumes, and summer schools), of the harm that they do." In keeping with that aim, I call your attention to a (so-far) gendered speaker series that raises awareness for this issue in a different way. The University of California at Merced (disclaimer: my place of work) started a Philosophy Speaker Series this year that has so far organized talks for three speakers, all of whom are women (see the calendar and archive here). This was not intentional, but the fact that it is striking to have this sort of line-up reveals that we have some way to go to reach gender parity. Has anyone else come across conferences, speaker series, or summer schools with all-woman line-ups?
Earlier today, the campus announced that Professor Andy Cowell will head our philosophy department at CU-Boulder. Professor Cowell is a professor of French literature and a former chair of two departments, French and Italian and linguistics. This change was made to improve the climate in philosophy for our faculty, staff and students and, specifically, to improve the climate for women.
We have made these changes based upon the recommendations of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in a recent report that we are making public today, as well as on evidence gathered from faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students in the department. That evidence points directly to the need to create a stronger, more inclusive environment in the department for women as scholars and students, that prevents acts of sexual harassment and discrimination, and that allows faculty to work together in a collegial environment of mutual respect.
Over the weekend I was talking to some people about how we might increase the number of women in philosophy. The sad truth is that there still are only around 20 percent women in philosophy jobs. But as has been pointed out numerous times, the problem starts at the undergraduate level. If we could get more women to major in philosophy, there would be a greater pool of female applicants for PhD programs to choose from and more women to hire in tenure-track positions.
Of course, there is a super-simple solution to this problem. Hire more women in TT positions to serve as role models for undergraduate students. Problem: Vicious circle. There aren't enough women to hire. The star programs snap up most of the women on the market. That makes it difficult for less well ranked programs to find women to hire. Or so I am told.
A new site was launched: Women of Philosophy, an online database collecting information about women currently working in philosophy and their research. It has lots of nice features, such as divisions per area (although some seem not to be operational yet), main and secondary areas of expertise per person, as well as personal and PhilPapers websites listed – and all this with an extremely user-friendly layout. It is a brand-new project, so there may well be quite a few women philosophers missing in the database (so go submit your entries!). However, in the long run, it is likely that all the numerous lists of women working in different areas of philosophy scattered around the internet will become superfluous thanks to this database (which is great news! There is much to be said about a unified database such as this one).
Other laudable efforts to promote diversity in philosophy – not only along the gender dimension – are underway: the PhilPapers crew seems to be working on a database to contain all professional philosophers (they do not shy away from big projects!), listed under a number of diversity categories. So more and more, there will be little excuse not to engage in promoting diversity in philosophy, now that there is an increasing number of useful resources available to all.
The Philosophy Department at the University of California, San Diego, is calling for applications for the 2014 Summer Program for Women in Philosophy, which will be held at UCSD from July 28 to August 8, 2014. The two-week program will feature two intensive courses and a variety of workshops, all geared towards providing an engaging philosophical learning experience and preparation for applying to graduate school in philosophy. Participants will be provided with housing and meals, will have transportation costs covered, will have all course and workshop materials provided, and will receive a $600 stipend.
After a recent move and going through my storage facility, I came across the following memo (below the fold--click to enlarge) among some of my late mother’s things. The date is February 19th, 1958, and the author is Nobel Prize winner Polykarp Kush. My mother was then a graduate student in Physics at Columbia University. Do read it for yourself in all its blue mimeographed glory, but the money line is, of course, “If your personal lives are of such complexity that they require a continuing contact with family and friends in time that should be devoted to a serious concern with physics, I very much doubt that you have the makings of a good physicist.” I heard my mother joke about seeing this memo posted in her lab at least a half-dozen times, but I never knew she kept a copy of the memo for fifty years! She left physics with a Masters degree and returned to graduate school to get her PhD in data analysis in the late 70s. She always told the memo-story as if it were a knee-slapper (“Physicists in those days were such characters!”) and she never really mentioned the climate for women as a reason why she left Physics.
I've been invited to take part in a panel on inclusivity in conference and essay collection organizing, to be held at the 2013 APA Eastern. Session GVIII-1, Sunday 11:15 am. Here are my notes. (Comments welcome to me by email too.)
I propose organizers take three steps: 1) reflect; 2) clarify audiences and goals; 3) make invitations.
STEP I. REFLECT. The first thing we need to do is reflect on our normal practices. Unfortunately, it seems many organizers just say to themselves, "let's get the best folks we can on topic X." I think this is so from a common response to a question about a poor inclusivity roster: "well, we tried to invite world-famous Professor X but he / she was busy."
To me this implies that the organizers used some sort of one-dimensional "merit" measure and then rank-ordered the people who come to mind on that axis, starting at the top [of whatever section of the list they thought they could conceivably afford / interest] and working their way down.
Here, I think, is where the implicit bias claim explains just how and why these names "come to mind," thereby perpetuating a positive feedback loop locking in historically over-represented groups across generations.
But this rank-ordering by "merit" also has a questionable metaphysics: it looks to me like "merit" is seen as a property inherent in individuals that can be discerned, extracted, and then compared to others on a single scale.
There is a serious gender problem in philosophy in the Netherlands. In the 11 departments of philosophy the numbers of permanent staff members are roughly the following: assistant professors: 110, of which 25 are women; associate professors: 45, of which 5 are women; full professors: 65, of which 7 are women (I have not included part-time professors; this data is based on the websites of the departments). You may think that this just indicates that women have to work harder to get advanced positions at Dutch universities (i.e. that the problem is only theirs). But there is sufficient evidence now that a gender bias is built into the system. This implies that men are part of the problem and that they will have to take their responsibility. The solution is not easy though. It requires a package of measures. What can we do?
It is always good to raise awareness, but what really helps is to move beyond awareness-raising with a few very simple institutional measures that can be implemented right away. Why not make it a rule that 30% of all invited speakers at conferences are women, or that 30% of the papers in special issues are by female philosophers? The Board of the Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW) will discuss such measures for activities organized by the OZSW later this year. There may of course be exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions need to be justified. Similarly, we should stick to the rule, formally adopted by many universities, that selection committees should include at least two women.
As Co-Chairs of the Philosophy of Science Association Women's Caucus (PSA-WC), we write to encourage a diversity of paper and symposium proposals for the PSA 2014 meeting, to be held in Chicago, IL in November 2014. Note that the CFPs state, "The PSA 2014 Program Committee will strive for quality, variety, innovation and diversity on the program" and that "The Committee aims to prepare a program that reflects the full range of current work in the philosophy of science."
As PSA-WC Co-Chairs, we hope for submissions from areas that have in the past been traditionally underrepresented at PSA meetings, such as feminist philosophy of science, philosophy of race, philosophy of social science, philosophy of science in practice, history of philosophy of science, and more.
Male-only-invite philosophy conferences occur frequently in Germany (recall this discussion). The right thing to do is to contact organisers and, if need be, point out women who have been doing good work in the respective field. There may also be a case for male invited speakers to lobby for the inclusion of (more) women as invited speakers (see the petition initiated, in part, here at NewAPPS). Depending on the particular academic environment where the conferences happens, this can lead to an environment more accommodating to women. Due to the structural problems with the German academy, the beneficial results of gendered conference campaigns are likely to be limited to the expressive value of having women amongst speakers. This is, by itself, a lot.
The Gendered Conference Campaign aims to raise awareness of the prevalence of all-male conferences (and volumes, and summer schools), of the harm that they do. We make no claims whatsoever about the causes of such conferences: our focus is on their existence and effects. We are therefore not in the business of blaming conference organisers, and not interested (here, anyway) in discussions of blameworthiness. Instead, we are interested in drawing attention to this systematic phenomenon. (We also have an awesome theme song. And an interview about the theme song can be found here.)
The harms: All-male events and volumes help to perpetuate the stereotyping of philosophy as male. This in turn to contributes to implicit bias against women in philosophy, which very likely leads even those genuinely committed to gender equality to evaluate women's contributions as less good than men's. (It mayalso in some cases be caused by implicit bias, which means that women's names will leap less easily to mind than men's, but that is not our topic here.) For a quick discussion, go here. It also perpetuates stereotype threat, which very likely keeps women from performing as well in philosophy as they otherwise would. For some longer discussions, you may want to look at Sally Haslanger's and Jenny Saul's papers on the topic. (Jenny's is a download from the right hand side of her page.) We would like these harms to stop, and we think that a significant step toward achieving that is drawing people's attention to some of their causes.
When I studied philosophy in graduate school [in the 1990s--ES], my peers and I went to
classes where we were made to read Kripke and Davidson and Quine and
Putnam. Then, duty done, we met together at a coffee shop and discussed
the latest paper from Millikan, pens in hand, arguing passionately. I
cannot even recall how we found her work and knew we had to study it,
but somehow there was consensus among us that she was producing the most
exciting philosophy happening right then. Sometimes we were convinced
that Millikan got a problem wrong... more often we felt she had offered a
solution to some problem that other philosophers had mostly just
obscured. But that was not what made us study her work so eagerly. The
important thing was that Millikan gave us tools. Her theory of
proper functions was something we could actually use. It had wide and
general utility...And, as we contrasted her work with
what our instructors considered the contemporary canon, we felt certain
that Millikan represented the vanguard.
I mention all this because the second striking feature of Millikan's
responses to these thirteen criticisms is that she still seems the
radical maverick. If it is fair to consider her critics in this volume
as representative of current philosophy, then one gets the impression
that most of us are still catching up with Millikan....To see her respond to this
pressure, however, is very helpful to understanding the details and
applications -- and, ultimately, the novelty -- of her approach.--Craig DeLancey, reviewing Millikan and Her Critics [the volume includes a chapter by our very own Mohan--ES]
I sometimes wonder how common DeLancey's experience is of graduate students discovering and debating exciting work unrelated to one's instructors' sense of significance. I often have the disheartening sense that it is more common that graduates recycle the shared and undoubtedly sophisticated commitments of their graduate instructors (despite the now relatively easy access to other people's works). This recycling is often itself very sophisticated with accompanying mini-narratives that bolster the priority claims of privileged participants (see, for example, this interesting review). There is nothing dishonest about this kind of recycling and it allows the generation of progress, but one wonders if more frequent intellectual parricide/matricide wouldn't be healthier for the discipline.
There is a growing body of evidence that student evaluations not only 1) do not measure teaching effectiveness, and may well be negatively correlated with it, but also 2) that women and other visible minorities fare worse across the board on them. In other words, they're ineffective at measuring what they are frequently seen to measure and highly discriminatory in what they do measure.
The current state of the research is nicely summarized by Philip Stark in this post at The Berkeley Blog, which should be read in its entirety. Even having previously known about much of what Stark discusses, I was particularly stunned by the following:
• students’ ratings of instructors can be predicted from the students’ reaction to 30 seconds of silent video of the instructor: first impressions may dictate end-of-course evaluation scores, and physical attractiveness matters
• the genders and ethnicities of the instructor and student matter, as does the age of the instructor
It's enough to make one wonder how we have allowed the practice of conducting these evaluations to go on for so long and why anyone takes them seriously at all.
In your “Katie Roiphe: this much I know” piece
posted on The Guardian this past
July, you said you know that you make people uncomfortable because you claim
that women are partly responsible for their own date rapes; you know that women
who enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey are
fantasizing about being the submissive sex again; you know that you get under
Unfortunately, Katie Roiphe, you haven’t gotten
under my skin – though I wish that you would. I wish that you’d get under my
skin, in my skin, in my mind, under the covers of my silence with me, for just
an hour. You can trust me. I won’t show you anything you don’t want to see.
I won’t. show you. anything. you don’t want to see.
I won’t show you what it’s like to be raped, because you don’t want to see it; in
The Morning After and other pieces, the
fact that you haven’t talked to many rape survivors is clear in your insistence
that a rape which fits even your “violent force” criteria for a rape doesn’t
count as a rape if the victim doesn’t call it that. I won’t try to show you the
body of research that shows that rape and attempted rape is an epidemic in the
U.S., because you don’t want to see it; instead of following the scholarly
journals that this research appears in, you opted to concentrate on a single
article in Ms. Magazine. I won’t show
you what it’s like to work in an environment rife with sexual harassment,
because you don’t want to see it; instead of talking to women who have been
harassed, instead of soliciting anecdotes from all corners, you have bolstered
your arguments with anecdotes and quotes from your own narrow niche of
But I will show you why your “The Philosopher and
The Student” piece in Slate was despicable, ignorant and mean-spirited. I will
show you how a power differential can twist reality. I will show you how your
refusal to see is the product of
creating a narrative in which you yourself are victimized.
techniques are things people say to get someone to drop out of a discussion,
either by leaving or becoming and remaining silent. There are a variety of forms that this can take. This post has an illuminating
taxonomy with a plethora of useful examples, all of which can be changed
mutatis mutandis to philosophy contexts. Inspired by the post I offer some
saying that because you're a woman [or black/trans*/queer/whatever].
exactly what I'd expect from a feminist." [Focal stress usually on the identity term.] You're just part of
the feminist take-over of this department.